For this month’s Character Encounter, Kendra has decreed that we scribblers shall meet our Characters at the playground. I’ll admit that my contribution is a bit of a cop-out, since it mainly takes place near a playground instead of actually in it. The reason is that I’ve only seen the playground at Riverside Park once—driving by—so I can’t say for certain what it’s like. And I don’t really want to make one up for the purpose of this exercise.
Anyway, you’ve already met Max from my very first books (which I plan to revise into a series for 9-12-year-old boys), so now I’ll introduce you to his best friend, Maxine Mary Delaney; more usually known as Molly. I haven’t written much about her yet, but the way she’s developing in my mind has made her one of my Favorites. Enjoy this little snippet of her character to date….
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I’ve come to expect one or another of my Characters to drop in on me in the Real World now and then, so I wasn’t too surprised to meet one of them at the local park last week.
It was shopping-day, and Mom and I decided to take our lunch break in the park by the river and watch the geese and pigeons fly over the water…and clamor for tidbits. The size of the trees—all different varieties—never ceases to amaze me, and that, plus the well-kept grounds and beautiful flowers blooming in the warm Spring weather, gave the place a restful, peaceful air, even amid the honking of the geese and the happy shouts of the children on the playground nearby. I fetched the lunch bag and trotted off to find a table, while Mom locked up the car. I found a table in a shady spot by the river, near the playground, which looked relatively clean, so I claimed it.
As I unzipped the lunch bag, I saw a girl with curly hair the color of milk chocolate coming toward me, beaming a sunny smile and waving one slender hand. She looked to be about eleven or twelve and wore jeans and a coral-colored T-shirt with a floral pattern to it.
I waved back a little shyly, not recognizing her at first. But when she got close enough for me to see the sparkle in her pretty green eyes, I knew her immediately.
“Hi, Anka!” she greeted.
“Hi, Maxine—I mean Molly,” I replied, mentally kicking myself for slipping into using her original name.
Molly laughed, seating herself opposite me at the table. “That’s OK. Technically, my name is still Maxine.”
“But Molly is cuter, and it fits your personality better.” I began laying out the sandwiches Mom and I had packed. “So what brings you to the park?”
“Oh, I was checking out that cool playground,” she answered, motioning to it. I could just see the peaked wooden roofs of the pay equipment from where we were, but not a whole lot of other details. “I was having great fun playing with the kids over there,” Molly continued. “There was one little girl who was afraid of the covered slide, so I offered to let her sit on my lap.”
“And did that help?” I asked, remembering my own childhood fear of covered slides.
Molly nodded. “Yeah, I think so. She was really nervous at first, but I just held onto her and told her Jesus would keep us safe.” Molly chuckled. “When we got to the bottom, she had this big smile on her face, and she said, ‘That was fun! Let’s do it again!’ So we did. I don’t think she’ll be afraid of slides anymore now.”
“You certainly have a way with kids,” I remarked, trotting out the water bottles.
“Speaking of which,” she said, rising, “Mama and I are supposed to go to Max’s house for lunch today. I promised Matthew I’d help him with his R-sounds. He’s doing really great, but it’s still hard for him.”
“Well, just keep at it,” I encouraged. “I’m sure he’ll get it eventually.”
“It was nice talking with you, Anka,” Molly beamed. “Have a lovely lunch! I think I see your mom coming.”
I turned to look behind me, and sure enough, there was Mom, walking briskly towards the picnic table.
“Sorry I took so long,” she apologized, “but someone pulled up and needed directions.”
“That’s OK,” I smiled. “I wasn’t worried—and now I have the table all ready for us.”
“Good, I’m starved!”
As we sat down and prepared to say grace, I noticed my curly-haired Character had disappeared and smiled to myself, imagining how her afternoon at Max’s house would go...as soon as I could write it down….
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Until next time, Gentle Readers,