So I’m checking the light rail schedule and reading the work of modern poets (I think it’s a haiku), when I’m gently jostled to another time and place. It was Jason Park, the beloved swath of urban playground right across from our house. It also has poets. They scrawl their thoughts on the curly slide. One on which my older guy, Quin, was descending. He was about six at the time. He came around the last bend and sat at the bottom of the play structure. It wasn’t his usual enthusiastic dismount.
“What’s going on, Q?” asked Sarah, sensing an air of melancholy.
He seemed to be struggling with something anew. I mean thirty seconds prior he’d been lumberjacking up the steep stairs to another playful dive. What was up now? What had happened?
Sarah pried a bit more.
“Sweetie?” She asked with a touch of that scary movie timbre when a child is hijacked by ancient spirits.
“Mom.” He faltered. There indeed was a struggle. A steep in a deep mire of uncertainty.
I paused. Sarah paused. The whole world paused. What had happened between the top and the bottom of the slide? Was his youthful exuberance lost? Corkscrewed out by a curly slide?
Sarah moved in to find more. It was a cold day and Quin's winter coat hid most of his face. She leaned in to investigate who this new child was.
Quin would explain.
"Mom, someone has somebody's head."
Disturbing. I had my own questions.
"Quin. A severed head? Like on a plate?"
Sarah sent me wide eyes of urgent termination.
"Quin. What, honey?" She queried with mom softness.
He squinted one eye, the way you do when you're reading a room. His cheek crinkle expressed some doubt as if, despite being his parents, we were the not right people to straighten this out.
"I don't know. It says something about a head."
Again, Sarah used her eyes to direct me. I was on it. Answers. We were desperate. Who in the hell had whose head? And how in the hell was our son privileged to this information?
I tested some old playground agility by swinging from the monkey bars to the platform landing that hosted the steps. Quin and Sarah looked up at me, the latter seeking answers and the former waiting for confirmation that I could do nothing to comfort him.
"Um, Sarah" I kind of asked and stated at the same time.
She was already next to me.
"Oh" she said with a smile and much relief.
The Sharpie scrawl in the turret of the Jason Park slide read:
MARK GIVES GREAT HEAD.
We slid down the slide together. Relieved that nothing was severed. It was only the public declaration of remarkable oral sex that was bedeviling our son. In this over-exposed world, you take what you can get.
"No one lost their head, Q" Sarah said sweetly amidst the warmth of hidden giggles.
"Well, Mark may or may not--"
Sarah lopped me off.
"Everyone is fine," she said and absolved the playground of its sins.