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Blog of the Week

Day of Play

Updated: May 17

Brooklyn Zoo Especial


Childlike Wonder


Melodies of aerial psalmists darting to and fro from perch to limb lend to the symphony of buzzing bees, cruising music, and children playing at Nicholas Naquan Hayward Jr. Park. A piragua cart pushed by a viejo creaks to the mouth of the playground.


"Piraguas!" A young man yells out, hopping over park benches to reach the old man. Kids playing cocolevio stampede behind the youthful adult. "Piraguas!" Tyler pops his head up from a game of skelly to survey the melee. "Piraguas?!" He takes off, leaving his friend and cap, stopping in front of a picnic table of people gossiping, drinking, and playing dominoes. "Mami, mami!" Drowned out by salsa music, bochinche, and the sound of dominoes being slammed, Tyler pushes through the gathering of adults. "Mami, mami! Please get me a coconut and pineapple piragua?"


"Sí papi."


Like ravenous wolves, more kids encircle the cart, dollars in hand. A cluster of friends bicker and jaw.


"Aye Dede, you got two-dollars?!"


"Nah, but you could have deez!"


A food truck peddling fro-yo and other organic, frozen "sweet treats" creeps down Wyckoff, encroaching upon the vetted native. Oblivious, the crowd of sugar fiends press. Moms and nannies rush the flamboyantly designed vehicle at the behest of under three feet tall persons wearing OshKosh B'gosh and GAP.


Enjoying a double scoop of Rocky Road, Peter alternates hands, careful not to drop the cone while maneuvering on his crutches; his mother nearby on the phone with his pediatrician. Making a b-line to the piragua cart, Chubby Tae slams into Peter, knocking his half-eaten ice cream on the ground. "Oh man!" Peter exclaims. His mother rushes in, steadying him. "Are you okay?" "Get the %&#* outta my way!" Chubby Tae barks at Peter. Peter's mother grills the rotund tween. "Where is this child's mother?! Chubby Tae returns the glare, sticking out his tongue. "Sorry, I gotta get mah snack! Aaho... I need this!" Waddling to the piragua cart, sneakers leanin', Chubby Tae hands the viejo a fistful of crumbled dollars. "Lemme get a coconut, cherry, and lime!"


"Three?"


"Ah... yea! Three!" Chubby Tae mouths.


Scrape, scrape, the old man takes to the ice block with his shaver. Muscles flexing. Overworked hands, gnarled. He fills three plastic cups with shaved ice, swirling assorted syrup over the ice mounds before collecting the money and handing Chubby Tae the piraguas. "Thank you mister."


Fixed on the piragua cart, Peter pulls his mother away from her phone call. "Mom, mom."


"I'm on the phone with your pediatrician. What is it?"


"May I have a piragua?"


"A what?!"


Peter points at the piragua cart.


"Ah Peter, sweetie, that's way too sugary. How bout some fro-yo or fruit?"


Face twisted, Peter replies, "Mom... it's just shaved ice!"


"Well the sign says, 'Pi-auguar'...? I don't know what that is."


"Aye-no. Pir-agua!" A woman in hair rollers wearing Chinese slippers interrupts. Peter looks over at the woman. "Yeah, what she said!" Keyrings adorned with assorted lanyard and knick-knacks jingle and jangle as the woman pulls out four-dollars from her back pocket. "Mami, my kids were raised on piraguas. It's a big thing in Puerto Rican culture. You should let him have one."


"He's had enough sweets. Son, you've had enough sweets."


Peter contorts his mouth to a wide smile. Eyebrows perked. Exuberant.


"Please mom! I promise to not ask grandma for any sweets for a month!"


"Speaking about grandma, don't think I don't know about the box of cookies she sent you just days ago."


"What box?"


The woman in rollers' gaze ping-pongs between the mother and son match of wills. Peter's mother stoops low, looking into his eyes. "Check the smiles." Struggling to keep a straight face, googly eyes give Peter away. "No, it'll ruin your dinner." Peter peers over to the woman in rollers for backup. She winks at Peter's mother ."Tut-tut, tut-tut. Papi, what your mami says goes. Maybe two days from now, or later tonight your mami will get you a piragua - you never know with parents. We're full of surprises!" Peter's mother gives the woman in rollers a nod and smile, sneaking in a "Thank you." About to pout, Peter spots Tyler in the park. "Huh? 'Is that Tyler?'" Peter looks down at his cast then crutches... "Mom, mom! May I go to the park then? I'll be super careful!" Checking her watch, Peter's mother concedes. "Yes, but only for half-an-hour." "You can't win 'em all mom... I'm Jocelyn by the way." The woman in rollers extends her hand. Returning the greeting, Peter's mother grips Jocelyn's hand, shaking it. "Suzanne!"


