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The Playground

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Journalist of the local town newspaper Margaret Fischer sipped her creamy latté while she sat by the window in her favorite coffee shop and gazed out unto the world. Beautiful blondes with their long, freshly manicured pseudo nails clung to their tall, broad shouldered football players, or bank managers, or lawyers. “Twenty-eight years,” she mumbled, “and still alone.”

During these miniature mid-life crisis episodes, she often thought of Carolyn, her fortunate friend one with the handsome, wavy haired therapist as her husband. “Oh, Jim took me out to dinner last night at a fancy restaurant,” she said before. “Jim brought me my favorite flowers. Isn’t he sweet? . . . Jim bought me a new ring! . . . Do you what Jim did yesterday? . . .” Day after day married life seemed to get more glamorous than ever, and single hood worsened by the minute. “There’s still time,” she always remarked. “Marriage isn’t for everyone, you know.” Easy for her to say.

The ring of her cell phone called her back to the present.
“Hey Jett. How’d the divorce hearing go?”
“How do you think it went?” snapped my eldest brother. “My wife’s divorcing me, so she can get together with another guy. I could hardly sit there without throwing up my breakfast.”
“Sorry that had to happen to you. At least you’re not still



single, waiting for someone to notice you, like… uh, some people.”
“Single’s looking pretty good right now. When’s Zane coming home for spring break?”
“Next week. I can’t wait to see the kid. Lucky guy. I loved college.”
“Yeah,” Jett reminisced, “especially when its your senior year. But, he’s been through the ringer. You know, after dad died and mom was hospitalized, funds are scarce. Zane’s already deep in debt.”


“Yeah, that’s tough. Our poor little brother. Listen, I’ll pick him up from the airport, and then we’ll all catch up for lunch. Sound good?”
“Yeah. Talk to you later Margie.”
“Alright. Bye Jett.” She hung up her phone and continued the day worrying about the terrible thought of her family going under a wave of depression.

Soon a week passed by and Margaret found herself walking alongside Carolyn and discussing yet again what her husband Jim did to please her fancy. “Remember last Tuesday when I got sick?” buzzed Carolyn. “Well, Jim took the whole day off to take care of me. He even brought me breakfast in bed. Isn’t he wonderful?”
“Yeah,” Margaret sighed, “do you think he can get one of his wonderful friends to marry me?”

“Very funny. After knowing you since kindergarten, I finally figured you out, Margie Fischer. You are in the midst of hundreds of men each week. You see them at work, or at a restaurants, or that coffee shop you are so fond of. But, you never notice that ninety percent of them have their eyes on you. They greet you, they start up conversations, and smile at you. But, you barely look at them and nonverbally tell those available young men that you’re not interested. But, you know you are doing this because God knows you would rather wallow in your misery than actually do something about it. Right?”

Margaret donned a lop-sided smile. She knew her life-long friend made a correct assumption, but she refused to sink to the level of letting Carolyn know this bit of precious information. “Gosh, thanks for the sermon.” snapped Margaret. Just as Carolyn gave her a dirty glare, the beep of Margaret’s watch sounded loud as a siren and crystal clear. “Oh, it’s time to pick up Zane at the airport.”
“Ok, call me. Maybe we could all do something together.” Margaret smiled upon her old friend and, unbeknownst to her, took a surprising leap into the past.

Margaret slid her pearly blue car up to the curb and kept an eye out for Zane. Soon, she spotted what looked like her tall, bulky brother standing by the airport benches looking for his ride. She stared at the dark figure and tried to find her brother in this stranger but dared not find a match. He had bags under his opaque eyes, matted hair, and, by the way other people responded to him, he smelled of a pungently awful odor. Nevertheless, she called to her brother. He looked around at the sound of his name until he spotted his sister waving at him. He smiled, ran over to put his bags in her car, and jumped in the front seat.

“How do you do, Sis?” Zane smiled as he asked the standard greeting question.
“Oh, I’m doing good,” Margaret lied, still a little sore from Carolyn’s lecture. “How’s your senior year in college going?”
“Great,” he spoke with lack of sincerity. They knew each other too well to believe the lies that the other said, and, with the thought that the other saw through these mistruths, brother and sister dared not talk to each other until they reached Jett’s home.

“Hey! How are you doing, little brother?” Jett greeted Zane at his door. Zane bothered not to speak his pseudo happiness at school and just hugged his brother tight. All three siblings stepped into Jett’s elegant mansion while the eldest brother climbed the stairs with a promise to return with his sweater. Margaret and Zane gazed at the great manor’s interior including a beautiful marble floors and countertops, leather furniture, and a gold chandelier in the foyer. But, these wonderful luxury items did not entertain their fancy as did the vast number of pictures depicting Jett’s soon-to-be ex-wife laid out everywhere. On the marble floors and countertops, on the leather seats they saw her face ubiquitously. Soon, there lay no spot where that woman’s face did not dominate. “Ready for lunch?” asked Jett as he sprang off the stairs with his sweater and interrupted his siblings’ thoughts. Margaret and Zane nodded to indicate that lunch sounded nice.

