“What are you doing here?” He says, scratching his nose with his index finger.
“We’re sorry Sir, we’re lost,” I’m half expecting a red laser to crawl from my chest to my forehead.
“Well you can’t be lost here.” We push off the banks of the massive estate and swing around the other way.
“Pardon Sir!” Sam yells back to the Khaki Man. “Might you know where we could find a character called ‘Freddy?’ He’s supposed to be legendary in these parts.”
The Khaki man grins. “Yeah. I know Freddy. And if I know one thing about him, he finds you.” The Khaki Man waves to us, retreating back into the woods and we press towards the center of the pond.
Closer to the ocean the air whips at us a little harder, tinged with the smell of salt. The herd of Swans returns, with Mother none too happy that we are in her front yard. She snorts at us and crosses in front of the boat. Her babes juke towards the canoe and cross, just as our canoe glides through their path. Only the runt, an albino who jabs his head under the water does not make the crossing. He comes up for air and chirps. The mother and all the other babes chirp and snort, longing to be reunited with their loved one.
As we sail past, the albino swims up to his family and receives a thorough inspection from his mother. The mother turns for us and scoots up our left side, whooping at us like we cut her off on the L.I.E. Sam smacks his oar into the water and soaks the bird. She shakes off the insult and waddles back to her children. And then I see it: the murky water goes from still to a thousand needlepoints jabbing the surface.
Some200 yardsaway, a regal white swan emerges from a pocket of marsh and into the open water. He spread his wings out,6 footat least and bats them against the water to show his awesome power.
“Hey Sam?” My voice cracking as I speak.
“What is it mate?”
“I think I found Freddy.”
With an awful shriek, the giant bird flaps its wings and heads straight at us.
“You mean, Freddy has found us,” says Sam.
Freddy heads straight for me. His wings slap against the water, The C-17 of birds of flight…on a collision course with our boat at20 milesan hour. 150…140…130. He gets faster as he draws closer. 75, 50, 25…
“Oh shit,” is all I can muster before I duck to my right, capsizing the canoe.
I feel around beneath the surface, my feet glued to the gooey mud on the bottom. My eyes and head are above the surface, my oar, still in my hands. Freddy lands on the upturned hull and coils his long neck, snapping at me as I plunge beneath the surface. Freddy reloads and I pop out of the water swinging. Thwack, I swing with all my might and connect where his neck meets his wing. Freddy lunges for me once more. Thwack. This time I jump off the pond floor and raise my arms out of the water and with all the torque I can summon, I knock Freddy out…in front of his wife and kids. Sam swims over to me.
“You killed him.”
“I didn’t kill him.” Sam’s fingers tremble as he re grasps the bird’s lifeless body and searches for a heartbeat.
“I really think you killed him,” says Sam. We flip the canoe but don’t get in. We walk/swim back to the shore and place Freddy down on the ground near the compost-heap. Ralphy approaches, dressed for work and he smacks his head in frustration when he sees what we’ve brought.
“Morons.” Ralphy throws down his cigarette and rushes to Freddy, caressing its neck, petting the bird. “Youse kids really screwed the pooch on this one. That pond is an historic landmark. Freddy’s federally protected. You could go to jail for the rest of your lives.” I pounce on the floor trying to coax Freddy back to life.