Spy vs. Park

by Darryl Price

Things looked way too normal to be normal. The cold, gliding black eyed swans never once straying far from each other's wake, the cute blue jeaned lovers everyone secretly watched carefully picking their trickling way over small odd rocks and flattened leaves together like they were walking through some kind of careless mine field, the familiar small engine plane routinely buzzing in the far-off  distance to the imagined local runway stripes, while some watched and others didn't care, the ice cream screams. I was on some kind of high alert inside I tell you. No doubt about it. I tried my official best not to radiate my unfamiliar paranoia too far outside of my presumed business posture, all brown suit, yellow shirt and silk tie, expensive tasseled shoes only a buffoon would wear, but I could tell it wasn't working on this particular party scene for some unknown reason. The young couple, both wearing Buddy Holly style glasses, eating sandwiches and reading thickly bound books on their checkered picnic blanket glanced over at me with startled looks on their faces, not once but twice. That's strange, I thought. The pretty cookie-cutter moms in fashionable plaid shorts and loopy sandals walking in twos with their strollers side by side inched over I noticed ever so slowly to the other side of the path right in front of my brightly polished shoes. Even the nutty fidgety squirrels stayed on the other side of their scratchy trees, even though they couldn't possibly help themselves from peering around the curvy sides and cocking their nervous heads at me from time to time. C'mon, James, I said to myself you've done this easy a thing a dozen times before, stop with the nerves already, get the job done, then go home, have a drink, relax. But I knew when something didn't feel right on assignment and this felt wobbly from every kind of angle. There was just too much to the picture that seemed painted in, as if there was no room for any real if normal unexpected chaos to suddenly happen on the scene. And that I knew wasn't reality. Not by a long shot. The leather holster under my arm had started to feel like a giant mole that had been exposed to too much sunlight recently and needed a glop of aloe rubbed neatly into it. I started to sweat. And this made me extremely uncomfortable. I fanned myself with the lightly folded back together newspaper I was pretending to scan for clues.

But I also did like the service man that I am continue to do my very best to show to all concerned how I certainly did belong on my park bench along with the rest of them. I'm getting way too old for this bit of nonsense, I secretly thought. Go on about your comfortable everyday business here, people. I can assure you that there is nothing at all interesting about me for you to see.  Just your typical, daffy old last century sort of man out for his late afternoon stroll you see in the balmy park air like the rest of you, seeking some respite from the cruelties of the modern age. A tad of today's newspaper to go down with the much needed freshly buttered air. Ah, that's the good stuff there, isn't it now? Maybe a little sideways glance or two at the pretty girls dashing by on their pink roller skates. The appreciation of beauty never goes out of style or fashion. At least I hope not. But all too soon I'll have to get up and return to my stuffy old office job and leave the lot of you to it. Lots of work to do yet before the full day on tap is considered to be properly well and done. A working man like me has just got to let off a little built up steam out in the open rooms every now and then. Remembering what's important. That's all. Nothing even more remotely to it than that, you old busy bodies.  Oh I'd played this favorite bit to a crowd like this a million times before. So why was I so nervous now? Where was he? Who was she?  I didn't like to be stood up by a co-worker. It wasn't professional. It made everyone's job that much harder to do. And I had to pee badly. And that race horse wasn't even in the race this time around.

Just then out of nowhere I heard something solid hitting the back of my stiff metal bench like an instant sort of unexpected slap to a hung out to dry old tent tarp on an old fashioned laundry line. "Whap!" it went. Instinctively I put my hand inside my jacket and snapped my holster free. Then I heard a quick, happy voice saying, “Sorry, mister, did our Frisbee hurt you? It was just an accident, I swear. I should have caught it, but it was just too high even for me. We weren't aiming at you at all, I swear!” But when I swiveled myself around to tell the poor little fellow it was all right, there was no real harm done, to my sad surprise there was no one else there to hear me, no swans, no lovers, no picnicking intellectuals, no moms with their newborn babies, and no chattering squirrels, just a little round blue Frisbee left stranded on the crushed green ground with a hastily scribbled note stuck on the inside of it that said: You have been relieved of duty. Effective immediately. Destroy this note. Leave Frisbee. And, oh yeah have a nice day.

Bonus poem:

Crossed Fingers

by Darryl Price

When I get there--wherever it is, this 
hidden secret place that I've been going 
to all my life--I hope it wasn't just 
for a stupid cosmic joke. Gray Angels 
slapping each other on their feathery 
backs and grabbing their honey knees in fits 
of holy laughter. When they tell you the 
journey is the main thing that seems just as 
unlikely to make you feel anything 
like better as the rest. I mean if there 

is no point except the point of motion 
forward what are we doing with all this 
awful pain in our hearts? Those aren't the words 
I was hoping to speak to you but they 
are the words that spoke to me. Maybe yours 
can say it in a much different way 
that will actually matter to a 
special someone. I hope so. I don't want 
you to be misunderstood. When I get 
there I hope you're there too, but I'm betting 

you probably won't be. More likely be 
dining with Saints in sandals who are all 
regaling you with wondrous tales of time 
travel and adventure, all in hopes of 
seeing you crack a small genuine smile 
without meaning to, because, after all, 
loneliness is the most universal 
of universal languages. When I 
do get there I hope to see great gobs of 
free and wild butterflies again and the 

joyfully trumpeting elephants parading 
around, lots of people mingling  
the sun-drenched streets together and to hear 
many loud choruses of laughter and 
good-hearted play, not the sound of one hand 
clapping. You don't understand. When I get 
there I want to be glad I made the hard 
sad journey through the poem and over 
the crying hills. I want to see the blue 
ocean again as a friend returning.