Slinging the plastic bag containing the big bunch of bananas over my shoulder, I brace myself for the trek back, beneath a blinding hot August afternoon sun. A true son of New York City, I never envisioned living more than a stone’s throw from a grocery store. Yet, here I am, a fifty-plus-year-old beast of burden, trudging along a sliver of New Jersey walkway, alongside a heavily trafficked highway. Breathing only through my nose to minimize auto-exhaust-filled air induced lung damage. I would not, though, need to endure tomorrow morning without a banana. Order to my world restored, the sweat burning my eyes didn’t give me pause …
Sensing something behind me, I halt and turn around. Four young men are approaching. I wait for them to pass before walking again. One brazenly tosses his empty plastic water bottle onto the walkway. I take it personally. His fuck you to me. But I keep my mouth shut.
Drenched in sweat, I march on, holding my breath past an odorous empty lot marked “Toxic.” Up ahead, the four young men rest beneath the shade of a tree, long enough for me to pass, before they begin walking again.
I soon spot five or six goslings bunched by a side fence on an otherwise bare, perfectly manicured green lawn adjacent to a modern two-story industrial building. On the other side of the fence, amid trees and shrubbery, is mother goose. Surely the goslings belong with their mother. In plain sight, they’ll be easy pickings for a hawk. But hawks need to eat too. This ain’t no Peaceable Kingdom. Such is the natural order of things. Besides, in time the goslings will become full grown, and I have no love for geese. They shit the path in the park that I walk regularly, and give ground grudgingly. Because they have very long, thin, vulnerable necks, I have resolved to counter goose aggression with strangulation.
Standing there, observing the goslings, I finally surrender to the need to snatch the folded handkerchief from my back pocket and wipe the sweat from my eyes and face. The four young men are now walking by. Fueled by the earlier exhibitionistic littering, I step up to them, nod toward the geese, and in an agitated tone say, “Guys, see those baby geese, the fence, the mother? If they stay where they are, they’ll very likely be swooped down on by a hawk. Maybe even clawed and mauled, slowly tortured to death by a stray cat.” The four then fix on the geese.
The flinger of the bottle is first to turn back to me. He says, “I’ll take care of it.” Easily hopping the fence, he gently moves each gosling to the side of the fence near mother goose. Lightened, I wait for the young men to leave, and celebrate, scarfing down two bananas.
Ted Jonathan is a poet and short story writer. Born and raised in the Bronx, he currently lives in New Jersey. His poems and stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, most recently: Paterson Literary Review, Hiram Poetry Review, and Open Minds Quarterly. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. His chapbook Spiked Libido was published by Neukeia Press. His full-length collection of poems and short stories, Bones & Jokes, was published by NYQ Books (2009). His poetry collection RUN was published by NYQ Books (2016). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ted recommends the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.