It had snowed the day before. Most of the park was invisible; dangerously out of sight. Thick clouds seemed to cup the space like a huge hand over a novelty sticker; halogen lights tricked out to resemble gas lamps gleamed feebly, like spots of luminescent paint. Uneven ground was muffled in drifts. From where the young man waited, in the center of the park, only a few irregular yards were clearly visible; the rest was hidden by darkness, by convolutions of the ground, by growth, by shadow, by dry-stone walls, by warning signs and litter barrels.
The snow itself was churned and dirtied out of recognition as “snow.” No sparkle in the lamplight. No lack of spots to put a foot and leave no tell-tale track.
“The trailing hand of God leaves a wake of perfection,” said the boy, and ducked his head and sniggered.
The young man was of no certain age; he might have been overgrown for minor years or stunted in full growth. His eyes brimmed with delight and sparked with impersonal malice. He had with him a bow which he alone could pull, and a quiver of red- fletched arrows. The silver arrowheads were barbed, and dull with their dried coating.
There were no targets in the park that midnight; a damp cold – – not bitter, but sour — had turned even the romance of random cruelty in upon itself.
The boy settled in, unwrapping and eating the food he’d brought from home, and waited.
As the sun rose, so did the archer. He stretched, loosened his muscles, and tightened his bowstring. He nocked an arrow. He crouched. He waited.
A man and a woman approached, talking with the ease of long- standing friendship. They talked about their jobs, their apartments in the same building, one’s cats, one’s lack of cats. The archer stuck a second shaft loosely into the snow before him and drew his bow. By the time the man had read the arrow’s message in the woman’s eyes, another was in his heart.
By the time the next targets came, the first were gone.
The day passed with pleasant swiftness for the boy. Quarry came thick sometimes; sometimes someone saw something, took some notice, but no one interfered. There were those who smiled and nodded.
Night came, as did one old man who grumbled, as he took the longest path, of a wife he’d never cared for, and cursed her clear affection.
“Someone’s in for a lovely surprise,” said the boy, while his arrow whispered, “Yesss.”
The archer shouldered his weapon. The liquid cold washed through the empty park. The boy’s eyes were vacant of time as his heart crooned over the day’s count.
The courthouse clock struck twelve, the young man departed.
February 14th was over for another year. Olympus welcomed its vacationing boy, Eros, Cupid, home.