After yesterday’s post I’ve experienced a spike in traffic and a few more people have started following the blog. Next target is 500 visits so onwards an upwards.
Today I have another short story for your perusal. It’s been sitting in my notebook for a while now waiting for me to get around to transcribing it. It’s still not quite 100% done but I thought I would share it with you to let you see how it’s coming along. They say that you should write what you know, well in this case I have become very familiar with the Play Gym since having kids. One Saturday morning while I was in Hoodles near Oldmeldrum an idea for a story set in one popped into my head and now you can see the results.
Probably the best in the world
The noise was deafening.
Nerve shredding squeals exploded in my eardrums. Bodies flew through the air to land in tangled heaps in front of me. Lurid colours assaulted my eyes. I stood fixed to the spot, helpless as the bright yellow plastic ball hit me squarely between the eyes. It made a hollow “thock” as it bounced off my forehead. A beefy faced little boy with sandy hair laughed with glee as he watched my reaction.
‘Darren!’ said a female voice. ‘I don’t know how many times I’ve told you not to throw balls at people.’ The woman turned to me and gave a weak smile. ‘I’m so sorry, he gets a little hyper when he’s been running around for a bit.’ Darren giggled. From where I was standing his smile radiated pure unadulterated evil. I think it was the ribena stain spreading from each corner of his mouth that did it, it made him look like a mini version of The Joker from the Batman comics.
I was about to speak when I realised that darling Darren’s mummy had gone back to tending her malignant offspring as he launched himself in a flying kamikaze leap into the brightly colooured ball pool heedless of any other children in his flight path. I shrugged and went back to scanning the play room for my own child. I was feeling completely out of my depth. Normally my Sarah was responsible for taking Lucy to these places but a bout of flu had laid her low leaving me to take her instead.
It was my first time inside Bongo’s Play Barn. I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me for the place. All around me parents were watching with slightly glazed expressions as their offspring careened around the room like little fleshy pin balls. The children all appeared to be in a state of derangement – possible due to the ingestion of sugar and, if the charming Darren’s ribena joker face was anything to go by I was guessing E-numbers at work also.
Lucy had been straining at my hand to be set loose from the moment we arrived. I had held her back, reluctant to let her roam unprotected among the demon spawn. Did I really want my only daughter running loose in what looked to me like the pre-school version of Lord of the Flies?
‘Let me go Daddy, I want to go on the big slide.’
‘I don’t know honey, it looks very steep,’ I said, eyeing the multicoloured plastic colossus that dominated one corner of the room.
Lucy had fixed me with the look of equal parts condescension and contempt that I recognised from her mother.
‘It’s not that big – the one at I went on at Kiera’s party was much bigger.
‘You’re mum let you go on a slide bigger than that one?’ clearly this was something that Sarah had not discussed with me – much like the trips to the hairdressers or purchase of new shoes. To Sarah such information was considered on a “need to know” basis and as usual I didn’t need to know. I suppressed my misgivings and let go of Lucy’s hand.
‘Ok,’ I said. ‘But be careful.’ I had barely gotten the last syllable out before she had flown out of my grasp and was tearing off in the direction of the slide. I watched aghast as steady streams of squealing and yelping children came hurtling down this kindergarten Cresta run with wild screaming abandon. Headfirst, feet first, sideways, it didn’t seem to matter.
I watched, stomach tightening, while Lucy came pelting down herself with a giant grin of pure joy plastered over her face. She waved at me and I waved back. I decided that I could probably stop watching for a couple of minutes to get a cup of tea.
The owner’s of the Bongo’s were obviously of a mercenary bent. Everywhere you looked you could see signs admonishing anyone who might dare consume food and drink not purchased from the on-site cafeteria on the premises. The tea was lukewarm and watery but it would do. I sat down and tried to filter out the worst of the noise. I could still see Lucy. Now she was climbing through some transparent tunnel high above the ground. I took in a few more of my fellow adults. There were brawny women with nicotine stained fingers grinning the demented grins of the damned. Indulgent Grannies and terribly nice middle class suburban mums and dads who were attempting to impose some kind of structure and learning on the chaos and failing miserably as their kids ran pell mell around them. Now and again I thought I saw a kindred spirit and possibly a few who were suffering hangovers with a “get me out of here” look in their eyes.
‘Your first time here is it, mate?’
I looked up to see a paunchy bloke with close cropped hair standing overt me.
‘How can you tell?’
‘You’ve got that slightly shell shocked expression on your face.’ He smiled. ‘Mind if I sit down?’
‘Be my guest.’
‘You’re also the only other single bloke in here,’ he said as he sat down. ‘My name’s Glen,’ he said sticking out his hand.
‘Michael,’ I said. ‘My wife has the flu so I drew the short straw. What’s your excuse?’
‘This is my weekend to have my little girl. Me and her mum are split up.’
‘Oh. Sorry to hear that.’
‘Water under the bridge now, mate.’
‘Which one’s yours?’
‘That’s Gemma there – the little red head with the stripy green jumper. You?’
Lucy – that’s her in the Upsy Daisy sweater.’
‘Ah, a Night Garden fan.’
‘She’s mad for it.’
‘Mine too. Does my head in to tell the truth. You’d have to be off your tits or under five to understand it I reckon.’
I laughed. He had a point.
‘You know, someone needs to open one of these places with the needs of dads in mind.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, this is a typical example of a play barn type place. Everything is geared towards the kids and very little thought goes into the facilities for mums and dads.’
‘What about this bit?’ I said, gesturing around me at the coffee bar.
‘Really? You think this is the best we can do? A few dog eared copies of Marie Claire and a selection of home baking and that’s your lot. Do me a favour.’
‘Ok then – what would you do if you were in charge?’
‘The way I see it, you bring your kids to one of these places to burn off their excess energy and give yourself a break from them but how are you supposed to relax stuck in the middle of all this bloody row?’
I shrugged. He had a point.
‘So you come in and take a ticket when you arrive, then a lass comes in and takes your nippers off you to go play in this bit.’
‘And where do you go while that’s happening?’
‘Why off to the exclusive Daddies Lounge of course.’
‘Daddies Lounge? What’s in there?’
For a start, a selection of premium sports channels and a fully stocked bar. There’s a soundproofed glass partition if you really want to keep an eye on the kids but at least you don’t have to listen to them as well.’
‘Sound great. I think I would volunteer to take the kids every week if it was like that.’
Glen smiled. ‘Yeah, can you imagine it – “no, no love – you have a lie-in I’ll take the kids for the day.” Think how many brownie points you’d rack up.’
‘Just one problem though.’
‘If you’re going to sell drink how is anyone supposed to get home?’
‘Oh I already thought of that – we would run a courtesy bus to your door. In fact, just leave the car at home altogether and we’ll pick you up as well.’
‘Glen, you’re a genius,’ I said. ‘It’s like one of those lager ads – Carlsberg don’t do play gyms but if they did…’
‘They’d probably be the best play gyms in the world.’
- Short Story Tools (kaitnolan.com)
- Short Story Wednesdays (jordanwyn.wordpress.com)
- Scotia Bar Short Story Competition (uwsscriptwriting.wordpress.com)
- From the Experts: Writer’s Tips #7: What are short stories? (jaylt.wordpress.com)
- Hollywood and one of my favorite short stories (armidabooks.com)