Watersports

 

Today, it’s finally sunny, but yesterday the sky was overcast. Despite the weather, I decided to celebrate the middle of June with a walk in the park…

I see Eeyore sitting at the bench next to the pond. It’s midweek and not much is going on at the forest in the city. People are at work. There’s a few yoga types and a mom group herding kids near the beach. Eeyore is the neighbor’s kid and I call him that when he looks depressed. But he really is an E. Orr—Ensen Orr. I think I’m the only one that uses the nickname, though. He’s fifteen.

Meticulously sloppy, rumpled, he’s got a mat of ash blond hair and he’s wearing an orange t-shirt splattered with loud graphics. Two remaining cans from a six pack of beer recline on his lap. Day off too, I guess. So I sidle up.

“Your Mom called my place… looking for you,” I tattle.

Eeyore’s gazing across a bike path at the scene. Bull rushes clump around the small, pristine bog—except for the viewpoint—where we’re sitting. The sun rays filter through lime-colored leaves and glints of young bugs weave above the water surface. There’s a patch of soggy grass covered in goose paste. He takes a swig and kicks gravel.

“Yeah, thanks,” he says.

“You just hangin’ out?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m headin’ back uptown—eventually.” I offer a veiled invite. I don’t know if he should be getting drunk at noon in a park.

“Maybe I’ll go with you. After this,” he suggests.

”Then I’ll wait around.”

Eeyore fidgets and kicks more gravel. The scenery’s nice, peaceful, like a little watercolor. Ducks drift in a trio at the far end.

“Gotta smoke?” he asks, fixated on the water.

“Buy your own.”

He almost looks surprised, eyebrows up, but he doesn’t look at me and smirks instead, “Nice guy.”

“I don’t have any.”

Eeyore slumps again. Then he nods a can of beer at me, offering.

“Na,” I answer.

He sets the can on the bench between us and removes the plastic six-pack holder from the other. Then he raises his arm and deftly flicks the ringlette sideways, from shoulder height. The plastic planes air and clears the grass, ditching in the murk about an arm’s length from shore. He stares at the launch, holding his follow through. Then he grunts “Hrmmf”, like he could have done better.

I instinctively look side-to-side along the bike path, watching for witnesses. Half a jog away, there’s some villager walking toward us. She’s wearing capri’s, a fashion ballcap, and sporting the lulu-eco shopping bag. I already know she’s named ‘Noreen’ and sits on a committee. I’ve never met her.

“Where’d you get the beer?” I ask Eeyore.

“I bought it.”

“Yeah, right.” I start playing the kick-the-gravel game, too.

“It was in a car up there,” he thumbs over his shoulder to the parking lot, “goin’ to waste… gettin’ hot. Some stupid ass.”

Eeyore tilts his head and watches his litter begin to drift, like he’s watching a home-made raft cast off. I’m watching the the lady revving up to confront us. She must have seen Eeyore. I know, because she’s marching now, getting closer, and her fists are clenching. The eco bag is in full swing.

“Why don’t you get a ‘milf’?” Eeyore blurts, leaning back, eyes off among the fowl paddling in their little viridian serenity.

“I don’t really know what that it is,” I respond.

He’s squinting, like he’s trying to put the definition in a simpler package.

“A mother,” he finally says, sparing my sensitivities.

“Where did you hear that?”

“Oh, I hear Rob call my Mom that all the time.”

Rob is his mother’s boyfriend. Eeyore’s mother is a busy chartered accountant—a single mom with three kids and a household in disarray. They live in a high level of stress and often loud, but her heart’s sincere. She worries about Eeyore and confides easy over the back fence. She tells me about her past, her fears. She wears an anxious look that’s turned into creases.

I’m thinking about what Eeyore just said, when a five-foot-eight, forty-year-old woman struts up, puffing. She looks over to the pond. The view is sublime, really, except for Eeyore’s eyesore. Then the woman turns back to the two of us and stares, like we’re culprits.

“I saw what you did,” she huffs. For some reason, I know she’s tried to put a cat on a leash.

