Day 22: The Burly Man

The vagrant in Maggery Park who swung his broom around and jabbed at the ground was the only thing Officer Marty Feist didn’t like about his new neighborhood. He moved in a few weeks ago, and the bum was a constant fixture. One morning he denied his partner an apple fritter by insisting they go run the tramp off instead of hitting the doughnut shop.

“We’ve received no complaints,” said Victor.

“I’m a resident, and I’m complaining,” said Marty.

“Is he dangerous?”

“Take a look.” They drove up to a no parking sign and parked.

Victor got out and stretched. “It’s a nice park.” A walkway joined the one along the street and forked back toward either side of a pond, then back to another sidewalk along resident backyards on the far end. One of those yards was Marty’s. A number of geese waddled around the water. A few women and children played over by the swing set, merry-go-round, and teeter-totters. Just beyond a small craft shack, a balding, brown haired man in a faded T-shirt under tattered coveralls crept stealthily along the grass.

“Is that your guy?” asked Victor.

“Yeah, look at him.”

“He looks harmless.”

“Do you see how sharp the end of that broomstick is?” asked Marty. “I think we can classify that as a weapon.”

“I don’t know,” said Victor. The man jabbed rapidly at the ground, then pivoted around the point in the ground, straw quivering in the air. “I guess we can talk to him.”

They approached the man, who yanked the broomstick from the ground, and swung the broom like he was casting for fish.

“Why don’t you let me take this, okay?” asked Victor. “I don’t have any conflicting interests.”

The man swung the straw side at a bush.

“Hello, mister,” said Victor. “How are you today.”

The man whirled, holding his broom out.

“He’s attacking,” said Marty.

“Hold your horses. We startled him.” Victor waved. “Hi, sir.”

The man lowered his broom and smiled, then fluttered a quick wave.

“What’s your name, sir?”

His lips trembled and he tilted his head back, then came forward. “Jucky.”

“What are you doing here, Jucky?”

The man made understated jabs and swings and said, “Burlies.” The way his lips scrunched together, Marty didn’t think he had any teeth.

“What’s that?” asked Victor.

Jucky swung and jabbed some more, then squinted and shrugged at them. “Bullem ut.”

“You know,” said Marty. “He doesn’t seem to have much milk in the coconut. Maybe we should take him in so someone can take care of him.”

“Okay, you may have a point. Hey, mister. Why don’t you come with us.” He walked up to him beckoning, but Jucky stood unmoving. Victor took him by the arm and Marty took him by the other. He smelled like fermented cabbage. They were almost to the streetside walkway when one of the women by the swing set cried, “Officers, you can’t take that man.”

“Why not, ma’am?”

“He’s one of Garbol’s,” she said, as if having to explain that water is wet.

“Who’s Garbol?” the officers asked.

“Garbol. You know. The Garbol. The wizard of Maggery.”

The officers resisted, but the woman was urgent and insistent. Finally, they agreed to check with Garbol and got his address, which was half a block away.

When they knocked at the door, it opened immediately, and a tall gaunt man in jeans and a Chucky Cheese T-shirt said, “What do you want?”

“Er, sorry, sir,” said Victor. “We were told that you might be concerned about a man at the park we’re taking in.”

“Shockey? What the hell for? What’s he done?”

“Nothing really,” said Victor. “But we are concerned for his safety. He seems to be homeless and without the wits to take care of himself.”

“Leave him alone. His job is very important. You’ve no business disrupting this neighborhood with your misguided, do-gooder mentality.”

“But I’m a resident,” said Marty.

“That’s even worse,” said Garbol. “Leave him be or suffer the consequences, neighbor.” He slammed the door.

Marty sulked as they walked back to the park. Shockey ate a sandwich and fed a few pieces to the geese.

“That settles it,” said Marty.

“What?”

“Feeding the geese is against the rules. I’m taking him in.”

#

A cool breeze woke Marty to enjoy his day off. He got up and grabbed a cup of coffee to drink on his back porch. He sat down and turned on his e-book, then looked out over the park he was lucky enough to have at his back yard.

He bolted out of his chair, spilling his coffee. Maggery Park was torn up. Every plant, every shrub, every tree had been uprooted and tossed around. Hundreds of holes tore up the lawn. The shack was flattened, the swingset tipped over, and the pond was full of junk. Rusty bicycles, metal barrels, and broken furniture. The water moved like a low simmer.

“What the—”

Garbol stalked around Marty’s house and on to his porch, then brusquely handed him a broom. Marty absentmindedly took it, and that’s when he saw them. Burlies. Everywhere.

The wizard strode away.

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