"Can you believe it?"
The newspaper crackled as the man stretched it out between his hands and the light breeze made it swing lightly back and forth. The man was seated on one of the many green wooden benches that stood on the edge of the lake, right by the concrete path that went all around its perimeter. His skin was reddish white and his hair was black with wide patches of white. The man was wearing long light brown shorts and a white shirt. He was also wearing large reading glasses and his blue and gray backpack was resting on the concrete floor, a few inches away from the bench. His legs were bent back so that his feet were pulled back under him. His arms extended outwards and the thin wiry muscles in his forearms were tight and tense.
"I can’t believe they think they can get away with this!"
The breeze blew softly over the calm lake which surrounded a small man-made mountain, a large island in the midst of gentle placid water. The mountain itself was crisscrossed by dirt paths and covered in trees, plants and thick bushes. There were tall water plants growing right by the bench, obscuring half the view of the water. The same tall bright green water plants grew here and there all around the lake. There was a large dead tree trunk that acted as a clear barrier between the bench and the water.
Next to the sitting man, there was a small, slightly thick woman. She was sitting on the bench as well and her body was just a few inches away from his. Where the man’s eyes were pointed down to the thin newspaper, the woman’s eyes were looking out towards the mountain in the middle of the lake. Her eyes were soft and round and they spoke of a hope that still clings to life against recurrent obstacles. Her small hands were pressed together on top of her lap. She was wearing long beige pants, a flowery shirt and a small jacket. Her skin was white, like the man’s, but her hair was blonde and it fell down to the edge of her shoulders. Her forehead was pressed tight, in an attempt to protect her eyes from the sun.
"It’s terrible… after all that has happened… that they would be saying this…"
The man shook his head in disgust and shifted the paper up to continue reading below. The woman nodded and simply said: "Yes, it’s terrible."
"It’s not just that… you know… it goes way beyond… after all…" The man was shaking his head more intensely now, his face becoming a bit more red, tiny droplets of sweat sliding over his temples and under his chin.
"Yes, I know what you mean."
A pink flamingo rested its longs legs on a dead trunk that extended into the water. Every once in a while it would dip its head into the water itself, catching some small insect in its beak. There were a few boats roaming back and forth on the lake surface, wooden row boats and hard plastic pedal boats for couples, slowly making their way around the mountain. Echoing whispers traveled from the boats to the edge of the lake, snatches of conversation, a word here and there, a sudden loud laugh.
"It’s just unbelievable… the things these people would do… you know, it’s just like I’ve always said…"
"Yes, I know."
The woman’s eyes turned up higher towards the edge of the mountain, where there was a colorful pagoda that poked out into the water. The pagoda was round and open, its pillars were deep red and the round stylish fence that surrounded it was white. The round roof was a deep green and it pointed up towards the sky like an old lost antenna. At the very peak of the roof, there was a small green sphere, the green paint only a little faded. Long tree branches extended over the pagoda, half covering it in dark green and brown. A single thin dead trunk was standing up straight out of the water, just a few feet away from the fence. The pagoda was empty now and as her eyes wandered over it, some kids walked by it, on the dirt path that surrounded the mountain. Their thin voices were so loud that their words almost made it all the way across the surface of the lake, only to become isolated syllables and broken bits of song.
"Nothing really changes… it’s just that… you know?… I can see that… but after all this? C’mon! Right? How can they do this? They just have no shame!"
"Yes, I know. It’s very true."
The woman turned to the path momentarily. A woman in a white shirt and long blue shorts was jogging in their direction. She had earplugs on and a hint of music was seeping out from around her ears. Her face was covered in subtle wrinkles and the tanned white skin of her shoulders and neck was covered in shiny sweat. Her eyes were focused on the path and on the effort of running. She passed behind the bench and the sitting woman followed her with her eyes. Then she looked at the lake once again.
"After all, what if it was the other way around? Huh? Would they say that? Would they even dare?"
"No, they wouldn’t," she said, with a slight hesitation.
"You don’t think so? I bet they would! They have no shame!"
"Yes, I think you are right."
A flock of pigeons rose up from behind the tall water plants, spreading outwards to the sky like living pockets of gray and black life released from the breath of a sleeping underwater god. The woman looked up at the birds as they disbanded and she saw how they almost darkened the clear sky for a moment and how the sky reappeared from behind them, outlining their flapping wings, their upturned little heads, their soft feathered bodies. A boy called out to the fleeing pigeons and a man laughed, his voice deep and hoarse. Then the boy laughed too, in light explosions of air and tiny squeaks.
"What can we do? These people can get away with anything!"
"Yes, they can."
The man nodded and turned the page. The man with the deep hoarse voice laughed once again and there was the sound of light feet running on concrete. A man on a bicycle rolled down the concrete path, accompanied by the sound of a little bell. Then there was only the sound of gentle waves caressing the muddy edge of the lake. The woman looked down at the moist leaves of grass that stuck out from the mud, bending back away from the sun.
"See what I mean… now they… can you believe it?"