Kings of The Playground
By Ivonne Balli
used to have a fat boyfriend. Like a really obese one. Brown-skinned. Nice kid. And we would cuddle together. I would lay my head on his chest and my arm across his stomach and he'd put his arm around my shoulders and we'd watch TV. He told me the most fantastic stories about him and his best friend, how they used to go to an abandoned dirty playground they discovered when they were nine. It was a barren, hot, dangerous, oxidized place, but it was theirs. Their busted slide, their glass bottles on the dirt, their decomposing tires placed in rubber towers, their shit-colored lake beyond the hill.
It was a very wide area surrounded by tall wild grass, except to the north of the playground. The field of tall wild grass turned into a field of tall wild sunflowers, a blot of green and yellow and black in the midst of the brown.
When they discovered the playground, the best friend took off his shoes even though my fat boyfriend told him not to. He couldn't keep up with him, and his best friend, a skinny little bespectacled thing, was running around, trying out rusty swing sets and seesaws. During the hottest part of the day they even waded into the shit-colored lake, and even though their feet sunk into the muddy banks my fat boyfriend still refused to take off his shoes. On the other side of the lake was a junkyard and an old windmill that had been there so long it was half underwater. The windmill's paint was peeling off in long scabs and its skeleton descended into itself, like an old man, wrinkled and hunched over. My fat boyfriend told me that thirty-something years before some defrauded company had driven right up to that junkyard and deposited these huge iron tubes into the lake that had corroded the water. My fat boyfriend said the lake's surface and banks sometimes changed to a copper color that reflected the sun. The first time it happened his best friend dared him to go in, to which my fat boyfriend responded by double daring him.
I triple dare you, his best friend answered. That was how my fat boyfriend ended up standing knee-deep in copper water, dipping his fingers in it.
It stains, my fat boyfriend said, holding up his hands. His best friend joined him tentatively at first, the water reaching his ankles, then his waist, then his shoulders. He swam back doggy style.
He looked like a statue, that's how much the water stained, my fat boyfriend told me.
That's how you get skin cancer, I remarked. Absorbing copper through your skin.
Our mothers weren't too happy with it, my fat boyfriend said. We wouldn't tell them where we'd been swimming and they couldn't scrub it off. We shone like statues for days.
Do you want to know how we found that playground, my fat boyfriend asked me one time. He held me tighter and I laughed.
Tell away, dear.
We found it because of a pig, he said.
The pig had been on the back of a pickup truck, ready to be taken to a petting zoo, and had escaped by biting the nose of the teenage boy taking care of him and then squealing and jumping its way out of there. By the time the bewildered teenager got over the shock and tapped the rear window to alert the driver, the pig had already disappeared into the tall wild grass.
The pig ran until it found a clearing where two boys were playing in their backyard.
We didn't find the pig, my fat boyfriend said to me, the pig found us.
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