Duck, See also 3/14/03 & 6/25/03

Is it bad luck when a duck bites your finger, or is it good luck? I ask this because it seems like it would be one of those, and also because a duck bit me on the finger.

A very bold duck and it’s slightly shier crony, waddled over from the lake and swarmed around me while I was eating lunch at the Arboretum. They were after my sandwich. When I finally tore off a chunk of bread for them, the bold duck took it straight from my hand.

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Low Gear

I’m pedaling slowly up the hill in low gear. I spy my homeless friend, Robert, on the other side of the street up ahead of me. He’s pacing around outside his church. He moves toward the entrance and peeks through a window, then steps closer to the big doors. He grabs the handle of one door and gives it a tug. It doesn’t budge. He takes hold of the other door’s handle, pulls, and it remains closed. He reacts by not reacting – both doors are locked, as he knew they would be.. His movements show an absence of disappointment, of frustration, and of concern. The only emotional condition that shines through is tiredness. Other feelings are warehoused somewhere beneath his skin. Robert lowers his arms to his sides and turns mechanically, toward the street. Now he sees me. He stops and stands there in the alcove. I free a hand from my handlebars and give him something like an encouraging wave. He doesn’t wave back. He just watches, his gaze shows the same detached and unmoved reaction.

Now I’m under the microscope. My movements are amplified 10x. Until I’m safely out of Robert’s view, my forward movement feels slowed, and my pedaling seems disconnected from my progress.

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I’ve been calling all birds of a certain size “sparrow”. But I started second-guessing myself recently. I can pick out several different species among the fluttering masses, and I doubted whether sparrow was broad enough to be used with all of them. So I just looked the word up. The definition is, “Any of various small brownish or grayish New World finches.” (By the way, I found the use of the term “New World” there to be fairly satisfying for some reason.) I had to follow that up by making sure there wasn’t a catch hidden away in the word “finch”: “Any of various small birds having a short stout bill.” “Sparrow” seems generic enough to be used liberally with any of the little birds. But, in the future, I think I’m going to go with “finch” instead. “Finch” sounds better. That dictionary is putting ideas in my head.

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All the Way Around

[Barbed Wire and Blimp]

Smith Cove Park

It started with a Hello and a How are you. There’s been a lot of that going around.

It looks like you got here faster than I did, he told me.

Maybe I did. Had we run into each other earlier?

It doesn’t seem right – going all the way around, when you could just use the bridge.

I agreed with him completely, in principle. Using the bridge did seem better than going all the way around.

He pointed his finger at the ground and asked me, Do you live here?

I looked at where he was pointing – at the park path – and answered, In Seattle? Yes.

Is there a way to get up to that bridge? Up to Aurora?

I don’t know. I don’t know whether the bridge has a sidewalk.

Is there another way to go?

I hesitated, You could walk along the bike path. There’s one really narrow part, but it should be pretty safe.

You mean the path that goes by all those buses?

That’s right.

Okay, thanks. He started to walk away, but turned back quickly. The path goes all the way to Discover Park?

I had felt that I was one step behind throughout our conversation. Now I was several steps behind. No. That goes in the opposite direction. I realized that I was giving directions and I didn’t even know where he was trying to go. I’m giving you bad advice, I confessed.

He reacted with little more than a blink, Okay, thanks. He walked away. He headed up a dead end street, and I didn’t even think to stop him.

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Out of Ambit

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite writers was Diane Duane, author of Doctor’s Orders, Spock’s World, The Romulan Way, and you get the idea. The point is, she has a nice weblog, Out of Ambit.

When I was fifteen, I used a modified version of the name of one of her character’s, Naraht, when I dressed as a Horta for a costume contest at a Star Trek convention in Calgary and . . . and now I’ve said too much.

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I had to maneuver around a small conference to get to the cash machines. Two homeless men were joking with a young guy, who looked like he felt a little bit cornered. One of the men made a snappy comment and the kid fumbled for a second but found an adequate response. They shook hands, and as they were parting ways, my peripheral vision caught something dropping to the ground. There was a loud clean POP and a comparatively small, “Oh man. I wish that hadn’t happened.” When I looked over, the homeless guys were standing over a white puddle spreading from a shattered bottled. The kid shrugged toward them and moved on. The homeless guys watched the white foam clear away, leaving a stagnant urine-colored pool of liquor spread around a plastic bag filled with glass shards. A cloud of alcohol wreak hit me. The two of them stood over the accident and had a clear-headed discussion about it – a moment’s slip and the whole evening had drained away right in front of them. One man was slow to admit it, but he still had two dollars. His friend was relieved. They lingered over the scene for a moment longer, and then headed off to the convenience store. As an afterthought, the first man jogged back over to pick up the dripping plastic bag and tossed it in the trash.

The sound of the bottle shattering was more like a balloon popping than a window breaking. The sound of the bottle exploding – more like a balloon than a window – seemed to resonate through the rest of the night.

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The stock at a recently opened used bookstore seems carefully chosen, uneven like somebody’s personal library. In the fiction section, there are wide sections of shelf space given over to books by individual authors. There’s a fistful of Italo Calvino books. One of them would fit perfectly in the gap left on my shelf at home by a book that was given away.

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The Unmemorable Man

There’s a guy I run into sometimes who knows my name and a bit about my background, but I can never remember anything about him. When some personal detail about him comes up in the course of a conversation, I forget it immediately. I guess it’s pretty cruel and self-centered.

I don’t remember who he is or how we met. I’ve forgotten his name every time that he’s mentioned it. I wasn’t even able to recognize him by sight for the longest time. When he’d run into me, it would take a few seconds before his uninflected nasal voice would trigger the memory of the man I couldn’t remember.

I asked him to remind me how we met, and he told met that we had run into each other a lot when I used to walk up Some Street on my way home, back when I lived Someplace. I had lived on the street that he’d mentioned, but I couldn’t remember talking to him then; and now I can’t even remember which street he’d mentioned or where I was living at the time.

I’ve finally memorized his face. I recognize him when he turns up, but only as the man that I don’t recognize.

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