making her feel dirty and scared, mixing with
moisture from the babbling brook beneath their feet and
the heavy scent of scrub grasses, making the hairs on her bare arms
stand at attention. He stood in front of her, Cheshire smirk on
his face, peacock dancing, daring, cajoling, as his partners in crime chanted
cheers, jeers, encouragement, threats.
Sweat trickled down her back, adrenaline shot along nerves. Shoving her to
the hard ground had been enough, but striking hard one young
sister’s face, lip now cracked and bloody, knocking the other into the
rough-hewn wooden pole edging the small babbling brook’s bridge,
that had been too much. Copying him, she danced. He swung his meaty hand
once, and she ducked, fear fueling her movements like a marionette
jerking to a higher power’s plan. She swung, her foot almost sliding on
slick wooden bridge. Why had she let him force her there? If they fell…
concussions? He parried, lunged, toying with her. Unprepared for possible
defeat, she blazed with both hands, pounding his face again and again--
his bloodied nose, his swollen chin. Finally, eyes blurred, vacillating between
crossed and straight, he retreated, slipping, righting himself, face contorted,
“Damned she devil.” Ten years old, she won the only fight of her life,
but all she felt was abject misery, an adrenaline hangover, and fear she and her
contender would meet again. But, he and his cronies abandoned the playground,
Never to return that summer.
Fifty years later, in a grocery store bullets slam, ten bodies spew life,
neighborhood crushed where once a babbling brook, hewn wooden bridge, and a simple
playground stood. Shaking, tears rolling down aging cheeks that a city
once again became a shrine to hopelessness that burst
from a tortured soul to splatter, shred victims alive and dead.
Yet, a niggling fear clawed its way up already overtaxed nerves.
Had the shooter once been forced to defend himself over a brook
like the one no longer babbling there?
Paula Danes’s name has been mispronounced, misspelled, and misunderstood over the years, so now she goes for simple with a contraction of her real name, instead. After decades of crazy experiences, now that she’s settled in Indiana, she’s finally given herself permission to focus on her first love—writing. As she completes her MFA in creative writing, her hope is to share stories and slices of life with readers as she helps them see the world through the different eyes her writing presents.