The Ducks (Flash Fiction)

Bob shuffled his feet to the bench and sat. He held his cane, a worn piece of golden wood, and watched as the ducks paddled in his direction. He opened the bag of day old bread, bought from his good friend at the corner grocery, and tore the bread to pieces with trembling hands. The sizes were mismatched and uneven. He threw them in several directions but none fell in the water. The ducks hopped ashore, ruffled their feathers dry, and waddled across the grass to quarrel over the easy meal.

Bob squinted, and lines dug into his weathered face. There was a long bicycle path that wound around the small pond, and there were several people walking on it. Some were couples, some were alone. Bob kept looking over his shoulder. “Was I supposed to meet someone?”

The ducks crowded closer, and Bob startled when he saw them. He looked to the bread in his shaking hands and threw more pieces, this time a little further. The ducks scattered. He reached into his coat pocket and felt a piece a paper. He opened it and saw an address written in shaky lettering. Below it were the words Go here. Bob looked over his shoulder again, down the path, with the ever-present urge of waiting for someone. He shook his head. “No, no, this isn’t right,” he said. A young woman gave him a confused looked as she walked by. “No, no,” he said. “Not here.” He stood and began shuffling his feet around the edge of the pond. The ducks followed.

The grass was green and the breeze was fair. A small group of children played tag around a large oak tree. Bob looked at them and the parents watching in the distance, squinting his eyes again. “Do I know them?” he said to the wind. He shuffled a few steps forward and shook his head. “No, no, not them. I don’t know them.” He planted his cane and moved on.

He came to an empty bench at sat down. He kept his cane in his hand. The wood was smooth and comforting. It reminded him of someone he was supposed to meet. He looked down the length of the bicycle path and waited to see if someone would walk toward him. No one did. He was startled from his gaze by the ducks surrounding him. “Oh! Oh. Well hello, little duckies,” he said with a smile. “Are ya hungry? I’ve got some bread for you.” He tore at the pieces with trembling hands and threw them toward the pond. A few pieces fell in. He found the note in his pocket again and shook his head. “But wasn’t I supposed to meet someone?”

A couple passed by on the bicycle path. Brian nudged Catherine in her side. “See that old man over there?” Catherine nodded. “He comes here and feeds the ducks everyday.” They watched him as they walked by. The old man got up from his bench, paused to look at some nearby children, and shuffled away. “Isn’t it neat how they follow him?” Brian said.

“Yeah,” Catherine said. “Does anyone ever join him?”

“Nope,” Brian said. “It’s only ever him. Just him and the ducks.”

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