“Did what?” Eeyore counters, defiant.

“You threw that in there,” she points with her left eye at Eeyore and then at the plastic six pack rings.

“So what?” he challenges, flat line. She drops her head lower, peering out from the rim of her ball cap. She has blue gray eyes that catch reflections. Captivating, but her eyebrows look stitched on. I’ll call her casual prim.

“What do mean, ‘So what?'” Then she looks at me, “Aren’t you going to tell him to pick that up?”

I shrug and droop my mouth. Innocent bystander here.

She continues to address me, “You should make him pick that up! Gee, that’s great parenting.”

“He’s not my kid.”

That threw her off a bit, but she rallies, “Then set an example. Tell him he shouldn’t do that.”

I know she works with books. I speak slowly, “I haven’t had a chance yet.”

She’s just marched sixty paces looking for a fight. I don’t think she’s done.

“Do you know the damage that can do?” she says, going directly at Eeyore again. I’m shaking my head, giving her my best concerned citizen signal so she’ll forget about me.

“No,” Eeyore answers her.

“When you throw those things in there, ducks get trapped, and strangle, and die—.” She throttles the last syllable for dramatic effect.

Eeyore’s still looking at the woman with his head cocked and nose scrunched, eyes squinting against the back light of midday sun, trying to distinguish her attitude like he’s been ordered to classify a new vegetable.

“Well, don’t you understand?” Her eyes open wide and she rolls her head back and forth. It’s her ‘communicating with the learning disabled stance’. She continues, slower, “When you throw your garbage in there, it can hurt the little duckies.”

Eeyore frowns and speaks, “I think you’re full of crap.”

She didn’t expect that. Her fluster ticks upward. Then Eeyore jabs with another, “You’ve never seen a dead duck in a six pack ring, have you?”

Suddenly, she’s on defense, “I don’t have to see one, everybody knows that can happen.”

“Who says?”

“Everybody. The park people, the TV, the news—you should know that. Besides, you’re littering.”

“I throw six pack rings in there all the time and I never killed a duck.”

“Are you serious?” Her lecture’s gone astray. This kid’s too complex. Then she counters, “You shouldn’t even be drinking!”

“I shouldn’t be talking to strange, freaky ladies.”

Both parties digress.

“Well—you’re just a mean brat and you’re going to get a fine.”

“Well, you’re full of crap.”

An impasse. I’m shutting up.

Her bag’s heavy and she plunks it on the path. Muggy today; people are testy.

“Are you going to pick up your garbage?” she’s challenging Eeyore. I’m not sure if she intends to drag him to the water.

“No,” he snips. I could have told her he’s a button pusher. Instead, she “Hrummfs”, whirls, and marches across the soggy grass to water’s edge. Her footsteps go “spluck.” She surveys Eeyore’s little, floating death trap just out of reach and begins problem-solving. Then she fiddles with the nearest dry bull rush stock and snaps it at the shoot.

“Hey, you shouldn’t do that,” Eeyore calls out, “that’s destroying nature!”

She spins a stare back at him, “It was already dead.”

She makes her approach and begins stepping gingerly, in an attempt not to disrupt some rare nesting grounds.

“Spluck, spluck,” Her shoes withdraw from an ominous vacuum.

She’s approaching her quarry in full stance, right arm maneuvering outward. She’s got the reed by the brown bull cap, left arm cantilevered behind her. It’s a good fencing pose. However, the bog shore is not up to the pressure—even the lawnmower guy left the last pass unfinished. She makes one brisk parry and the edge sinks. I wince. I can feel the water filling up her sneaker.

“Shit!” She cries out.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes! I’m alright—I just got my foot soaked!”

There’s no way to pull out from her position. The mud’s got her forward foot. In a heroic display, the other shoe leaps to its twin’s aid and plants shin deep in tepid water. She’s committed now and should have worn Crocs.

