By the Duck Pond

October 4, 2009

‘It’s a cliché, but a true one…’ she says.

In the early light the park is a junkyard of frozen machinery. Her voice echoes through the stillness, and then curtails itself awkwardly.

‘… one. It’s not me. It’s you…. ou.’

The council are in the process of draining the duck pond by the east gate, and the pool is shrunken and dried out. An imposing blue and white sign beside the dormant digger announces the general intention in specific terms: the drainage equipment will not resume its course until mid-morning. The sign does not, however, explain the overall purpose of the scheme. In the meantime the ducks return, and find their home diminished.
‘I think you have that the wrong way around,’ he says.

‘You hear it in pop songs all the time now,’ she says.

A long pause. She fills the silence, a barely audible,

‘Oh.’

They sit on a bench overlooking the dust-bowl. The ducks are indignant and peck at the dry earth. A radio from a passing car plays out the news at one minute to nine. A source of abrupt inspiration, she announces:

‘We need to downsize.’

‘Downsize?’

‘Yes, from a fixed unit to something more fluid. But individual. Everyone’s doing it now.’

‘Companies. Not people.’

‘All the same,’ she says, and the morning blows a long pointed finger of cool air between them, shaking the leaves from the trees. The digger rattles its chains.

‘I think I only loved you because the

weather was cold,’ she confesses.

He suggests central heating next winter,
‘Less emotionally expensive.’

Neither of them move for a while. He wonders if her choice of language has been influenced by the council’s drainage plans. She wonders if the point of departure has already passed her by. They stagnate.

To the west of the pond two pairs of shining eyes recite. She stands up and starts as if to apologise, but thinks better of it. Her heels ring out hollow on the tarmac above the sounds of their chatter.

‘It’s not me. It’s you.’

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