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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Such a Sweet Child

So for the WAG eight assignment, we had to make something unappealing appealing And I did so in my last post—for those of you who missed it--I turned a construction sight into a calypso band and dreamed I was sunbathing in the tropics. Now for this week, it’s time to turn the tables around and make something appealing anything but. And since one of the suggestions Nixy gave was a sweet child, one in particular came to mind…

My friends and I were at a picnic one warm hazy day in late summer. It was a picture perfect day with puffy white clouds drifting aimlessly across azure blue skies. A slight breeze swooshed through the towering pines in the woods, stirring the scent of charcoal and grilled burgers. Paddle boats rippled the waters of the mirror-still lake, kids and adults enjoying the last of the lazy, hazy days of summer.

I noticed a little girl hovering in the far corner of the shelter. She had her arm wrapped around the post as if needing something to cling to. Her perfectly groomed pink fingernails gleamed in the sun like neon lights. And not a lock of her thick blonde hair was out of place. She looked about six. Unlike the other kids, she wasn’t partaking in a game of catch or bad mitten. She wasn’t tugging on a parent’s arm for something to eat or drink. She wasn’t doing much of anything other than watching life pass her by. While the other kids screeched with laughter, she stood alone in the sidelines, quiet and subdued as an old woman.

Her spotless pink striped shorts and white t-shirt pulled at my heartstrings. Even her tennis shoes were a shocking shade of white. No way could the other kids attempt to hide what they’d been eating. Their cherry-stained lips, mustard and ketchup stained t-shirts and sticky fingers were dead give aways.

Sorrow and pity wedged its way into my heart, watching this sweet angelic child stand there all alone. Why didn’t the other kids invite her to play? Was she too prim and proper? Too pretty to play with? Surely at some point, they’d all arrived looking just as clean. It was natural for kids to get dirty and have fun. And where was this child’s parents? Why wasn’t anyone tending to her, asking her if she wanted a bite to eat or drink. Setting my burger down on the picnic table, unable to choke down another bite, I walked over to her.
“Hi there. And what’s your name?”
“Penny,” she said, her big cornflower blue eyes wide with innocence. “And what’s yours?”
“Sharon,” I said. “Who are you here with?”
“My mom and dad.”
“Ah. And where are your parents?”
“Out on the boat, see?” she pointed to a couple on the lake.

They looked over and waved. My heart dropped. What kind of parents would go out on a boat and leave their six year old child to fend for herself. I studied her. She was far too serious for a child her age. And it didn’t take a Rhode’s scholar to psychoanalyze her. Not even a class in Psychology 101. I sighed, disgusted.
“So, Penny, would you like something to eat? A hot dog or a burger? Something cold to drink?”
“No thank you. I’ve already eaten.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You have. My, you sure are neat. I noticed a dabble of mustard on my shorts. “Neater than me.”
She smiled up at me, the sweetest dimple in her left cheek. She batted her eyes and looked down. “It takes practice, practice makes perfect.”
I cleared my throat. What a sweet child, so lonely, so grown up for her age. Then I saw it, a tear rolling down her cheek. And just as I went to hug her, tell her it was all right to be a child, she stuck her long slender leg out and tripped me, a big smile on her angelic face.

I tripped and fell flat on my face. My mouth agape, I stared up at her in total disbelief, watching her angelic face turn into a monster. Her bow-shaped lips stretched into a screeching howl. I got up, brushed myself off. “Why did you do that?”
She ran off, cackling like a wild hyena. Over her shoulder, she yelled, “Cause turning adults into suckers is my favorite game in the whole wide world. And I always win…”

Want to join Nixy's writing group? Visit her blog for details at:
http://www.nixyvalentine.com/index.php/2009/02/writing-adventure-group/

10 comments:

Nixy Valentine said...

Ew what a disagreeable child!

Sounds like a lovely picnic though... and it DID make me wonder about the parents.

You did a great job setting the scene!

Gunnar Helliesen said...

Oh wow, where did that monster come from? Very creepy (in a good way) story, I knew something was coming and the scene was just too perfect...

Iain Martin said...

Very provocative fodder for the assignment, Sharon; and you did a great job drawing it out--and me in. After all, the double suicide was set in fair Verona. The troubling aspect, to me, is that this is an all too common attitude, provoked, perhaps, by the delinquency of parents.

J. M. Strother said...

I really enjoyed reading this. The fun for me is to try and guess where it was going. And the descriptions are so vivid, it made me feel like I was really there. Definitely shades of "The Bad Seed."
~jon

Nancy J. Parra said...

Sucker! Yep, you suckered me, too! *smiles* nice piece. Loved it. Thanks for the fun read.

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks Iain. And how true in today's society. Too many children are seen but not heard. If she were given the proper care and attention, she wouldn't need to reach out for it in such drastic manners. And rather than grow up to be an unstable adult, she might have half a chance.
Sharon

Sharon Donovan said...

So right Jon. And I'm so glad you mentioned the Bad Seed. That is precisely how I perceive her every time I reflect on that angelic face and those innocent blue eyes...
Sharon

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks Nancy. Sucker indeed! I sure felt like one. Glad you enjoyed the story.
Sharon

Peter Spalton said...

I loved this Sharon and I didn't guess where you were going. Which for me is the pleasure in a story.

In England you'd be arrested for trying to hug a strange child, even if you were a woman! A sad statement about our society.

Peter

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks, Peter. Unfortunately in today's world, certain things do hold merit. But oh what a shame to hold back on our heartstrings tugging at our emotions.
Sharon