Child's Play

All the other babies crawled through the tunnels, giggling in echo. Mothers knelt on the opposite side, clapping and coaxing with sugary voices. When the infants emerged, they would be hoisted above the mothers’ heads like trophies, legs kicking as if they were trying to swim through the bright blue sky.

Alec cried. He cried in the bucket swing. He cried on the spring rider shaped like a racecar. And on the dinosaur teeter-totter. He cried in the sandbox, throwing shovels, snot pouring from his nose, enough mucus to fill a bucket. The cavernous pockets of her diaper bag failed to produce a tissue.

She tried one last time to amuse him—just one laugh would suffice for today, for the week, for the month. She sat the boy at the top of the slide, its shiny orange plastic cheery, like the sun. He turned to reach for her, pleading and hysterical, arms flailing. She pried his sticky fingers from her shirt and pushed.

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