The Gate This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   The gate was old; it was one of the galvanized steel types which aren't much affected by the weather, but rather by the honeysuckle twisted around the metal mesh and curled up the gatepost. The gusty, argumentative March wind threw swirling eddies of grit and dusty leaf particles into Alexandra's face, but she fought the latch and the vines until the gate swung open, creaking sullenly on its hinges. She hesitated a moment, uncertain, and then walked resolutely forward, pushing the gate ahead of her.

It was a playground - forgotten, sad, lonely, wild. Moss cracked the black broken asphalt at her feet, bent and twisted the granite bricks that sloped down to an expanse of flat, damp sand, rumpled here and there like a sheet on a bed. At the far end there stood a small table, which she realized was made of some sort of stone, with green and white chess squares painted on it. Alexandra sat for a while, tracing the squares with her finger, until, glancing at her watch, she turned reluctantly back toward the fence. As she closed it, the gate bounced at her insolently, as if disgusted for letting her through, and determined to show her it wouldn't repeat its folly. Irritated, she pushed it back, dropping the latch securely. Thunder broke the clouded red horizon, and rain slashed down savagely. Pulling her jacket on, she jerked the zipper up, which stuck stubbornly. In exasperation, she left it dangling and fled.

The playground stole into Alexandra's mind, unbidden, like a thief who knows he may be caught any second, but continues nonetheless. She pushed it away, crossly, and tried to make her resentful mind concentrate on the slightly crumpled paper before her. Rain streaked the windows of the apartment, splashing angrily against the glass in its efforts to get in. The thought of the playground crept back, distracting ...

The dawn broke clear and grey, the sun a disc of burning white rising swiftly in a vaulted steely sky. Only the flash of sun-brightened water on the leaves showed the remainder of yesterday's furious storm. It had abated early in the evening, leaving as it had came, like a hawk, unexpected, fierce and rapid, so the water was mostly dew from the night.

Alexandra slipped out of the house silently and hurried to the playground. The gate was there, waiting warily, and she had to fight with it for a good ten minutes before it yielded sulkily. The playground was waiting, looking forlorn under its dripping dress of raindrops; somehow, perhaps sheltered as it was by trees, it had not dried as much as had the rest of the town. As she walked past a set of swings, the rubber black and sleek like a seal's hide, Alexan-dra noticed something breaking the smooth harmony of the playground: a set of footprints marking the sodden ground.

They had not been there before, she was sure. The rain had cleared the sand, like a great eraser, and these impressions were very clear, the edges sharp where they had sunk in. It was still early, so she reasoned that whoever it was had come last night, after the storm. Feeling rather ridiculous, Alexandra knelt, and almost as in some absurd mystery story, scrutinized them. They were the same average, nondescript design as any shoe, the only distinction being that the treads were shaped in an unusual way, with a row of short squiggles like the toggle button on a keyboard.

Stupid, Alexandra told herself, absolutely stupid. Preposterous. You can't search a whole town for a person who wears toggle-tread sneakers. You can't. Yet, as with the thought of the playground last night, this idea refused to leave. Who had been there? Who but her? It was not so much curiosity, but a strange resentment, as if whoever it was had been intruding. Stupid again. The playground's not yours, she reminded herself sharply. But if it came to that, whose was it?

"You probably know, know all about it, and you won't tell me a bit," Alexandra accused the gate, kicking it in frustration. "Spiteful, that's what you are, spiteful. You could at least let me through. But then I suppose that's what you're here to stop me from doing," she added, pausing to clear a twisted rope of honeysuckle stems wedged between the hinges. "Of course," she answered for the gate, and finally forcing it open, continued, "But I came anyway, and I'll come again."

The footprints were still there, in fact there were more now, all around the playground, converging to one point. In the sand a large sign had been posted, and in shocked, amazed silence, she read,

"Roakdall Estates, Epper, Szwand and Co., Inc. future sight of ROAKDALL SAVINGS BANK. Now a private property - No Trespassing"

Alexandra wondered, not realty caring, if her mother would yell at her for soaking her sandals as she trudged home, her jacket cold and heavy with rain. The drops raced down from wild, whirling clouds to slice the surface of dark, mirror-smooth puddles into glassy pieces.

******

Whack, whack. It was raining again. To heck with the math quiz tomorrow, she thought angrily. Alexandra stomped her way downstairs to the hall, not caring if her mother heard her or called her back. She rushed into the night, not waiting for a coat. The gate seemed subdued, and let her pass. The rain slapped at the ground, pushing little hollows and hills in the sand. The footprints had filled in, tiny lakes, and water trickled down the staring, conspicuous white board that was the sign. The wind roared in the maples, driving the lashing rain everywhere. There was nobody else, just the rain. And her. And the playground. And the rain again.

By the next afternoon it was gone, all gone before she even got there, the swings, the chess table, even the gate they had bulldozed. She could see the workers, over by a bench coated with garish yellow paint. It could be seen, now that the maples, the playground's only defense for so long, were gone. Not that there was any playground for them to shelter anymore. And the gate - it had known last night in the rain, and for once it had closed easily for her, though with a final touch of its old vigor it had sent her staggering sideways as it banged closed and twisted out of her hands.

All she could think of was how it had looked so sad, the playground, with the rain dripping over the sign. That night it had resigned itself. Nothing but the rain, and still the rain, always - the rain. The playground, it had been so sad. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback