Fri, 22 Aug 2003

I’m sitting in the grass out by the jungle gym with Jon, a nineteen-year-old co-worker. He’s short and stocky and talks constantly. Most of his stories end with him staggering into the bathroom at Overdrive or Ryly’s to vomit copiously.

I’ve finished eating my lunch, and I’ve got my pillow, and I’m just waiting for Jon to go back inside so that I can catch a few minutes of sleep before I have to be back at my desk. Finally Jon finishes his monologue and adds, “Well, I guess I’d better head back. Don’t want that bitch Linda to get on my case about taking long lunches.”

“See you later,” I say, as Jon heads back to the building. I lean back on the pillow to rest.

A quiet voice says, “Hi.” I open my eyes and look over at the jungle gym. There’s a little girl in a green dress, maybe four years old, standing in the sand.

“Hi,” I say.

She scampers around the back of the jungle gym and kicks some sand around, glancing back at me under the slide. Then she runs back around and comes a bit closer, standing in the grass a few feet away from me.

“Is your brother going home?” she says.

“That’s not my brother, he’s just a friend from work.”

“Is he your little friend?”

“I don’t know. He’s not very little, is he?”

“He’s this big,” she says. She runs over to the nearest tree and reaches for the lowest limb. She can barely touch it. “Look, I’m not even on tiptoes,” she says.

“That’s impressive,” I say.

“I’ve got a little friend,” she says, returning to stand above me.

“Oh, yeah? Where’s your little friend?”

She points to the slummy townhouses behind the park.

“Is that where you live?” I ask.

“Uh-huh.”

She runs back to the jungle gym and scoops up something half-buried in the sand. When she returns, she’s got a tiny little wooden chair, maybe a foot tall. She places it upright in the grass and sits down on it.

“What’s your name?” she says.

“Michael. What’s yours?”

“Morgan. Why are you sleeping in the day?”

“I’m tired.”

“You shouldn’t sleep in the day. Look what I found.”

Morgan is holding a pointy, palm-sized rock.

“It’s a rock,” I say.

“It’s a stone,” she says. “Watch what I can do.”

She runs over to the tree and throws the stone up and over the lowest-hanging branch. It lands in the grass. “Well done,” I say.

“I can throw far,” she says. “Watch.” She picks up her tiny chair and throws it as far as she can – about six feet. It lands in the sand by the jungle gym. She retrieves it, plants it in the grass again right beside me, and seats herself in the chair again, her hands folded primly in her lap. “Huh,” I say.

“Where’s your little friend going?”

“He’s going back to work.”

“Is he going to your house?”

“No, I don’t live there. That’s where I work.”

“Where do you live?”

“Oh, a ways that way,” I say, gesturing in the general direction of Market Mall. Morgan stands up and cranes her neck, trying to see where I was pointing. “No, it’s too far away, you won’t be able to see it.” She sits down again.

A small group of young people comes marching out of the townhouses and across the park toward the jungle gym. The oldest is perhaps twelve. The youngest, a little girl with an unusually large head, is around Morgan’s age.

“My little friend!” says Morgan, catching sight of them.

“Why don’t you go play with your little friend,” I say. Morgan runs off to join the group, leaving her chair behind. I close my eyes. I hear the sound of children playing.

After a few minutes, I look up again. Morgan is playing by herself in the sand. The other children are digging holes in the sand some distance away, ignoring her.

The big-headed girl detaches from the group and walks across the grass toward me. Morgan looks up from her private game. She runs over and stands between me and the big-headed girl. “Don’t!” Morgan shouts at the big-headed girl. “That’s my little friend!”

The big-headed girl looks confused, then turns around and toddles back to her group.

“Morgan, did you say I was your little friend?” I ask.

“Uh-huh.”

“What about her?” I say, indicating the big-headed girl.

Morgan shrugs. She sits down in the chair beside me.

“Do you like my chair?”

“It’s a good chair.”

“My mom made it for me.”

“Hmm. Where is your mom?”

“She’s playing video games.”

Morgan folds her hands in her lap and looks down at me possessively. I look back at her.

After a few seconds, I close my eyes. I’ve been out here almost an hour. I should really be heading back to work.

M.

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