“Knock it off, guys!”
Alex comes out of the locker room with something in his hair. Casey looks at him and says, “you have something in your hair.” Alex shoots her a look that could have shattered a mirror, and walks off toward the concession stand. About a minute later, some more boys file out of the locker room. They are a few years older than Alex, and like to have their fun.
“What are you guys doin’ in there,” Casey asks. They treat the question as if a quick “nothin” will suffice. She tries to stop them and asks again. None of them bother to stop. They just make even more sarcastic remarks.
“Gettin’ ready for the dance…”
They laugh it up while walking to the concession stand. Casey is not amused, but what can she do. Their kids–no, even worse, they’re teenagers. That’s just how teens seem to act: like rude, obnoxious idiots. There is only one person she knows who didn’t act like that when he was a teen. Her cousin Taylor. He was always such a nice kid. Not like “goody-goody” nice, but just a good, well rounded person. As a matter of fact, some kid tried to pick a fight with him once. Taylor began with his little piece about how he would not fight anyone. This dude didn’t really care what Taylor wanted, though, and he came right for him. In one swift twist Taylor took the guy to the ground. He knocked the wind out of him on the landing and the dude could barely get up. Those two are friends now. That was the first and only time anyone messed with Taylor. People were all afraid that he had some hidden anger building up inside him from grade school. When in grade school Taylor got picked on quite a bit. Actually it was more like he was just left out.
But this isn’t about Taylor, however big a part he might play.
Alex gets some nachos and heads for the playground. He gets some teasing thrown his way, but pushes past it. These boys never give up. It’s like they have something to prove to each other. As much as it hurts, Alex takes it while he makes his way to his little fortress of minor solitude. At the base of the playground “castle” there is a small space under the bottom-most platform. Over time the sand had been washed away and now there is about three feet of space you can crawl under. Alex always sits here and eats. Even though there is quite a bit of space under there, the panels on the sides of the platform cover up most of it. This made a small room just fitting a nine year old boy, his towel, and his nachos. The best part is no one else knows how to get in. The broken panel doesn’t look broken, so no one has bothered fixing it. There Alex sits, eating his nachos, drinking his soda, and listening to the conversations of the kids who run over his head, playing happily on the playground castle. How he wishes he could climb around the castle walls and slide down the slides with his friends.
He has to have friends first.
to be continued…