Fountain of Need; Anchorage Encounter

Anchorage FountainThe Fountain of Need

by Claire Rogers

Sometimes instinct tells you to do something; this time, I acted on my inner voice a little too late.

On a rainy July 3rd in Anchorage, we drove to the library to try to get some work done. We found it was closed for the Independence Day weekend, but we parked anyway to make use of the Wi-Fi network. As we sat in our motorhome, connecting to the outside world, we watched as waves of hopeful people approached the entrance, only to leave in disappointment. At lunch time, we took a break and watched the beautiful Mrs. Jack M. [Kay] Linton Memorial Ice Fountain with its seven plumes dancing like quill pens hovering over an ink well.

I marveled out loud to Bob how lucky we were to have the luxury of eating when we wanted, more out of out of loyalty to a clock than in response to hunger.

We moped through the gray afternoon, napping to the shush of the fountain and studying maps to prepare for some sunny day. Throughout the day, a lone figure moved around the park, sometimes contemplating the fountain from a lonely perch on a park bench. As others came and went, this boy stayed. I imagined that he’d planned to study in the library and was stuck waiting for a ride home once a parent got off work. He looked to be a teenager, but he wasn’t talking on a cell phone or listening to music, he was just sitting.

We stayed in the parking lot through a nice dinner of fresh halibut and mustard greens that we’d picked up at the farmer’s market this morning.

All the other park visitors were now gone and only the boy remained, now hunched at an empty picnic table. Still, he stared straight into the fountain. It was well past what would have been the closing hour for the library and no one had come to pick him up.

Too late, I wondered aloud if he’d had anything to eat. Too long, I hesitated: What could I give him? Too much, I worried: What if he was deranged?

As I haltingly put together snacks I would like, I stumbled over options as Bob kept watch of the boy. When the boy moved out of sight behind the motorhome, I hurried out the door with a small bag of cherries, blueberries, raisins and granola bars, still fretting that I hadn’t come up with a suitable source of protein.

Panicked that I’d missed him, I rushed around the motorhome. When I did see him, I realized with a pang that I’d hesitated one minute too long. The boy had just successfully fished a Styrofoam tray of unfinished food from the garbage can. I called out to him and my prepared script left me. He waited patiently as I stumbled around trying to ask if he’d eaten. To avoid looking at the greasy tray of salvaged refried beans and rice, I looked up into his face and saw crusty eyes and a boyish softness. He seemed relieved when I spoke to him; his body relaxed and he even smiled as I handed him the meager bag. Bob followed with a cold can of soda.

He thanked us, we wished him well and he turned and walked away.

Epilogue: The plaque at the memorial fountain reads: “In dedication to a volunteer extraordinaire, whose spirit inspired so many in our community to live by her motto: ‘Find a need and fill it.’”


Fountain of Need; Anchorage Encounter — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Your Garden

  2. What a wonderful story. I think we’ve all “been there and done that” at one time or another. Reminds me of a time (before cell phones were widely available) when I passed a lady standing by her car at the side of a rather remote road in Kansas.

    As I drove by I wondered if I should go back to help her. But then I worried that she might think I was stopping to hurt or rob her and she’d be afraid of me. On the other hand, I was afraid that maybe she was part of a holdup plot – I’d stop to help and her boyfriend would jump out from behind the car, mug me and take my wallet and car – or worse.

    I’d gone about 3 or 4 miles before I finally decided to turn around and go back. There were no other cars on the road heading in either direction. When I passed by her, we exchanged looks and her countenance was one clearly of nervous fear. I made my U-turn and drove past her car a few yards and stopped.

    I waited for a moment to see if she would approach my car. I finally got out, walked to the back of my car and then called to her and asked if I could help her, but keeping about ten yards between us.

    I was pleasantly surprised when she finally walked over to me and said she really appreciated that I came back. She had been out there for over two hours and no one had stopped and no police had gone by. She was terrified that something bad would happen to her. I asked if she wanted a ride into the next town or if she wanted to stay with her car and have me contact someone in the next town or to send a tow truck. She asked for me to leave her behind and to go get help.

    I got her name and address and the license number of her car and the mile marker. She asked if I had any water or food that I could share. I had some chips and a can of warm Coke that I gave her. She was so appreciative. I left her there and drove about 20 miles into the next town, went directly to the local police station, identified myself, and gave them her information. They immediately dispatched a patrol car at high speed to give her assistance – and also called a tow truck.

    The officer in charge thanked me and told me that I’d done the exact right thing. He told me that some local hooligans often checked out the remote back roads looking for abandoned cars and stranded motorists. “That’s about the only crime we have in this town.”

    He asked me to stick around until they got the lady safely into town. I agreed, and then went to get some lunch while I waited. About 30 minutes later I saw the patrol car and the tow truck come back. She was sitting in the patrol car.

    As I walked over to check on her, she ran over and gave me a big hug. She told me that three fellows in an old pickup truck passed by several times, checking her out, and were about to stop just as the patrol car came over the hill with red lights and siren blaring. They made a hasty retreat. That was it.

    The police officer verified my name and address and then told me that I was free to leave town whenever I wanted. I offered to buy the lady lunch, but she declined, but thanked me again. “If you hadn’t come back and stopped to check on me, I have no idea what might have happened.” I never heard another word about what happened after that, but I felt a great deal of satisfaction that I’d been able to suppress my own fears and try to do the right thing.

    I’m sure that the two of you also felt some measure of satisfaction about what happened to you.

  3. John,

    Why does it have to be so complicated? I’m so glad you stopped to help and got the confirmation that you did the right thing.

    When the boy smiled and visibly relaxed, that made it much easier for me to help. If he hadn’t been able to look me in the eye, I would have been extremely distraught.

    Thanks for your great story.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *