Waterproof and Green ~ 8
One day, I see my dad at the duck pond. He is walking along the water, looking out at the ducks and spitting sunflower seeds that he cracks open between his teeth, sending them arching into the pond. The sunflower seeds make a soft thuck sound when they leave his teeth and the same sound again when they hit the water: thuck. The ducks don’t mind it. They keep swimming and carrying on with business, as usual. I am glad that they don’t let it bother them. The pond is gray and swirly today, the sky overcast. The wind ruffles the feathers on the ducks’ backs and mixes together everything that floats on the pond: ducks, stray leaves, sunflower seeds. My dad is walking on the sandy, wet path that curves around the pond, and I hide in the bushes on the other side of it. I move through the branches and my sleeping bag catches on the leaves, but it does not make a sound. Nothing makes a sound except my dad and the thuck, thuck-ing of the sunflower seeds. The ducks eye my dad curiously, rippling up and down on the water.
If I decided to go talk to him, I would say, “Hi Dad, why are you at the park?”
“I don’t know, son. I thought I’d go for a walk.”
“But you never go for walks, Dad. I haven’t seen you at the park in years, since I was little.”
“Well, I thought I’d go today. I’ve been here before, you know. You just didn’t know I was here.”
“You’ve been here before? At this park? At this duck pond?”
“Son, I’ve been here many times.”
I don’t go talk to my dad though, partly because of nervousness and partly because of the mosquitoes. There are a lot of mosquitoes at the park. That’s one of the downsides to being a duck feeder. You encounter large numbers of mosquitoes, especially near the water. In fact, the closer you get to the water, the more mosquitoes there are. Even in the bushes I am covered with them, biting me all over. I slap at my skin, and kick a rock that does not make any noise, and watch my dad. As I watch, Pee Wee ripples through the water, and then climbs out of the pond. He shakes water off his gray feathers, pads out to the middle of the path on his webbed, black feet, and looks at my dad. My dad looks at Pee Wee. Mira comes walking along the path towards my dad, and stands next to Pee Wee with her old, brown scarf tied around her hair. The ends of it blow behind her. Three of the guys who hang out at the park come along the path, in their grey sweatshirts. They stand and look at my dad and Mira. Moses rises up out of the water with a giant bottle of ketchup, and gives it to my dad. Deena slaps my face.
“Can you hear me?” she says. “Can you hear me?”
I dive into the pond, swim fifty feet down, break through the mucky, weed-tangled bottom, and fall into a white bed.
I turn to Deena.
“What is it?” I say.
We are in a room with blue light, and tubes going into my arms, and I think that soon, I will be back at St. Magdalene’s again. Behind Deena, in front of the window, stands a man with a mark on his forehead, where a white paper cap has made a fine, permanent line on his skin.
“I’ve been here the whole time,” says my dad. ♦
A QUESTION FROM THE AUTHOR:
Thank you for following this story to its end. My sister, whose opinions you may have noticed appear rather frequently on this blog, thinks that those last few lines brought the story to an end much too quickly. She is my little sister, so as a general rule I find her opinions pretty easy to ignore, but she did point out that as she happens to have designed this blog for me and thus has the password to it, she could easily log on in the dead of night and add in some supplementary text herself if deemed necessary. We agreed instead to put it to the readers: so please keep my sister at bay and tell us, what did you think of the ending?