We were experiencing the “Dog Days of Summer” and I was going for a walk but not venturing far from the condominium. I stopped to watch the construction at the park across Ninth Street when a young boy of five or six years of age walked up to me. Assuming he was from the church school next door, I ignored him until he spoke.
“Mr. can you help me?”
I looked around. It is no longer safe for a grown man to talk publicly to a child he doesn’t know.
“Please,” he said.
“What do you need?”
“I’m running away from home.”
Then I noticed he was carrying a grocery bag filled, I assumed, with his traveling gear. I became suspicious but decided to play along.
“And why are you running away?”
“I’m tired,” he said. “I need some rest.”
“Yes, Mama has me in two baseball leagues, a soccer league, swimming lessons, and a dance class.”
“All of that?”
It’s worse,” he said. “Now she wants to make me go to Vacation Bible School.”
“She calls it VBS but I know what it is.”
Continuing to play along, I said, “So you think your days are getting pretty full?”
“I’m so tired of doin’ stuff that I can’t sleep,” he said. “And besides …”
“My friend Tommy told me about a neat game you can play without any adults around at all.”
“Yes, it’s called ‘Space Fighters’ and you pretend that you and your friends are
Starship Troopers. All you need is some cardboard boxes and somewhere to play pretend.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yep. Don’t that sound like fun?”
“Indeed,” I said. “And where are you going to play this game?”
“Sounds like a fun place to me.”
“And I could rest when we weren’t busy playing.”
“You mean take a nap or something?”
“Heck no,” he said. “I could read a book or something,” he thought for a moment and added, “Have you ever laid on your back and watched the clouds?”
“Once or twice.”
“I try to do that sometimes at baseball practice,” he said. “But the last time I did I got hit in the head by a fly ball.”
He paused and looked at me with this most wistful look. “Then they was going to kick me off the team but my mother and the coach got into an awful fight and they said I could stay on if I paid attention.”
“C.W.,” I said finally. “I get the picture.”
“What?” he said.
“Come on …” I started but just then a car screeched to a halt and a woman jumped out. She gave me a withering look and pushed the screaming child into the back seat. The car sped away.
“Suffer the little children,” a voice said. I turned and realized a priest from the school had been watching the whole affair.
“I was just standing here, Father,” I explained as I turned back toward the condo.
As I did, I heard him say to my back. “You are a most amazing species.”