The smell of freshly mowed grass hung in the still summer air. Above, the sky was clear. The hot white sun sent rays of blistering heat through the thinning atmosphere to the sidewalk and road below. All was still, waiting for the school kids to finally get out of their classes. A dog barked as a passing car disturbed the tranquil street.
Most of the families had already left town for the summer, but some decided to stay home and just relax. Hours passed. The sun moved slowly across the vast blue sky. Now the smell of charcoal briquettes was present. The splashing of pool water and the laughter of children playing resonated from the backyards of the houses. The children were finally free.
Floyd relaxed peacefully in his floating arm chair. A can of Mountain Dew sat in the cup holder. He sat looking up at the sky, thinking. A boy from the house next door did a cannon ball. “I remember the days when I was a school kid” he said to himself. He looked back up into the blue sky, remembering days from long ago.
Both good memories and bad memories flooded Floyd’s mind. He closed his eyes. Everything came back, from the time he got all A’s on his report card to the time he bashed a kid in the head with a rock. Then, he was there. Back on the playground. Back to his childhood days. The feeling of wood chips beneath his feet, the hot metal slide, the green jungle gym. There was no sky. A metal grate was placed over the playground, letting little light in. The looming red brick wall around the playground reminded him there was little freedom in this place. Atop the wall was a layer of silvery barbed wire. In the corners, security cameras were hidden.
Floyd had finally realized this place was no safe place. It was a prison. The children sat in gray desks, unable to speak unless the teacher demanded them do so. They were unable to move unless the teacher demanded them do so. The walls of the room were painted a boring gray. The chalkboard was gray. The ceiling was gray. gray gray gray. Dull, boring, lifeless, gray. The playground faded away. He was back in the classroom now. Back in the place he had enjoyed for a while. Now, there were no familiar faces, mostly because the students that sat around him had no faces. They were lifeless, like department store manikins. The teacher at the front of the room stood like a drill Sargent. His tiny eyes stared at the students. Finally, he raised the metal yardstick and pointed at Floyd. “You! What are you doing here?” he shouted.
“Me?” asked Floyd
“Yes, you!” said the teacher “You don’t belong here!”
“But I come here to learn” Floyd said “It’s the law too!”
“Nonsense!” The teacher barked “Stand up! I won’t have any more of your lies!” Floyd rose and stood beside his desk. The teacher walked slowly down the isle to Floyd. He smacked the metal yardstick on each desk as he walked by. The other students didn’t so much as flinch. The teacher was now directly in front of Floyd. His legs wobbled as he waited for the teacher to punish him. “Have anything to say for yourself?” the teacher said. Before Floyd could even open his mouth, the teacher swung his yardstick. The room faded as Floyd felt the carpet meet his face.
Floyd’s eyes flew open. He had a blanket over him. His swim trunks were replaced with a plastic gown. He reached back and felt the pillows. He was in a hospital bed. Floyd reached for the nurse call button. “Where am I?” he said aloud. A nurse came in to check the machines that surrounded him. “Your a lucky man” said the nurse, “You would have drowned if it wasn’t for your neighbor.” Floyd breathed a sigh of relief. “I must have fallen a sleep and fell out of the pool chair” he thought to himself. “I knew that had to have all been a dream.” He reached up and felt his head. It wasn’t smooth, it was bumpy and sore. He frantically asked the nurse for a mirror. “How…” Floyd began to ask. He saw his reflection in the mirror. On his forehead was the unmistakable imprint of a yardstick.