We settled on a bench across from the pond in Salem’s Waterworth Park. Several varieties of ducks and geese floated leisurely across the water. Some stepped out onto the grassy shore to preen and soak up the afternoon sun. They flocked about, quacking and squawking, feathers flapping.
Just beginning to unpack the Wendy’s salads we’d picked up for lunch, two girls who had been playing beside the pond when we arrived, strolled past, uncomfortably close to our bench, and, too obviously, stared as they passed.
“Just when you think you’ve found a quiet spot,” my brother, Tom, said.
“Yeah. What was that?” I wondered. “I can’t believe they were so intrusive.”
The fall scenery diverted our attention only momentarily as we began to eat, then one of the girls was back. The shorter of the two girls stood close in front of me, her bangs parted in the middle above black wire-framed glasses.
“Do you have something to keep the ducks from eating my sweater?” she asked.
We were so surprised and confused by her question that we sat dumfounded as I mentally tried to decipher what she’d said. I surveyed the surface of the pond, supposing her garment accidentally dropped in the water and she needed something to fish it out before the ducks touched it, but I saw no sweater.
Her stare fixed on us while she waited for a response.
“Where is your sweater?” I asked.
“Over there,” she pointed. I followed her fingers toward a sidewalk inside the chain link fence that surrounded the pond area which must help keep the waterfowl from interfering with the rest of the park.
Yes. There was a mound of cloth lying there, yards from the water and nowhere near any birds. What was she talking about?
“There are no ducks bothering your sweater. Why don’t you go pick it up?” I half asked; half ordered.
She turned away with a flip of her shoulder length hair, strutted through a gate and grabbed her sweater.
A woman who’d been rummaging about through the open passenger door of her car called out, the girls sped over, all were seated quickly and off they drove.
“What was that all about?” Tom laughed as he talked. “What did she want us to do? Why would she walk off and leave her sweater there in the first place?”
“Do you suppose she just wanted us to give her something to feed the ducks?”
” Oh …” Tom looked struck. “Maybe that was it. But why would you ask it that way?” Tom puzzled.
“It was weird.” I agreed. “Like she wasn’t quite speaking our language. Wonder what planet she’s from?”
“Pluto.” Tom emphasized, meaning she was way out. “And it’s not even a planet,” he added.
That really made us laugh, then led us to discuss how Pluto had been demoted from planetary status. Tom knew much more about it than I did, and I listened with interest to his simplified explanation.
With today’s capabilities, more bodies have been discovered in the outer regions of Pluto and beyond – some of them even larger than Pluto. If we weren’t prepared to classify these as planets as well, then how could the smaller Pluto be considered so? The higher-ups-that-be in the world of astronomy took a vote, and out went planet Pluto.
We took a short walk after our lunch. My first time in this small city park, I was impressed by how well kept everything seemed. A man drove a small back-hoe into the pond enclosure and scraped up bird dirt along the sidewalk slowly scattering the birds in its path back into the water.
“Wow. Isn’t that nice?” my brother and I agreed. “You don’t see bird dirt detail in many places.”
We noted a posted trail map for future reference another time. We checked out a brick pavilion staged for outdoor performances, a cemetery to the East, and one set of restrooms near a playground.
Other people we passed were friendly; we spoke “hello” to some who walked their dogs or watched their kids playing. Thankfully, we didn’t meet any more aliens.