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I'm sitting in the park watching them run. Follow the leader meets obstacle course. I was trying to write a letter on the back of pocket receipts, using my thigh as support, but that was turning into pirate scrawls and really I didn't have anything to say and really I would rather watch these boys shriek after each other in loops and swoops around the swings, under the slide. I am ready to leap when one of them clocks himself on the corner of the monkeybars, it will happen but has not happened yet, it is still all joyous and loud. What is running without laughing and yelling? Exercise. This is not that.

Shaymus remembers dirt and bugs and quits the game. Zada keeps running, keeps yelling. He's not weaving around equipment now, just making one big circuit around the playground over and over. Grinning as he zooms by my bench. Grubby pokemon sneakers kicking up wood chips. The next time he comes by he is beating on his chest with one hand. Not two fists, like tarzan or a monkey, he is slapping his chest with one flat open palm.

GUESS WHAT I AM!   yells Zada. I can't guess; he's gone past already. When he comes round again he is still slapping himself. Another trip around. Another. I still don't guess. Next time around, he screams,   I'M A TAMBOURINE!   This is good but it gets better: the next time he passes, he is doing this full-body shimmy, an absolute epileptic fit as he runs, shrieking CHING CHA CHINGCHINGCHING!




How it happened: last week, I was having an adult conversation, an exceptionally boring one, which Zada interrupted. Yanks on me, frantic. Today! In school! When I was writing my name on my paper! I accidentally! Put! Two Us! Instead of one U and one A!

I congratulate him and offer him my hand. He shakes it solemnly and says, Bend down. I do. He takes hold of my nose, very gently. This is not the "got your nose" moron game. He just wants to hold on to it while he tells me, in a whisper, that Lukas is not his real name anyway.

I'm careful, I know it is tricky. Asking for his real name will turn it into his leverage, his "I will never tell, HA HA." So I just say I Understand, and I do not blink. He tells me his real name is The Zada Project, lets go of me and jumps down the stairs howling.




In the park I am thinking, where has my loyalty gone? Shaymus is such a bright light for me, but here is this other wonder, the neighbors' magnetic kid, catching my attention, adoration. Do I love Shaymus only out of obligation or exposure? I would like to think he is the coolest kid available on the market but here is Zada with his flashy slick style. Zada is upside down hanging from monkeybars, punching the sky and making up kangaroo songs. Shaymus is poking dirt around with a stick.

Later. It is settled simply. Zada is showing off his crazy kungfu style badassery. Jumping kicking slashing with his arms. Hii-YA! Shaymus's arms are not crossed but they might as well be, I've never seen a kid so unimpressed. Shaymus reaches out, real slow and delicate, and pushes his flat palm against Zada's forehead. Gentle, just enough force. Off-balance from the last high kick, Zada goes down in a heap. And I think, Oh there's my perceptive boy. And I think, Hot damn.

I yell, Quick Like a Bunny! They both know the lingo, that means Race You Home, and we do. and you should hear us laughing, I really wish you could hear us.


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