Playground

By Timbray Shafer


“Aurora! You get back here!”

    A chirr of rushing water and laughing children swam through the air. A small girl swiveled around to unleash a gleeful cackle. Her counselor frowned at her. Aurora whipped back around to continue her bounding flight across the grass.    

“I’m warning you, Aurora! Right now!”

Aurora didn’t break stride. She cackled again.

    Furious, Rita leapt off the bench into a sprint. She reached the girl and grabbed her shoulders, jerking her around.

    “Aurora. Listen to me. You can’t just take someone’s phone. And you have to listen to me when I’m calling you and come when I tell you to come.”

    Aurora laughed- a jingling and sinister caw, as her pudgy face contorted in pleasure. “Double trouble!” she screeched.

    “Give me my phone back, Aurora!”

    Aurora jerked the phone out from behind her back and jabbed it into Rita’s belly. “Double trouble!” she barked. “Hahahaha double trouble, double trouble!!”

    Rita snatched the small wrist and pried the phone away with her other hand, then seamlessly paced back angrily to the pavilion and sat down, placing her phone on the worn wooden bench. Aurora rotated her face up towards the sun and let out a lingering moan. She flapped her chubby arms as she plopped to the ground. Her butt skidded several inches, leaving grass stains on pink shorts. After looking around expectantly for a minute, she stood slowly and stomped off amidst the shiny bars and slides of the playground set. Rita shook her head and pulled a partially-made bracelet towards her. She started threading it.

    Alice, wiping perspiration from her brow and flicking her long brown ponytail through the summer air, strode over to the pavilion. “Ri! Hey, so we had three tantrums in kickball just now. William is still crying. I swear, the kids are all crazy today”

    “Oh my god, tell me about it. Aurora is driving me up a fucking wall.”

    “Oh yeah?”

    “She stole my phone and thought it was funny. Like, she should be old enough to know that you don’t mess around with a person’s phone. You’d think her parents would have taught her that by now.”

    “You’d think. I don’t know, though; they seem pretty fucked up.”

    “Oh, they’re creepy. But.. still, I mean it’s just rude. Anyway, can we going out tonight? I think they are doing half-off deals at Taylors tonight.”

    “Girl, we totally should. I’ll text the crew and see who’s down.”

    Rita grabbed Alice’s wrist. “Oh god, I’m literally so excited.”

    “Same. Wait, you have to invite Logan. I don’t have his number.”

    “I’m on it.” Rita’s hand shuffled like a jumpy crab around the wood of the bench. “Wait, where’s my phone? Alice, have you seen my phone?” The bench beside her was bare.

    A muffled cackle made Rita turn. Aurora stood at the pavilion’s edge, covering her mouth with a furry purple sleeve. The pink hand protruding from this sleeve clenched a phone. Aurora’s eyes glittered maniacally as she slowly lowered the sleeve, revealing a sinister grin.

    “Double trouble!” she taunted, saliva glistening at the corners of her small mouth.

    “Aurora, you give that back right now!”

    “Double trouble! Double trouble!”

    Rita began to pace forward threateningly. Smiling and giving an excited yelp, Aurora galloped toward the creek. Once there, she extended her arm and dangled the phone from two chubby fingers over the edge of the creek’s bank. Rita froze.

“Don’t you DARE, Aurora! Don’t even think about it. You are in so much trouble.”

Humming in a high-pitched frenzy, Aurora eyed Rita, challenging her. “Double trouble” she said, drawn out in a dark almost-whisper.

    “Aurora!” Rita’s face was reddening. Her fists were clenched and her brows were furrowed. Her eyes darted like flies from Aurora’s gleeful face to the phone. Aurora was shuffling her feet closer and closer to the edge of the bank. “Double trouble!”

    “GODDAMMIT AURORA!!” Rita started forward. Aurora’s smile broke. Her tiny body jolted at the chill that raced down her spine. Her chubby fingers sprang apart and the phone they clamped fell. It spun down and bounced twice on the bank’s dark dirt before splashing into the water of the cold creek below. Aurora stumbled as she looked down at the falling phone. She considered chasing after it. She looked up at Rita’s face. Tears pooled up in the corners of her young eyes and began to flow down the hills of her cheeks. A whining whimper crescendoed into a terrified and lingering scream. The little girl waddled furiously and pathetically towards the forest.