A Walk in the Park
The sun was going down; she was a handicapped old woman: his response was compulsory. “May I walk you out of the park?”
“Oh, would you?”
she gushed instantly, her voice crammed full of false
Oh, would you? he mimicked to himself in a Polly-wants-a-cracker falsetto.
A wind swept toward him; he
could hear it, and watching the oak trees in
dispelled his reverie. “I’m scheduled for a hip
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“What do you have to be so sorry about?” she snapped. “You had nothing to do with it.” And shaking her head, trailing off, “absolutely nothing to do with it ... ”
Rotten old hump, he said to himself, entertaining fleeting thoughts of escape. No, he could not abandon an old woman in the gathering darkness, two blocks from the exit. After all, it had been his idea to walk her there, and to tell her he would do it.
But “walking” implied
going forward, and now he knew that it was indeed possible, as Poe had
written, to move as slowly as the minute hand on a clock. He felt as if he
were working not against mere air but against something thicker, progressing
only with the effort one must exert in a nightmare. The old black
streetlights along the main road had come on, though their dirty silver glow
lit up nothing at this hour. The woman
“Why on earth would I come to the park so late?” the woman asked the air around her. “Why ever would I do that?” Then a little louder: “There has to be a very good reason.” She turned her head to him and spoke still louder, her pitch falling heavily, weighing out each syllable: “There is. There is a reason.”
He did not ask her what it
was, because he had run away to the farthest place he knew, which was
The woman’s voice was a poke in the ribs: “Would you like to know why?”
“Pardon me ... ?” he said vaguely.
said, as if granting an actual request for pardon. “Would you like to
know why a woman of my age and infirmity would venture all alone into