#40 Central Park by Margaret Finnegan

“Did you throw this at me?”

“Excuse me?,” said Sheila.

“Did you throw this bagel at me?” The woman shoved the hunk of bread in Sheila’s face. Sheila could see now that the woman was much buffer than she’d looked from the sidewalk. From there, she’d seemed like one of those toothpick mamas that you barely notice when they turn sideways because they’re all Lycracized chests and asses. But up close, it was clear that the woman was maybe thirty percent biceps, maybe forty.

“Throw a bagel at you? Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” said the woman as she slammed the aluminum bar along the edge of her baby stroller into Sheila’s knees. “But you’re the only one around here with a Noah’s bag.”

The baby whimpered and then began to wail. “And now you woke up the baby, you freak. Thanks a lot.” Hurling the bagel at Sheila, the woman snarled, grabbed her stroller and jogged away.

Sheila watched the woman disappear into the crowd heading for lunch over in Old Town. Over by the play equipment she saw an old man with a poodle squinting at her. He took a few steps, then stopped and squinted some more.

Sheila felt her face redden. She twisted her head this way and that as if to say, “What horrible person in this park would throw a bagel at a woman and her baby? What horrible person would do such a sick thing? Where? Where could that that horrible, sick person be?

Pretty soon she got tired of that. Plus, it was making her neck sore and who cared what some old man thought. She exhaled a warm, flat sigh and reviewed her situation.

The truth was, she’d made her bed. Now she was pretty well lying in it. She’d cast her die. She’d done her deed. And she’d gotten what she wanted. That was the ironic part. After a lifetime of strategic planning and perseverance, she’d landed exactly where she wanted.

What a fucking mess.

A cloud passed over the sun, casting the whole park in cold shadow. The baby in the Bugaboo next to her squirmed and the whole more-expensive-than-the-fricking-wedding contraption began to shake. Sheila stood up, shoved the bag into the stroller basket and headed home.

© Copyright 2010 Margaret Finnegan. All rights reserved.

Margaret Finnegan is a frequent contributor to The Rose City Sisters. Her story, “Sweet Revenge,” was voted the 2009 Story of the Year by fellow contributors to this blog. She blogs at Finnegan Begin Again. To read an excerpt of her novel, “The Goddess Lounge,” visit her website.

8 Responses to #40 Central Park by Margaret Finnegan

  1. Boy, this IS a short short! Love the language and imagery. Is Sheila over-caffeinated? I, too, feel there is some small missing bit of info here. A line accidentally deleted?

  2. Exxce!!ent!, MF! The only thing I find wrong with this is that it was too short. I wanted it to continue.

    Based on the language you used here, MF, I’m sending you an invitation!

  3. I really enjoyed the razor-sharp characterizations and descriptions. So much in so little space. And — whew! — I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who had a moment of “what the hell?” when it ended. Very mysterious.

  4. Ok. This is why I love this website. You can try out things and still feel good when they totally fail. I did want it to be a bit under explained, but I think it was too underexplained. For me, Sheila throws the bagel because she sees something in the woman with the stroller that kind of reminds her, in a frustrated way, of herself. The too obscure clue to that is that at the end she takes her own stroller and walks away. But I appreciate your comments. Thanks for being helpful critics.

  5. I think I know what she planned for strategically, and got, personified in that expensive bugaboo. And I think she’s beginning to realize she doesn’t want it.

    Snappy. I do like your stuff, Missy.

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