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  Saurians (2)

Down the street at the park, Jason found an empty bench overlooking the pond, plopped down onto it, and slurped some of his coffee.    It was a gorgeous morning, with the sun sparkling off emerald-green foliage and winking among undulating shapes on the water’s surface.  A cluster of mallard ducks sailed serenely by, the deep blue-green heads of the males lustrous as peacocks.

Jason leaned back to savor the scene.  He started his weekend mornings this way whenever he could.   He didn’t need to go on expensive vacations to unwind and feel…well…nourished by beauty.  He’d learned to enjoy it close by, for free.

As he gazed contentedly over the water, a corpulent man in designer-name exercise clothing made his splay-footed way grandiosely up the path.  For no apparent reason, of all the potential places to pause and take in the view of the water, he chose to stop directly in front of Jason’s bench.

Jason glanced away and waited for him to move on.  He hadn’t really come here to look at a fat guy’s ass.

The man stayed parked where he was.

Jason slid to the other end of the bench.  He could see the pond again, but Mr. Jogging Suit remained excessively prominent in his field of vision.  

“Excuse me,” said Jason, “but would you mind moving?”

The man glanced back at him.  “Huh?  Oh.”  He sidled about a foot to his right.

Jason rolled his eyes.  How could this guy be so oblivious to the normal principles of social interaction?  He wasn’t even talking on a phone, or engrossed in a book, or anything like that.  

Jason considered his chances of communicating more successfully with him and shook his head. He looked to his left, then his right:  no more empty benches.  He rose with a sigh and stalked away from the pond.

Maybe the real question was, how could the bozo have so completely failed to acknowledge the presence of another human being?

*

Just ahead of Jason on the path, a young woman pushed a baby stroller at the stately pace of a bride approaching the altar.  Jason slipped around her to the left.  She immediately sped up, matching his pace.

Jason grimaced.  What was the point of that?  He charged past her, slightly embarrassed at the exertion needed to do so.

Once he was well beyond her and able to return to a normal walking speed, he returned to the question of her motivation. Was she maybe fantasizing she was in the chariot race in Ben Hur?

*

Jason picked up a plump tomato from a vendor’s stall, sniffed the musky tang of its aroma, and recalled the backyard tomatoes his dad used to grow.  

“Buying all your food at the farmer’s market these days, Jason?”

Jason turned to see his shapely next-door neighbor, Lisa, and her husband, Jeff.  With them stood their older neighbor, Paul, from down the block.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to be that virtuous,” he replied with a self-deprecating shrug, “but I’m checking stuff out.”

Lisa grinned knowingly.  “Seen anything interesting?”

Jason considered the question for a moment, and a faint smile came to his lips.  

“Actually, the most interesting thing I’ve seen so far this morning wasn’t here, it was while I was getting my coffee.  I watched a lizard do pushups.”  A twinkle came into his eye.  “See, this little guy apparently decided he was going to show me how…”

“Gee,” said Lisa, “I see so many lizards when I’m out gardening that I don’t pay much attention to them anymore.  But we had a rattlesnake last week…”

She smiled and put a long hand on her husband’s arm.  “I had to run inside the house and drag Paul away from his game to deal with it.”

Jeff adopted an aw-shucks manner, but rolled his massive shoulders impressively.  “Actually, most of the rattlesnakes we get are pretty slow-moving. A good whack to the head with a long-handled shovel usually takes care of them.”  

He scuffed his sneaker along the worn asphalt.   “It was a different story the other night, though.  A couple of raccoons came up while I was cleaning the pool.”  He stood up a little straighter, possibly unaware he was also puffing out his chest.   “They didn’t seem real interested in being shooed, and the closest thing I had to a weapon was a twelve-foot pool vacuum pole—not too useful against quick-moving critters.  So I decided I’d …”

“I just wish you guys could have seen that bear that came into my yard!” interjected Paul, extending himself to his full height and raising his chin slightly.  His eyes darted, birdlike, from Jeff to Lisa to Jason and back around again.   

Jason noticed for the first time how the loose skin dangling from Paul’s jaw resembled the necks of his brother’s chameleons.  

—Come to think of it, was there also something reptilian about the other people he had come into contact with this morning?  Jason furrowed his brow.

After a time, his thoughts returned to the lizard that had scurried behind his neck—the one that treated him as nothing more than an object to be climbed over.  A small shudder washed over him.

It was followed by a wave of unexpected, aching loneliness.