I spread out the wrinkled quilt on the grass under the shade of a large tree at the center of the park. My daughter, Hana, hopped up and down excitedly, the contents of the picnic basket she was holding drumming lightly within the container, enticing us to begin our meal as soon as possible. She beamed at me, running around the perimeter of the aging quilt as I flattened it out to ensure there was enough room for the both of us.
“Sunday lunch is my favorite, Daddy,” Hana giggled, preemptively jumping into the center of the blanket and popping the basket open. She dug into the basket with one hand while tracing over the black, red, and green stains on the otherwise white quilt below her. Evidence of spills we had in this very same park on previous occasions.
I smiled and joined her, pulling out various foods from the intricately woven basket and allowing her to choose which sandwich she would be nibbling down first. She grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich quickly and began taking her tiny bites while looking up at the tendrils of light spilling through the leaves of the olive tree above us. She then looked forward to the parking lot, where the cars would reflect the sunlight in such a way that a dazzling light show would play ahead of us without being so powerful as to be blinding.
She stopped mid-bite and frowned.
I followed her gaze to see a group of individuals in uniform suits and blue and white striped ties looking around the park, sizing it up. They moved in a slow, deliberate form, pointing to different individuals enjoying the park. One stopped in front of the parking lot and pointed toward us.
They blocked out the light.
I rolled my eyes, hoping they weren’t intending on bothering me and Hana. She looked worried, so I placed my hand softly on her head and pointed to a police officer on one end.
“Don’t worry, they won’t bother us. And they won’t try anything with the officer so close by,” I assured.
She smiled and continued nibbling away, a small smear of peanut butter making its way to her nose as her fears were abated. I looked back up to the parking lot and saw the individual approaching us. He adjusted his tie and sauntered with the confidence of a man with a plan.
“Hay you! You are in my spot,” he said, gesturing to the ground with a tilt in his chin. I sighed, resigned to the fact that I would have to have a conversation with this man.
“What do you mean *your* spot?” I asked.
“Right there where you’re sitting. It’s mine,” he adjusted his tie again as he sneered.
Hana looked at me, worried.
“I don’t understand what you mean by your spot,” I tilted my head. “Do you mean you reserved this place?”
“No, no, I don't seem to have been unclear,” he said. “This place belongs to me. I own it. You need to leave.”
“But… but we were here first,” Hana protested.
“That’s where you’re wrong. You see, my great-great-grandfather was here during the founding of the park. He sat right here on the day it opened,” he pointed to the floor.
“Your… so, what do you want us to move so you can document it or take photos? If that is the case, I don’t mind moving," I offered.
“Yeah, that's right, just go ahead and leave,” the man in the blue and white striped tie nodded.
Not wanting to deal with the guy, I took my daughter's hand, “Alright, come on, Hana,” picking up the quilt and basket.
“No, no, leave that. That’s mine,” he said abruptly.
“The quilt. Just leave that and the basket, too. Those are mine,” he nodded to himself.
“They’re… not. I quilted this myself years ago. And Hana and I wove this basket in a father-daughter class.”
“I don't care; they’re mine,” he nodded to himself once more, ignoring me.
“Nuh-uh!” Hana protested.
“Look, just get out of here; they’re mine, all right?” the man pulled at the edge of the quilt, and I stood up, snatching the fabric away from him and pushing him away.
“How dare you! This belongs to me!” he exploded, shoving me aggressively. Hana began whimpering.
“I made this myself! How could this be yours? I’ve owned it for years!” I screamed.
The police officer nearby, seeing the commotion, approached us, “What seems to be the problem here?” the officer said. My muscles relaxed in relief. Finally, someone to fix this.
“This guy is trying to take my stuff! He just showed up here and claimed it’s his!”
I pointed to the man who pulled a face of innocence.
The officer looked to the man, who offered no rebuttal except to shrug in agreement.
“Sounds like a complicated issue,” the officer stroked his chin. “A messy two-sided conflict.”
“What!?” I exploded. “This guy came up and took my spot and is now claiming my quilt and basket are his.”
The man complained to the officer, “He was very belligerent when I was trying to take his stuff without creating any conflict, and he shoved me first!”
“Ah, so you pushed him. This man has a right to defend himself,” the officer explained to me, patting him on the shoulder.
“From myself and my daughter, who are just trying to keep the stuff we own?” I asked, exasperated.
“This sounds like a complicated issue,” the officer said, looking between us. “How about a compromise?”
“Sure!” the man said, adjusting his tie. “I’m okay with just half of his stuff. Either the quilt or the basket, he can keep the other.”
“Alright, that sounds reasonable. What about you?” the officer asked me.
“No! Absolutely not; these belong entirely to me. Why would I compromise on my stuff?”
“Wow, won’t even consider compromising!” the man threw the end of his tie forward in distaste, blurring the blue and white color of it together. “I’m trying to extend an olive branch here!” he said, pointing to the tree above us for effect.
“He sounds like he’s trying,” the officer said to me in agreement.
“Look, I want… you to leave me and my daughter alone. Just don't bother us, please,” I said.
“Wow, at least try to be reasonable,” the officer shook his head. He pulled out his gun. “Just go on. Leave the stuff and get out of here, and then everyone’s happy.”
“I wouldn’t be happy!” Hana protested, looking at the gun with fear.
“Oh, sweetie,” the officer said, kneeling down and smiling at her. “You and your daddy don't need to be happy; just let this guy be happy. Now run along,” he ushered with the point of his weapon.
I grabbed Hana and left quickly, making as much distance between us and our assailants before they decided to become even more aggressive. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones being kicked out of the park, as many gathered around us as we made our way to the parking lot.
“What’s going on?” someone walking their dog next to the park asked, watching as dozens of us were removed without any of our possessions.
“They stole all of our stuff at gunpoint,” I said in a daze, hardly believing what just happened.
“Ah,” the dog walker nodded. “Sounds like a very complicated issue.”