He walked through the park, a book tucked under his arm, and went to look for a place not overrun by the raucous laughter of teenagers or the gurgles of children. He’d earn the right to a quiet bit of green, though it was getting harder to find it these days. Maggie always said he was a bit anti-social. He’d tell her he need a little quiet. She’d probably reply that he had al the quiet he wanted, but truth be told, he preferred to come here to sit among the ducks and swans and gulls with his book.
He made his way to his favorite spot: a small dirt path that led down to the stream. Most people didn’t bother with this path as it was very narrow and wound through a grove of trees down to the water. It was weedy and forlorn, but he liked coming this way. It was almost like a secret. He’d sit up against an old gnarled tree, book propped in his lap, and stare out over the water.
He had just settled himself when he heard footsteps, and he sighed. Usually footsteps meant a pack of teenagers with their backpacks and gadgets. They’d eat and talk too loud and roll around in the grass, leaving a mess behind. Wrappers and bottles and and half-eaten bananas. If they saw him, they’d laugh and make remarks about the “old fart under the tree”, but usually he remained invisible.
This time, however, a woman appeared. Her long auburn hair blew in front of her face, and he smiled, though she didn’t notice him. She made a pretty picture in her green jacket and black jeans as she stood by the water watching the birds soar down from the sky to alight on the sun-lit water, until he realized she was crying. The leaves on the swaying tree shivered. He heard the quacking of the ducks, the sobs of the woman, and the beating of his own heart.
He wanted to move because he felt like the intruder now, but he sat paralyzed and staring at the ground, willing himself to disappear. He listened to the woman cry the tears he couldn’t when they lowered Maggie into that deep, black hole in the ground, and he remember all the things he had meant to say to her over the years, but never did. Opportunities lost now. But he had loved her fiercely. My Old Goat. She had called him that, fondly he thought. Had she understood what was in his heart?
He looked up when he realized the air had gone still and quiet again. The woman had gone. His face was wet with tears, and he hugged his book to his chest.
Oh, Maggie, I miss you. I’ll miss you forever.