Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Standing At The Intersection
by Thane Thompson
The onslaught of late-April rain forced my daughter Jesse and me to retreat from the park. The next best place for a seven-year-old to run off steam was the indoor playground at the mall. There must have been fifty kids that Saturday afternoon, all of them shrieking at the top of their lungs.
The girl was Jesse's height - maybe a little taller, but they couldn't have been more different. My frazzle-haired, tow-headed tom-boy was dressed in worn jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt. One of her sleeves was rolled up past her elbow, while the other hung below her fingertips, and a dark smear of mud decorated her left knee. In contrast, the girl was a picture in her red dress and black patent-leather shoes. The sides of her raven hair were tucked carefully under a white satin band, and the rest fell past her shoulders in loose, shimering curls.
They met with a bump as the girl plopped down on the smiling fish and Jesse hopped off the balance beam log. I watched them give each other a smile and then, by some wordless agreement, start to run together through the mock-Indian village.
They chased each other around the padded, rubberized campfire, then wove between the canoe, the teepee, and both over-sized ladybugs. As they finished their first round, they started to pick up speed. When they reached a crowded section, Jesse darted through the group of kids like a fish between reeds, but the girl bumped and thumped among them, drawing angry looks.
They continued to play their game of tag, running back and forth around the playground. The girl was chasing after Jesse when the carpet caught her toe and she collapsed into a heap. I saw her go down hard and heard the breath rush out of her in a sharp little bark.
Her mother gasped and hurried over, reaching down to pull her up. As though stopped by some unseen hand, she caught herself in the middle of helping and straightened back up with a jerk. Unaware of her mother's inner battle, the girl bounced up with a wide grin.
Jesse asked, "Are you sure you're OK?"
"Me OK," she said proudly, her green eyes shining.
Jesse looked at the girl as though seeing her for the first time. She began to say something, but stopped herself. After a moment, she returned the girl's wide smile and said, "Good." She paused another instant before saying in a louder, slower voice, "OK, I'm it!"
They headed off again, over and under and through the playground equipment, giggling as they went. This time, though, Jesse chased after the girl with careful, measured steps.
I glanced at the girl's mother. Her eyes still followed them, watching the mismatched duo run and play together. As they made another round, I caught her eye and gave her a nod and a smile. She returned my gesture, but as she looked away I saw her brittle smile was tinged with melancholy.
Thane Thompson writes literary prose and poetry, fantasy, and science fiction. His work has appeared at The Writer's Eye Magazine and Pen Pricks Micro Fiction. He lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter, and three highly opinionated cats. He freely admits to liking cheap wine, expensive movies, and hand-blown glassware.
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