I was sitting on a picnic table in Pleasant Park. Yes it’s really called Pleasant Park. That’s where I take my boys every week to feed the ducks with whatever bread has gone stale in my kitchen. Not sure why I even buy bread; most of it gets eaten by the ducks. And I hate ducks.
Brad and Richie were getting pissed off with the sea gulls stealing the bread from the ducks. What had began as feeding the ducks had become a game of trying to hit the sea gulls in the head with larger pieces of bread – while calling them dirty names. I was just sitting back and watching.
“Charming kids you’ve got there.” It was Jeff.
“God damn it, Jeff! It’s my day off!” Whoa. Getting a little too easy with the Lord, maybe? I awaited a good smiting.
The smiting never came. Jeff looked apologetic. “Shit, Paul. I’m sorry. It’s just that I have a lot of people who worship me, pray to me, fear me, but I don’t really have any friends. I like you, Paul. Thought we could maybe hang out. I’ll just go.”
He looked and sounded pathetic. “All right. We can hang out until my kids finish with the bread, then you have to disappear. I don’t want to have to explain who you are.”
Jeff smiled as he sat down beside me. “You look like shit.”
“The wine tasted mighty good last night.”
The look on his face changed a little, and I felt my ears pop. The hangover was gone. He proudly beamed and said, “Adjustment complete. You’ll never have another hangover.”
I kept my voice low and flat so the kids wouldn’t notice. “Put it back.”
“But why would…”
“Just put it back!”
My ears popped again. I felt the sickness wash back over me. Jeff looked confused. “I was only trying to help. I thought you’d be happy. Why?”
I wasn’t entirely sure of the answer myself. “It’s just … I don’t know! I deserve it. That’s all.”
A sea gull had just caught a piece of bread that was aimed for its head. Richie shouted, “Shit!”
“Better.” That kid is too smart.
Jeff said, “That’s one smart kid.”
“No matter how loud he gets, you’re not allowed to smite him!”
“No worries, Paul. I have a Department of Smiting and Salvation now. Been a long time since I smote anyone.”
I made a mental note to follow up on this committee/department horseshit tomorrow, but it was my day off, damn it.
“Do you often wander around the earth like this, Jeff?”
“MBWA, baby – Management by Wandering Around. I like to see how things are going down here. There’s no better way than just rambling. Mostly I find it peaceful.”
Richie shouted again, “Shit!”
“Mostly. Hair of the dog?”
Jeff was holding out a wine bottle-shaped paper bag. I held up my hand. “Not with my kids.”
He stopped and thought for a moment. “Mind if I partake?”
I waved him on. I wasn’t really worried about Jehovah setting a bad example for my kids. They’re atheists too.
He just sat on the picnic table, basking in the sun, taking a few swigs of wine, watching my kids terrorize the sea gulls in favour of the ducks. He looked happy.
Finally, I said, “Well, unless you’ve been multiplying the loaves of bread, my boys should be about ready to go.”
Jeff snapped out of whatever spell he was under. “Yep, I should probably head out. Got a meeting in a few minutes. Thanks for letting me hang with you, Paul. You have a beautiful family.”
And he walked off into the trees.
Perfect timing: The kids came running up to the picnic table. Brad asked, “Who is that dude?”
Richie asked, “Is he drunk?”
“He’s just some guy I met. I don’t think he’s drunk yet, but it can be hard to tell with some people.”