(This is the beginning of a small set of shorts I am writing. This is not real. I had many more people in the towns I grew up in, and I never played in a roadside park. Instead, I played in an unused field.)
My name is Richard, but everyone in my hometown calls me Ricky.
Every Sunday, after praising the Lord in church, and after partaking in my mamma’s delicious Sunday lunch of barbecue brisket and potato salad, I return to the spot it all began. I go sit down at the broken down picnic table at the former roadside park. I spend my Sundays with Jack.
I originally met Jack when I was six years old. It was the first Sunday that my mamma told me to go outside and play after our lunch. She said she just wanted a chance to take a nap, but thought I needed the fresh air. As she’s shooing me out the front door, the only wondering in my mind was what I was going to do and where I was going to go. You see, I live in a town of about 5,500 people. When I was six, that number was a hair under 4,000. We didn’t have curbs along our street edges and flooding from heavy rains was controlled by bar ditches. We lived three blocks from the highway that went through the edge of town, and about one block from the main street that was paved with brick.
I decided to stroll down towards the highway. Just across that highway was a roadside park owned by our town. It was a place for a quick stop, empty the trash, relieve yourself, and maybe take a quick nap. But on a Sunday afternoon, all the travelers we had around had went on to Main Street and stopped at the diner. So there was little traffic for my six-year-old self to worry about when I ran across the highway.
It was in this park where I met Jack. Jack had sandy blonde hair, wore a pair of overalls with no shirt, and was barefooted. To see Jack, you’d think he was ripped from the pages of a Huckleberry Finn novel. However, in our town, you could find a few kids who dressed this way. I was pretty sure Jack lived on the farm just outside of town, adjacent to the roadside park. But I never asked if that was the case. Jack was the first of the two of us to talk, and he invited me to play.
We would play hide and go seek at first. With all the trees, hiding was pretty easy. Some Sundays when it was bone dry outside, Jack and I would use the bar ditch as a hiding place, too.
“Ricky, where are ya?!?” Jack would shout as he tried to find me. I was often up in the thick foliage of the trees. When Jack would get close to my tree, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Jack would hear me. I never won. However, we both had loads of fun.
After the first Sunday, I always was ready to go and play with Jack at the roadside park.