So, during lunchtime I decided to take a walk in a park right behind my office building. I still had about fifteen minutes and I badly wanted to escape the asphalt streets and prying eyes. I walked along the grass in the shade of trees.
While I walked I was thinking that fall is so wonderful in this corner of the world! All the heat of the summer is gone, and the air’s fresh and light. The treetops were covered with pink flowers or leaves – it was hard to tell which – that had drifted down to the roots and were lying there like tiny Chinese lanterns. The cicadas were gone and the air was finally resting from their constant chirring.
In front of me was a man in all black walking a black dog. There would have been nothing special about the dog and its owner if the animal hadn’t been so gigantic – it was frightening! It reached to the man’s waist and reminded me of a huge puppy. Its head and paws seemed oversized compare to its weak body. The dog was walking with its nose lowered sadly to the ground and could hardly manage its own overgrown extremities. I couldn’t stop watching the pitiful creature.
The poor dog was probably ill, and that’s why it had partly overgrown itself. But even though it was pitiful it still made me laugh. I wanted to get a closer look at it so I turned onto a path in the park.
The dog looked calm and genial but the owner kept cautiously pulling the animal towards him.
Then I spotted its paw – it was the size of my foot! It was just like a white glove with black spots. A polka-dot paw!
I passed by smiling. I was touched by this disproportioned creature.
Recently, the park had been fixed up: dirt cleaned up, and flower beds and grass planted. And now it felt like it had never been different: the giant trees’ roots were hanging in the air and it was quiet.
After briefly enjoying the park, I started walking back to my office. Shadows from the trees and bright sunlight alternated with each other on the pavement.
When I had almost left this relaxing place, I noticed something. A bird was standing still on the center of knoll. It was the same kind of wild bird I had seen before by chance: chestnut-colored and the size of a chicken. It was usually standing still in some park or even in a flower bed downtown without any fear of people.
“Such a realistic stuffed bird! The perfect garden sculpture!” I thought the first time I saw one. I was sure it was fake because it was completely motionless. It was in the garden of the Lin Family historical mansion. I was taking a walk there with some foreign customers. One of them wanted to prove to me it was a living bird and threw some pebbles at it. And – what a miracle! – it blinked and revealed its secret!
And now I saw that the ‘still’ bird nearby me was moving: it drew forward and suddenly stretched its telescopic neck to catch something in grass. Then it swallowed its prey in a hurry, looked around fearfully and awkwardly waddled into bushes.
This is how I became a ‘still’ bird initiate. In the middle of an ordinary day on my lunch break, I felt like I got in touch with a mystery that I couldn’t yet understand the meaning of.
And then almost right in front of me I saw another person involved in the mystery of the ‘still’ bird. An elderly man was sitting at a table and watching it through binoculars. When the bird escaped into the bushes he had even half-risen to follow it.
Just a random elderly man dressed in jeans and a white shirt, with a thermos and a sandwich.
Passing by I held my curious glance on him. He put aside his binoculars and smiled happily in return.
Written by Maria Storozheva, 2014
Edited by Chris Heise