Fleshy cheeked Charlotte Sweeney, green vinyl purse chain jangling round her neck, ran through the sand towards the slide.
Charlotte, sweet child born to mother Alexandra of father Richmond, loved nothing more than seeing favor in Mum’s eyes.
More often than her nine-year-old mind cared to remember, however, Charlotte often saw in those eyes something quite different, something children like her rarely understand until they themselves complete their own walk through the pageantry of poverty and cast the same empty, forlorn look on their own children.
Charlotte and her mother both lived trapped. Trapped in a circle of circumstances that few escape. And those within the circle live a particular brand of suffering that those outside refuse to admit exists.
And so it goes, generation after generation, here in America.
“C’mon Evan, let’s hurry”
Whispering to Evan again, and praying to God harder this time, for Mum to once just say “That’s great Charlotte, cool, how cool are you today”, and really, really mean it.
But even if she didn’t mean it, it would just be nice to hear it once in a while.
Evan was silent, as was God’s answer to Charlotte’s prayer, as usual, neither seeming to listen, nor really care about the young child’s wishes and desires.
It was in moments like these that the line being forcibly drawn with careful curation in Charlotte’s mind, between the imagination of someone like Evan and the reality of someone like God, became blurred. Sometimes it mattered what Reverend Uncle Jimi said to her and the other kids in Sunday school, sometimes it didn’t.
The question, unknown to Charlotte at the moment, would be which set of programming instructions, the ones nature and her mind are currently manifesting in the form of Evan, or the ones Reverend Uncle Jimi and the Richville Community Church of Salvation are manifesting in oft visits to Charlotte and friends, would take hold. Each having their own serious consequences, of which, Charlotte will surely suffer one day regardless of the winner. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, back to the playground.
“That Sun’s hot today, hotter than usual for June” Mum said to no one special, but wondering if the good looking young man sitting next to her on the bench would strike up a conversation.
Years earlier, Mum’s charms rarely failed.
Graced with succulent lips, hips, tits and legs, Alexandra had landed herself pretty much anywhere she wanted to go just a few short years ago.
And landing someplace different than Richville Michigan was the plan.
Instead, Alexandra landed pregnant from Charlotte’s shithead coward of a dad’s seed who beat feet a year after Charlotte was born.
“Hi Mommy! Look, me and Evan are going down the slide together!”
Charlotte’s chubby bottom proved too much for the narrow slide and she inched down like a squeaky, corpulent inchworm.
The sun, currently baking Charlotte’s face and pudgy legs, had put enough heat into the slide surface that Charlotte winced with each inch of movement. But she smiled.
Kicking her feet and lobbing her bottom behind, like a ker-chunking, wobbly kiddy punching bag, she squealed and squeaked down the slide in the sun.
“Mommy, mommy, look, look, look quick!” she said.
Not thinking too much about Charlotte while she watched the good looking young man’s rear-end head off towards the parking lot, Alexandra wandered of in her own fantasy of life.
Moments later, when mommy turned, after realizing the good looking young man wasn’t interested, Charlotte had vanished.
“God-dammit”, she muttered under her breath, “Where’ the hell did that kid get off to now.” Alexandra fumed off the bench and marched towards the playground’s slide.
“Charlotte!” she quipped loudly. “Charlotte, let’s go, time to go home now!” But there wasn’t an answer.
The big, meaty hand simply enveloped Charlotte’s as he walked her through the parking lot towards the van parked inconspicuously among the other cars there on the hot blacktop. “Charlotte, we’re going to have fun today.” He said.
“Shouldn’t we say goodbye to Mum Uncle Jimi?”
“Oh, I’ll let her know Charlotte, don’t worry. Come along now, we’ve got things to do. Fun things.”
“Like ice-cream Uncle Jimi?”
“Yeah, kind-a like that Charlotte.”
Jimi opened the Van’s sliding door, grabbed the young girl under her armpits, and thrust Charlotte onto the floor.
“Stop it Uncle Jimi, your hurting me…”