The Old Playground

The Old Playground

A Story by John

A story of redemption and paralel worlds.



Tom Blauvelt was not a sentimental man. Not by any means. Tall and paunchy, with thin, graying; dirty brown hair, and a reddish purple, pockmarked complexion one would guess him to be an alcoholic ex-football player, rather than the last scion of a distinguished New England family. In fact, he was both.

One early Spring evening, while on a trip back to his hometown of Bellevale to attend his father’s funeral, Tom couldn’t resist re-visiting the town park’s old playground: the scene of so many fond childhood memories. The park itself stood on about an acre and a half on top of a high, tree-lined bluff overlooking the old town to one side, and the river on the other.

Tom sat contentedly on a bench facing the playground in the twilight reflecting on his good fortune. His old man’s death left him: the sole heir, a sizeable estate. Now, at the age of 43, he could say goodbye, forever, to his soul-crushing position in middle management, and enjoy the life of sloth and self-indulgence so long denied him by his father’s insistance that he develop self-reliance and contribute in some way to society before coming into his birthright.

With the late day sun brilliantly backlighting the trees, and a slight breeze in the leaves casting a soothing, slowly moving, greenish chiaroscuro all around him; the last of the park’s strollers exited, leaving Tom to himself, visualizing his soon to be realized dreams of exotic cruises to Thailand for Mai Tais and paid for sex with minors. More than just see his inglorious future, Tom could very nearly smell and taste it.

One thing Tom prided himself on was his amazing powers of imagination (perhaps the only talent he had a right to be proud of - though a better man might have utilized this ability in the service of some higher purpose, such as art or literature - the kind of things Tom had no use for ). Soon though, he wouldn’t have to rely solely on visualization for the full effect. It would be REAL for the first time in a long while. But, for the time being, daydreaming was still his forte. For example, simply by closing his eyes he could conjure up - very nearly like being there - not just the sight of the nubile young flesh he craved; but the attendant sounds, tastes, tactile, and olfactory sensations of his fantasies; without the need for expensive, not yet fully developed, virtual reality hardware. His gift, you see, extended beyond just the visual (unlike mere mortals, he liked to think) to include all five senses, and - disconcertingly for Tom - something more - something he wasn’t very quite aware of except, sometimes vaguely - with a certain unease - in his actual nighttime dreams; sometimes leaving him with a disturbing aftertaste upon waking. Something that seemed not entirely his own. Something watching him … with many eyes. Sometimes causing an unaccustomed sense of shame. On those occasions however, a few snorts of cheap, pre-work, vodka for breakfast would quickly erase those unpleasant, lingering impressions.

Following these unsavory reveries of debauchery on the park bench his thoughts wandered back to a simpler time when he ruled this playground realm as sole and supreme bully. In those days his specialty was physical torture. Nowadays his arsenal consisted mainly of mental torment directed at his underlings at Brinker Inc. Not nearly as satisfying… oh well. What a pity, he thought, surveying his surroundings; the old playground was almost unrecognizable. The cold, grey-steel and concrete of the slides and swings had given way to brightly colored travesties of plastic and rubber. No doubt the result of frivolous lawsuits and overprotective parents he surmised. “What’s the point of tossing a kid from the top of a jungle gym if he makes a soft landing on some rubber mat ?”, Tom pondered. Year after year Tom used his size and strength to fulfill his need to dominate and hurt anything smaller or weaker than himself on these very grounds and the old memories made him wistful. Ah, the old days…

Closing his eyes, Tom recounted the joy of using the heavy metal seats of the swing set as perfect projectiles to knock out any kid foolhardy enough to walk within striking distance of the lurking bully. The teeter-totter was excellent for smashing faces and loosening teeth. It also made an excellent catapult. The

merry-go-round: a marvelous slingshot and/or vomit-inducing centrifuge. Dragging kids, involuntarily, up the stairs of the slide and hurtling them down the steel trough which, after baking all day in the hot summer sun, could cause anywhere from 2n d to 3rd degree burns on the thighs, elbows and buttocks. The monkey bars - ah the monkey bars - so much fun; slowly and methodically peeling back tiny fingers until the detached child’s shrieking face floated downward , ever faster and smaller, toward the asphalt below. Like a maestro, Tom wielded these instruments with all the panache of a medieval Grand Inquisitor.

So, how did Tom get away with these atrocities for so long, one might well ask ? Simple.

His father was the richest man in town, and his family founded the county they lived in when the New World was still new, and were possessed of a Kennedy-like sense of noblesse oblige, for which they were still highly regarded. The Blauvelts had interests in every aspect of business and politics in every corner of the state so it was easy for his father to either buy off, or silence, any and all “unpleasantness“.

The fact was, the old man loved his deeply flawed, only son; deceiving himself into believing that all this was all simply a stage, that there was some seed of humanity hidden deep in his son’s soul that would one day sprout. However, after many disappointing years of expensive therapy and attempts at reform, Tom the Elder hoped his son would perhaps still eventually sire a more suitable heir, but Tom the Younger managed to thwart any such plan by taking the obvious precautions of contraception, avoiding any lasting relationships and only engaging in the most deviant forms of coupling.

