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Rusty had lived all his life in a small little house at the end of May Street. At least that’s what everyone else living in May Street thought. He had always been there, even before any of the new residents had moved in. Some said he was more than a hundred years old but no one knew for sure. Nobody even knew his real name.
They called him Rusty because he had a ferocious little dog with that name in the beginning. That dog had been a cause of great stress for the mothers of May Street whose kids had made the little street into their very own play ground. Rusty the dog, was always seen barking at anyone who even came close to that end of the street. Soon the residents had filed a complaint and the dog was taken away, leaving the old man alone. And that’s how the old man came to be known as Rusty.
Everyday he would come out of the house, cane in hand, his old body now being limited to very few degrees of motion and he would walk slowly to a chair in the middle of the lawn. He would just sit there and stare at the empty kennel where once his dog used to lie all day. He had not changed anything even after they had taken his dog away. The kennel was still there along with the chain and collar lying in a long skewed S on the ground. He would still fill the dog’s water bowl and watch the birds drink and bathe in that water.
He would just sit there and nod off, his wrinkled brown skin slowly frying under the sun, only to be woken up by the shrieks of the kids who now ruled every corner of that street. He would try to scream something at the kids but only a few muffled words would come out of his old shrunken mouth. This would make the kids laugh even louder.
And soon it became a part of the game for the kids to make fun of Rusty. They would climb on his gate and yell “Rusty Rusty always thirsty” until he got mad and got up to scare the kids away with his cane. But his slow steps could never reach the kids in time. How he missed his dog. Those wretched kids never came close to his gate when his dog was still with him.
Slowly the kids’ little game of teasing old man Rusty became more and more torturous. They would hide near the house and wait for him to fall asleep and then the braver and stronger boys would slowly climb over his gate and go inside. At first they would just see who could get the closest to him without waking him up. But as someone got closer the other kids watching from outside would start shouting and wake Rusty up and this would start a commotion among the kids that would almost give Rusty a heart attack.
The kids now sat and planned their next move for days. Their innocent little minds working overtime to come up with the greatest idea to torture old man Rusty. Once the kids decided to light some firecrackers under his chair but this idea was soon dismissed because nobody could get their hands on any firecrackers this time of the year. The next idea was to steal his cane and watch him limp around the lawn. This was a good idea they thought but it needed something more to make it spectacular. Then a little girl who always stayed quiet and just liked to follow the other kids around suggested that they could throw water balloons at him while he tried to chase them without his cane.
At first everyone was a little surprised that she could talk but then the greatness of the idea hit them. The image of old man rusty limping around, getting battered by water balloons, soaked from head to toe, came to everyone’s mind almost instantaneously. After rejoicing at the brilliance of their brains to come up with such a mischievous trick they made a battle plan. Teams were made and tasks were delegated.
On the day when old man Rusty died, all the kids gathered near his house. They had a bucket full of water balloons and a lot of determination. They waited for old man Rusty to come out and sit in his chair and fall asleep. It didn’t take long and soon two of the biggest boys crept into his lawn and moved as stealthily as they could towards him. They reached him without waking him up. His skeletal fingers covered in wrinkly skin were wrapped loosely around the top of the cane. The boys slowly lifted his cold hand and removed the cane. Old man Rusty was still asleep. One of the boys gave a signal and the rest of the troops got ready with a balloon in each hand. The plan was that the boys will wake him up and then run towards the gate. As soon as they were out of harm’s way the firing would start.
They got into a running stance, took a deep breath and tapped on Rusty’s knee with his own cane. There was no response. They tapped harder but still no response. They came closer and just stared at his face. It was tranquil. Without realising anything in particular they both felt something and started taking steps backwards. They turned and ran home. All the kids ran home.
Old man Rusty had died of a heart attack, sleeping peacefully in his chair.