Short Story Friday, “The Playground”

Today’s short story is a part of Meditative Fiction, a six week study on Jesus’ Beatitudes. This week’s study was based on Natthew 5:7-9

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

The Story

“Hit him again!”

“Kick him!”

“Break his arm!”

“Bust his nose!”

“Beat him!”

Kyle looked down at the bloodied boy, crumpled at his feet. The fight had started over something said about his mother, and it set him off. A mob of other middle schoolers had seen the storm coming and gathered to bear witness. They didn’t have any particular animosity toward the figure on the ground, they just enjoyed a good fight. One comes out on top and the other learns to shut their mouth. For a while, anyway.

It’s how things were done.

Kyle felt good when he got to knock the smug grin of his enemy’s face. He felt even better when he was able smack away the feeble return punch and send his opponent to the ground with a second strike. He’d felt pleasure as he saw his enemy crumble, with bloodied and a pitiful whimper. He’d won. He was on top and nothing could change that. The crowd was egging him own, and he was only too happy to oblige. He raised his foot to stomp his broken opponent, evil smirk on his face as he glanced down on the object of his scorn.

“Stop!”

A small figure broke through the crowd and kneeled down over the figure on the ground. The newcomer looked up at Kyle with anguish in his eyes and spoke, “Can’t you see he’s really hurt? What are all of you thinking?”

Kyle frowned, Astin was always trying to smooth things over. It didn’t matter if people enjoyed shoving him off the swing he was one, or throwing a football at his head, or pulling his chair out from behind him. Astin never did anything back. He’d just sigh can get on with something else he wanted to be doing. In his mind, Kyle knew Astin deserved the treatment he got. He was the smallest kid in the class, after all, and was always talking about one weird thing or another. He brought things down on his own head, really, and Kyle knew for a fact that his downed enemy enjoyed making Astin’s playground existence miserable. So he couldn’t understand why on earth Astin would come to his aid.

“Shut up, Astin.” A voice blurted from the mob. “Go away before we beat your ass too.”

“I’m not going anywhere. He’s hurt and you’re acting like it doesn’t even matter.”

Kyle’s head tilted in confusion. “What do you care? He hates you.”

“Well I don’t hate him. And even if I did I wouldn’t let you hurt him more. Would you feel better if you sent him to the hospital? Really?”

“He talked about my mom and thought he could get away with it. But now he knows better.”

Astin nudged the prone and whimpering figure. “So he’s learned. Now stop. I’m taking him to the nurse.”

The mob was not happy. It growled for more.

“The lesson ain’t over yet.”

“Well put you in the hospital next!”

“Get him, Kyle!”

Astin nudged the figure again, “C’mon, Jack. Let me help you up.”

Jack’s face grimaced at the sight of his would-be savior, and Kyle knew what he was thinking. If he let Astin rescue him from the beating he’d earned their classmates would torment him forever—and he’d be in the front of the line. He should have just beaten both of them and been done with it. But Kyle didn’t, and he wasn’t sure why. To his further surprise, Kyle watched Jack’s grimace fade. As the fallen child wiped the blood dripping from his nose with his sleeve, he saw it replaced with gratitude.

Astin pulled on the loser’s sleeve. “Let’s go, Jack. We don’t need to be here.”

With that, the little figure did his best to help Jack get off the ground. The mob jeered a bit, but said nothing more. Kyle felt frozen in place. The two figures then retreated through the crowd, which parted to let them pass. Sobs could be heard as the pair made their way to the building.

Kyle never understood what had happened that day on the playground. He didn’t know why he’d not put Astin in his place or made sure Jack would never talk about his mother again. Nor did he ever figure out why the crowd had let them go. No one liked Jack, and everyone enjoyed making Astin miserable. But from that moment on no one shoved the diminutive student off a swing ever again, and he and Jack were often heard talking about things no one else really understood.

But, deep down, Kyle wished he could understand.

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