“How did this seed go so bad ?”, did the old man wonder. No one knows.

Sadly, at long last, the old man; realizing his futility, resolved to leave his estate entirely to charity. But before he was able to change his will, he was struck down by a massive coronary attack - though those who knew him well said he died of a broken heart … lucky Tom.

At some point during his reminiscences Tom vaguely noticed himself drifting off to sleep - not unsurprisingly - after a long, lugubrious day settling his father’s estate at the lawyer’s office and, of course, the requisite visit to his favorite hometown watering hole: The Blue Whale Pub, (there being shunned by the small handful of locals who still recognized him - “F**k them” , he thought - “I’m rich now!” ) - but, was still aware enough, even after several tall vodka drinks to realize, in that border-land state between sleep and waking, the need to rouse himself in order to avoid being wakened hours later in the park by the local sheriff who, perhaps thinking him a vagrant due to his bulbous nose, alcoholic complexion, and cheap, disheveled suit, would set him up for the night in somewhat less comfortable accommodations than the old family manse he would soon inhabit after probate.

After standing, stretching and yawning to shake off a heavy lethargy, Tom attempted to focus his blurry vision. Then the most strange thing happened. Rather than looking out upon the safe and sanitized playground of today, he was still staring at the old, steel-grey equipment of the yesteryears of his youth. Besides that, it was no longer early Spring, but late Autumn, with a strong wind sending dead leaves the color of dried blood swirling around his feet, and that creepy green light of ionized air one sees just before a terrific thunderstorm looming overhead . (“Can’t really be awake”, he thought, “Must be one of those weird - what’cha ma call’em - lucid dreams? Ya know… when you know you’re dreaming “).

Fuzzy black dots began to form in his cloudy vision. Forces at every sense memory point of his subconscious began forming vicious little black birds at each scene of his youthful peer torture. At the monkey bars, at the teeter-totter; et al. At first these dark blots just seem to pull at him, like they weren’t just his own memories but those shared by many others, then growing stronger. Detaching themselves from their steel confines of times long gone by, they streak in and batter Tom with all the vehemence of the gathering storm, ripping and tearing dozens of small paper cuts in his cheap funeral suit. Then deeper cuts appear in his “flesh“ (Still hypothesizing it‘s just a dream… not really flesh and blood, he wanted to believe in a secondary “astral form” that could still be controlled by his superior power of imagination). As the .fluorescent green light of the sky and high winds begin pushing down, bending and breaking the tall trees in his direction, pummeling Tom as he attempts to shield himself from their onslaught, he turns to the river side of the playground for egress back to his car. On that side is a long concrete stairwell he walked many times in his youth leading down to the yacht club owned, (ironically enough) by his family.

To go around the other side and straight down into town would be easier but the torturing wind came from that direction so Tom began tentatively walking down the steps to the yacht club landing. All the while trying to steady himself against the escalating assault of the bird-born karmic sense memories Then all the memories became totally alive and Tom found himself addressing them one by one with a sense of contrition never before felt in his narcissistic life.

“Billy - I’m sorry I pushed your face in the mud and flattened your nose” at which point he found himself to be blind and his nose broken. Strangely enough, he was feeling their his pain now instead of just

his own pain and that was what most surprising thing to him. It was what he now focused on and gave him a strange sense of relief - like being liberated from the monster he had been. Another sideswipe by the birds and he began to lose his footing. “ Sally, I’m so sorry I tossed you off the merry-go- round and made you throw up”. Now, besides being blind, he feels an intense nausea as another of the birds hits him hard in the gut and he feels the pain of Joey Green whom he tormented because of his lisp. “ I’m so sorry Joey, I speak funny too sometimes, especially when I’m drunk …Andrea, so sorry I knelt under my desk and looked under your dress. I know now that was wrong and you don’t need to feel ashamed about it anymore …. And so, on and on; he recounted the litany of his abuses as he hurtled down the concrete steps feeling all the pain he had caused in his youth via the karmic carrion birds, his innards tossing through a washing machine/meat grinder. Tom’s body came to it’s final rest at the bottom step. White out. Final thoughts as his crash test dummy of a body finally came to an abrupt stop: “DAD, PLEASE FORGIVE ME - GOD FORGIVE ME!!!

In another time and place, far away and long ago, or perhaps - very nearby, right now.. a slightly chubby yet handsome young boy sits cross legged in a park and watches over his charges, Catcher In the Rye- like. A fight breaks out between two smaller boys over the ownership of a toy ball and the young man breaks it up with words about sharing. A little girl on the swing set cries because she has been left alone and our young guard sets out to find the errant nanny. In the back round an old man stands alone, just watching….. brimming with pride.

Addendum: Morning headline of The Bellevale Bugle, May 27, 2009: ONLY SON OF PROMINENT LOCAL FAMILY FOUND DEAD IN PARK. POLICE SUSPECT FOUL PLAY.








© 2010 John

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That was amazingly touching! it made me feel sad and happy at the same time!

Posted 14 Years Ago

wow i liked it

Posted 14 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on June 5, 2010
Last Updated on June 6, 2010
Tags: chidhood, bully, revenge, playground, inheritance, imagination



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