Feels Like Sanctuary

July 26th, 2016

Summer time. 'This is my time of the year.' Thought Zack. 'I can wear what I like. cut off Shorts from old blue jeans, tank tops, and my favorite sneakers. Grungy, dirty, stinky, and nobody cares how they look. I can do what I want.'

"Ted!" Zack shouted as he saw his friend round the corner on his bike. "Whatta ya up to?"

"Nothing, just riding around this boring town." Was Ted's answer. "Go get your bike, and we can ride to the park. Maybe do some swimming."

"Can't" Zack mumbled. "I got a flat. No money for a patch."

"Is that all?" Ted scoffed.

"Whatcha gonna do? lend me the dough?:" It was a sarcastic question. Zack already knew Ted wouldn't do it. There was something behind Ted's words that made Zack suspect he was being set up for something.

"No way," Ted said. "Just go to the store and pick up a new inner tube."

"Is it cheaper than a patch?" Zack asked, knowing it wasn't. "How much do they cost?"

"They don't cost anything, man" Ted was smug in his insight, "you just pick one up."

"Do you mean, steal one?" Zack realized what his friend was driving at. "What if we get caught."

"What do you mean by we? We ain't gonna get caught doing nothing. It's your bike, not mine. Do you want to ride your bike or not?" Ted began to justify the situation. "What are you... A chicken? Besides they have plenty of them, they won't miss just one. Come on."

Zack didn't have to give it much thought. "Sure man. Let's go." As Ted raced off on his bike, it took Zack by surprise. "Hey! Wait up! Give me a lift or something."

"Get your own wheels. " Ted called back. "I don't give losers a free ride."

Zack tried to jog along behind his friend, but it didn't take long for Ted to pull away, and leave him panting for breath, hands on his knees to support himself. Zack looked up, sweat stinging the corners of his eyes, lungs burning, and his feet feeling raw inside his sneakers. Zack saw that his chase had led him near the park. 'Mom would kill me if she knew I was this far from home,' thought Zack. 'I guess she won't mind if I never tell her.'

Looking for a cool spot to relax and catch his breath, Zack wandered past the typical playground equipment, and sat on the bleachers near the pool. Kids were splashing and playing in the cool, clear water. The more he watched, the more he felt the heat of the day. Zack felt all the more parched and dry as he watched kids emersing themselves in water, swimming through it, diving into the depths of the pool.

Then he got an idea. All he needed was for some of that cool water to be splashed his way.

"Hey Jumbo!" Zack yelled, as he stood closer to the chain link fence surrounding the pool. It was directed to the big blond haired teen ager who was lining up to do splash dives with the other kids. Zack saw him before. He was the guy who helped bag groceries at the IGA store.

"Don't splash all the water out of the pool. There won't be enough for everybody else to swim in." Zack yelled, and made sure the teenager knew he was talking to him.

"I know you're not talking to me, punk!" the teenager called back.

Zack fed the flames, and kicked up his trash talking to be sure the jumper would splash plenty of water his way. The splash was impressive, but being in the center of the pool, not much came his way.

"Is that all you got!" shouted Zack as the teen bobbed to the surface.

"I got your number, twerp!" The teen swam to the edge nearest to Zack, but instead of splashing, the guy started to lift himself out of the water. Zack's heart skipped a beat, until a girl in the water broke the tension.

"Dean, leave the kid alone. He isn't worth the hassle. Besides, what do you think you're going to do with a fence between you and him." Dean glared as he slid back into the water, and gave a huge splash of water Zack's way. 'That's more like it.' Zack thought to himself in a moment of self congratulation. The victorious, momentary drenching didn't last long in the heat of the day.

Dean, that was the big guys name. Zack remembered him now. He usually wore glasses, and he could see the red marks along his nose, where they usually rested. Dean was also on the football team at the high school.

"Yeah Dean," Zack couldn't help one more taunt. "Do what your girlfriend says, and leave the kid alone." The teen only glared at Zack, but he just stayed in the water with the rest of his friends, and pointed a finger at Zack in a gesture of warning. Zack was full of himself, and taunted by mimicking the gesture, and pointed back.

Bored with his time at the pool, Zack headed over to the playground. He was soon bored as he went from swing to slide, to the various bouncing, or spinning things intended to amuse neighborhood kids.

Time slipped past him, as he tested out every piece in the park, even the ones meant for the little kids. Finally, he found himself back at the slides, climbing to the top of the tallest sliding board, an old steel one that had to be brand new when his dad was his age. Just as his head cleared the platform, an easy 12 feet off the ground, Zack's heart nearly exploded from the adrenaline when he heard the familiar voice of dean.

"HEY! kidD! I told you I was coming for you! Try to get away from me now!"

Zack saw the fury and determination of the halfback. He appeared even more formidable than ever. A blond, raging bull on two feet. There was sheer folly in any escape attempts. Eyes wide, fear sinking to the bone in a chilly grip, Zack tried a move to go down the slide, but Dean moved faster to the bottom. He tried to head back down the steps, but before he could descend more than the first 3, Dean leapt to close the gap. Sliding down one of the slide support pipes that both anchored the steal contraption to the ground, and stabilized the tall platform. was out of the question. The nimble football halfback would have even less distance to close. to pummel Zack into a pulp

Terrified of a 12 foot jump to the ground, and a possible broken leg in the process, Zack was frozen in place. The prospect was just as great as the pounding that was certain to come.

"Go ahead kid! Jump!" Dean taunted. "You'll just make my job easier." He must have read the terror from Zack's face as he continued, "Or just stay up there. I can wait. You gotta come down sooner or later."

As Zack was beginning to reconcile himself to the pounding that he knew he deserved, a voice seemed electric as it split the air.

"Dean!" It was his girlfriend from the pool. It was also the break Zack needed. While Dean looked away for that split second, Zack launched himself down the support pole, sliding halfway down and, and in a heroic leap, he jumped to the ground to close the distance. He hit the ground running and dodged through the obstacles the playground equipment represented. Picnic tables, park benches, trash cans, then he knew he would be clear when he heard, "Dean, leave the brat alone!" The sound of Deans foot falls stopped. "My mom just called, and I need to get home to go to work." Dean conceded the stalemate with the words, "Yeah. Whatever. I thought you had the day off?"

Zack didn't hear the rest, if there was any more to hear at all. He wasn't taking any chances. There was no stopping, or looking back until he was long gone. Slowing to give his burning lungs a break there he was again, "Ted!" Zack called out. "Wait up!"

Inspired in part by a Daily Post

Disclaimer: This has been a work of 100% pure fiction. Any resemblance to persons, places, or events, real or fictional, are purely coincidental.

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