A meeting in the park.
A Meeting in the Park.
The elderly man walked down the path in the park. It was late in the evening and the Sun had long ago set. Beside him his small dog trotted on a lead. Like its owner, it was small and gnarled but somehow managed to convey a plucky dignity. The path was edged on either side by tall untidy bushes and black anthracite trees. The onset of Autumn had wreaked a cruel price on the more tender of them which, denuded of their leaves, reached for the night sky like arthritic hands. Clouds scudded across the autumn moon and a chill wind tumbled dry leaves along the path about his heels. All was quiet except for the rustling of the leaves and his solitary footfalls.
There was a look about him, like no matter how close you were to him, he would always seem somehow distant, a distant private figure, a silhouette on a far hill worth a moment’s squinting but no more than that. A widower or more likely an old bachelor out with his dog to escape the four walls in a well-worn routine that would divert him from his solitary and lonely life.
He walked on, quietly enjoying the peace of the night. A noise from the bushes to his left broke the silence. It sounded like a dry twig snapping underfoot. Pausing, he turned his head and peered into the inky blackness of the bushes. The dog growled. The old man waited a moment and then, with a jerk on the dog’s lead, walked on.
Behind him, he heard more noises coming from the undergrowth. He quickened his pace. A crashing noise came from the bushes as though some creature was thrusting its way powerfully through them. The dog began to strain on the leash, tugging him along the path away from the noises. It began to growl. The path turned left. The man glanced over his shoulder looking backwards at where the noise was coming from, but nothing was visible.
He stopped. The noises increased and seemed to pass by him on the left until they were in front of him. The dog started growling and its hackles rose. Suddenly from the bushes a heavy figure stepped into view brandishing a knife. He had short blond hair cut back to the regulation quarter-inch from the skull and his red chubby face grinned the easy threatening grin acquired early on in a life of preying on the weak. He advanced on his prey, the moon glinting on the cruel blade held out in front. The old man seemed to shrivel as he retreated a few steps backward. The dog scampered behind him and regarded the advancing figure from behind his master’s heels, its eyes rolling in terror. The old man seemed to shrink and become smaller. The mugger stood there crouching. He put out his left hand palm upwards and flexed his fingers impatiently.
“Give me everything you’ve got and I won’t hurt you” he said. In his other hand, the knife made small threatening circles. He was going to cut him anyway and he knew the old man knew it and knew he knew it but that was part of the kick.
Suddenly the old man dived at the mugger, knocking both of his outstretched hands aside. The knife went spinning off into the night. The mugger was knocked flat onto his back. The old man landed on top of him, teeth sinking into the mugger’s throat, tearing and biting through artery and flesh with an animal savagery. It was over quickly.
The man stood up and wiped the blood from around his mouth with a clean cotton handkerchief. He allowed the dog to feed for a while. “That’s enough” he said and prodded the dog off the corpse with his foot. He picked up its lead and walked on down the path. Above him a full moon glowed in all its glory.