The International Writers Magazine:
Short story about temptations in the playground
David C. Card
Smiles came to their half of year eight from Oldbeck elementary
school in February. One morning, during break time, Hailey Myers
and the gang interrupted Bobbys stone throwing against the
hop-scotch wall. Could your mother not afford full length
pants, huh? she said.
She could, Bobby replied, Its just I like
to show off my calves.
The gang sniggered.
Hailey didnt. She bent her left knee, keeping the right straight,
and placed her hands on her hips. Her shimmering rusty-blonde hair waved
in the winter wind and fell at her chest in curls and tufts.You
talk pretty snappy for a shy boy, Hailey said. Anyway, whats
that youre doing?
Who ever said I was a shy boy?
Youve never spoke a word to nobody since you got here.
Youve never spoke a word to me neither.
Well then, she said, crossing her arms, maybe we wont
bother next time. She turned and walked back to the yard, the
flock fluttered behind her. Hes kinda funny, a voice
came. Yeah, an enthusiastic cheer came from the others.
It was the first time Bobby had spoken to a girl his own age, with his
previous school being all boys and all, and it wasnt just any
girl, either. If Hailey Myers wore her shirt with the tails out, her
tie fat at the knotas she often didthats the way you
wore your uniform. Sometimes hed throw his stones a little extra
hard against the hop-scotch wall so that theyd ricochet and land
in the rockery behind him, and through the bushes hed watch everyone
crowd around her, and laugh at her jokes, and tell her how fit she was,
and ask her how much her new posh purse and jacket cost. He never understood
After dinner that evening, Bobby mentioned this to mother. The
worlds a hall of mirrors, Bobby, she replied, then smiled
and kissed him on the cheekbone. He didnt exactly understand what
she meant by this, she always talked in riddles, but for some reason
this seemed to encapsulate the experience perfectly.
Bobby woke early Saturday morning, as he usually did, bright and perky
knocking at his parents bedroom door in his Wellington boots.
His father often joked that Bobby slept with his fishing gear on; he
wouldnt be surprised if he did.Hurry, dad. The weather said
rains due by lunch.
By now, both parents were wide awake, and propped up against the head
boards. Mother said, You two be careful down there. You know how
excited he gets.
Bobby and his dad took their usual place at the foot of the stream,
where the bank rode nearest to the water. Undulate hills swept the horizon;
the waters were calm, the sky paper white. Birds sang the most marvellous
songs. Bobby felt pure here.So what do you think mam meant when
she said the worlds a hall of mirrors?
Well, what do you think she meant, son? his father replied,
each word carried by thick white clouds of breath. A beard of stubble,
lathered with much too sweet smelling cologne enveloped his chiselled
jaws. A red and navy tartan hat covered his head and ears; brown eyes
I dont know dad
that maybe people these days act
like something theyre not. Is that what mother meant?
Setting his fishing rod aside Bobbys father hesitated answering,
genuinely pondering. Maybe, he said finally.Is it
bad to be like that? Bobby asked.
It can be
Listen, dont let nobody change who you
are, you hear me?
They wont dad.
Thats my boy.
That night Bobby
had the dream. He dreamt he was flying, swimming through the air. Trees
passed him, and bus stops, and post boxes. He was searching for something.
He stopped when he reached the school gates, tried to open them, but
couldnt. Inside stood Hailey Myers and her friends, with her back
to Bobby. Bobby yelled out, let me in, let me in! but it
was no use. He shook the gates and rattled the chains, he kicked the
bolts and screamed and screamed and screamed, but it was no use. He
glanced at his palms and blood covered them. He raised his head and
Hailey had disappeared, but he could hear her still. She was giggling,
and clapping her hands, and she was calling for Bobby. He was sure of
it. He shook the gates. To his surprise, they opened. He walked into
the empty grey schoolyard where His Hailey once stood. She called again,
Bobby, Bobby! He started toward the football posts. He was
running, he was crying, he looked at his blood soaked palms and they
were dripping, and then a buzzing sound broke through the air like a
fog horn, louder and louder and louder. Birds sang and the dream world
gave way to the reality of the familiar red and blue trim wallpaper
and bed sheets. It was only when a string of morning sun beamed through
a crack in the curtains, stinging his eyes that Bobby fully awoke. He
checked his palms, he had to be sure: no cuts, no blood.
You going to take advantage of the sunshine? mother asked
at the breakfast table.
I dont really feel like it, Bobby replied, tearing
off the crusts of his toast with his fingers. He didnt really
feel like doing anything at all that day.
Come next morning it was empty in the back streets of the chapel square.
Winter rain tore through heavy clouds of fog, swamping cracks in the
pavement: tiny pools, rivers, all of which in time would share the rippled
reflection of Bobbys black shoe soles as he skipped and leapt
over them, careful not soak his socks. Bobby hadnt seen a day
so foggy before. It reminded him of the old silver romance movies his
mother would often watch Sunday afternoons; the ones where the star
always gets the girl in the end. He liked that idea. He stopped when
he reached the sign post and turned left down Ashburn Grove. He arrived
early for school that morning, a good thirty minutes before bell sounded.
Ricky Gibson and Mickey Yard were throwing stones against the hop-scotch
wall. They never usually did. The fog had vanished as if blown clear
by the blistering winds; Bobby had to fight to stay on his feet. He
fastened his jackets fur collar right up to his eyebrows and tucked
his hands inside. Every now and then, he would glance over at Ricky
and Mickey and run his fingers over the velvet face of the lucky stone
hed picked up one weekend while fishing with dad. Ricky and Mickey
were Hailey Myers number one fans, and both huge stars of the
weekend football matches. Ricky was Devonshire Secondarys top
scorer, and Mickey hadnt let in a dozen goals all season.
