Squirrel walked up the bridge again as has become his custom for the past two years ever since it was detached from the other side of the lake. He had a brisk but carefree stride as he bathed in the early morning sunshine. Gone are the days when such a walk up this very bridge would have required extreme caution and well, bravery. At the foot of the bridge he had stopped to read the stone sign, grown over with vines and weathered badly yet not unreadable, “BOW BRIDGE”. A little curly haired girl taught him and some of the other animals to read back in the old days. He thought of how much he missed the old days sometimes. The young squirrels can’t imagine what it is like to come so close to humans. It’s not likely that Squirrel will ever forget them. He thought of the good ones and remembered the bad ones, and wondered if he preferred the lot of them over having no ones. Clearly he had no say in what had transpired two years before, so his thoughts precipitated to the advanced deterioration of the bridge. He pulled at a piece of paint that scaled off easily and left a large unsightly spot of rust just below the railing. He reached the edge of the foreshortened expanse and tapped on one of the taut steel wires that terminated the open end. The sound resonated across the lake. He read a large red & white sign draped across the wires, “DANGER! BRIDGE CLOSED! Central Park Conser...Conser...vancy...he could never pronounce that word. Squirrel walked all the way to the edge and peered over into the lake whose surface quivered with a light wind sweeping across from Cherry Hill. He felt a flush of regret for not passing along the stories to the younger squirrels. ‘Ha!’ he uttered aloud, ‘stories!’ he shook his head and watched as a piece of concrete, which he worked free with his cane, rolled away and fell into the lake. The water was deep green with the dense seasonal duckweed. As the water settled a new ripple sprouted from where the piece of concrete fell. A dark familiar figure emerged from the murky water.
“How do you do Turtle?” called out Squirrel leaning over to see his friend appear. Turtle’s head broke through the surface.
“Very well considering that your rock almost bashed my head in!” replied Turtle with a brittle grunt in his voice.
“Oh, I’m very sorry Old Pal,” said Squirrel with a slight smirk. “But you must agree that it’ll take a great deal to set a wonderful day like this one amiss,” continued Squirrel.
“I must certainly agree,” replied Turtle as he fell into tune with the late July weather. “How has Old Swan been faring in this heat?” He inquired.
“I haven’t been to the Upper Lobe in some days now. Last I’ve seen they were all doing well. Well except for...oh you must surely know...about Dribble, his last cygnet catching that fish hook in his bill...”
“Oh! No I didn’t know and I’m sorry you mentioned it because now it’ll upset me! If you ask me, The Ramble wasn’t closed off to humans soon enough!” Turtle swished his tail rapidly, which he does when he’s upset. “A fish hook in a young swan’s bill! The bottom of the lake is pestered with those nasty things. I tell you just last week we had one of Pike’s young fellows get tangled in a piece of fishing line...and what about Cormorant’s ordeal with that cursed plastic thing that got caught around his neck that time? I tell you it didn’t happen soon enough.
“Oh Turtle I cannot agree with you more—you know that. But Turtle I was just thinking before you popped up...I was thinking that I kind of...” Squirrel hesitated, “well, it’s just that I kind of miss the humans in The Ramble is what I’m trying to say Old Pal.”
“Squirrel, we’ve been friends for too long to bring it all to an end right now so you better retract that statement!”
“Oh Turtle, I know you miss them too. They were not all bad. I miss the little ones the most,” said Squirrel putting his face into another gentle breeze that swept across The Lake. He smiled when he remembered how she loved to brush her hand across his bushy tail.
“Well,” grunted Turtle, “how can you not miss the little ones?”