Swings and Roundabouts
by Martin James Hunter
A jagged perimeter fence encircles the playpark. Rainbow barbed wire around its apex. Balloons held captive by old string. From inside comes the sound of enchanted children, distant like ethereal music.
There are parking spaces as far as the eye can see. Family cars in monotonous rows at the base of the fence. A dozen or so identical vehicles facing the same direction. In the distance, a city smouldering with industry.
A figure approaches, dehydrated and tired. He pauses a few meters from the door. Smiles at the security guard and is greeted with a scowl. Already Fraser knows that getting past this obstacle is going to be difficult, let alone the metal detector that always goes off, the scrutinising process of photo identification, the demeaning interview, the criminal record check (they always brought up his parking tickets), the credit check, the hour’s worth of paperwork (relationship status, reasons for visiting, sexual preferences, last time he had sex or masturbated, the approximate frequency of both, etc), and sometimes – depending on how all this went and the attitude of the interviewer – they even throw in a cavity exam. Selling drugs to toddlers has apparently become a very real thing.
The last time Fraser went through all this he was told to limp home and wait up to three months while his information was processed. They never got back to him. Then they fined him for not getting back to them, for wasting government time and resources.
He had gotten in three times in the last five years and it was never worth it. Discouraging looks from clusters of parents. Posters of ominous shadowed males over the furthest walls. Slogans stressing the importance in remaining vigilant. No wonder children sometimes burst into tears at the sight of him sitting alone.
Men are only exempt from suspicion if accompanied by a child of their own. Fraser had yet to father any, and it had been a long time since a relative or friend had allowed him near theirs. This was owed to his reputation – unmarried and thus irresponsible. The man didn’t even have a contract for his mobile phone.
Was it such a despicable thing to watch children playing? To see the happiness in their faces, to be reminded of what it was like when the world had colour? Fraser said this to his ex-wife once and she had reacted as though he wanted to fuck one of them. True there were some young girls he did – young enough to land him in jail – but they were all above play park age. Well except maybe one or two.
In the news earlier: Schoolteacher Flees to France with 15 Year-old Pupil. High profile celebrity arrested for possession of underage porn. Adorable little girl goes missing. Fraser had briefly wondered why ugly kids never seemed to vanish, and why it was seldom boys. Then he flipped to the sports section to see how his team were getting on.
Another people carrier pulls up, taking Fraser from his thoughts. No. He wasn’t going to try and get in again. Why did he even bother coming when he already knew the outcome? It was time to go home and do the only thing he could do right. Sit with a quarter of clouded whiskey and let it ease him into dreamless sleep.
He hardly notices the woman emerging from her vehicle as he begins his journey back. The car door closing softly behind her as though from the breeze. So certain in how she carries herself. A rhythm of high heels and concrete.
She smiles and the guard steps aside, telling her to go right on through. Through a doorway, an interviewer striking a man with a wad of paperwork. Screams from down the corridor as a car battery is hooked up to a scrotum. Rainbow double doors leading back outside into a startling kaleidoscope of colour and activity.
A little girl rushing toward the mayhem. She scrambles up a climbing wall then disappears into a ball pit with a squeal and a crash. Rows of parents mesmerised beneath more rainbows. Children travelling in figures of eight. Others on swings like giggling pendulums. It takes only a moment for the woman to become as excited as them.
She passes under the security tower, the giant red and white mushroom offering a panoramic view of the playground. Guards dressed as a gnomes patrolling its balcony in gradual circles. One with a rifle dotted like the back of a ladybird. None bat an eyelid as she crosses the park and takes a seat on an empty bench. Neither do they stir when she snakes an arm out of her sleeve and down the interior of her jacket. Soft panties moved to the side. Red lacquered nails travelling over pale skin. Then quietly and still smiling she begins to work on her clit.