In the farthest corner of the park she could be found w nubs of chalk. Only white. Plain white found in the bottom of a box waiting for the trash man. She was up extra early this morning. She was foraging. There was no rhyme or reason to choosing the corner of 2nd and Spruce, it’s just where she was led. You never quite knew what you would find on garbage day. Her father taught her that. At least he showed her a few tricks before pulling his own leaving her stranded. One Tuesday, for some god awful reason, he pulled her from her slumber to help him pick through smelly trash bags. Nowadays, she refused to take in that aroma instead opting for cardboard boxes. Much cleaner and much more rewarding. She once found a new pair of winter boots, though a little big. She experimented with stuffing the tops with toilet paper. This didn’t work as she still seemed to trip over the tips of the boots. It was extra hard to pick her feet all the way up. Then on her next outing she hit the jackpot: 5 pairs of socks w holes in them. Sam discovered wearing three pairs of socks was the magic number. Those boots only lasted one winter, but a gem just the same. Finding these 2 simple piece of chalk were a delightful treasure.
While the air was crisp this time of morning, she did not feel the chill. Samantha skipped down the street as if Christmas had come. The park was silent, save the lost echoes of innocent children from long ago. She knew they were there. She would occasionally say hi. Mostly she spent hours inside her own mind. Alone. It’s just the way it was. The way it’s always been. Maybe she is too young to cherish friendship, but old enough to know it when she sees it. She saw it for a short time with her mom and dad. The way her mom fell over his every word, trusting in him. The laughter they shared. The special language they seemed to speak. A lot of good that did. She quietly learned she had only herself to keep company. But deep down, when the time was right, Sam knew she would be a wonderful friend.
She must have skipped for 5 city blocks in anticipation of the day. Just at the tree line she stopped and took her shoes off. The soft wet grass greeted her toes and slyly washed her feet. Sam walked fast, then slow. Her dirty hair falling in her face. Yet, this was no matter as she traipsed along the edge of the grass and blacktop. Once she finally stopped and eyed the perfect spot, the fun would begin. First, her shoes must go back on. She couldn’t risk stepping on glass or a nail. Pulling the first piece of chalk from her pocket she crouched down and cleared the area as best she could. She stood facing the sun almost blinded, but knew once the game was constructed her back would feel the heat. Down again on hands and knees the chalk coloring dark blacktop, Sam carefully positioned herself. No broken lines she told herself. White rules began to take shape. Boundaries were forming. She wondered if it was best to make one long continuous line, or simply make attaching boxes. With a steady hand and determined eye, she opted for one line down the left. She placed both feet next to this line to measure the space of the box. Then with swagger she zipped along the blacktop making the right line. She stood up and pictured the “board.” It was a bit more complicated now. She had only seen it from a distance at an all girls school. A few girls were laughing and cheering for each other as they balanced on one foot then two. Samantha could feel herself smiling along with them as she watched from their broken down car.
As she hovered over her own game, she could see numbers in squares in her mind. The first piece of chalk became dust in her hand. One more prized piece in her other pocket was called upon. She held it tight as if to make it stronger and last longer. . She carefully made the best 1 she knew how, then a 2 in the next box. She then stopped perplexed. She wasn’t confident what came next. She sank into the 2, her little body fitting into the square. She covered her face. All the sudden uncertainty hit her. Her stomach growled. Her worn jacket providing no warmth. Chalk marks all over her hands and face, and now her clothes. She wished someone could help her. For the first time, she wished she was like those girls in uniform at that school.
Samantha stood up once again. She stepped gingerly into the 3rd box and she drew a flower. A sun in the 4th, smiley face in the fifth. She made her way down to the biggest and most important box, number 10. She drew the biggest heart she knew how, the chalk crumbling between her fingers. The fire of the sun warming her back she walked toward the number 1. Gloriously hopping from one box to another, on one foot then two she was suddenly stopped by a young boy pointing and laughing. He told Sam that wasn’t hopscotch. She asked what’s hopscotch? He laughed even harder. Landing on the heart, Sam took a breath and said let’s see what you got.
Alex stuttered for a second, then took his first leap and almost lost his balance. Samantha didn’t laugh, only encouraged him to go slower. He scoffed but did as she said. When he landed ceremoniously on the last box they high fived. Time went by quickly, they each taking a couple turns. Alex went backwards, stood on his hands and made faces. All of which was greeted w applause from Sam. She did a cartwheel that almost spanned the length of the boxes and landed in time for a hop into the last box, before pretending to faint. Alex followed suite and pretended he was shot while in hot pursuit. They both lay looking at the sky. She asked his name, he replied Alex. She told him her name was Sam. Alex sat up for a second and pointed out that was a boy’s name. No argument from her, she simply stated it was her father’s name. She didn’t wish to be Samantha on this day. Alex laid back down next to Sam. Both somehow content resting on blacktop or just resting at all. The shared feeling of not being alone was felt in silence. Secretly smiling, Sam wondered if she had found her first friend. Either way, a game is never as fun by yourself. Appreciation for the gift of company filled her up as the sun beamed down.