Good Afternoon

Jacob was alone in the playground. He sat on top of the play structure and just looked around for a while. It was a weekday afternoon, and everyone else was at school. Jacob was staying with his dad, however, and his dad saw school as being like a kid’s work. So, when Jacob had felt a little sick that morning, his dad had called in for him with the same positive feeling that he would have gotten from punching someone else’s timecard. Jacob had started feeling better that afternoon, and instead of making him go in to school, like his mom would have done, his dad had just sent him out to play instead.

So, the boy had gone to the playground. It was the middle of the day, and nobody else was there. However, Jacob was good at amusing himself, so he wasn’t dismayed or anything. In fact, he felt a certain amount of relief about not having to share the equipment. He went down the slide as often as he wanted, and he was able to climb around as fast as he wanted with no other children getting in his way and slowing him down.

When he got tired, he went to the top of the structure to look out and see what he could see. Off in the distance there was an old lady with a walker taking a stroll. She was moving very slowly and painfully, but her doctor had told her that she had to get out and stay active, so she tried to follow his advice, even though it was difficult.

Jacob didn’t know this of course, and, being ten, he didn’t really understand her situation at all. Nonetheless, it still seemed to him like the worst thing that could happen. He thought that he’d probably stay inside and just watch TV if he couldn’t get around on his own anymore. He couldn’t imagine having to use a walker, and he wondered if it was just a normal thing that he should be expecting. His own grandma didn’t, but there were other ladies in her complex who had one. Mrs. Haverchuk had to use a walker, and he liked her just fine.

And though his own grandma didn’t have to use a walker, she had other stuff going on. Jacob had to be careful with her. When he was younger he’d thrown himself at her quite a bit. Affectionately, of course, but his father had gotten quite angry at him one time, so he didn’t do it anymore. He learned to be careful and cautious.

He looked in the other direction and saw a big black dog with long fur. The dog was nosing around a fire hydrant, and then suddenly it lifted a back leg and gave the hydrant a little squirt to let other dogs know that it had been there. Jacob had read about this, and he believed he understood the impulse, at least.  Not that he had much of a desire to go around peeing on things, but he saw where the dog was coming from.

The dog didn’t seem to be tied up, and Jacob thought that it must have escaped from somewhere. He was briefly worried about it, but it seemed to know not to go into the road, and when a car went by, it stopped and watched and then crossed when the way was clear. The dog was better about traffic than some of the kids Jacob knew. Jacob himself was very careful around traffic, but he knew some kids at school who didn’t seem to care, and just wandered thoughtlessly across the street in front of the school. It bugged him, but he already had a reputation as a worry-wart, so he kept it to himself.

He lay back on top of the structure and looked up at the sky. There weren’t any clouds that day, but there was a jet going overhead, trailing exhaust. He knew it was just smoke like came out of the back of the car, but it somehow seemed a great deal more magical when it was up in the sky like that. He couldn’t hear anything, and the plane itself was barely visible, so the streak of smoke seemed to be coming out of nowhere.

And then he just closed his eyes, and because the sun was still shining on him, he saw orange instead of black. He could feel the wind blowing over him, and he was glad he’d felt sick that morning.

And he didn’t know it, but the old lady had been watching him. She was exhausted, and when he lay down, she stopped completely. The front of her walker was also a stool, and she sat down to rest.

She knew that the way she was thinking was an indication of age, but she’d put her utmost into not acting her age, and she still had to use the damn walker just to go to the mailbox. When she saw the little boy looking over at that dog, she’d known he wouldn’t want to freeze time. You don’t start wanting to freeze time until you get older. When you’re ten, all you can think of is having more adventures, even if the adventure is just lying around on top of a slide. If time stopped, you’d stop having adventures, so it wouldn’t be a good option.

However, when you start needing a walker, you sometimes wish you could have frozen time many years before. She was about to think it for him, but then she decided that she would have frozen time at fifty or so, not ten. He wouldn’t appreciate being frozen that early in life.

The little boy was still lying on his back, but she decided it was time to move on. She had intended to wait until he sat up again, but she knew that she was going to go slow, so she decided that she couldn’t wait. So she stood up, went back around the walker, and started moving down the street to the mailbox again.

She hadn’t timed herself but as she got to the mailbox, she knew that she’d been very quick. She fished around in her purse for the key, and when she found it, she opened her box. There was just a bill and a couple flyers, so it wasn’t a huge success. Nonetheless, she put them all in her purse, and then turned around and started home again. She had a smile on her face thinking about how fast she’d gone.