Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
Seattle, Wash.

Printable version of this story

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Ink Soup resembles nature at least in this: nothing is ever wasted. Not, that is, when I remember to take along my Sony M-430 microcasssette recorder when I walk, as I just did, along the shore of the Puget Sound to feed the gulls, geese, pigeons, crows, mallards, teals, and even one or two disoriented sparrows.

There was a time when I felt awkward walking about in the company of other strollers while talking into my fist. But that was then. This is now, when every other stroller is talking into a cellphone.

Now all I have to do is pause from time to time and appear to be listening. There was a man standing over a fire he'd just built in one of the regulation fire rings provided by the Department of Recreation, all other fires being illegal. He was not talking into a cellphone; he was shouting into it:

"Did you put Flap A into Slot C like I told you? No? I don't have the carton, you have the carton. Look, don't bother me, I'm having a picnic here!"

He was all alone -- no hamper, no six-pack, no umbrella, just a roaring fire on a January beach and a cellphone into which to roar.

Riddle: What has four legs and walks on the beach?

Answer: An old man with one leg and his hound with three.

Neither had the slightest problem with locomotion, which would win no prizes for grace but rated a solid Ten for courage. The problem was that of young mothers who had to clap their hands over the mouths of small children and deflect their pointing fingers and in other ways demonstrate the celebrated kindness of northwesterners.

Immense man in leather ankle-length coat to petite brunette at his side:

"It's like what happens when an irresistible force meets a moveable object."

"I know -- a huge explosion."

"No, Louise, you're not listening."

"Okay, say it again."

"It's like what ha ... Forget it."

I finally reach the pond that was my destination all along and take out the end of an old loaf of bread. The birds know the crinkle of cellophane the way a baby elephant knows its mother's rumble. I am suddenly the most popular figure in sight.

But I have no sooner begun to distribute the bread than someone behind me screams, "Stephanie!" The birds vanish. A silver poodle joins me at the edge of the pond, sniffs my leg, and asks, "This cat. You feed him Alpo?"

Stephanie's owner, all fluster and penitence, screams once more "Stephani!" and attaches a leash to the dog's collar.

"It's okay," I say.

To this she replies, "Stephani!" and leads the unfortunate animal away. But the ducks have lost their appetite.

The weather turns suddenly arctic. I pity the people who took out small craft for a Sunday of balmy sailing. I go to the gym. A magazine headline in the rack near the stationary bikes catches my eye: A Human Will Be Cloned in 12 Months.

Please, I think, don't let it be Herbie, our Fed-Ex man. He is dyslexic, perhaps the only one of his kind. Our house number ends: 56. Down the street there is a house that ends: 65. We regularly swap the parcels mistakenly left by the man we have agreed to call Herbie. But Herbie, if you read this, which you never will, take no offense. We happen to like the people at that house.

An in-house critic reads the draft of this column and asks, logically enough: "The man and his dog -- did they lose their legs in the same accident?" I never thought to wonder.

Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofCompara= tive Literature at Princeton University.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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