She's swaddled in a green plaid coat and squats next to a goose. Her squinty brown eyes. Her ratty hair. Her bare legs shaking from the chill. The fading sunlight breaches the tree trunk barrier and races to grasp her in its dying rays-a final attempt, an unnecessary endeavor when she's caught in a warmth of curiosity for the bird waddling towards her. She reaches into a worn pocket and pulls out a caramel. It's wrapped in crinkle-paper and makes a funny twinkling noise like the laughing lovers walking hand and in hand on the path. They don't see her. She doesn't see them.
She cajoles the goose to strut closer to her outstretched hand. The caramel sparkles in the light. The bird is jumpy and twitches his feathers, but then he opens his beak and with a squawk of pleasure, drops his head to her palm and just before he clips the sweet in his mouth a large foot STOMPS and the grass is trampled! The goose hisses and flaps away in a whirl of feathers as the girl gasps and stumbles backwards and falls on her bum.
She catches her breath and concentrates on the wellingtons planted firmly next to her. Her eyes move upwards to see dirty socks, holey jeans, a wooly red sweater and a beard that covers the face of an old man who stares down at her. His watery eyes are filled with both surprise and admonishment. The girl splays her hands on her face. Her neck and mouth is craned in the position of a baby bird waiting for a worm from its mother. He stands still as the iron monument next to them. He studies her dirty fingernails.
After a minute and thirty seconds the man reaches into his coat and pulls out a plastic bag filled with bread. He offers it to the girl.
She doesn't move.
He smiles, and winks, and nods his head towards the reluctant goose who waits patiently for the girl's recovery. The man tears a piece of crust and puts it on his palm, clicking his teeth. He looks at the girl and nods his head to the goose again, and he sits on the muddy ground next to her, exclaiming in surprise at the wetness of it. She giggles in the rhythm of the lake ripples and accepts the crust. She mimics his motions and soon the goose waddles over again, swipes at the bread and circles them for more.
When the bread is gone the girl jumps up and gazes at the rising moon. As if on cue, a sudden splash of water bounces from the flock as they beat their wings in a flurry of motion. The girl clasps the old man's hand and pulls him up. She prances and twirls with him and they dance on the muddy banks of the lake under a sky laced with snowing feathers. She begins to sing, and when the birds have gone and the air is smooth again she leads him down the path.
They come to a bridge. The water churns next to it and then he sees it--a hand-held lamp sitting amidst a pile of blankets and cardboard and sleeping bags and trash. A hand reaches out from a blanket, welcoming them both home.