A Children's Game This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 9, 2011
Small, wide-eyed boy stands
painted against the backdrop of
overgrown grass
and a house in disrepair

He watches in half-awe
the lavish parade of overworked
moving vans
next door

He is entranced, but not
failing to notice the other child
across the street
dressed in extravagance
and surrounded by excess

He waves hello
and receives a curt nod
as if he is acknowledged
and ignored

Days bluster by, and
the puzzled boy observes
honest in curiosity

The alien child of indulgence
is often the object of his
investigations, fascinating
and

The child, the boy notes, seemed
not quite happy
and not quite sad.

The boy brushes the dirt
out of several cracks in a
Happy-Meal spyglass
and watches the child from afar

Playing on a beautifully carved
oak swing-set
video games
and the latest models

A smile plays across the small boy's
lips as he imagines
taking flight
on a swing
built custom-made
for him

Now, the boy scrambles off his
rotting-stump perch
runs to ask his father
for an oak swing-set

Only to drop his shoulders
in familiar disappointment
as his father divulges reality
and smiles sadly

The boy smiles back but
only with his lips
and resumed watching
the lucky child

the lucky child on
a pristine lawn
surrounded by expensive toys
and unbroken parents

The boy was not angry, you understand.
And he did not know jealousy
perhaps he was a little disappointed
but accepted his lot.

Two years passed,
spent observing and
imagining the splendor he would have
were he the child next door

The boy's father walks up,
Cheshire-smiling, eyes
twinkling with
anticipation

the boy is led to the back yard
where the father
spent slivers of time
and scraps of money
to build a treehouse

A slightly worn,
slightly used
slightly tired
completely custom
treehouse

fireworks lit the boy's face
as he climbed the rope ladder
into a space belonging only to him
At last

Every day, the boy spent hours
in his treehouse
singing loudly
playing wildly
imagining worlds
and smiling widely
until he noticed something odd

Peering across the street,
the boy saw his target
whom he had spent
countless hours watching

he spent a few more minutes
he had never seen the child
quite like this
before

spread-eagled, fists flailing
face quickly turning blue
from the force of screams
and protests

one finger motioning wildly
indicating
curiously
the treehouse

The child's parents exchanged
a threadbare glance
then nodded
and the scene's curtain
dropped

The boy was curious, but
stayed inside his personal treehouse
built just
for him

Inside the treehouse,
he sang strongly
played vigorously
imagined universes
and smiled widely
until he noticed something odd

Across the street, the selfish child
wore a look of smug satisfaction
as he oversaw the production of
a nearly-finished building

Not quite a treehouse
perhaps a treemansion?
with a small fridge
and video games
and climbing holes

the little boy watched
shoulders drooping
eyes downcast
and hands at his sides

His mouth twitched, and
at the moment
listeningly closely
you might have heard him utter
one word

"But…"

SMACK! Went the hammer in the last
nail of the project
and the enviable child
climbed into it
triumphantly.
happily?

The boy turned back to his own treehouse
which now seemed dirty
small
broken
and he climbed down
laid in the grass
and sighed

After a few days, he revisisted his treehouse
he sang quietly
played weakly
tried to imagine
until he noticed something odd

The child across the street
had climbed out of the treehouse
after a few minutes
and had never returned





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