Games Children Play Excerpt


 Don’t tell my mom this. Don’t let her read it.

Sometimes I hear my Aunt Ella. She calls my name at night and keeps me awake. I think that’s because I killed her.



 Ariel, please. Sweetie?  I screamed.

Like she could even hear me anymore.



My name is Ariel. My teacher asked me to write this. She wanted to know about if I am afraid of the dark. I told her that I wasn’t when she asked but I fibbed some. My Aunt Ella calls that a little white lie.

I am only scared of the dark sometimes. Sometimes my room gets really scary while I am trying to sleep. Mom says that is only because I’m still getting used to it.

Sometimes my closet is what bothers me. I can’t tell you why. I guess it just feels like there is something in there and it watches me try to sleep. People shouldn’t watch others sleep. That’s private. Unless they’re babies. But that’s because babies need protected.



It’s ironic, looking back, in our dialogue and conversation, how much blurring there was between boundaries so carefully established by time and culture. Your childhood is there, behind you. Your present is here before you, and you’re required to act your age, else the good respectable people of society — your bosses, your fathers, your friends, your girlfriend’s family — will shun you, will supply you those pitying looks only reserved for single fathers with wild children at the stores and kids at restaurants who can’t stay in their seats, the ones who talk and cry during the movies. The paining hypocrisy, or fitting irony, of these looks is that even in the cases of those without offspring of their own is the insistence through and through that they were not children. That they did not see the world as a place of magic. That they did not look without care or worry at proprieties established to keep the cogs of civilization running. There was only romance and darkness and it was only in the deepest parts of the night that they pulled tight their blinding masks. Eventually whatever it was, bullies or violent movies or late night news broadcasts or the death of their Grans and Pappys made them pull tight these masks permanently deciding instead it was easier to leave them there forever.

Ariel, please. Take off the mask, look back to the places you’re always looked, and turn to me. Don’t grow up. Don’t stop playing these games because there is a dead body on the floor. Please.


We were drunk when it started.

No big surprise. It was my final year of college and I was taking easy semesters to drag out my stay. I didn’t want to hit the real world. I didn’t want to find a job and worry about getting off my parents’ insurance policies and cell phone plans and file dependent tax returns and worry about fully supporting myself, falling into that river of souls that stank of asphalt and thirty second American dreams with car logos and exclamation points at their ends.

Being drunk felt like being a kid again. There were no cares. You didn’t worry what stupid shit you did or said. Confessions of love or hate or dancing in the sprinklers on late night walks — none of it mattered. Better still, there was a kind of freedom behind it all. Where as a kid, society pushed those rules on you. Bedtimes at nine. No PG-13 movies. A boundary of only the neighborhood roads. No sugar unless the parents said it was okay. As an adult masquerading as a child, there were no rules at all. So long as you avoided the cops, the world was your oyster.

So I got drunk a lot that year. My friends, those still in college, felt the same way. Those out of college weren’t long being frightened of the way things worked and retreated into the lawless college shell that was still warm from use and packed not so far into the closet.

We didn’t host rager parties or go to the bars much. We’d grown up to a different kind of drunk. There was a sadness in our conversations and a nostalgic glee in our play.

That night we were walking along the neighborhood sidewalk toward the ball fields and playground. The sprinklers were on, watering the small lawns in front of small townhome apartments and the tops of our flip-flopped feet, were we wearing any shoes at all. The ball fields were hardly a block from our house. Cut through the neighborhood and they were only on the other side of the street. At night they turned to more of a black hole in the landscape. The features disappeared into one another. The streetlamps stayed away as if avoiding the place in favor of somewhere more homey.

They scared me a little. Dark ball parks always have. Maybe it’s just that they’re too different at night, there’s too much of a discord. During the day we’d always used to go to watch my brother’s games. We’d sit in the stands and dad would eat his peanuts and drop the shells on the concrete below us and the other teammates’ families would smoke or spit seeds. Sure, the environment of the place was utterly polluted. Hot dog smells co-mingled with the reek of the cigarettes. It was no wonder why my mother never came. My father made me, mostly so he could have some company. Mostly I only agreed so that I could get the ice cream he always promised me and my brother after the trips. I was on a middle school kick back then anyway. Rebelling without actually rebelling, calling out the problems I saw with my parents’ and brother’s lifestyle habits as if to demonstrate some superiority.

The ballpark was dirty, yes, but now looking back on it, it makes a kind of sense. That was the essence of the local baseball fields. It wouldn’t be a ball game without those things. They were a part of the moment. I never saw my father eat those shelled peanuts anywhere else in his life (though after bar-hopping enough in the first few months after twenty-one, I imagine he’d had his fair share at a fair number of bars). He was participating with the place.

At night though? At night it lost all that.


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