Duck Pond

Dude, calm down. She’s going
to be here. It’s not even 2:00.

I know. She didn’t cancel. But
what if she got detention?

Marilyn Andrews
in detention?
Mike says.
What, for breaking the curve?

I guess. Jeez,
I don’t know.

At 2:08
I fill up a small bag
with sugar hearts.

Come on, man, no one buys those.

We just come in here to meet up?
Is that even allowed?

Mike pours my baggie
back into the bin.

Shit, I just saw her
in the window.
I’m behind the Pay Days.
Just wave.

I fill my baggie again
fast as I can. I’m handing
over my quarters when Marilyn walks in

with someone else.

They see me and I try
to smile and then they see the hearts
and they laugh
to each other. I look
and the floor is still there.
I hide the bag
and they walk over. Mike’s
already hiding
or gone.

This is my friend Sharon.

Hi, I’m Sharon.

Hi.

I say it just like my brother said it:

Want to go to the Duck Pond?

They giggle again
and Marilyn says, Okay. But
I’m not going to make out with you.

That, uh… I mean, of course.

She’s not going to, either. But
she thinks you’re cute.

Sharon punches her
with her eyes.
We settle our backpacks
and start walking.

After ten minutes at the bottom fence
Marilyn asks if I have any bread
to throw the ducks.

I shake my head.

What about the candy hearts?
Sharon asks.

I was… I mean,
good idea.

Come on, Marilyn says. Ducks can’t eat
sugar. It’ll kill them.

Let’s find out. Sharon grabs the bag
and throws a spray of pink
and blue behind the fence.

The ducks rush in, peck
and lose interest.
Marilyn looks at me. Lucky you.
The Mayor won’t call your house
for new ducks.

Do we even have a mayor?

I don’t think we do.

Of course we have a mayor.
Needham has one. Natick has one.
Every town does.

I, uh, think we have a tow—

You can’t have a town
without a mayor.
It’d be a… I don’t know what.

No, now Sharon’s smiling. What would it be?

Well, whatever it is
we couldn’t become a city.

Are we… we’re trying to become a city?

Hey, Sharon says. Let’s go to the Circle.

I don’t want to become a city.

Marilyn looks at Sharon.
They have a whole conversation
with their eyes, but all she says is, Really?

Yeah. I’ve seen enough ducks.
Then we’ll go to Town Hall
and they can tell you
we don’t have a mayor.

Fine, Marilyn says. The two of you
go to the Circle and I’ll get letterhead
from the Mayor’s Office.

It’s in the back, on the second floor.
Ask the receptionist.

Marilyn’s backpack bounces
away through the trees.

We do have a mayor?

I don’t think we even have a receptionist.

Sharon lets go of a rhododendron branch
and it slaps me hard on the cheek.

Oh, shit, sorry.

No problem.
I rub my face.

A long minute goes by.

Where do you think she is now?

Probably demanding the Planning Department
send their secretary up from the basement.

I laugh.
Sharon blushes a little. Suddenly
I wonder where Mike is.

How do you know so much about Town Hall?

I like that stuff.
And I went to Hunnewell.

She points across the street.
We came over a lot.

Neat. Is that what you want to do?
Manage the town?

I want to be Mayor one day… you know,
of a town that has a mayor.
What about you?

I don’t know. I have a hard enough
time figuring out what I want
to do every morning.

Sharon laughs
and I blush a little.
A minute goes by.
The wind rustles the rhododendron.

I don… really… I mean,
I don’t want to be mean
to your friend, but do you know why
Marilyn’s so… mean?

She straightens her back.
What do you mean?

Well, I thought we—me
and her—were coming here
today on a date.

She looks away. I know.
That’s why she invited me.

Oh.

Hey, it could be worse.
Sharon winks at me.
You could’ve been on a date
with her.

I hear laughing
in the leaves.
We both stand up
into Brock’s horrible high-pitch laugh
but then

I’m in the New Room
at my house. There’s rock music
and my parents are dancing.
My face is full of cake frosting.

I know wherever I just was
was important… but

at the other end
of the house, Night,
with short black hair
and a red plaid shirt,
is walking slowly up the stairs,
toward my room.

Added: January 22, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015