Small Town

A gap in the chain link fence serves as the gate to the park. Five swings hang slack from a sturdy metal pipe structure.  The merry-go-round is on a slight slant. When it spins it scrapes gashes in a bald patch of ground. The slide is a long, narrow, metal chute, the sort that quickly gets too hot to touch when the sun comes out. The peak is scarily high. A large old tire, probably from a tractor, lies flat on the ground. Some attempt at a climbing structure, though the tall grass growing out of its center makes it look more like an oversized potted plant. Just on the other side of the chain link fence stands the water tower- its squashed gum drop of a body held up by six spindly legs. On top of the water tower is a star made of Christmas lights.

Outside the old gas station, a black tarp covers the ‘Gas’ sign. They don’t sell gas here anymore. The Marlboro sign beside it still stands uncovered, proud and self-satisfied. There are more signs lining the windows of the convenience store, advertising different brands of cigarettes and beer.

There’s another playground, a wooden structure with a faded green plastic slide. The blue and red and yellow paint is peeling off the wood. My older sister helped paint it years ago as a community service project. There’s a cement court with a single basketball hoop. The backboard is a square of unpainted plywood. A half deflated ball lies beneath it, abandoned. This is where they do the fireworks on Fourth of July. We all sit on blankets or camp chairs back by the playground and watch crouching silhouettes set them off over the cement slab. My dad thinks we’re too close. Maybe. My sister had a blackened sphere the size of a pea hit her on the head once. An unexploded star. She says she felt it. Just a little tap. I don’t know. Maybe we are too close.

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