The path is blocked by a long cardboard box. The man wrestles with a plastic boat while a boy watches. “Damn it, if the motor stops when it is out on the water we’re screwed,” the man said. The boy looks at the playground in the distance. He sees boys and girls on the swings.
“Just wait,” the man said. “This will be so cool.” Beads of sweat run down the man’s forehead. His face is starting to get red. “Goddamn it, I can’t get this part to fit,” he said. The boy moves out of the way so walkers can get by.
“Finally,” the man said. He puts the plastic boat in the water. “Watch this,” he said. The boy doesn’t say anything. He tries to pay attention but he keeps hearing the laughter and shouts from the playground.
The man revs the engine of the boat and it shoots through the water. He turns the boat and sends it roaring towards a swan. The swan comes up from its dive for seaweed and it encounters the strange object that races toward it. The swan lifts off just in time. It flies to where its mate is nesting and takes up guard in front of the female.
“Hah, did you see that?” the man said. At that moment a thin woman wearing a beret stops next to the man.
“Excuse me,” she said. “The swan is sitting on its nest. You should not disturb it with your boat.”
The boy looks up at his Dad. The man turns and stands in front of the woman. He starts to speak. Out of the corner of his eye he sees his son looking down at the ground and shifting from foot to foot. “Well,” the woman said. She didn’t flinch. He looks at his son and takes a deep breath.
“You’re right,” the man said. He turns the boat and it returns to the shore in a wide arc. The boy smiles and his dad grins back. “I’ll pack this up in no time. Then we can try out the remote control car,” he said. The boy smiles and sighs. He looks once more at the playground and turns back to his dad.
“Sure Dad, that will be great,” the son said.
I smile as I watch the man take everything apart and then put all the plastic pieces back in the box. As he wheels the suitcase along the path his son reaches out and takes his Dad’s hand.