Ain’t Nature Grand?

Joy Myerscough

None of us had been to the park before, on account of it being on the other side of the river. But Petey’s got one of his notions, which is to say he keeps on about it until we agree for the sake of peace and quiet. So now we’re standing on the bridge looking at the lake; Yobbers, me, Petey.  

Petey has a face like an amateur ferret. You can imagine him nibbling bran, or some such, without much of a stretch. He waves his arms about, nearly clobbering a woman passing by. “Breathe in the fresh air, lads,” he says.

Yobbers is wearing his usual: a leather jacket his mam got for him off the market, cargo pants, black combat boots. He pats his pockets, takes out his Pall Malls, shakes the packet. “Right,” he says, lighting a cig and inhaling deeply.

Petey leans on the bridge, sighs. “Ain’t nature grand?”

We don’t get Yobbers’ thoughts on this as there’s a godawful racket coming from the skate park across the way: screeching noises, followed by yelps, followed by more screeching, followed by thumps, followed by silence. 

Yobbers takes no notice. “Time for a swift one,” he says, waving his smoke in the direction of the stuccoed building on our left.

“That’s the reading café,” Petey says.

Yobbers says something under his breath. He’s never been one for reading, apart from the sports pages. Unless you count the football pools. And the only liquid I’ve ever seen him drink comes out of a tap at the Lowther. 

Petey pulls a pair of binoculars from his anorak pocket. He’s swiped them from his grandad, who used them for the horseracing until his gran threatened to leave and go live with her sister in Toronto, unless he stopped coming home soused and broke. Think it could have gone either way, but his grandad’s very fond of his wife’s cooking, her Sunday roast in particular. See him at BetFred once in a while, all the same. 

Petey clutches my arm. “Look! Ducks!” There’s a bunch of them belting up the pond towards us on the off chance one of us might have some Mother’s Pride to hand. We don’t, of course. 

Yobbers says, and I think he’s right— “Geese.”

Petey scratches his neck.  “One day I’m going to have a park.” This is one of his flights of fancy, given that he stacks shelves at the Londis near ours. Two days a week.  “Open to everyone. And it will have…”  He thinks hard, using his Petey thinks hard face. His last name is Scurry. I sometimes think he’d have a chance in life if he just used his full first name. Peter Scurry. Sounds like a best-selling author, or a mountain climber with motivational speaking skills, or a mid-ranking diplomat, at least.  But Petey Scurry? His career highlight will be operating a forklift at the builders’ merch. If he’s lucky. 

He puts the binoculars up to his honker. 

Yobbers says: “You’re looking through the wrong end.” 

Petey turns them about, finishes his earlier thought. “Trees and a lake. And grass.” 

“Why don’t you just stick with this one?” Yobbers asks, pointing at the park with his cig. 

 Petey presses on. “And a statue of Cupid, like the one along there.” We’d passed it on our way in. 

Yobbers snorts. “It’s not Cupid, dimwit. Cupid has a bow and arrow.”  

Petey scrunches up his nose. 

Yobbers fiddles in his pocket, finds his Swan Vestas and taps them on the top of the bridge.  “It’s Mercury. He has a staff. Known as a caduceus.”

Petey gives him another Petey look. Which is to say his eyes bulge a bit and his teeth stick out even more.  

Yobbers takes the binoculars from him. “It’s good to have dreams,” he says, in a voice that means whatever those are.  

An ambulance siren blares across the park, drowning out the ice cream van’s tinkle, which I haven’t had a chance to mention as yet. Come to whisk off the injured skateboarders, I reckon.

“Look at the lawn,” Petey says. “It looks like snow!” 

Yobbers allows that it does. “But it’s daisies,” he says. “On account of it being June.” 

Petey plunges on: “I bet there are dinosaur prints. You know… from the dinosaur age.” 

Neither Yobbers nor me have any thoughts on this. The ambulance siren goes quiet and we’re back to the ice cream van. This time it’s playing the Match of the Day theme tune.

The trees beside the lake blow about. Birds swoop around overhead. Might be gulls. Not pigeons, though. Those I’d know. Uncle Alf had pigeons. His best Racing Homer was called Petey, oddly enough. 

Petey says: “So much nature! There’s bound to be foxes…. and rabbits.”

 “So?” Yobbers says. “You can see a fox any day of the week. Just buy a packet of mints.” I think he might be wrong, but it don’t matter. 

Yobbers lifts the binoculars, peers in.

Petey’s now saying something about the park being a gift to the citizens of York from the Terry family.  I look at Yobbers, expecting him to point out the obvious. 

But Yobbers says nowt; elbows me, gives me the binoculars. I have a squint, see two girls walking alongside the lake in our direction. The taller one has long pale hair, a yellow dress and a denim jacket. The other is wearing a jumper with a short pink skirt and those ugly sandals that they’re all so fond of at the moment. Don’t look so bad on her, though. They’re both carrying books. Students, I reckon. They go up the steps to the reading café.

Yobbers straightens up. “Well now,” he says. “Ain’t nature grand?” 

He pulls a comb from his back pocket, runs it over his noggin. Sets off towards the caff, whistling.

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