I stood and leaned forward over the back of the school bus seat. “Watermelon!” I said as I plucked a Jolly Rancher from Mary’s hand.
“Green apple!” Suzie said.
We were declaring our favorite flavors as the bus rolled us home. It was filled with voices that merged into a loud, white noise. Words could be heard shouted above it all.
And, of course, the various curse words certain elementary school students were trying on for size.
The end-of-the-day happy roar spilled out the open windows into the warm spring air. The bus slowed as it turned the corner onto my street. I could see my across-the-street neighbor walking home from her school, her skirt swishing to the rhythm of legs wearing tights.
The bus squealed to a halt in front of my house. It was the stop for the street. I pushed my way out of my seat and was jostled out the door and onto the sidewalk. I stopped and stared at the bus and let the other kids pass me on their way home. The bus slid away, and I was staring across the street at Adva. She stared back.
My side of the street was the end of the subdivision, and the only non-Jewish part of the sub left. Dad called it the “last bastion”. Tom Larkey at school said a bastion was a boy born without a father. I don’t think he’s right.
Adva smiled. I smiled back. She wore a navy blue skirt and I word blue-jeans. She wore a white blouse and I wore a white T-shirt. She wore black-and-white saddle shoes and I wore sneakers.
“Want to go to the play ground?” Adva said.
I shrugged. “Sure.” We both dropped our backpacks in our driveways and walked down our sidewalks. Mom said Adva went to the yeshiva on the other side of the expressway. She walked to and from school everyday, even if it rained.
The playground was in a park that was on a bridge over the expressway. The bridge was built like this because the expressway went right through the Jewish neighborhood and separated the people from their synagogues. They always walked on Fridays, but how can you walk across an expressway? That’s why this and two other special bridges were built.
Our sidewalks converged and Adva said, “Hi.”
“Hey,” I replied. Dad had been angry about it all. I don’t see why. We got a playground almost right next to the house.
I led us over to the jungle-gym and climbed to the top. Adva climbed one rung, and sat on it like a chair. I hung upside down from my legs and looked at her.
Adva giggled. “Your hair is funny.”
“Why do you always wear a skirt?”
“For modesty’s sake.”
“What’s that mean?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It’s just what we do.”
“Oh. Let’s pretend we’re helping Frodo Baggins.”
“Who’s that?” Adva said.
“He’s in a story my dad is reading to me. He has an evil ring that he has to destroy, and his friends are helping him.”
“Why does he need help?”
“Well, Sauron wants the ring. He’s sending armies of orcs after Frodo. We have to stop the armies. Look, there’s some now,” I said pointing at the empty field, imagining it full of orcs.
“They look mean,” Adva said. “What should we do?”
I flipped off the jungle gym and landed running. “We take out our magic swords and kill them!”
Adva mimed unsheathing a sword and swinging at the enemies. “There’s too many! We’ll never make it out alive!”
“We have reinforcements,” I said, imagining Strider coming with an army on our left.
We directed our armies and slashed orcs. Adva was a good fighter, even though she was in a skirt. We made a good team and had almost vanquished the armies when I heard my name called.
I turned to see my dad standing at the edge of the playground. Uh oh. I had forgotten to tell mom after school that I was going to the playground. She must have sent dad out to find me.
I froze and Adva turned to see why. The smile fell from her face and was replaced by a neutral mask. She held her sword in mid-air and her eyes moved to me.
“What are you doing?” Dad said. “I thought I told you not to play with Adva?”
“Adva, come here,” a deep voice called. I saw what must be her dad behind my dad.
It was my turn to look at Adva. We were frozen by their gazes, different kinds of girls caught together having fun.
“No, papa,” Adva said.
I sucked in my breath. Who said, “No” to their dad?
“You come here, Lisa,” my dad said.
“No, dad,” I said, standing in solidarity with Adva.
The men looked at each other and nodded. We looked at them and didn’t know what to do next.
“Do you do this everyday after school?” Adva’s father asked.
“No,” we said in unison.
“We usually just look at each other,” I said.
“And then go home,” Adva said.
I nodded. What was different today? I looked up at the crystal blue sky.
“Nice day,” dad said.
“Yes,” Adva’s father said. “Good day to be at the playground.”
“They were playing well together,” dad said.
“They are a good team when it comes to killing orcs and saving Frodo,” Adva’s father said.
“You’ve read it?” dad said.
“Yes. I wasn’t supposed to, but I convinced my teachers it was a good way to understand Christianity.”
Dad laughed. “And did you? Understand Christianity I mean?”
“More than I expected. I learned other things, too.”
They were quiet a moment, turning over the memories of reading the books.
“I think the girls should come home now,” Adva’s father said. “It’s supper time.”
“Yes,” Dad said.
We walked together out of the park. The two dads had never spoken before.
I looked at Adva’s dad. “Are those curls attached to your hat?” I asked him.
He laughed long and when he caught his breath, lifted his hat to show me they were attached to his head, just like any other person’s hair.
“Are you going to talk more?” Adva asked. The men looked at each other, and neither said anything.
I figured dad had used up all his nice words. I was worried that if he did talk more, he’d end up telling Adva’s dad all the things he complained about at home.
We separated at the sidewalks and dad said, “It was nice meeting you.”
“Yes,” Adva’s father said.
“No really, it was nice,” dad said, sounding surprised.
Adva’s dad had wide eyes and seemed surprised too. “Thank you. It was good to talk with you.”
Dad and I walked home. “Maybe,” dad said, “we should invite them over for a barbeque. If you and Adva can get on so well…”
He didn’t finish his sentence. I knew it was because he didn’t want his hope proven wrong. I wanted his hope proven right. “Then our parents can too.”
This is a very late addition to Stream of Consciousness Saturday. I just couln’t get my s—, er, act together on time.
The prompt from Linda G. Hill for Saturday, April 29 was “yes.” Find a word that starts with “yes” or use the word “yes” as is.
I didn’t want to use “yes” or “yesterday”, so I searched the web for a word. There are very few words that start with “yes”. I came up with “yeshiva“. I’m pretty sure no one else will use that.
The bridges in this story are real. They are in Oak Park, MI, near where I grew up: Victoria Park, Charlotte M Rothstein Park, and Freeway Park. You can see them on Google maps.