A DAY IN THE PARK
COMPRISED OF WHOLLY ORIGINAL ELEMENTS,
BUT FOR THAT NOTABLE EXCEPTION
IN WHICH I STEAL UNABASHEDLY
FROM THE RIGHT GOODLY WORKS OF HIS HONORABLE
SIR BLACK HOCKEY JESUS.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the suburbanites were out in force at the neighborhood park one recent afternoon in early March. Which is to say, last weekend. It was one of those days that come but once or twice a year in Los Angeles–an afternoon on which it is neither too hot, nor too smoggy, nor too unpredictable, and nor was it raining: we didn’t need long sleeves, but then the sun wasn’t beating down upon us like a immense earth-sized space heater, either. Which is to say, it was the weather known to outsiders as that indigenous to the Rose Bowl. In accordance, people were having birthday parties in the park, lining tables with cakes and rows of tiny green boxes filled with? candies? wedding favors? throwing stars? who knows. I know there were balloons. And it is fair to say that the collective feeling in the park was festive.
Mini had been sick the week before, but by the afternoon on Sunday he appeared to have recovered enough to warrant a trip to the jungle gyms. But things were off somehow. Maybe Mini was not as recovered as we thought. Or maybe it was the fact that he was wearing Tevas, and because of this, every time he walked through sand his feet would end up covered in sediment, a reality that caused him to shriek out at the ghastly incompetence of his parents, who were obviously not familiar enough with park protocol to know that he always–always!–must wear sneakers to avoid this nuisance of sandy feet. Still, we were at length able to get him up and running on the park’s jungle gym structure, he gravitating, as he always does, toward the biggest, most dangerous of heights, and Mr. Right-Click spotting him on the totally age-inappropriate climbs upon which he insists.
For Mini must always play the big boy, even when the real big boys are flying past him, left and right, at warp speed, seeking to avoid trampling him during his foolhardy navigation of a a play structure 3 sizes too big. Even when said big boys are making proclamations such as, “We’re going to go down this slide eleven times!” to no one in particular. Nay, even when one of said big boys insists upon carrying a terrified lop-eared rabbit with him on his trips up and down the slide, saying things like, “He wants to go again! Yeah!” and inevitably conjuring up images of a young Jeffrey Dahmer in the minds of passersby.
Wait a minute, aren’t those boys a little too large to be on these play structures in the first place? Where are their parents? Is that kid going to break that rabbit’s neck? And where did this rabbit come from? Am I in an episode of Benny Hill?
Such were my thoughts as I absentmindedly spied a little girl, about six, on the play structure, wearing a pink Dora t-shirt and leggings with sneakers. She looked at me in the manner peculiar to the latency period child, whereby your presence is acknowledged through a sense that you are being watched, even though when you look around, nobody is there but a little girl who is very busy with the climb-through tunnel. Eventually the girl said, “Daddy, I want to go on the bars,” gesturing towards the structure that is today’s more developed evolutionary descendant of the “monkey bars” on which I broke my wrist in second grade.
The little girl’s father was a middle-aged man wearing a dress shirt, shoes, and khakis. In the park. On a Sunday. And more to the point, he was otherwise occupied with trying to chase down his older child, a boy around the age of 9. The man was busy, I guess, and brushed the little girl off. He wanted her to figure out these monkey bars on her own, I suppose.
So he said, “You have to lose some weight before you can do those kind.”
The little girl continued to watch me watching her, and gave a half-smile of the confused emotion that will no doubt develop into full-blown shame in just a few short years. I looked at Mr. Right-Click. We traded confused, then sad and horrified looks. We did not speak, but Mr. Right-Click’s involuntary annoyance signal (that only I can recognize) was on red alert. Always the academic, I was momentarily distracted by the question of if, hypothetically, weight would have anything to do with one’s ability to navigate the monkey bars. Then I thought about whether I should help the girl with the monkey bars, but ultimately decided that this would be a transgression of the girl’s father’s parenting boundaries. So instead, I unsheathed my custom samurai sword, fashioned after the one used by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and chopped off the motherfucker’s head.
While my sword was aloft, there were of course the standard special effects. Time appeared to stand still in a Matrix-like 6 dimensional frame. You could see blood droplets suspended in the air, along with the last few breaths of the man, the sand grains sent into orbit by the quickness of my blade, the inevitable cheers from the crowd. &c. &c. All at once, time started up again, and a new head grew in place of the one I had sent flying. The new incarnation, as it turned out, was much preferable in both attitude and demeanor to its predecessor and, as luck would have it, was eerily reminiscent of Steve from Blue’s Clues.
“Would you like to get an ice cream?” the newly reheaded man asked his daughter. She nodded, smiled, and off they went to collect her ne’er-do-well sibling.
“COOL!” The boy with the rabbit yelled.
“TAKE THAT RABBIT HOME NOW!” I instructed, not wholly unkindly.
“Yes, ma’am,” the big boys said, shuffling off in fear.
“We need to talk,” said Mr. Right-Click.
“A BALL!” said Mini. “A ball! Aballaballaballaballaball!”
“Not exactly, buddy. But nice use of indirect pronoun!” I said. And we headed home, me only slightly miffed at having been called ma’am.