The man who's given us three monkey sculptures was in the park again yesterday. We couldn't see his face. He was too far away for that. We knew him by the way he moved.
He set something down in front of a bench and scurried away.
A fourth monkey. A three-pound cyan cipher with its legs crossed. One hand resting on its right knee. The other on its left hip. Head tilted to the side. A face that dared me to guess at what was in the animal's mind.
We found the man hiding behind a tree, making sure we saw what he'd left for us. I thought he would make a run for it. He came out of his hiding place and laughed.
He said he ran home to grab the monkey when he saw us. He came back, watched us from a distance, waited for the right moment, and then he made his move.
I told him the monkeys he'd given us all had names.
"Wonderful," he said.
My dad asked him if these were leftover things from the antique store he used to own.
"Oh no," he said. "I've always collected monkeys. But I'm seventy-one years old. It's time to start letting things go."
When he was about to leave, I drew him back. There was a question I wanted to ask.
"What's your name? We're John and Johnny. John squared."
"People call me two different things," he said. "Well ... they call me a lot of different things. But there are two main ones. They either call me Sybren, which is my first name, or they call me Harry. Because Sybren's a hard name to remember. Old people call me Harry. New people call me Sybren."
We're new people. We'll call him Sybren. It doesn't sound like a sigh. It sounds like the sea. It means "victorious bear".
A man he knew came over with a white poodle. The dog ran in circles, chasing its own tail and loving every second of it.
Sybren said a hundred and forty trick-or-treaters came to his house for Halloween. He gave away every basket of candy he made and served up twenty shots of Southern Comfort.
"For the parents who were cold and miserable," he said. "Something to warm them up."
The second time he was about to leave, he was the one who doubled back.
"I'm not great with names," he said. "It usually takes me a while. But this I think I'll be able to remember. J and J."
"Thank you for all the gifts you've given us," I said. "We want to give you something back."
"Not necessary. I'm just happy they're with someone who appreciates them."
Then the smile dug a little deeper into his face.
"You know, I've got more. When are you here next?"