Evans’ Chair

The sun was just starting to set over the historic district and pedestrian mall on a recent spring evening. I was back in town for a few days so I wandered over to Clancey’s to congratulate Jessie. I had heard that he was now manager of Clancy’s after his father Frank’s retirement. I asked him if he planned to change anything in the restaurant—either inside or with the mall seating out front. He said all was fine the way it was—everything inside was nailed down and he just liked the outdoor seating the way it was.

I guess I just wanted to be sure Evans’ chair stayed where it had always been.

When I was a high school kid working summers at Clancy’s I always enjoyed seeing Evans and his wife Katrine sitting at that corner table, laughing and looking at each other like they were teen-agers themselves. They had to have been married at least 20 years but they were like kids head-over-heels in love. They always ordered the same wine and the same meal—linguine and clams—every Friday night when the weather was nice.

Everybody working there loved seeing them arrive at almost exactly the same time. On those beautiful spring evenings the white lights threaded through the branches of the Pin Oaks over head seemed to sparkle a bit brighter than usual in the sweet spring breeze. During warm weather the staff at Clancy’s made sure Evans and Katrine’s table was open for them—even if it meant turning away some business. At the time I thought they were old—looking back now they were probably in their 50s.

It never was completely clear how Katrine died—some sort of accident—a fall off of a moving truck up on Carter Mountain orchard in the fall. I guess they went up there to pick apples.

Evans didn’t come for several months Jessie’s dad Frank said. Then one Friday night there he was with his daughter, Sylvia. She looked just like her mom—a twenty something Katrine. They came 2 or 3 times then stopped. After a number of months everybody at Clancy’s pretty much forgot about Evans but then, about a year after Katrine’s death, there he was—at the usual table—by himself.

He ordered the same wine but no food. He’d sit there drinking the wine with a sad smile on his face, not speaking to anyone unless someone spoke to him—looking around occasionally—as though expecting someone. No one ever came. This went on for several months—each Friday night Evans sitting there drinking his wine alone.

The he began showing up during the afternoon when the outdoor seating was almost empty—but not ordering. No one said anything—the table wasn’t needed for business until the supper rush began and by that time he would be gone.

Late one afternoon as the evening rush began, he was seen talking to customers at several tables. One of them complained to Frank Evans was pan-handling—begging for money.

Frank spoke to him—asked him not to do it again. Evans was obviously embarrassed and apologized. He was not seen again for 8 or 10 months. It was rumored he was living in an abandoned house several blocks away in the Belmont section of town.

Then one Friday—one of those gentle spring evenings—there he was—sitting at his usual table. Shabby, dirty, his clothes mismatched and tattered—wearing a scruffy beard and sorely in need of a haircut. He showed the waitress money and ordered a meal—the clams and linguine and wine he and Katrine always had. After completing his meal and wine he paid and left a generous tip.

His body was found the following day in an abandoned house perhaps 20 minutes walk from the restaurant. His daughter claimed the body—the police report quoted in the paper said he appeared to have poisoned himself. He was buried next to his beloved Katrine a few days later.

Frank passed the church where the evening service was held on his way to work so he stopped in for a few minutes. He said it appeared other than the priest, the only other persons at the service were his daughter and her husband. Frank said he felt bad he couldn’t stay any longer but he had to get to work—they were expecting a big supper crowd.

No doubt it was one of those beautiful evenings when the white lights threaded through the branches of the Pin Oaks over head sparkled a bit brighter than usual in the sweet spring breeze.

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