The dark-eyed friend I made at the park

I saw him this morning on the way to the park; he was sitting on the stairs. It was a wonderful brisk morning in spring, his gaze assessed me, I smiled, he looked away, disinterested in an old lady walking slowly, and with a cane; no fun there. I felt his gaze go past me. Looking, waiting.

In the park there were children everywhere, running, laughing, shrieking, and shining from every face, the love of the great expanse of soft green grass. The pond, a duck’s paradise, has been taken over by small homemade wooden boats, some just barely keeping afloat. Others have been spared no expense, big bright and loud, the engines growling across the lake then back again, swamping the others in the wake that churns the water behind them. I sit on a bench, under a green leafy tree, cool, in the mid morning sun, far from the noisy pond. This small park is my favourite place to have my lunch after the mid morning sun has swarmed my old bones. Sitting on the bench, I find myself smiling at the mayhem before me. Five young mothers are having a picnic lunch. The wooden benches and table, weathered to a silver grey patina holds their homemade lunches, set out on the bench top to share, while they talk and laugh together. Eight rambunctious little boys play a game of tag in the sunshine. Under the large Maple tree a birthday is underway, six small fairies dance, scream (as only small girls can) and run about playing a fairy fantasy game that could last the entire afternoon.

I started to think about my lunch – leftovers from dinner the night before. Unpacking my bag, I take out a piece of frittata with bacon, caramelised onion and garlic from my garden. I had made a small garden salad and added six red, juicy grape tomatoes. A thermos of coffee, made with the old fashioned coffee and milk, my one addiction, and a packet yoyo biscuits, just in case I see some of my park friends.

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One or two small people, a little tired of all the excitement of the mornings play, drift across to where I sit. Seeing their friends have been distracted, they join the small group gathering about me. After many mornings of smiling, and a friendly wave from the Mums, they know I will have a story to tell, and perhaps a biscuit to nibble on while their children listen, and rest. As I tell my story I notice one or two children are distracted, their eyes slipping off mine, looking beyond me, a giggle, a smile, something has taken the children’s attention. I turn, and find myself looking into a pair of big brown eyes, my friend I saw on my way to the park earlier. The big black Labrador had at last decided to join our little group. He is sitting just beside me, but back a little, as if he was listening to the story too. Story forgotten, the children call to him, obviously, he is an old friend, he joins the group and little Adam asks if Jack could have a biscuit too. Rested they start a game of catch with Jack and I am soon forgotten.

I sit and doze for a while, and start to pack my things just as the children file past, a smile and a wave, and we are all ready to go home. One of the mothers stop, she nods to the Lab; much to my surprise he is now sitting behind me. She tells me the story of Jack. His owner, a widow, had sat on the seat over by the pond, for many years. He had passed away a few months before and Jack the Lab had been passed on to his son. I do remember seeing the old man, and his dog, sitting on the bench over the other side of the park. I had never met him; it was too loud over there for me. He looks as though he has attached himself to you, I have the son’s phone number if you decide to adopt him, and I know the old man’s son is not interested. She moved on to take her boys home.

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We sit there for a while, both lost in our thoughts, I stand and two big brown eyes follow me, I nod, a decision has been made.

Jack, let’s go see our children, have lunch in the Park, and then get your things from your previous owner’s son.

Have you ever met a stray animal in your travels? What was its story? Tell us below.