A light rain filtered through the huge elm trees and covered the park benches with a fine mist. Although it was a mild midsummer afternoon the rain had sent most of the bench sitters scurrying for cover, and a quiet air of desertion hung over the street. The street paralleled a city park golf course, and came to a dead end at the lake front. Occasionally the voices of golfers could be heard across the heavy growth of bushes which separated the fairways from the sidewalk.
An old man sat on one of the benches at the far end of the street. He wore a threadbare navy blue yachting coat with gold buttons, a soiled white tee shirt, white cotton pants, and a pair of dirty grey tennis sneakers. A battered yachting cap tilted to a rakish angle clung to his head. A certain dignity of bearing coupled with the open intelligence of his large unshaven face made him appear rather more impressive than ridiculous.
A Negro boy perhaps ten or eleven squatted on his haunches in the wet grass opposite the man. The boy methodically flipped a rock up and down, up and down, in the palm of his right hand. He glared across at the old man with a ferocity that was frightening to see in a boy this age. A soggy bathing suit hung from his belt, and his brown knees gapped through holes in his jeans. “I’ll fix you, you old rummy,” the boy said.
The old man laughed. “A bloody little black tiger, that’s what you are sonny.” The old man removed a pint bottle of wine from his pocket. He took a long pull at the bottle, and then held it toward the boy.