The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ genre event – Recess: Children Stories for Adults. Please enjoy.
“Let’s have a wedding!” Cherry said holding her hands and jumping up in excitement.
“No. No. Let’s skip the wedding.” Peanut shook his head. His brow furrowed as he pursed his lips, trying to muster as much authority as he could into his childish face.
“Oh, come on, Peanut! Please! Having a wedding is the best part of playing house!” Cherry pouted. Her glossy doe eyes could have melted anyone’s heart. It made her papa buy her that extra dress and even made boys during recess share their snacks.
But Peanut was impervious to such womanly wiles. He had played house with her so often, if there ever had been a wedding, he was already way past the honeymoon phase and into the twilight years of marriage.
“We had a wedding last time. And it was booooring! Besides weddings are expensive because you have to pay for divorce right after.”
“Really? Who told you that?”
“Google.” Peanut said looking away.
“Fine… But next time we play, we are having a wedding.”
“Fine… But I’m going to be an ice cream man, because my Ma said I should do what I love. And I love ice cream.”
“Fine. You can have any job you want, but if you are a bad husband I get everything. The kids and the house.” She added.
“Everything? Even if it’s mine?”
“Why can’t I just keep everything that’s mine?”
“No, my mama says that love is about a man giving his all.” Cherry grinned.
“Fine.” Peanut sighed.
“Plus if we are going to have a house we need to pay rents too.”
“What will we use for rents?”
“These!” She pulled out some gold tokens. “You go out every morning and when you are done selling ice cream from the ice cream truck. You bring back three of these to pay the rents.”
Peanut looked at the tokens in the palm of her hand. The gold doubloons had the words ‘Super Magik Fun World’ inscribed on them. Peanut’s cherished memories of jumping into ball pits and screaming with glee down slides were soured by this new reality called “rents.” And he counted them up twice then three times to make sure he didn’t count them wrong.
“There are only five tokens here.” Peanut gave her a puzzled look. “What do we do when there are no more?”
“Don’t worry about that. As long as we have love, we’ll be alright. Now, won’t you look at the time,” Cherry slapped the watch on her wrist that wasn’t there. “You are going to be late for work.”
“Wait… I got to have breakfast first and say goodbye to the kids.”
“Okay I will pour you some coffee then.” Cherry went to the tea table and poured an imaginary cup as Peanut took his seat.
“What about pancakes? Or french toast? Or bacon?” Peanut eyed his meagre breakfast with contempt.
“I only ever see my papa have coffee for breakfast. So that’s what papas drink. Not like you would know, because you have no papa.”
Peanut’s face reddened. He wanted to scream, shout, or flip the tea table. But they were playing house, and he remembered his mama telling him, in the household the woman is always right.
“Fine!” He said biting his lip.
“Good.” She added cheekily. “Now do you want am-fet-means with your coffee?”
“What are am-fet-mines?”
“I don’t know. But papa says that because Wednesday is hump day, it is time to take am-fet-means with his coffee.”
“Well is today Wednesday?”
“Well if I am going to be a real papa, I should take am-fet-mines with my coffee,” He said not trying to disguise the sarcasm in his voice.
As Cherry, flourished her hands over the cup to sprinkle some in. Peanut took each of the children sitting at his side at the pink tea table, and put them on his knees. Their son was a purple plush koala named Turtle and their daughter was a tattered and old princess doll named Princess. He put his arms around both of them.
“Now Princess, know that daddy loves you very much.” Peanut then leaned in to whisper. “So don’t listen to what everyone tells you at school. You will be pretty someday… Hopefully…”
Then he turned toward Turtle. The purple koala’s sad eyes stared glumly into the distance.
“Turtle, daddy loves you very much. Ya know.” Peanut leaned in this time to whisper to his son. “But I gotta warn you, it’s all uphill from here, son…” He stood back up and placed the kids back in their seats. “Well it’s time for daddy to bring home the bacon. That ice cream truck isn’t going to drive itself.”
“Toodles!” Cherry waved as he stepped out of the bedroom door. “Oh! And bring back ice cream!”
Moments later the door opened and Peanut came dragging his feet in.
“What a long day at work it was,” He droned as he took his place at the tea table. “Anyway I hope you all are hungry because I brought back ice cream.”
“What kind of ice cream?” Cherry said as she attempted to brush the few remains of hair dangling from Princess’s plastic pate.
“Ugh! I hate strawberry and the kids hate strawberry too!”
“That’s not true!” Peanut’s face reddened. “The kids love strawberry. Isn’t that right kids?”
“No! They hate strawberry! I’m their mother. Don’t you think I know our own kids. Unlike somebody!”
Peanut sulked in his seat.
“Well at least I made the rents,” He said placing the Super Magik Fun World tokens onto the table.
“Well at least you did something right,” She sassed. “Now give it to the landlord.”
Peanut eyed The Landlord with contempt, as he handed the tokens to the new addition at the tea table. A doll smiling with one monocle, one smug smile, and a large top hat.
When Peanut had turned back around he spotted Cherry pulling out a candy cigarette and taking several nervous puffs.
“Cherry!” He said surprised. “You don’t smoke! Put that out! We have kids here!”
“It’s only just one. And I can stop if I want to! Besides,” She fluttered her eyes to blink back the tears that weren’t there. “All the stress is getting to me. Did you hear the landlord say he is making us pay more for the rents?”
“He didn’t tell me.” Peanut said glaring back at The Landlord.
“Well you are going to have to get another job now.”
“Two jobs? But that isn’t fair!”
“Well we all have to start making sacrifices around here.” She said taking long drag of her candy cigarette.
Peanut buried his face into his hands and sighed. When he looked back up, and turned to meet the purple koala’s sullen gaze.
“It’s all uphill from here, Turtle… It’s all uphill from here…”