Ash Martins and Amy Souza

Two hands, blurry with bright green background

Amy Souza
Inspiration piece

A New Kind Of Playground
By Ash Martins

Dicky couldn’t wait for bedtime. He even drummed up a couple of ideas to see if he could get sent to bed early, like hiding a tree frog in his mother’s dressing table or tying Lisa’s long hair to her bedroom door knob again. Though after thinking it through, he realized his mom and dad might ground him from his Huffy bike instead of just sending him to bed early. He couldn’t risk it since he and his best friend from down the road, Mark, were supposed to go fishing tomorrow down at Perch Creek. He decided to play it cool, but was counting down the minutes to 8:00 o’clock.

After dinner, Dicky hurried through his shower (no different than any other evening, really), threw on his pajamas, and was finally ready. He shouted a hasty “goodnight!” to his parents who were watching The Andy Griffiths Show down in the den.

“Dicky, don’t you want to watch the program with us?” his mother shouted back up the stairs.

“Uhh, not tonight, ma, I’m tired!” This was only slightly untrue; Dicky was kind of tired after playing all day with the neighborhood boys. He caught four newts – a new record! And just as his dad had taught him, he put them back where he found them. As much as he loved getting to stay up a little late to watch television, he couldn’t wait to get back to his after-dark adventures.

“Goodnight son, and be sure to brush your teeth! You know how the tooth fairy only likes to keep those nice, pearly whites!”

“Yes, sir.” Dicky groaned quietly and quickly spun around on his heels, rushing to the bathroom. He turned on the faucet and splashed water on his toothbrush, flung some toothpaste haphazardly on the bristles and jammed the brush in his mouth for a few seconds. He spat into the sink, threw the brush into the cup on the counter, and ran to his room.

He shut his bedroom door and took a long, deep breath. He switched off the light and his star-shaped night light twinkled gently underneath his windowsill. Stepping back into the corner behind the door of his tiny room as if to give himself a better start in such a small space, he took three big steps followed by a big leap, high into the air. With each step came his determined words, “Here — we — go!” Rather than landing on his bed though, Dicky felt a huge whoosh around him, like when he flies down the spiral slide at the city park really fast, and then… he felt nothing.

Dicky was floating in some kind of abyss that felt like outer space. He learned how to get here after accidentally finding the gateway the night before while jumping on the bed. His parents had thought he’d fallen asleep though, because after they yelled at him to stop jumping, they had heard quiet from his room. What they didn’t know is that he had discovered this celestial playground.

As he took in his surroundings, Dicky noticed a baby star twinkle at him, which, he discovered, is how stars smile. Dicky returned the friendly twinkle and waved his little star fins at the baby star. (Once he arrived he transmuted into a baby star, too, since he was only a young human boy, and not yet a grown up, after all.) The baby star waved back with its fin.

In the way that only kids can initiate friendships, Dicky and the baby star became instant best friends. They spent what felt like ages jetting around the ethers together, feeling cold nothingness and sheer joy as they went. Together, they played hide and seek around black holes, navigated obstacle courses of space debris, and slid down the rings of nearby planets like Dicky’s neighborhood slide. Dicky didn’t want the fun to end.

Just as he was about to tag the baby star in a heated game, Dicky sensed something corporeal, like a hand on his forehead. That’s funny, he thought, because that’s how his mom woke him up most mornings. He heard an echo in the distance, and “Good morning, sunshine,” whirled through his consciousness in a haze. The words bounced around before fading away. He fought it off as long as he could, but the sensation of something physical could not be dismissed. Dicky breathed deeply, and feeling his lungs expand in his ribcage, his mind pulled away from his sweet dream and back into his bed, once again bound by gravity. There sat his mother, who had been caressing his forehead to awaken him.

“Must’ve been some dream!” she cooed.

“Mmhmm!” he murmured sleepily, still halfway between his game of tag in the ethers and home. “Was it the knights in shining armor again, or maybe you were riding whales through the ocean? Or something new?”

“Something new,” he grinned.

She poked at his belly playfully and asked if he was going to tell her or if she was going to have to tickle it out of him? He giggled uncontrollably as she tickled him until he shouted “uncle!” and she stopped.

Dicky sat up, still recovering from the tickles, and looked out into the hallway where the big grandfather clock was. He counted how many hours it would be until his next bedtime before rolling out of bed to put his fishing overalls on for the day and made his way into the kitchen for breakfast.



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