“Why the fuck do I have to go the park?” Jack grumbled.
Brian, a little over twelve in age, gangly, all arms and legs, was thinking the same thing.
“Language!” Joan barked out indignantly.
“But Mom,” Claire whined. “Marcy’s going to the mall with her mother; why can’t I go?”
“That sinful place,” Joan declared by way of an explanation. “It’s a nice day; we can use the fresh air and exercise. We are all going to the park!” Joan commanded. She donned her hat and coat then pointed to the door.
Joan hoped that maybe it wasn’t too late for her family. At the park, Jack wouldn’t drink to excess. Claire would perhaps get some exercise to help burn off some of the persistent baby fat that she seemed to carry. And maybe Brian would find a friend so he wouldn’t be so isolated.
“The warden has issued her orders,” Jack mumbled as he put on his old bowling jacket. Brian threw on a sweat shirt and grabbed his soccer ball. Claire continued to whine but she put on her best looking sweater jacket.
Like ducks in a row, the Kinney family followed Joan and walked to the park.
“Craig, honey, the baby and I are going to the park. Do you want to come with us?”
“Of course, I want to go with you,” Craig said as he kissed his beautiful young wife and cooed at his infant son cradled in his wife’s arms. He then took his baby boy and lifted him high in the air. The baby instinctively trusted his father and gurgled with delight.
Craig got out the stroller as Jennifer changed baby Justin and dressed him in a warm baby blue sleeper. She wrapped up her baby in a cozy blanket then strapped him securely into his stroller seat. The proud parents put on their jackets, locked up their house and headed for the park.
Finding a sunny bench, the new mommy, feeling a little tired, sat, positioning the stroller so that her baby could get some sunshine. Her husband walked over to a street vendor to buy some ice cream and a couple bottles of water.
The older mother chose a bench across the walkway in the shade. Her husband walked over to the vendor for a soda, but wishing it was a beer.
“He’s beautiful,” Joan said, smiling at the sweet child with the bright blue eyes and only a few strands of white blond hair. “How old is he?”
“Thank you and he’s two months old.”
“Oh my! Should he be outside this young? What about germs and things?”
“Our pediatrician says that fresh air is very beneficial and we won’t keep him out too long. Besides, I’m tired of being cooped up in the house all the time.”
“Oh. Well, as long as your doctor said it was okay.”
Claire came over to beg for some money. The vendor had the big soft pretzels she liked.
“Claire, are you sure you want to eat that? I mean, you don’t know how sanitary that man is and what about all those carbohydrates?”
“Oh mother, for heaven’s sake, it’s just a pretzel!” Claire said as she rolled her eyes.
“Fine, here,” Joan said as she handed her daughter a dollar. “Children today,” she griped and shrugged, then took out a small Bible to read.
“Hmm,” Jennifer mumbled. She took out a parenting magazine from the pouch behind the stroller and started flipping pages.
“Your wife and kid?” Jack asked indicating the young mother and baby as he popped the top of the soda can open and took a long drink. He belched then pardoned himself.
“Um, yes,” Craig said hesitantly. The older man smelled like stale cigarettes and booze.
“That one’s mine,” Jack said as he pointed to the tall handsome young man that was bouncing a soccer ball off his ankle and then up onto his knee. Unbeknownst to the potential young soccer star, his prowess and dexterity with his soccer ball did not go unnoticed by several young ladies and some young men that were in the park.
“And this one’s mine too,” Jack said proudly as Claire walked up to buy her pretzel. He gave his daughter a small peck on the cheek.
“Oh Daddy,” she exclaimed as she bought her pretzel then walked off to eat it in private.
“My advice, pal, keep that pretty little wife of yours at home, and make more babies. And as soon as your boy’s old enough, put a baseball bat or a football in his hands. That soccer shit’s for fags,” Jack said as he looked over at his son with disdain.
“Uh huh,” Craig replied. He took his purchases back to where his wife was sitting.
“Sweetheart, are you ready to go home?” Craig asked his wife. Baby Justin had slept for most of their outing but was now waking up. He had such a beautiful sunny smile, toothless and all. Jennifer had been leaning against her husband, cradled securely with his arm around her and had dozed off in the warm sun.
“Mmm, yes, I’m ready,” Jennifer said softly as she straightened herself out then kissed her husband.
As they stood, preparing to walk their baby home, a soccer ball rolled towards them gently bumping a wheel of the stroller.
“Sorry,” Brian said contritely as he bent down to retrieve his ball.
“No harm, no foul,” Craig said graciously to the polite young man.
“Cute kid,” Brian said. He couldn’t help but touch a pale tender soft baby cheek. “Beautiful eyes,” Brian murmured. The baby reached up with a chubby little hand to touch Brian’s nose. Brian giggled and was rewarded with the baby’s bright smile.
“He likes you,” the pretty blond mother said.
“He’s going to break a lotta hearts some day,” Brian said.
“Hey, Sonny Boy, come on! Your mother’s had enough,” Jack shouted from across the sidewalk.
“Whoops, gotta go. Bye, Sonny Boy,” Brian said as his caressed the tiny cheek. “Bye," he said to the proud parents. Brian went back toward his family expertly bouncing and chasing the ball along with him.
“What a nice young man,” Jennifer said as they began to stroll back home.
“He’s really going places if he keeps up with soccer, may even make it out of Pittsburgh some day. Maybe our guy will make it out of here too.”
“He’s only two months old. Can we at least wait till he’s eating solid food before we plan his future?” Jennifer deadpanned.
Craig laughed out loud then put his arm around her shoulder. “Yeah, we can,” he replied.
The families went home with hopes for some day.
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