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The Old Man.

Fortnightly Fiction
by Robert Coover.

his one has to do with an old man
there was a park a bench children playing the usual disposition
birds breadcrumbs dry leaves he wore an old hat
his coat was spotted with birdshit his pants he talked to the birds
birds he said
he came often he sat on the bench he fed the birds he was always there
and as for the children they didn’t like him he was old
here birds
his voice was old and weak the birds couldn’t hear it no matter they were there anyway
bread he said
he asked them
bread birds
sitting in birdpoo what a mess the children laughed at him they were afraid of him what
am I saying they didn’t even know he was there
brown sack crumbs old hands palsy what else bench trees white skies the usual
here birds he said
what a voice you couldn’t hear him
as for the children they wished him dead they wished the birds dead the old man dead
the bread dead all that was easy what was dead they swung in the swings had fights ran
didn’t even know he was there
the birds ate and shat as usual
then one day the old man got up and started flying around with the birds
as for the children that was something different that turned a head or two
hee hee the little bastards
shocked the living vinegar outa them by criminy
but no
no they didn’t even see him up there
they didn’t care
children as usual
ah he might well have done something about that but he found he couldn’t fly and shit at
the same time
his coat was heavy it was hard work for an old man
his hat blew off he lost it
he didn’t fly well because of the palsy
he was afraid of pneumonia
he couldn’t see how far up he was
birds he said
get me down

An Encounter © 1972 Robert Coover and republished with permission. This work is one of a series of excerpts from literary and art journals not otherwise available online. This story and another short fiction, An Encounter, appeared for the first time in The Little Magazine (London) in 1972.

The Little Magazine, edited by Denis Boyles, published work by Ann Lauterbach, Anthony Howell, William Stafford, Robert Coover, Marilyn Hacker, Myra Sklarew, Stephen Wiest, Michelene (Victor) Wandor, Bernard Saint, Wayne Markert, and many others. Selected works are being republished at irregular intervals in the Fortnightly Review‘s New Series.

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