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Broken Glass and Mossy Ditch Rocks
"I call the horse!" she yelled gleefully. It was a Saturday at about one o'clock in the afternoon. I knew I looked awful--dark bags under my eyes, my clothes crinkled and needing a good ironing, my hair a rat's nest. What do you expect, after a sleepover? Everyone knows at a sleepover, there's no sleeping.
"Fine, Carol," I replied with a grin. "I wanted the flying elephant thing anyway."
"Suuuure you did," Carol said, drawing it out so that I would know she was being sarcastic, emphasizing her words with the classic eye roll. She hopped on the horse bouncy thing with the giant spring coming out of its stomach like a coil of intestines. It immediately sank backwards, its plastic painted tail sending up a spray of sand. Carol frowned, hopped off the dysfunctional playground equipment, and kicked it.
“Stupid horse,” she muttered. Carol stalked off to the castle tower/slide. I sighed. Carol was fun, but she had the temper and maturity of a two year old, even though we were both almost fourteen. I bounced on the flying elephant/banana object, rocking it back and forth. I was still just over a hundred pounds, not enough for the playground equipment to sink down under me, unlike Carol.
“Hey, Adrian!” I heard Carol yell. I looked up, and saw her at the top of the tower/slide. The tower/slide, from one angle, looked impossible. A beige metal cylinder that stretched about twenty feet up into the sky, with no stairs or ladder…unless you looked close enough to see the small hole in the bottom of the back. Once you crawled through, you found yourself facing a twenty-foot tall ladder going straight up. If you chose to risk your neck and climb up, you’d find yourself with rust dustings all over you and permanent ink from all the vulgar words and sayings and promises and various disgusting drawings and comments done over decades of truant teenagers. If you made it to the top, you’d find yourself balancing on a precarious sheet of metal surrounded by a two-foot tall metal railing…the perfect spot for kids to sit on and smoke weed and dare each other to jump twenty feet to their death. The only way down besides the ladder or the jump was the slide. It was incredibly steep, and it hugged the side and went all the way down, corkscrew style. It was rusty and well-worn from decades of use. That’s the way things were at Tracer Park, unlike at the park we had been at, Antkelomp. There, everything was plastic and shiny and new-looking. A huge combination of three giant platforms with about twenty slides, were all connected with bridges or jungle gyms or tire swings. Here, there was an old swing set, with four regular swings and a tire swing, a small platform with green metal bars and two slides, the sandbox and the two bouncy spring animals, the tower/slide, and a large ditch with a swift stream running through.
It was on the two-foot tall bar that Carol was sitting on, munching a Twix candy bar and waving at me to come up. That stupid kid. She knew that 1) I was scared of heights 2) I didn’t like playground equipment covered in rust and disgusting words and 3) I loved Twix more than anything.
“Come on up, chicken! I’ve got an extra Twix,” she taunted, waving the Twix from her precarious perch. I sighed, and thought this through. If I didn’t go, I’d have to endure the agonies of watching her eat the Twix right from under my nose, plus the teasing in the car ride home, and the constant mention of my “losing cool-points,” the annoying habit of Carol deducting these non-existing points from my non-existing status as a “cool person” every time I annoyed her. I decided to run up the ladder, wrestle the Twix from her grip, then run back down before she could think. I would never risk the slide…it was half hanging off of its rusted bolts and just about ready to collapse in a pile of twisted, vandalized metal scrapings. I ran over and crawled through the hole. I don’t know how Carol got her enormous body in, because I could barely fit, and this was the girl who couldn’t even wear size zero in petite teens clothing. As soon as I was in, I stared up into the dizzying realm of black graffiti and red rust dust. I placed my cold hands upon the even colder ladder and started to climb. Several times I had to stop and try to not read the disturbing writing, but I finally made it to the top, only to find Carol’s face covered in chocolate and two empty candy wrappers on the floor.
“You took too long, Adrian,” she whined. “I got hungry.”
“You ate two doughnuts, hazelnut mocha with extra whipped cream and begged for my raspberry jam-filled Bismarck this morning, and then you ate my Twix, too??” I screeched, using the infamous whisper-shriek adults copyrighted when I was little. I shook my head in disgust, almost wanting to push Carol off her stupid perch, but I’m not that kind of person.
As soon as I was out of that disgusting tower/slide, I grabbed a swing, only to feel a rush of wind and hear the jingle of chains, and see Carol sitting in the swing I had grabbed.
