The adults sipped their coffee and scoffed at the children laughing in the open rain. They scoffed to blend in, swallowing the bitter brew, because everyone else did so too. There would have been no need to make an effort if they had all just stopped. But they didn’t, and they continued to cross and uncross their legs, smiling at unfunny jokes whilst taking longing, jealous glimpses of the children on the other side of the dirty cafe window. Age often comes with adulthood, and adulthood is inescapable. But the children on the other side failed to notice any of these things, readying themselves to go play in the creek. Oblivious to the heavy rain and the dropping temperature, they applied their sunblock with determined looks on their pimpled faces. There were seven kids, and all of them were absently shivering in the missing sunlight.
A fat man looking out the window snickered, and that snicker turned into a giggle, and that giggle into a start of mean laughter. He could not stop. His laughter burst out in waves, the curdled fat on his stomach jiggling in harmony. It’s 60 degrees outside with no sun, but they’re using sunblock? No, it’s 60 degrees outside but they want to swim in the creek? Stupid kids. His outburst began a choir of echoing laughter from the rest of the adults. But no one except the fat man knew what was so funny. He suddenly felt very sad and looked down at the stubs that were once fingernails. Time where have you gone. I was that thin and stupid just yesterday, he thought. When he looked back up, both the laughter and the children were gone.
An awkward kid with glasses almost down to the corner of his mouth flailed his thin arms around, excited. He yelled, “Welcome to the game of Paranoia, where a teen can be a teen.”
“Hey, shut up and hurry. And take off your slippers. You’re gonna slip on the rocks and crack your head wide open. I don’t wanna deal with that.”
“Sheesh, yes mother.”
The short haired girl hid a smile and stretched out her arms like a tightrope walker to balance on the wet rocks. She hopped to the front of the line of children when she heard a splash, a high-pitched shriek, then loud laughter from the kids. She looked back only to see that the lanky boy had fallen into the cold water. He was all long limbs as he struggled to find his glasses and climb back onto a rock.
“Omigod I’M DROWNINGGG! HELP!” The unimpressed line of children continued to laugh and snicker as they all hopped by. The boy’s games no longer fazed them.
The girl with short hair rolled her eyes and hurried to land, under a tree.
“Guys let’s-s-s just wait for the rain to s-s-s-stop.” The soaked boy hurried to catch up to the moving line of children, his teeth chattering with the cold. With every chatter, ice-cold droplets of water flew off the ends his hair and found their victims the way bullets find theirs.
“Please? Anyone? Then let’s at least wait for the sun. We’re all gonna catch a cold,” he whined as he moved forward.
When no one responded, he said, “Hey, hi-p-p-p-po! Aren’t you already sick? Let’s just wait yeah?”
The big girl turned bright red, her arms darting down to cover her lurching belly. “Quit calling me that. And worry about yourself. If anyone’s gonna get sick, it’ll be you, skinny bones,” she yelled behind her shoulders between heavy pants. Her greasy hair was stuck to her big face in thin, black vines.
“Well, I wasn’t really worried about anyone but myself, but okay,” the boy muttered.
“Okay we all here?” The short haired girl motioned for the rest of the group to come to the small patch of land adjacent to the creek.
“Then Let’s Begin.”