Just a few steps from the highway, the park was almost
deserted that rush-hour afternoon, the autumn lake as if
it had been scribbled with the old crayola color, burnt umber,
and dotted with green-capped mallards that bobbed beside
their brown-flecked mates. I walked slowly, filled my lungs with
crisp air, my eyes on the oranges, reds, and slices of autumn sky.
I never saw him until he ambushed me between the wooden
benches and the boathouse shuttered for winter. He lunged like
a muddy ghost, broad chest forward, flat feet splashing in the
coffee that spilled from my paper cup. He hissed loudly, his
outstretched wings a wall of flapping threats as he pressed
his feathers against me — muscular neck extended — and reached
for the paper bag I held above my head. He snatched the booty
and disappeared toward the darkening water, his prize clenched
by its edge, hung from his beak, leaving me to wonder — about Yeats
and his Leda — and what lies beneath the creatures of fairy tales.
But Once Upon a Time in Echo Lake Park, I was mugged
by a swan for two donuts — one glazed and one jelly.
Copyright by Linda Radice 2003
Previously published in Exit 13 Magazine
Used with the author’s permission.