j. l. navarro

Old Woman on a Park Bench

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The old woman feeding the pigeons at the park went there frequently.  It gave her something to do during her stay.  She had begun to believe for some time now that she caused gleeful anticipation among the flock, imagined the cooing birds sounding some sort of surreptitious alarm among themselves when she was spotted.  She thought that perhaps a few of them (delegated to the task) might even have followed her home and stationed themselves near her house to keep tabs on her, to spy on her and let the others know when she was on her way.  She imagined them getting excited as the news of her arrival passed rapidly through their ranks.  In actuality, however, she despised the birds with a kind of subtle hatred.  She could think of few other creatures that were as unpredictably rude as the domestic pigeon and could not recall a single time in her life when she held any warmth whatsoever for them. 


Still, if you were to walk by her, you would see a charming old woman pitching popcorn with what looked like loving concern.  You would notice the hint of a smile on her lovely lips, the ends just slightly arched up.  You would also see that she did not dye her hair.  It was a white palomino color, rich in texture and without pretense in style.  The hair was full and straight, draped around her shoulders, fanned out to catch the summer sunshine.  If she happened to glance at you, you would observe that her blue eyes were possessed with a depth of color that hinted at her clear state of mind, a nimbleness of wit.  Seeing her in this light, you would gladly claim her as your aunt or next-door neighbor, and you might even wish to sit and have a conversation with her.  If this were the case, she would look at you as if she were seeing a mammoth flea that had taken the callous liberty to land at her side, and she would stand abruptly (after giving you the once over with a cold eye) and walk quietly away. 


One of her many peculiarities is that she never sat on a bench with anyone else, friend or stranger.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the person.  Like pigeons of a different sort, people annoyed her.  She lived by herself in a small house a few short blocks from the park.  In her twilight years, she considered herself something of a faded shadow with secreted substance she chose to keep to herself.  There were times when she imagined herself walking by the bench where she sat; imagined looking at herself as she casually strolled by.  She would certainly wonder about the woman sitting there because she wondered about elderly people in general.  The young did not interest her much.  They were too indefinite about themselves and everything else in their incomplete world for the most part to be of any interest to her.  As far as she was concerned, youth was a state of mild schizophrenia. 




This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.