Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Otto Van Otterson (Conclusion)

We never found out Otto's real name. Marcie didn't need to, having sufficiently filled in the blanks herself.

When Marcie went with me to Humboldt County, she commented that she would miss a lot of people, but, jokingly, she asked, "Well, I wonder what will happen to Otto?"

He was still there when we came back, and now he was living in our new neighborhood, University Heights. We watched him one evening on Adams, pushing his cart to the fence along thew canyon by Trolley Barn Park.

"He's so slow now, honey," Marcie said. "He's too old to be out here."

And it was true. Every time I saw him afterward, there was a little less pep in his step. He was slowing down.

Soon he had no cart, just bore a plastic grocery bag and boarded the bus stooped and weary each time I saw him. There were no sweeping gestures or warbling treatises. He looked around furtively, not proudly and theatrically.

I told Marcie when I saw him and I always said that he looked okay, even though didn't usually. I did not tell her when I saw him being loaded onto an ambulance at Trolley Barn Park as I rode the 11 past.

The last time I laid eyes on Otto was during the summer Marcie received her diagnosis. He was sleeping, sitting, with his bag next to him on the bench by the fence at Trolley Barn Park.

He was snoring as I walked past, and his beard was combed, his flatware was in place, his suit was clean-looking and his pocket also sported a white folded napkin. His pin had changed, however and was now an RAF "bullseye" pin.

I couldn't help but notice his multiple hospital admission wristbands. I began to get close, to read them and know his name, but I stopped and walked away.

His name was Otto, and that's who he had to be.