Tag Archives: The Playground

“The Playground” – Fiction by Samantha Duncan

Boys Lessons Provide Wartime Toys - Norman Smith, 1943
Boys Lessons Provide Wartime Toys – Smith Norman, 1943

“The Playground” is not just a setting but a character in Samantha Duncan‘s magically unsettling flash fiction from our Fall 2015 issue.

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IT WAS THE START OF SPRING WHEN THE PLAYGROUND BEGAN to behave in a maternal way. Howard, having just learned to walk, tripped over his own feet and landed hands and knees in a muddy spot of mulch. He had mixed feelings about dirt on his body, only enjoying it when he submitted himself to it, so this was an event altogether displeasing, which he hesitantly expressed through an animalistic wail. His mother, sitting on a bench at the opposite end of the playground, had barely risen from her place when the ground in front of Howard let off a small explosion, and from under the mulch a burst of water landed directly on his splayed hands and feet.

His mother jerked and back-pedaled slightly before charging toward her son. She frantically checked him over for further injuries from the tiny water volcano, then assessed his mental state, assuming that at the very least, he’d be spooked and immediately want to go home. But he was completely clean from his impromptu bath, and his expression suggested nothing more than perplexed curiosity, and when she moved her hands to his armpits to hoist him up and head for the car, he fought back with the move all children perfect in their first year: thrusting one’s arms straight up and causing them to slide out of their handler’s grip. It worked, and she put him down.

He immediately ran to the metal dome climber and, though he’d never done it before, climbed almost to the top and rested his body there, giving the structure an awkward but loving hug. His mother, unsure what to think, circled the playground to look for signs of another explosion, but the ground looked calm and inanimate. There had to be an explanation, some natural phenomenon she’d never heard of. Maybe the playground was built on shifting plates. Science held the answer. She watched her son close his eyes and hug the dome climber tighter.

Other things started to happen, though, that couldn’t be dismissed by any sort of science. Bailey attached his mouth to the outer curve of the yellow tube slide. A few minutes of this passed before his mother looked up from her iPad and tensed her face in disgust.

She marched over to him and demanded to know what he was doing. He waited until she was within arm’s reach before popping his little mouth off the slide, and he screamed:

“I’M NOT FINISHED!”

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