Best 1000 Words for the Image Contest: John Cosmos Aller: The Cosmic Bench in Lithia Park

By John Cosmos Aller



One November afternoon, about 5 pm, Sam Adams, a white man in his late sixties was doing his usual daily walk in Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon. Sam had retired to Oregon after serving in the U.S. government as a diplomat for many years. He had grown up in Berkeley but had visited Ashland over the years. He and his wife, Linda, were big fans of the Shakespeare festival. Linda was worried that Sam was showing signs of Alzheimer’s but Sam was not worried. He told Linda every day he would always remember how to find his way back to her.

They had been married for 45 years. They met on a bus in South Korea when Sam was teaching there for the US Army before joining the State Department. Linda Lee was Korea. It was love at first sight, and they got married two months after meeting.

Since retirement they were inseparable, but Sam often went for his walks alone. He would walk deep into Lithia Park following the creek upriver until he came upon his favorite bench and sat there a while. The bench was a simple wooden bench, surrounded by Japanese Maple trees which were in full-color display that afternoon. It was a pleasant spot, and Sam had been going there every day for almost two years.

Soon, as usual, he was lost in thought, dreaming of his past life, thinking of his past loves, thinking dark thoughts preparing mentally for the coming end times of his life. Sam had a premonition that death was stalking him and that his time was near. He never told his wife that because he did not want to worry her. But he had insisted that they had gotten their estate plan completed, and he felt ready to go any day now.

Sam had plenty to think about – he and Linda had had an eventful life. He had lived in over ten countries around the world and traveled to 50 states. After retiring he had become a blogger and worked on that off and on. But lately, he felt that time was slipping away from him. As he sat on the bench, meditating on his past life, something strange occurred. The bench woke up and spoke to Sam.

“Sam, how are you doing? Old friend of mine, I am delighted that I can speak with you.”

Sam looked around and could not find out where the voice was coming from but realized that the bench had spoken to him. Sam laughed and said, “Well bench if you can speak, tell me what you know.”

The bench spoke of Sam’s life and of the lives of others in the community that Sam knew. The bench said he knew everything that occurred in the lives of the people that sat down to rest, reflect, or remember.

And the trees knew too as did the cosmic cat and even the squirrels. But people, well they just did not know how to listen to nature and to the world around them. In a way, it was too bad because the bench had so much wisdom to implant.

Sam and the bench began talking. Soon a black cat appeared. He said that he was a cosmic cat as most cats are. Cats he explained are unique creatures – not originally from this planet and descended from great warriors that crashed landed on earth millions of years ago.

Cats were so often dismissed by humans as alien freaks or as annoying pests. But cats were really man’s best friend. And all cats had a sixth sense about death. They knew when it was time to go. The cat said the Grim Reaper was coming to Sam’s place that night and that Sam would be gone the next day.

Sam said, “Cosmic cat do you know what will happen to me? Will I go to heaven or Hell? Is there a heaven or a hell?”

“Sam, that is beyond my pay grade as they say. I do know that life continues after death but heaven and hell I don’t know much about. It is different for us cats. We come back to life as cats again and again. We can’t seem to escape our karmic fate. Humans, well they move on to the next level of existence, and we never see them again.

The cosmic cat seemed more excited than I’d seen him, and exclaimed, “Oh, Sam, this is a special day. There’s the Grim Reaper.” 

The Grim Reaper was a handsome man dressed in all black clothes, with a black hat and tie on. He said that he is just part of an army of Grim Reapers and was breaking protocol to talk with Sam. He was so impressed that Sam had developed the ability to speak to animals, trees, and the cosmic bench that he had a deal to make.

Sam intrigued said, “What’s the deal?”

I will give you one more month to live, but you let me into your life like in the movie, Joe Black. Always wanted to try that. At the end of your life, God may grant me my wish to be a mortal for a few years. Here’s how it is going to play out. I will introduce myself as your long-lost son from an affair long ago. You will welcome me into your life and Linda will eventually accept me as your son as well.

Every day we will come back here and continue our conversation. At the end of the month, you will go on to the other world, and I will stay behind as your son and stay with your wife to comfort her until it is her time to go and then you will be reunited. For you are special true soul mates and will be together forever. Do we have a deal?”

Sam said, “Sure.”

The bench smiled, the cat was happy, the squirrel came down from the tree after getting assurances that the Cat would not eat him that day and congratulated him as well. The Maple tree finally spoke and blessed the deal as well.

As night deepened, he turned slowly towards home, accompanied by the cosmic cate, and the Grim Reaper, who decided to call himself Joe Black.

He said goodnight to the cosmic bench in the park, acknowledging that he would be back same time, same station, day after day until Joe released him from this mortal world.



John Jake Cosmos Aller is a novelist, poet, and retired Foreign Service Officer, (US Diplomat)

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John Cosmos Aller’s post on Two Drops of Ink

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

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One comment

  1. What an imaginative story! I would have never thought of an alien cat or a talking bench when looking at that picture. I love these contests because they bring out so many different viewpoints!

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