“The inside swing…is always…mine…” she panted, clutching her heaving chest. I blinked at her, looked back at the tower/slide, and then at her, dumbfounded. How had she gotten down without breaking her neck or causing the slide to disintegrate? She smiled sweetly at me, this sight slightly defected by the cookie crumbs and caramel strands stuck to her teeth. I sighed, and got on the outside swing. We swung for a little bit, listening to music on her awesome-phone-that-was-way-better-than-mine. Finally, Carol jumped off her swing and turned to me.
“I’m bored. Come push me on the tire swing, Adrian,” she said, then ran off. I grumbled, the dark storm cloud of discontentment boiling inside of me. Carol could be a selfish jerk sometimes, but she was one of my only friends. I started to walk over, then heard a crunch underfoot. I looked down to see pieces of broken glass.
“Oh, yeah, watch out for the broken beer bottles,” Carol yelled over her shoulder as she struggled to get into the tire.
Now you tell me, I thought grumpily. I continued walking, until I saw another piece of broken glass, bigger than the rest. It had color inside of it, and it was in a dome shape. Broken, yes, but like it had been a crystal gazing globe. I picked it up, ignoring Carol’s cry of disgust. It had been a piece of blown glass, with those feathery-painted colors inside. I’d always been fascinated by them. I hefted the piece of shattered glass in my hand. It was heavy--more than you’d expect for a small shard of glass. Next to it was a smaller shard--the classic jagged edge, slightly curved, and perfectly clear. No feather paints inside. I plucked it from the gravel and slowly stared at it, then lifted my gaze up to the trees. I wondered...Carol was always doing what I was doing, or insisting I do what she do. Would she do anything for me? Clutching the glass, I strode quickly over to the tall birch trees. I ripped off a sheet of bark, braced one hand against the soft, chalkiness underneath, held my glass-tipped hand up like a killer ready to plunge his knife into the chest of a young girl taking a shower...and delicately started carving my initials into the flesh of the young tree.
“Hey!” I heard gravel tinkle as Carol leaped out of the tire swing and send it scattering. “Let me try!” I was roughly pushed aside, the shard ripped out of my hand, sending a small jolt of pain through my hand, up through my arm, my chest, and exploding into my brain in waves of hot, wet burning. I stared at the red blood that slowly seeped and trickled down my palm, oozing from the small cut Carol had made. Red, boiling rage threatened to spill out of my emotional water pail, but I caught it and sucked it back in as I watched Carol, with child-like ecstasy, carve her initials into the tree. I glanced at my feet, and saw that I was at the edge of the ditch. I stood up, wiping my hand on my jeans, and stared into the ditch before me. It was more of a gully, really. There was a small, concrete bridge to my left that helped all who strode over it across a small brook. There was more moss than water--there were huge rocks, all covered with algae and slimy green weeds along the bottom. In between the rocks, a trickle of water dripped. Long, springy grasses created a mushy carpet for anyone who dared to walk through. Along the edges there was a steep wall of sharp, white granite rocks, there to discourage dare-devils into going down into the ditch. But that wouldn’t stop me. I placed one foot on a rock, gingerly testing it to make sure it didn’t wobble, than shifted my center of gravity so that my entire weight was on the rock. It held, so I placed my other foot on. Slowly, I made my way down to the bottom, almost falling a couple times due to unstable rocks. Once I had reached the soft carpet of weeds, I squatted down, grabbed a stick and feigned interest in the weeds, poking them and lifting them up to expose the water underneath.
“Hey, Carol!” I called. “Look!”
“Adrian!” I heard her say. “Get out of there!”
“No!” I called back. This was awesome. How far would Carol go? Would she risk her neck coming down here? “This is so cool! I think I found a skeleton!”
“Gross! Come back up here or...or...I’ll call the police!”
“Why? I’m not doing anything!” I yelled back, glad my back was to her so she couldn’t see me grinning like an idiot.
“I’ll tell them you’re committing suicide!” Carol shouted, struggling to come up with a good reason.
“And when they come, what will they think when they see I’m not? They’ll know you pulled a prank...and people can get arrested for pulling prank calls like that.” I wasn’t sure if that was true, but it sounded good.
“Just...please, come back up,” Carol begged. Finally, I had got what I wanted...the last word in something.
“Fine, I’ll come back up,” I said, faking dejection. Once I was back up, Carol was back to normal--whacking me with a stick and singing “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain” at the top of her lungs. Some things would never change, but at least I had had control for one second.