He looks up like a reader interrupted mid-paragraph. The little duckling he had been shelling corn to runs off to its mother. A woman sits down next to him. Her face looks just as long as his, the void of loss in her life as palpable as his.
The view from this particular bench is beautiful and not dependent on season for its beauty. In summer, the bench looks out on a deep pool of water with a resting goose here or there. In the fall, the pool of water reflects the colorful trees around it while ducks and geese stop by on their semi-annual migration. In the winter, the person on the bench, bundled against the cold, may see a stray goose in a part of the water that rarely freezes.
The spring, ah the spring, the pool of water is teeming with new life. Ducklings and goslings follow their mothers throughout the grounds finding kernels of corn from the parks department or the astute bird watcher. Fish of many varieties swim just below the surface, hoping for a duck or goose to drop a piece of bread from the visitors that didn’t read the sign about a bird’s diet. At the edge of the pool, tadpoles slowly change to frogs as the wind caused miniature waves break over rocks.
The woman nudges the man and shows him a video of her and a little boy feeding the ducks, which ends abruptly as the geese come over hissing and using their size to get more food.
The man pulls out his phone and shows her a video of a little boy in the winter calling out to the ducks and geese that are not to be found that day.
The woman quickly finds videos of a little boy skipping rocks in the summer. His total skips going from two to fifteen as he ages and grows.
The man finds videos of a little boy fishing in the pool of water. The woman looks up at the sign behind the bench and points to it. “No Fishing” is in big, bold letters at the top. The man stands up and points to the bottom of the sign where it reads, “No Rock Throwing.” They both shrug and look out at the water reflecting plump, white clouds.
A few minutes later, the man walks to the parking lot and gets in a sedan. He doesn’t start the vehicle but watches a few birds fly overhead.
The woman eventually wanders off to get in the same sedan. Upon closing the door, she lets out a heavy sigh, almost as if to say we will carry on without that little boy but not forget him. Many make light of the gaps in the conversations of older married couples, but sometimes those places are filled with grief that need not be spoken to be shared. The couple from the park bench visited it monthly, not to remind each other what they were missing but to remind each other of the life they had created and shared.