Afternoon Stroll - By Mizeta Moon

The sun finally made an appearance after a two week absence. By then, cabin fever raged in my entire being, and I had to get out of the house or go mad. After bundling up, I hopped on my bike and rode to Blue Lake. During the winter it’s generally quiet, save a few dogs dragging their owners around on a leash. No one was using the playground equipment so I chained my bike to a pole and started walking. It felt wonderful to breathe fresh air and bask in the warming rays of the sun. I had a chocolate bar in my pocket that I unwrapped and munched on while surveying the starkness of deciduous trees combing the breeze with their barren branches. Across the lake a boat bobbed at the end of a pier that belonged to one of the private homes. Seeing it made me want to come back in the summer for a cruise in one of the rentable paddle boats. A few yards later, a flotilla of ducks started quacking at me from the water but I hadn’t anything to share. A gaggle of geese moved across the grass with their heads down, avidly searching for sustenance. Their honking grew louder as I neared so I made sure to give them room. Engrossed in my thoughts and the scenery, I hadn’t noticed the woman who’d quietly walked up behind me. When she spoke, I nearly jumped out of my skin. 

“Mind if I walk with you?” 

Looking her over as I recovered my wits, I was pleased to see a slender young lady wearing sneakers and sweats with a brightly-colored knit scarf loosely draped around her neck. She held a violin and a bow in her left hand. Her smile seemed genuine and her demeanor wasn’t threatening. Before I could answer, she spoke again. “Sorry for startling you. I thought you’d seen me while you were locking your bike.” 

“Um . . . that’s okay. Sure, you can walk with me. Are you from around here?” 

“Yeah, I live in Wood Village. I come here to play to the ducks since they don’t care that I’m still learning. My family doesn’t appreciate sour notes. My name’s Carla, by the way.” 

Shaking the hand she held out, I said, “Mine’s Louise. Nice to meet you.” 

We walked and chatted for a while, then sat on a bench to visit and get to know each other better. I was enjoying her company and didn’t mind my stroll being interrupted. After a few minutes I asked if she would play for me. At first, she said no, due to fear of embarrassment, but relented when I assured her that I wouldn’t critique her performance. 

The first few notes proved she was gifted. As she worked her way through several songs, she did hit a bad note every so often but her verve and passion for playing shone through. I was quite impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the private concert while watching wispy clouds cross bands of blue and purple in the sky. I noticed that the ducks were all facing us while quietly bobbing on gentle breeze-driven waves, making a statement about their enjoyment of her visits. 

As evening grew near, there was a chill in the air and I needed to move my limbs or sit shivering. When I stood, she stopped playing and jumped to her feet as well. No words were needed as we resumed our stroll. She knew I’d liked our time together. As the light faded, we prepared to part ways. I unlocked my bike and offered to give her a lift but she said, “It’s uphill all the way. I would be a burden. I’ll call my mom and she’ll come get me. Don’t worry, I do this all the time.” She’d obviously noted my look of concern. 

I went to the lake several times after that but never saw her again. The songs she played still echo in my mind and that magical afternoon is a memory I will cherish forever. Knowing that the ducks are music lovers created a new pastime for me. I bring a bag of frozen peas and my Boombox, then sit on that same bench, tossing them peas and sharing some tunes. People walking past often look at me like I’m crazy, but what do they know?       

        

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