After their waiter seated them at their table at the restaurant and took their order, Jett, Margaret, and Zane found there remained nothing to say. “When do you graduate Zane?” Margaret broke the ice. “May sixteenth of this year.” Zane answered solemnly.
“Great,” responded Jett. “We’ll all come out there to see you graduate.”
“Yeah, if I’m there.” Zane snapped. Both Margaret and Jett gasped and glared at their brother with shocked horror. “What do you mean,” Margaret spoke first, “if you’re there?”
Zane took in a deep breath before he released his words like a flood. “I might not graduate. I barely have enough money to pay for soap and bread let alone the rest of the semester. Plus, my grades are bad. Life is so hard…”

Jett charged, “Why didn‘t you get a job or talk to me? I would‘ve helped you! Mom can barely pay for her hospital bills, and there you are complaining!”
“At least I’m not still hung up over my ex-wife!” Zane retorted. Jett cringed as he stood to his feet and punched his baby brother’s jaw. Zane fell to the floor in defeat as Jett walked out of the restaurant leaving Margaret to pick up the pieces.

An ambulance came to the aid of Zane Fischer’s broken jaw and transported him to the nearest hospital. While there, Margaret took the elevator up to her mother’s floor. She saw her dangerously pale, bald mother in bed reading a book. “Hi Mom,” Margaret sighed. “Margaret, darling!” smiled her mother while she put down the book. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” she lied again as she kneeled by her mother’s bedside. “How are you Mom?”
“Better than ever!” she laughed. “How are your brothers?”
“Well, Jett’s angry, and Zane’s got a broken jaw.”
“Boys will be boys,” she smirked. “Are you still single?” Margaret face turned grim when asked the dreaded question.
“Yes, unfortunately,” she answered sadly.
“I have no doubt you won’t always be like that,” braved her mother after seeing the look on her daughter’s face. “It won’t be long until some handsome chap snatches up my Margie.” Margaret smiled peacefully when hearing her mother’s confidence. “Thanks Mom,” she said gratefully. Suddenly, the doctor knocked upon the door to her mother’s hospital room. “May I see you out in the hall, Miss Fischer?” he said to Margaret. Margaret gulped with a suspicious feeling as she walked out into the hall with the doctor. Once outside, the doctor messaged the bridge of his nose nervously and said, “Your mother’s tumor has spread to her liver. She only has three months to live.” Margaret held her breath. “You said,” she accused, “she was in remission. You said she would be fine. You said she would live. Now what?”
“I’m terribly sorry for your loss, but we did all we could. We could keep her here at the hospital, or you could take her home and let her pass on there. We would send a hospice care crew, of course. That might be a better option, actually. Your mother can die in peace or continue to fight. It’s up to you, Margaret.”

Margaret fell to her knees and wept. She couldn’t breathe or think clearly. It was over. All the trouble to dig up the money to pay for the months of treatment, all the ups and downs of healthiness and sickness, all the fun and smiles with Mom, were gone and over. She looked up, bravely wiped her tears, and left. She didn’t care about Jett and Zane at the moment. If nothing else, she was afraid to tell them. Of course she couldn’t tell Mom, not yet at least. A million thoughts filled her head. Strong anger produced all the panic she felt. She wondered where she could run to avoid the hurt, what drink she could consume to stop the pain, and how to create the perfect and most effective hangmen’s noose. After not finding an honest solution, Margaret decided to call up her brothers and come clean with the truth. “Meet me at the playground,” she said.

At eight o’clock when the playground was vacant, the three gathered and Margaret told them their mother’s fate with a grim face. They all sat for a moment in somber silence. Finally, Jett sighed, “I can’t believe this is happening. I never thought it would happen to me.” Quiet again. Zane got up and sat on one of the swings. “Remember when Mom used to bring us here?” he smiled.
“And we used to see who could swing the highest? Yeah, I remember,” Margaret laughed.
“Bet you two still can’t beat my record!” Jett snorted.
“Sure we can!” challenged Zane. “Right Margie?”

Margaret shrugged her shoulders and grabbed a swing. They all swung higher and higher, feeling the adrenaline rush through their bodies. Margaret felt the cool air on her face. She happened to glance at Jett and had to do a double take. Jett had a ball cap on backwards with braces on his teeth and bad acne. She looked at Zane who had just recently lost a few baby teeth and wore a goofy smile. She noticed that she herself donned a bubble skirt with pigtails. All of them looked as they did when they were children. She laughed joyfully as she jumped off the swing and landed without hurting herself. The trio ran around playing tag until dawn.

Margaret awoke in her apartment. She jumped up and checked her reflection. She was her own age again. Margaret smiled and whistled on her way to her office until her secretary notified her that Jett and Zane wanted to urgently meet with her. When she met her brothers for lunch, they informed her of their plan. “Last night-” started Zane.
“Was wonderful,” interrupted Margaret. “I’ve never felt better in my life!”
“We want Mom to feel the same,” Jett said. “If we could transform into our younger selves, so can she. Then she won’t have cancer anymore!”
Margaret’s face lit up with joy. “Eight o’clock tonight,” she said. “I’ll bring Mom.”

So it was done. After a million “where-are-you-taking-me” questions from her mother, Margaret got her to the playground by eight. The plan worked. As the siblings turned into small children, their elderly mother turned into a younger woman. “Mommy, look at yourself!” shouted Margaret. “You’re young again! You are free!”
But, their mother just shook her head. “No, sweetie. I have lived my life; it is time for me to pass on to heaven.”
“But, we’ll miss you Mom!” Jett complained.
“Your life will begin again,” answered Mom. “You will conquer your fears and enemies if you trust in God and have a joyous mind as of a child. I must leave because you can’t hold on to me forever. Everything happens for a reason. Now take me home to live the remainder of my life in harmony and serenity.”

The next day, Margaret happily sat at her favorite coffee shop with her latte in hand. She looked out unto the world with a totally new perspective than she had a week ago. A handsome young man sat on a couch near her. He looked up at her and said “hi.” For the first time she said “hi” back. Margaret felt life was just beginning for her as she looked into the eyes of who was to become her future husband.



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