One Day in High Park, Toronto

I was sitting on a bench, reading – hardly noticed the man, hand-in-hand with a boy. Both were dressed in black pants and white shirts, and the man had a black hat of woven straw. “Old Order Mennonite – what are they doing in town?” I mused momentarily.

They had been talking quietly, but suddenly the man raised his voice, still gentle in tone.

“No, Karl, that’s not true. You’re lying to me. I can’t allow that. You’ll have to take your punishment.”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Shall we get it over with now, rather than later?”

“Yes Dad.” The boy reached and rolled up the legs of his pants as far as they would go. The man bent down behind him and slapped him on the back of each calf, then slapped him again.

“Hey! Hey!” A guy in t-shirt and jeans, came from behind where I was sitting, vaulted over the end of my bench, and barged the man away from the boy.

“Pick on someone your own damn size!” he said, swinging a punch which caught the man on the right cheek. Down he went, and sat on the ground, hat awry, face bleeding. The t-shirt guy stood over him, fists balled.

After about fifteen seconds he got up, dusted himself off, straightened his hat, and looked at the t-shirt guy. He said nothing, but seemed to angle his left cheek a little, as though inviting another punch. Then he turned to the boy.

“Punishment over, Karl.” He said. The boy rolled his pants legs down, and came over to hold his father’s hand. “Shall we get some ice-cream?”

The boy grinned. “Yes please, Dad.”

They walked away, and the t-shirt guy stood, hands on hips. “Well… I… should… fuck… a… pig!”

I said nothing – I had a good book.