A small, scuttling noise disturbed his revelry. A squirrel, twitching and scurrying his eyes, had mounted the bench and began a detailed investigation of Norman's abandoned sandwich wrapping.
"Hello, little fellow." Norman said.
The squirrel gave him a slow, calculated look.
"What's that supposed to mean? 'Little fellow'?"
"Oh, sorry," Norman replied, "I didn't... erm... Well, I just meant..."
"Look," the squirrel interrupted, "it doesn't matter what you meant. There was no need to say that. I've got a genetic condition actually. It shortens my lifespan by around 15 years, and it makes it very hard for me to get squirrel clothes that fit. I have to shop in the children's department. And it really takes a lot of confidence for me to come up to a complete stranger and look for crumbs."
"I... Well, I didn't... I didn't mean to cause offence... I was just being friendly..." Norman replied.
A small crowd had gathered, watching the scene with interest.
"Friendly? You think this is how to be friendly?" The squirrel yelled. "What the hell's wrong with you? I've seen you here before, and you always feed those ducks and the sparrows. But the second I come near you, bang! You turn into a dick. Is it because I'm a squirrel? Is that it? You've got a problem with squirrels, haven't you?"
"Well, no, or course not. What a ridiculous thing to say!"
The crowd had grown in size now. A few people were shaking their heads at Norman in disgust, and a mother was covering the ears of her child.
"Ridiculous? So I'm stupid now? A stupid squirrel, is that it?"
Norman had risen from his seat, trying to back off with some dignity.
"Yes!" Yelled the squirrel, "You run off! Run back to your human world, where you only have to look at squirrels if you run them over."
The crowd parted to let Norman pass, pulling back as if he was infectious. A little old lady spat in his direction, and a man held back his friend, a red-faced brute cursing and hissing with hate. The number 47 bus pulled up, and Norman quickly boarded, passing the driver his return ticket and sinking into a seat near the back. The bus left, the crowd angrily watching but, fortunately, taking no further action.
Norman watched as the park disappeared behind a bend in the road, being replaced with a microwave shop and a small office block. He sighed, taking out his map of city parks and plazas, and stroked the park off with a red pen. That made seven now; seven parks where he had accidentally racially insulted a talking animal. Lunch time was becoming more of a burden everyday, and he was having to take increasingly long routes in the morning to avoid all the places he had caused offence.
Of course, he could just eat in the office, but that would mean using the staff dining room, and there was a good chance one of the Belarusian workers would sit near him.