Headaches & Herky-Jerky Flicking

There I am, not far from Niagara Falls, sitting on a park bench in a small Canadian town. A shallow pool with a spout of water is within leaping distance. As I am but a tourist here, I dare not leap.
The small birds of southern Canada — not all of them, but enough to take note of — flock around me, my two slices of fudge, and my mocha. None of these birds have a taste for the several crumbles of fudge I’ve flicked their way. That doesn’t stop them from homing in on my position. Admittedly, I am not entirely sure that I’ve enjoyed my fudge myself. This comes as something of a surprise. 

(One slice, if you must know, is peanut butter chocolate fudge; the other’s cookies and cream fudge. Please don’t get me wrong, I love old-fashioned chocolate fudge, but at my age I’ve had more than my fair share of it. Nowadays I seek to add to my fudgy / fudge-ly / fudge-able palate and broaden my fudgy / fudge-ly / fudge-able horizons. And, please, my personal and very slight displeasure for said sweets should not, in the least, foment some national shame and/or outrage. Aside from this particular imperfect sampling of fudge, I adore Canada.) 

(“Adore,” that is, the sliver of it I’ve glimpsed. Canada is, after all, a vast country; and life, in the grand scheme, lasts but a blink — unless, of course, you’re an Antarctic glass sponge, or a Great Basin bristlecone pine tree, or Pando the quaking aspen. And if you are, I’d very much like to know how you learned to read.)

Perhaps the fudge-maker was having a bad day. I’ve had bad fudge-making days myself — albeit “fudge” of a different nature. And, yes, I am aware of the proper term: “confectioner.” But “fudge-maker” works with the yuk I’m struggling to pull off. 

It’s something of a curiosity, really. I’ve yet to meet a grown man with a sweeter tooth (than mine). Is fudge perhaps sweeter in Canada? Or perhaps less sweet? More… semisweet, perhaps? 

(Yes, I know. “What drivel!” you must be thinking — particularly if you’re Canadian. Well, sir, or madam, if I know anything, I know drivel. There is no disputing that. I am FireVaney and I drivel. I am the Driveler!) 

But back to birds. Perhaps it’s this bench they want. “Silly Yank,” they’d say, if they could say anything beyond whatever it is they say when they tweet and chip, “this ain’t your place to perch.” (And I ask you: Why would a bird bother with proper grammar, eh? Out in the wild propriety counts for shit. Propriety gets you eaten.) Mayhap they confuse me with Alfred Hitchcock — these Canadian birds do — not that anyone (Canadian, feathered, or otherwise) ever has. Nonetheless, they seek stardom in his upcoming sequel to The Birds. Little do they know that it’s stuck in “development hell.” 

And speaking of girls, a little one follows pigeons half her size around the edge of the pool. Her daddy calls to her. (And if not her daddy, then he’s some strange man — certainly stranger than I — who picked a name, possibly at random, and addressed the little girl with it.) Meanwhile, the pigeons, if they are pigeons,* cry and chase each other away from the pool. Or, at least, two are chasing away five others. And these pigeons, they are large, healthy looking birds. 

Undeterred (for that’s Canadian optimism for you), the little girl walks around the pool, clutching a baby doll to her chest. She stops and looks at me. I’m the man with the fudge, after all. Her father (or that strange man) comes to usher her away. 

A group of children suddenly decide they’ve had their fill of the nearby swing set and jungle gym; they race each other to the shallow pool. They want to wade into it — over the objections of their parents.
And here’s a different little girl. Or perhaps the same little girl wearing a different outfit, a wig, and a prosthetic nose. One of Ethan Hunt’s IMF agents, perhaps. Whichever the case, she licks her damp fingers after dipping them into the pool. 

The sky is overcast; and it has been so ever since Pop and I arrived. 

Here comes a little boy. He’s chasing the pigeons around the pool with a stick. Oops, he just fell in. He cries. I stand. His parents (presumably) rush over and his father lifts him up and out.

Pop and I don’t have much in common. He prefers the company of other octogenarians. Seems I prefer the company of toddlers. Incidentally (or not) both sorts benefit from the use of diapers. 

Oh, look...! I stand corrected: Here’s one little brown feathered bird who seems to’ve enjoyed a fragment of my fudge. Perhaps I’m not the first to offer it a sampling. But what sort of kid (or overgrown kid, as in my case) would share their fudge with a bird? One who is troubled, no doubt. No, if this little brown bird has indeed developed a taste for fudge, it very likely first pecked at it out of some bulging trash can. A careless child may’ve dropped some on the ground, or left some unfinished portion of it behind on a bench. This bench, perhaps. 

Presently, I struggle to flick an additional bit of fudge free of my fingers. It’s sticky stuff. The fine feathered fudge-lover perched beside me is frighted away by my herky-jerky flicking. 

A young brother and sister splash around in the pool. They haven’t bothered to change into swimsuits. Their grandmother (presumably) doesn’t seem to mind. Rather, she’s preserving the moment with a camcorder. 

I’ve got a headache. Three shots of espresso in a mocha haven’t quelled the throb. The pinky side of my writing hand is smudged with black ink. It’s the curse of being a lefty. One of them. Must find some aspirin… 

24 July 1997 (in Canada)§ 

*[02/13/22: They were probably seagulls. And the “brown feathered bird” later mentioned was probably a starling.] 

[02/13/22: Why do little girls have an affinity for baby dolls? I understand that many, if not all, mammals learn by imitation; but it’s curious that children who’ve very recently matured beyond infancy would derive joy, or comfort, from “caring” for a baby doll. Regardless, to behold such behavior gives hope to this habitual pessimist.] 

[02/13/22: I wish I could remember what that pool looked like.] 

§[02/13/22: Notwithstanding the recent rebelliousness of Canadian truckers, I’m overdue for a return visit. Gravity itself seemed somehow lighter north of the border.] 

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