Avoiding the swarming crowd of sugar addicts, Peter crutches his way to the playground along the chain-link fence. "Ill! Yuck!" Peter exclaims, traversing feces-covered stones. Suzanne watches. "Be careful sweetie!" Jocelyn grabs Suzanne by the hand. "Come! Let's sit at the adults table. You need it!"


Away from the confection-craving mob and dog crap, Peter relaxes. "Whew!" He scans the park for Tyler, locking in on him. "Tyler! Hey Tyler!"


"Peter?" What's he doing here?"


Tyler's skelly opponent butts in. "It's a park, and he's a kid, stupid! Whataya think?!


"Man, shut up - wit yo' bubble lips and broken toof!" 


Broken Toof Wendell chases Tyler throughout the park. Zig-zag, cut here, zip there, and Tyler's outrun his pursuer. Wendell bowed over, out of breath, huffing. Tyler bolts over to Peter.


"Wow, you're really fast!"


"I know! Come!"


Dragging Peter in the direction of a large maple tree, Tyler ducks and dodges a pocket of kids engaged in a furious game of freeze tag. "Nah, nah, you is out!", the consensus of unfrozen players yell. Peter struggles to keep up. "Hey Tyler, slow down! Remember I'm on crutches! You're gonna get me hurt!"


"Comin' through! Watch out! There's a man on crutches here!" Tyler commands. "I'm not a man!" Peter replies. Peter's mother looks on nervously, following Tyler and Peter's every move. "Aye mami, relax! My Tyler is a good kid... very kind and thoughtful. Your son's in good hands! Plus, we're right here! Have some mavi!" Resting on the tree, Tyler catches his breath. "We have to talk!"


"Wait, you were holding your breath the whole time?!"


"Yeah, I sometimes do that when I'm nervous or have something reeeeaally important to say."


Left to right, Tyler's head pans, searching around for potential eavesdroppers: nosey kids and annoying adults. Peaking out from behind the tree's trunk, Tyler waves at his mother and Mrs. Suzanne, nudging Peter to do the same. "Pretend everything's okay."


"It is, except you're acting a bit screwy." Tyler wrinkles up his nose. "Heeeeyyy... you're right, but heeeyyy! Tyler sucks down his piragua, occasionally pushing down the ice with a straw. Peter gawks at the frozen delicacy.


"Do you know what I saw two nights ago?!" Peter shakes his head. "No, I saw you were really scared though." Eyes huge like saucers, Tyler leans in. "What are you doing?" asks Peter. "Imma bout to tell you the story. I don't want them to hear."


"Them who?"


"The werewolves."


"Wer-www-wolves?" Peter stammers.


"Yeah! Crazy, right?!"


"Yeah right! The only werewolf I've seen was when I spent the weekend at my uncle's. We watched the 'Howling', and I had nightmares for weeks! Now, my uncle's only allowed to visit us. Which sucks!"


"Just for your tío letting you watch a horror movie?"


"What's a tio?"


"An uncle."


Suzanne studies Peter and Tyler's interaction. "'Hmmm, I know all of Peter's friends! Never met a Tyler.' I can tell they're up to something."


"Absolutely! And we're about to find out!"


Tyler and Peter whisper and giggle. Pulling a brightly colored crayon out from his back pocket, Tyler draws a schematics on a bench. Leg propped up, Peter observes from the opposite end of the bench, straining to see the illustration, sharing ideas.


"How about we word it like this?"


They continue scheming. Peter points. Tyler cackles, each making a funny face. Plan concocted.


"Hey! Give you a head start. Psych!"


Tyler darts to his mother and Mrs. Suzanne but about-faces back to Peter's side, putting his arm around Peter's. Jocelyn and Suzanne watch their boys make their way to them. Jocelyn sips mavi.


"They're too cute but definitely up to something!"


"Agreed."


"Hi boys! Having fun?" Jocelyn leans into Suzanne. "Wait for it." Tyler and Peter step forward. Suzanne laughs. "Here it comes."


"Can we have a sleepover?"


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