Blisters formed and burst where grimy hands clenched sun-kissed steel bars, swinging to and fro, climbing hand-over-hand to claim the top tier of the monkey bars. I looked down at the palms of my hands. I rubbed them together briskly, till sweaty dirt and dead skin pilled up and rolled off. I picked at the blisters, then swung across to the second set of cube-frames, where I hung from the knees, reaching down, arching my back, willing my arms to grow longer, trying to touch the steaming asphalt and missing by a knuckle.
The monkey bars were my castle. My Mt. Everest. My rain forest. My circus act. Imagination filled in the blanks between the bars, shifting images like a hologram to fit the whims of an eight year old creator.
I didn’t create him, though. I didn’t invite him into that world between worlds; he never could have seen it.
“Hey, dummy. Whatcha doin’?” Voice full of swagger.
I didn’t speak. Didn’t want to break the bubble, didn’t want the technicolor daydream to drain out into his lard-lethargic, dull-witted, monochromatic world. Didn’t want his to seep in and sap mine. I squinched shut my eyes, willing him to disappear. He stood behind me, trapping me between the bars.
A squishy sound rumbled between his plaque-flocked teeth – a wet swishing, swelling, swilling of saliva. “Sptiu!” Thick wet spit plopped on top of my head. And just like that, he disappeared. Maybe he dissolved. I rubbed what was left of him out of my hair with dried leaves and let the wind whisk him away as the sun dried him into nothingness – along with my castle.
P.S. Call this “historical fiction.” I don’t have a vivid memory of the actual event, but I do remember my dad sticking up for me and having a word with “the boy.” I don’t recall what was said, but I hope it set him on a better path before he went too far down the one he was on.
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