The Benson Bubblers are all gone. They have disappeared from every street corner. From Burnside to Madison to Stark to Washington to Alder to Yamhill to Morrison to Hoyt to Salmon to Madison and again to Washington. Everywhere. Zip. Badda boom. Our iconic water fountains have vanished, or so it feels.
The fact of the matter is our Benson Bubblers are not where they should be, but we know exactly where they are. They’ve all been accounted for in Pioneer Square in the form of a giant, hydraulic man that sits in the center plaza.
We’d call him Bob, but that’s a bit old these days.
So we call him Simon.
You can still see all fifty-two Bubblers as they all make up Simon’s body. He is an eleven-foot-tall man made of oxidized bronze and flowing water. We found him one morning, sitting smack dab in the middle of Portland’s living room, and we took pictures with our phones. The rest of us saw these pictures and came looking for Simon.
Simon is so great. He sits there crying but he isn’t really crying—we asked him. That’s just the flowing-water part of his face. Sometimes he actually cries but we usually can’t tell; it is all fine and dandy. We thought we all might invite Simon over for dinner, but he doesn’t seem to fit in any of our houses. And of course the carpets would get just absolutely soaked and don’t even get us started on how the cat would handle it. He is better suited for outside, but he still asks us what homes are like. We just do not know what to do with our Simon.
When Simon is not crying he is a delight to have around. Our teacher friends all agreed that if Simon were one of their students they would write “Simon is a pleasure to have in class” on his report card. When we told Simon this he started crying for real this time (we could all tell), spouting about how he wasn’t “a real human.” So we generally don’t mention these sort of things to Simon anymore.
We decided to build a house around our Simon, right in the plaza. It is not a real house, mind you. It is a tent like those big impressive ones you see at festivals. Simon told us he appreciates the tent. You can only imagine the smile on his twisted face when we came over with dinner, just a little something we all chipped in for. Simon of course cannot eat real food, he has no digestive system, but he does enjoy when we pour Crystal Light flavor packs into the flowing water that makes up his being. We come by the thousands to see Simon, to sit with him and chat over a nice meal and to take more pictures with our phones. (#SimonSelfie.) We can tell he enjoys the company.
Simon asks us why we do this, why we never gathered our forces and chased the hideous bronze monster out of town. He knows he is not like us. “Because you are not hideous,” we tell him, “and we are just like you.”
And Simon cries. And we gather around, and hug him, and get our coats wet.
Jonah Barrett is a filmmaker, writer and photographer. His favorite genres are creature features and romantic comedies, and he has found they are pretty much the same.