By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal
It is a near-perfect day, with a benevolent sun and a gentle breeze riffling the surface of the pond. A couple of hundred geese mill about on the shore, perforating the ground with their beaks.
A tattooed young man carries a Frisbee as he walks his dogs off-leash. He seems torn between tossing the frisbee for the dogs and finding someone with whom he can play. One of the dogs is a rambunctious golden retriever, the great weather a catalyst that kicks his natural exuberance into high gear.
He does his business on the grass, and earns a “Good boy” from his dad who bends down to scoop it with a plastic bag. He is fit to explode with pride at his accomplishment and a gleam appears in his eye.
While his dad is distracted, he spots the geese and the progression of his thoughts is evident. He charges down the gentle slope towards the smallest gaggle of geese, convinced that even the landscape has every intention of enabling his escapade.
Warned by their lookout, the geese take flight in an explosion of feathers and squawks, indignantly levitating and splashing down in the water. I hear his dad telling him, “Don’t go in the water”, and he reins himself in, braking hard on the verge, caught on the wings of this dilemma.
The gears are clicking fast as he assesses his distance from his dad and the expanse that separates him from the remaining scores of geese. He sees a shining opportunity and seizes it. He runs headlong towards them, euphoric, his fur flying, his tongue a pink flag declaring his exultance. Almost as one, they take off en masse as he chases them into the pond.
This time around, he doesn’t even pretend to stop. He splashes in with abandon, paddling after the geese. Heedless of his dad’s whistles, he tries to herd them to the center of the pond. Now that the geese have quieted down, he can clearly hear his name and the command to return to shore.
Reluctantly, he turns around and it is clear that his heart is not in it. Or maybe he is using the time to strategize. Even though there is no current to battle against, he slowly makes his way back to shore, sodden and chagrined.
As he emerges from the water, it is clear that he knows what to do. He skulks out, tail drooping, the very image of abject chagrin, regret and apology. To see him you would think he had been forced into the pond under duress. He shuffles towards his dad, trying to ingratiate himself by crawling on his belly.
A few feet along, he can sense forgiveness and the change in his posture is so marked as to be unrecognizable. He has realized that apology is far better than permission, and that he does not need to sacrifice fun for good behavior.
The tail springs back up, redemption is at hand, and life is good once again as he goes tearing off through the park, unbridled joy in his every muscle. Through the rest of my walk, I have a smile in my heart and a spring in my step.