A Last Pleasure of Hector Henceforth
“The weather today will be similar to yesterday, really.
Clouds will continue to drift slowly across the sky,
to dim and shadow those areas they pass over.
The temperature will be a little lower for this time of year,
but as may be expected for August,
there will be no threat of snow or icy patches on the roads.”
“Enough,” said Hector Henceforth, huffily,
turning the knob on the radio to off,
his temper belching blackly blue,
as if he had caught a cough.
The weather report he found
only a little more bearable than the traffic report.
At least, the weather report was relevant,
warning of thunder storms and floods
that may come to trouble him, near and far,
unlike the traffic report,
which was meaningless to him,
as he did not have a car.
“You shouldn’t do that,”
an old woman scolded him,
as he sat on a park bench, a little later,
feeding ducks with crumbs,
broken from two buns
he had in a white paper bag,
bought from a cake shop
he had known from a schoolboy,
who could not do his sums.
“They should put a sign up,”
she went on,
her voice dry as a long left scone.
“Do Not Feed The Ducks, it should say.
You will make them fat with that bread.
I wish people would think.
Don’t you see? With that bread inside them,
they will not swim, they’ll sink.”
“I am not the only one who feeds them,”
said Hector, who wanted her to go away.
“I’ve been coming here for years,
and I’ve never seen a fat duck,
but with you here, maybe one will slouch by today,
such would be my luck.
Perhaps they should put up lots of signs,
forbidding folk to do many things,
warding them away from this and that,
but few would heed them.
See the way some trample down the flower beds,
but still the gardeners seed them.”
“I bet if they weighed them,
they’d find some were over weight,”
said the old woman,
her voice dry as cold cinders in a grate.
“It is one of my last pleasures,”
said Hector. “I buy two buns from the cake shop,
and feed them to the ducks.
See them flock around me,
hear their squawks, quacks and clucks.”
“They are ducks. They know no better,”
the old woman, Bertha Withers, said.
“Writing to the newspapers does no good.
At least one of them published my letter,
but the readers, like you, never understood.
Like you, some said they’d been
feeding ducks with bread for years.
No one ever listens.
But what can one expect in this fallen world,
this unhappy vale of tears?”
Hector did not reply.
On the ducks, he kept his eye.
Bertha Withers had finally run dry.
She turned, and walked off,
disapprovingly, defeated, to the gate.
Hector remained where he was,
sat till sunset, late.