Again, doors open on the hinges of serendipity, and some guy, I’ll call Beau Studly, her male doppelganger, is walking past, slowing, and watching us watch her. She looks like a bag lady fishing for empties. He’s a healthy buck, ear tagged with a Bluetooth.

“She’s teachin’ us how to catch ducks,” comments Eeyore.

“I am not!” she yells back, almost losing her balance, “I’m cleaning up your garbage!”

She whips the reed around to wave it at Eeyore and catches sight of Beau framed in a silver birch vignette, a Ray Ban sire with full mane upon his mantle, blackberry in his sword arm, flying the colors of her very same dominion on his own hemp fiber eco bag.

“That brat is tossing garbage in the pond,” she sneers at Eeyore.

Beau gears down, like he’s approaching a car wreck in his invisible sports coupe.

She points her baton at Eeyore, assuring we can all identify the miscreant, but we’re still looking at her. Suddenly the stalk cracks, right at the tang, and droops into the soup like a dowsing rod. I know Beau’s looking for the video app on his phone, thinking YouTube.

The plastic flotsam is another step out. Provided the silt isn’t too deep, she might as well grab her target and slog back. She decides the same, and takes another tentative step forward. It is everyone’s mistake who thought that plan would work. With balance lost, she knows in a moment that to fall forward is a face plant. So, backward she goes. “Spluck”

It’s a quality slow motion entry and even the ducks take off. Her shoes, her capri pants, are done—I’m thinking there’s always MasterCard.

“Ooh, that sucks—” Eeyore can’t contain his good fortune.

“You prick!” She yells at him.

“Hey, he’s a kid,” I warn her.

Beau finds the video app.

“You turn that stupid thing off!” She jams her hands in the muck and rolls up on one knee, to where she can stand. She wrings her hands and swats the dredge off her pants, then trudges another two steps deeper and plucks Eeyore’s plastic doily.

Beau tucks his handbag under his sword arm and extends the other. He’s gesturing in the air between them, closer, but he won’t approach the bank. She marches up the turf past him and stands on the bike path in front of Eeyore, draining, then turns on a heel and thrusts the ringlette into the waste can at the far end of the rest stop.

“You should recycle,” says Eeyore. It’s like a syndrome, he can’t resist. I guess at that age, you figure you can move faster than an angry adult.

She marches back to her shopping bag on the path and stands as a martyr to dignity. But Beau’s moving closer, expression aghast. Eeyore and I lean closer, too. She follows our horrified gaze, and I think she knows it before she looks down. There’s a leech moored to her shin. I give her credit, she’s braver than I and ball-peens it with her forefinger. The mud sucker splats on the gravel and writhes.

Where it was hinged, a small trickle of blood oozes and blends with the swamp sluice.

Eeyore scrunches his nose and squints, “I think I’m gonna puke.”

Even Beau recoils.

Our eco-warrior looks spent. She made a valiant effort and maybe saved a life. I don’t know how that works. Chivalry gets the best of Beau and he scoops the handles on her bag, “Are you alright? I can walk you back?”

“No, thanks!” She yanks the bag away and eyes the long slog up the path. Beau shrugs and struts off, cutting through the park. Shame, they might have got along on any other day.

“Let’s go to the beach,” I announce to Eeyore. I don’t want to, but we can detour in the opposite direction and head back up along the boardwalk.

“Sure.” says Eeyore. He pushes his last full can into his front pocket, then walks to the waste container and deposits his empties properly.

He turns, looking at his soggy combatant, and in an earnest grumble, cedes.

“Sorry, lady. You win. That was bonus.”

 

Watersports © 2011 Gaboo. Click Gaboo’s tag for all his stories and observations.

Share
Comments
2 Responses to “Watersports”
  1. osonegro says:

    Soggy lady forgets that throwing the plastic ringie into the trash means it will end up in the landfill, strangling some seagull. She should at least have clipped the rings so that won’t happen. Oh, well. Great vignette!

    • Gaboo says:

      Thanks for reading, osonegro. I’ll see if I can dredge up another adventure with our Lady of the Lake. I promise the tale will degrade over time.

Leave a Reply

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