Disturbing Encounter

It was only after this incident that I started noticing the reports in the newspapers about the local “sexual deviant” community using the parks and beaches as their own private meat markets. Nor do they seem very discerning about who they solicit. One editorial cartoon showed a little boy with his spade, sandpail and waterwings fleeing from a sinister looking fellow with his hands down his trousers, yelling after the child, “But you just said you needed an adult!”

Anyhow, I didn’t believe the papers — since I go to the parks often — until yesterday when I happened to remember an odd conversation I once had. Then I put two and two together, and I didn’t much like the resulting sum.

This took place at the same park as in my post Strange Encounter. I will no longer frequent this park.

As usual I was sitting under the most secluded pavilion scribbling on some notecards when I looked up to see this huge old man in a yellow shirt with a soda in his hand standing in front of me. He opened the can, took a long sip, then said:

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

I nodded and stuck my nose back in my writing, trying to ignore him. He continued to stand there for a long time. I lost track of what I was writing because I was watching him out of the corner of my eye, but it probably read something like What the hell, freak. Go away! — written a few dozen times.

He finally left. I watched him go down a path which led towards the river.

After ten minutes I had forgot about him and stretched out on the picnic table to relax. I must have nodded off, but in a vague half-dream I heard the sound of heavy steps on grass and sand. And then a sudden voice, which was not in a dream, said:

“I can see your belly there, son. That’s what you call lying down on the job.”

I opened my eyes. The huge old man was standing over me. I sat up very quickly and pulled down my shirt.

“That’s what you call thinking of the next sentence,” I mumbled with impatience, and tried to hide again in my writing. But he must have felt like a pearl hunter who had just pried the oyster shell open an inch and wasn’t about to give up. He sat down across from me and continued slurping at his soda.

“I wasn’t going to say anything before, you know, because you seemed to be writing with such intensity,” he said.

“I still am,” I said.

“I see. So you come here to write?”

“Only when people are talking too much at home.”

That quited him for a moment. I couldn’t get over how big he was for an old man, with a bald head, pointy nose and big owl glasses. His eyes expanded behind the huge lenses. On his cheeks and nose the veins flushed like a red filigree. His lips kept quivering.

I wrote on in silence, but the second he saw my pen pause he broke in:

“So do you come here often?”

“No.”

“Neither do I, but I’ll tell you something, I came here a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was heading to go down that same footpath to the river that I just now went down, when I came upon these two fellows, naked, up against a palm tree. They were busy so they didn’t see me, but one of them had a dick like this,” he said, holding his hands about a foot apart, “and he was busy stuffing it up into this other guy. I had to stand there and watch — it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.”

“Wow. You really have a talent for small talk,” I said. “I’ll have to remember that story if I’m ever trying to break the ice with someone new.”

“That’s not all,” he went on, “I was here this other time in the evening and right on this table was a couple going at it. The fellow was standing up with his shorts around his ankles and the girl was on her back with her legs around his waist. I couldn’t tell who was getting the worst of it for all the groaning, the girl or this picnic table.”

“And a talent for description,” I said. He kept going.

“But the funny thing was that a cop was not a hundred yards away in the parking lot doing some paper work. And then there was this time I was walking up the shore over there . . .”

“I thought you said you didn’t come here often,” I interjected, but he just kept on talking.

“. . . and this little puppy runs up to me with his tail wagging, collar jangling and the leash still attached. I figured the owner must be near by, so I took up the leash and the little puppy trotted on beside me. So I go around the bend of tall grasses and I see someone on his knees. I had to do a double take, but there was two of them. The fellow had his face buried between the girl’s thighs and the girl was staring me right in the eyes with this look on her face like she was a wax statue left in the sun. Anyhow, they didn’t stop. I held up the leash and said ‘this your dog?’ She said ‘yes!’ so I left the puppy there, but she was still saying ‘yes!’ when I left, so who knows?”

“And you seem to have a talent,” I said, “for stumbling into awkward situations.”

“Hey, it happens a lot here — and no one cares. I bet you and I,” he said, leaning in, pointing at himself and me with thumb and pinky, “could right now commit unspeakable acts in the middle of the boat launch and people would just go around us.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, rhetorically speaking. I’m just trying to make a point.”

He stopped talking and began slurping at his soda again, but sort of thoughtfully. I looked down at my stack of notecards ready to disappear again into my writing, but they were full of ink splotches and expendable ideas. This old man was making me uncomfortable, to be sure — but I decided to stick around and see what else he would say. After all, no one ever gets a good story to tell by playing it safe.

He finished his soda and tossed it at the trash bin, missing. Then he leaned in.

“You’ve heard of a horse whisperer, right?” he said.

“Sure, those people who can calm horses and get them to do what they want.”

“That’s right.” He let a moment pass in silence, then said: “I’m like one of them.”

“Yeah, who do you whisper to?”

“Well, I’ll tell you. When I first came down here my house wasn’t finished and I had to sleep at a friend’s. He had this dog, a little terrier, that was the most unruly thing ever. It never sat still, it pissed and shat all over the house, it barked and whined continuously. My friend had put it through obedience school, which did nothing, and he was just about to give it away. I said, ‘wait a minute, why don’t you let me work with her’.

“So you’re a dog whisperer?”

“Let me finish,” he snapped. “I took this little thing, and first I made her sleep with me. I would whisper to her all night long and tell her that she was a good girl, and that I loved her, and that I would love her even more if she would sit still and not be so noisy, and that I would never leave her if she would only do what I told her.”

“I think I get the picture.”

“And after a week, you wouldn’t believe the difference. She let me pet her, and wash her, and groom her, and she learned tricks — anything I asked. That dog followed me everywhere.”

“Wow, that’s incredible!” I said. But I didn’t hide my sarcasm well enough and he scowled at me, offended.

“You don’t believe me?” he asked. “Let me tell you, I only learned of this gift with that dog. I can whisper anything I want — people, too.”

I didn’t like the expression of self satisfied confidence that came over his face, nor the way he was clenching his jaw like he was restraining himself from an outburst.

I asked, sort of tentatively: “Yeah, what do you mean?”

He stood and, putting his hands on the table, stared down at me. Then he walked around behind me, put his hands on my shoulders and whispered in my ear:

“I mean, I can get people to do what I want, too.”

I grabbed my stack of notecards and backpack and ran.

“Maybe, but not me!” I yelled over my shoulder.

I didn’t want a story that bad.

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~ by Peter on January 16, 2008.

3 Responses to “Disturbing Encounter”

  1. Story within a story, or many stories within a story. The old guy was a quite wit. Funny, weird and cool. Technically perfect stroytelling too. You would probably get along really well with Absurdistry from blogroll, you are both working in a similar field. I will go tell him too.

  2. Hey GingaTao, I’m happy to see you here and I appreciate your comments. I am well aware of Absurdistry’s blog and I thank you for bringing me to his attention. You and he are among my favorite bloggers I have discovered so far.

  3. Its a really well written piece, really gripping, strong narrative drive. Disturbing, engaging and thank goodness it is only a piece of creative writing.. you had me fooled for a sec!

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