Sunday 25 Sep 2016

The Swan Boats
AJ Robinson

Back when I was a kid, people made a lot of the fact that the first and only swan boats in America were in Boston. Me, I didn't see it as such a big deal. I mean, what was so special about a boat with a big swan in it? Frankly, I was afraid of swans, and I wasn't all that interested in getting close to one. There was always a family of them down at Sunset Lake, every summer on Martha's Vineyard. I loved going down there to feed the ducks and swans; until the male swan charged me and nipped my ankle; scared the daylights out of me! After that, I didn't want to have anything to do with swans.

My mother kept urging me to take a ride on the swan boats, but I wanted to stay as far from them as possible. Fortunately, she was smart enough to find a solution without taking me to a therapist. She bought me a copy of the book Make Way for Ducklings. It's a simple children's book that tells the story of a family of ducks living in Boston. The part she wanted me to see was where they swam alongside one of the swan boats over at the Public Gardens, right next door to the Boston Common. The book spoke of how noble the swan was with a man on its back. Well, I figured that any swan trained to let someone sit on its back had to be a very good swan. So, I finally agreed to ride it.

It was a beautiful day, spring I think, and the Public Gardens looked great. I don't even remember the drive over, guess I was too excited. Stepping up to the dock, I was definitely nervous about getting near that swan. But, mom was there. She got a bag of breadcrumbs, and we took our seats up near the bow; I still wanted to be as far from that swan as possible.

Once the boat was full, we were off. Slowly, it moved about the pond. Most everyone relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Me, I kept looking back at the swan. It sure seemed to be behaving, and the man on its back didn't seem worried; so I tried to relax. When the ducks started swimming around us, my mom pulled out the breadcrumbs. That was all the distraction I needed; all thoughts and concerns regarding the swan evaporated.

The rest of the trip passed peacefully, only the quacks of the ducks could be heard as they followed us about the pond. By the time it was over, I was sorry to leave. Oh, but mom had things covered there too. She took me to the International House of Pancakes for lunch; that always cheered me up. At that age, I loved their silver dollar pancakes; not that I ever finished them. It would be a few years before I got a big enough appetite to do that, but that's another story.

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Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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