Look, there he is, Ricky shouted, waving Bobby toward him.
Its alright, Bobby yelled, you guys can play,
No, Bobby, Bobby. I wanna ask you somethun. Bobby drifted
You wanna play with us? Mickey asked.
My games kind of only a one player game, Bobby replied.
But weve made it a group game, Ricky said. He had
a scrawny, arched posture, like that of an aged man, his head a sphere
of orange: ginger hair, ginger freckles. He was the only kid in school
to have his ears pierced. Hailey dared him to do it. Mickey was a husk
of a child, with dark hair and dark skin. He had a big brown birthmark
that clung to his cheekbone and stared you right in the face. Bobby
thought it almost greeted you before he did.Sorry, Bobby
said, I think Ill pass. I like my game better.
What you guys doing talking to bare-legs? Haileys
voice tore behind them.
We were just playing stones, and asked if he wanted to,
We dont play stones, Hailey replied. Why dont
you come play with us, Bobby?
Im alright where I am, Bobby said just as the bell
tolled for registration and the stampede began.Ill see you
in class, Bob, Ricky said. Yeah, see ya, Mickey said
skipping off. Hailey hadnt stopped looking at Bobby, her bent
left knee bobbing up and down.I thought you didnt talk to
us? she said.
I didnt say that. Bobby turned and started for the
steps by the rockery, but was yanked back by Haileys grasp.Dont
walk away from me, she said.
Get your hands off me, he said. Haileys face swelled
red as she released her grip, her eyes wondering aimlessly around the
yard. Bobby felt bad, he didnt exactly know why. He wanted to
say something, but in the end, he turned and headed for the stairs.
Bobby wondered if that was the first time Hailey had been refused before,
and he couldnt stop seeing her flushed, defeated face in his head.
By lunch, the hop-scotch wall was free and, although stones were being
thrown and points were being accumulated, it was merely idle activity
for a restless mind. What if Hailey was to be refused in front of the
whole class, the whole school, Bobby wondered, would I refuse her then?
Bobby wondered whether he could live himself if he did. But if I didnt
refuse her, there is no going back! Bobby didnt want to be misunderstood.
He gathered his lucky stones and pocketed them. He sat down on the cold
concrete, his back resting against the hop-scotch wall, his hands in
his pockets, his knees apart, his heels tucked into his groin.
Hailey and the gang were over by the football posts, as usual. Hailey
was dancing, her skirt flaring high above her knees as she spun. The
others were laughing, and clapping along. Ricky and Mickey and the other
boys stopped their game of football and crowded around her. If only
for a moment, Bobby wished he were with them, being there with Hailey
in the flesh, smelling the sweet womanly scent of her mothers
perfume, and maybe catching a glimpse of her underwear when no one was
looking. For Hailey, Bobby didnt mind being one of them, but the
appalled look on his mothers face when she said those poetic,
riddled words echoed deep inside him; it was as if they were the only
two people on earth .It reminded him of the time Reverent Hope mentioned
Satan in church and mother wrapped her palms over Bobbys ears
exclaiming that never should she have her sons conscience scorched
with such words. Bobby and his mother never returned to church after
that Sunday, but to Bobby, on that day he learned everything he needed
to learn about church, and god and religion. To Bobby, it was mother
who was his god, his guardian of evil. He learned that to mother her
family was her religion and Bobbys and fathers, the house they
live in their church. That it was them against the world, a world of
Judases and tempters that have lost their way, as mother
once put it. Bobby knew that mother could have used much less poetic,
riddled words to describe her opinion of todays generation, but
knew that for Mary Elizabeth Smiles, to swear in front of her only child
would scorch him no less than to hear the word Satan spoken in church.
After last class, Hailey stopped Bobby in the hallway.
I seen you staring at me, lunch time, she said smugly.
I was watching the boys play football, Bobby replied quickly,
his gaze on everything else but Hailey. She grinned and stood silently,
letting the crowd pass her. Bobby stood nearest the window looking out
onto the football field, Hailey with her back to the hallway and the
marching parade of children. Bobby headed for the stairs but Haileys
outstretched arm struck his chest as she planted her palm by the window-sill,
pinning Bobby in. Wait until everyones gone, she whispered
in a promising voice. For the first time Bobbys eyes met Haileys
and stuck there like flies in a web. Her black pupils stared from out
the cave of her eye sockets with hypnotic fixation. Although he wanted
to, Bobby couldnt move now if he tried.What you waiting
for? Bobby asked, noticing the silence of the empty hallway, only
the sound of his knees tapping against the radiator in nervous convulsions
could be heard.Ill bet you wanna kiss me right now, dont
you? she said. Bobby could feel her thigh brush against his groin
as she leant closer, cheek to cheek. Ill bet you liked seeing
me dance, Hailey whispered.
Yes, he said. The warmth of her breath against his neck
sent a wave of awkward desire through his chest, splashing back when
it reached his toes. His body was numb; he had to look to see Haileys
fingers caress his stomach. The cold, moist pressure of lips on neck
sealed the fact that he was no longer in control of himself. He closed
his eyes, willing the growing sensation in his groin to subside. But
the more he willed, the more intense it became, and he felt himself
stiffen against Haileys stockingd thigh. Hailey pulled away,
laughing. She turned, still laughing, and skipped and danced down the
hallway.In his minds eye he could see himself standing there, by the
window, over looking the lush green grass of the football field and
pastel whites of the goal posts like watercolour paintings. He could
see Hailey, and Ricky, and Mickey and the gang pointing, and laughing,
and mocking, and teasing. It was like looking into a mirror.
© David C. Card March 2005
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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