Two Tuesdays ago, two weeks ago last Tuesday, I spent five minutes down by Beekner's Pond. There, a duck and a goose were floating conspicuously far apart, one on my left, the other on my right. In the middle of the pond floated an entire loaf of bread, on an old-style foam float, a child's toy, the kind with a red seat-hammock in the middle. The bread was open, exposed to the sky, and seemed, from my vantage on the shore, to be untouched by any avian. The white foam float seemed tethered, and as the water lapped at it, the float refused stoically to move.
I sat on a bench and noticed the lack of pigeons, usually carpeted three deep and demanding any small objects gripped by bench sitters. I looked up and was shocked momentarily to see that the bare tree branches were plastered with these birds. Starting, I immediately jumped out from under them. They did not react. Standing away from them, I saw that their attention was directed, uniformly, to the bread on the floatie in the middle of the pond. The duck and the goose did not move.
I reached into my pocket, where I often kept a small hard roll for such occasions as might involve birds, and found such a comestible. I broke it in half and put one back into my pocket, and the other I began to crumble and scatter on the ground. This failed to elicit even a glimmer from the pigeons. I tossed the crust toward the tree and accidentally bumped one of the birds. It flapped a wing, but never allowed its black button gaze to leave the floatie and the bread. My roll plopped to the ground with a self-satisfied mien, and there remained.
I strolled along the edge of the lake and found all the trees to be filled entirely with birds of various types, mockingbirds, sparrows and grackles, each tree with only a single kind of bird. None of them so much as rustled as I walked under. I swore I could almost hear them breathe.
Far away, across the campus grounds, the clock began to strike the one o'clock hour, beginning with its Westminster chimes and clattering along noisily to the business at hand. As the singular bell tolled, a sparrow flitted from one tree to the pond's center, carrying a small, white kerchief. The sparrow, "She," unless my eyes mislead me, flew to some great height, and dropped the square of white. It drifted down lazily until it lit on the bread.
The air exploded with movement. All the birds flew away and out, deserting the pond. The duck and goose dove under the water. I dropped to my knees instinctively and covered my head with my insufficient arms. In seconds, it was over. The waterfowl were merely the spreading circles of memory on the surface of the water. The rest of the birds had scattered and dispersed and none remained. I stood, alone, looking across the grey-green water at a loaf of bread, still untouched, on a floaty of white foam, in the middle of Beekner's Pond.