The Warmest Day of The Week

Joshua Canasta Issue: Section:

Photograph of Scarface by Brian Kirkby

Fridays are great days for kids. Fridays end the school week, and often give the kiddies the chance to stay up later, play later, watch tv later, spend more time with their moms and dads, or moms or dads. Fridays mean a couple days off from school, and this particular Friday meant three days free as there was a holiday on Monday. We would be honoring Martin Luther King. No school.
This Friday happened to be the warmest day of the week, as had been promised to us by the always accurate weatherpeople. They delivered, as always, and it was an absolutely balmy 48 degrees somethingrade, lilyguilded further by a crisp sunshine and little wind, circumstances that would have a great positive effect on the football game that would soon erupt.
The day was filled with an easy joy for me, as I got to pick up my perfect charge and wallow in the mishugas of a city park redolent with after school happenings. It started off very satisfyingly, sharing some funny and high end banter with a great mom of a great child in my guy’s class; a banter clipped somewhat by her need to hurry home so as to be timely for one of her son’s lessons on the violin, to be given by a German, scooter riding tutor. By the time she left, I’d been given the job of watching another dad’s son while he went to his office that ‘round about a year ago was called the family home. The son is a radiant and for sure future intellectual whose day had about an hour and a half of pure joy left in it.
A couple of days earlier, something happened in Haiti that gives pause to all the little bitches we have in our life and elicits introspection. Mine went something like this in those dreamy afternoon moments: “How?” “Why?” “Them?” “They already have nothing.” “What if it happened here?” “I have nothing.”, “Will low-fat sour cream affect the unctuousness of the stroganoff?” “Nice pass.” “Nice catch.” “Why do I think of fellatio and philately at the same time sometimes?” “I hate myself.” To look inside ourselves and touch a place close to where those forsaken people are would be too painful. I was frustrated a few times earlier that day by my inability to text a donation via my phone service carrier, but not surprised. I so hope they’ll be blessed with good fortune in time yet to come.
The football game was heating up like it never had before. Dads and children were both playing. Five on five, a real game; four downs, a lightpole on one side and a tree on the other were out of bounds, and garbage cans supplied the end zones. The dad of the boy I was watching came back right when he said he would, and though he didn’t want to join in the game, he gave a short but poignant cheerleading show that was completely unselfconscious, demonstrative, and in seeming slow motion. His son didn’t want to play either, but wanted to play with another great young guy, shooting some lightweight projectile in the air with a rubber band, tracking its direction as it slowly parachuted to the ground, and running quickly to catch it. They did this on the periphery of what was now a really hot football game that was playing itself out at the beautiful golden hour of orange hued sunlight that previewed the evening, replete with invective from hyped up children who would complain they weren’t getting passed to, or were passing it wrong, or were dropping perfectly catchable passes. Our stadium was Tompkins Square Park, and our fans were a band with their instruments, smoking pot and awaiting their gig de nuit, homeless men, parents, dog walking people looking at us with the disdainful glee of knowing, at least momentarily, there was someone more annoying than them, dominating the ability of park patrons to manage their way around; not the mention the complete idiots who don’t leash their creature. “Oooohhh, rules are for everyone but me.” “My dog is harmless, it would never hurt anyone.” “You got a problem with it, then leash your child asshole; my dog shits Swedish meatballs.” “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you; oops there’s my middle finger, oooh, is that the other one, yup.” “LEASH YOUR ANIMAL TINYBRAIN!” Ahem, I digress.
This early evening had now become like no other. Children and dads were all playing together, and some together for the first time. We could’ve been at a field in Indiana at dusk; we were playing football with our kids, and they were having mad fun.
The game was coming to a rapid close, as it was getting nearer to dinnertime. The son of the dad I was watching earlier took off for the projectile shot from the rubber band at full speed, as did one of the very young and talented players on my team. It was his natural instinct to go after something to catch, and his skill is very high for his age. As these two beautiful and gifted children came together to grab the prize, the day, as my son would explain to me many times later that night, changed in a moment. It seemed only a moment or two after the audible collision, when the sound any parent so fears would pierce the calm air: screaming in a way that didn’t sound normal.
The beautiful child with the elastic band had a bloody mouth and at least one less tooth, and the beautiful child football catcher got up from the ground, looking to his dad with a gaping wound on his right cheek that was bleeding far too much for it to be tendable. It was ugly. Two great dads were now in full panic mode, rightfully frightened and driven to pacify their children’s horror. The game by the way, was over.

Several lightening minutes would pass, and the children were whisked to two different emergency rooms, which would’ve been only one, save for one of the dads running into a great gal and mother on the way to hail a cab, and taking her advice to go to an inferior emergency room. The suggestion turned out to be a gem in this instance, as a kind and talented plastic surgeon assured the nervous mom and dad of a positive result for the wound; a wound that turned out to be a hole all the way through the little guy’s cheek. The doctors speculated it as somewhat miraculous that no major nerve damage had occurred. The doctors for the little guy who lost his tooth into the cheek of the other little guy were amazed that a tooth could be lost in such a way, and wondered what the other guy must’ve looked like. We knew.
The next morning my son and I went out for a mid-morning football throw and later for some clam chowder. I got to speak to both dads, incredibly gracious men, who were recovering well after a trauma that I’m sure took more from their life than their children’s, and was given the lowdown on both. One of the dads told me how he wept uncontrollably for a couple of hours when he got home from the hospital. I wanted to call him a pussy, knowing he’d understand the shot as an underhanded compliment to his great character, but for some reason didn’t give the kudo. I looked at my son, the late morning sunlight framing his overwhelming beauty, rapt by his satisfied smile as he spoke of how happy he was having his theory verified. He’d been adamant that the missing tooth we all looked for in the dark the night before was indeed imbedded in his friend’s cheek.
I thought about those injured children I’ve known since there were almost babies, and took solace in the fact that in their moment of horror they had a parent there to hug them and reassure them, and knew that they would always remember that most when they got older. I looked again at my son smiling and gazing out a window at upper Manhattan as he ate clam chowder. I understood what it all meant to those involved and an itty bitty tear almost let me down and spoiled my act as a clown, as a great little song once told us. I held it back, as I’ve gotten better at that. I thought about Haiti. Bless Haiti.

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