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The Jungle Gym

QU Montage

By Erin Sperling

Since the time of thick scared knees, each with a tale or two of a tall, twisted slide 
     that forced you down onto the pebbles, while thick red color seeped
     and ran down the twigs you walked on.

When you jumped from one island to the next careful not to step on the hot lava 
     below that would melt the bottom of you shoes, then leave you hoping that
     someone would risk the leap to save you.

The line for the tire swing was around the monkey bars because that familiar “eye 
     lids nailed shut, neck muscles wrestling against the centripetal force, school
     lunch about to hurl itself back into the cafeteria” feeling of a good ride made            you that much cooler once you had survived.

The cannot stand still, practically jumping up and down pointing at yourself                moment when you are praying not to be the last one picked for the dodge ball
     team, even though your next hope is that you can keep your eyes on the red ball
     long enough to avoid the hive of bees’ sting when it hits your face.

Sobbing in the nurse’s office and begging to go home in order to avoid the boy
     who just told you he has a crush on the girl you just shared your snack with
     during that day’s morning meeting.

Hearing the teacher say you get to pick your own groups, glancing at your best 
     friend to receive the official confirmation head nod because that is how it
     always works and you know your mom just bought good snacks for your
     house, only to see that person staring at the one they had a play date with the          night before.

Walking home to find a yellow post-it note taped to the dark wooden cabinet
     saying that Dad’s out of town, Mom’s working late, and your siblings have 
     soccer practice, with a $20 bill to order dinner from the pizza place.

Sending in that last hand written envelope that will earn a response you feel will 
     change your life forever, cause you to move out of town and start for real
     in a book with blank, perforated pages.

Forgetting about the loop-de-loop, around the world, stomach in your throat
     vomit thought of almost going all the way around the swing bar, but then                  landing in the pebbles.

Until the surface of the sun summer when you put on your shorts and your
     mother noticed the imperfect white patches on the front of your young tree
     trunks you ran on.