The Mallards


by David Meuel

Ryan and Bonnie sat on a warm sunny bench and watched the mallards glide effortlessly in the calm wide lake at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. He was forty-five but had a boyish face and an unfinished look about him that made him look years younger. She was forty, had a headstrong twelve-year old daughter, and often worried about how quickly her skin was aging.

"I've grown very close to you," he said suddenly, "and, if you're willing, well, I'd like us to get married."

Bonnie's whole body jumped. Then she blushed. Then she sat for a moment trying to gather herself. "But this is only our fourth date."

"I know."

"Don't you think we could wait a little longer, get to know each other better?"

"If you like."

"I'm sorry, Ryan. You seem like a nice guy. But we hardly know each other. Maybe we shouldn't have gone to bed the other night."

"Do you have any regrets?"

"No. Of course not." She looked into his eyes and smiled sympathetically. "Let's take our time with this. It'll be better for both of us. After all, your divorce has only been final for three months." 

Ryan looked down sadly. "If you like. I mean--I can't get married alone."

"Come on, Ryan. What's your hurry?"

"I like the idea of being married. I was really happy when I was--at least until the last year."

"When your wife told you about that man from Atlanta?"

"Until then, she'd seemed so happy."

"Since you've been single again, how many woman have you gone out with?"

"Five or six."

"I hope you didn't ask them all to marry you," she said with a smile.

"Not all. Just two."

Bonnie's body jumped again. "Two?"

"Yes."

"So I'm the third woman you've proposed marriage to since then."

"Yes."

They sat without speaking. After several minutes, Ryan tried to put his arm around Bonnie, but she moved down the bench a few inches.

"It sounds as if anybody will do," she said.

"That's not true."

"But just about."

"Not exactly."

"This makes me feel like some interchangeable part--like a light bulb or an ink cartridge."

"That's not how I want you to feel."

"I know," she said sadly.  

Bonnie looked out at the mallards again and noticed how the males and the females always swam in pairs and seemed so comfortable together. She had once heard that mallards mated for life: no muss, no fuss, no mid-life dating. How nice for them, she thought.

She turned to Ryan. "We'd better start walking again," she said. "It's getting chilly."




BIO: David began writing flash fiction in 2010 at the tender age of 60. He is also the author of two award-winning books of poems, Islands in the Sky and Realms of Gold, both available through Amazon.com. He lives in San Jose, California, and works as freelance corporate and marketing writer serving Silicon Valley companies.