Working for the I.A.T.S.E. Local 26
at the Welsh Auditorium one fine summer day, I rode my bike
some 15 blocks
home for lunch
and returned with time to spare.
The Grand Center (being the complex that housed the Welsh and several other large halls and meeting rooms) is situated on the banks of Hemmingway
’s Big Two-Hearted River
, and It was there in the summer sun and silver traceries of its dapple on the river that I chose to smoke a cigarette before returning to fly
Some 50 yards away there was a brown tweed, leather elbow patched elderly fellow bent over a large paper shopping bag (the kind with the stiff twine arches for handles). He straightened with a handful of sliced bread (4 or 5 whole slices) walked toward the rail and threw it, with force, at the waters edge. He did this several times while I watched and smoked.
Down at the waters edge, a duck
and a squirrel
were braving the hail of bread in order to gorge on this angry bounty. They were quick enough to avoid getting hit by most of the bread, but looked quite a bit “chubbier” than their urban counterparts.
When he was finished with his business, the old man brushed his hands off over the empty sack, collected it, and began to walk my direction on his way to Bridge St. As he passed by, well, I had to say something
“Just making sure everyone is well fed?” I said.
He altered his trajectory to quickly walk right up to me…
He was an inch away from my face and I could smell his rank breath.
“What did you say?”
“I said: Just making sure everyone is well fed?” I said.
“Yes, you see there is a woman that works for the city who hates me and is mad at me because I tirelessly feed the ducks year round and when they stay for the winter, for my food, they freeze to death and that is cruel. I have been feeding them year round for twelve years and I have never seen one of these “frozen ducks” though I will admit they do look quite uncomfortablesmile
. I feed the ducks and the squirrels and there was a muskrat for a while, but I think it died…of obesity smile
“Probably has nothing to do with the tons of bread you chuck down there…”
I said with a nervous chuckle.
“Yesss. I am very glad that I came to live in Grand Rapids
. Do you know why?”
“No.” It was true.
“Because a lot of the people are….~krkkkch~
” he said while making an orbit near his temple with his index finger
“Yeah, we’re all pretty crazy to live here…~heh~
He stepped in close once again and with an iron stare and a voice as hard as nails he said
“NO. YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. DON’T SAY THAT.
He then walked away and left me to stub out my cigarette and shiver in the summer sun.