Friday, September 4, 2015

Free Fiction: The Hidden Park, Part III

“Hey, look at that, it’s the last farmers’ market. I forgot all about it.” Dad patted down his pockets until he found his wallet. He checked the interior. “I’ve got enough to cover a few treats. How about you?”

Pop checked his own wallet. “Pretty flush for a Sunday. Might even be able to swing some groceries to bring home. Too bad we forgot our cloth bags. We’ll be shamed for using the plastic ones!”

Dad laughed. “How will the family ever survive the dishonor?”

They stood on the driveway that entered into the space behind the line of shops. The parking lot bulged full of tents and tables, everything laden with culinary delights. Annabelle could see rows of green leafy vegetables that stretched for nearly the entire length of the lot. People thronged all around, and vehicles were scrunched in haphazardly along the sides. Many vendors had their trucks backed up to their tables, using the space as storage and pantry all in one. The green spot off to the side bulged with vehicles parked like sardines, although haphazard sardines to accommodate the various trees.

“But the little park,” Annabelle said. She had Duchess’ lead in her hand, and Duchess looked around, clearly excited by the multitude of people, smells, and activity.

Dad glanced at the space. “I see what you mean now. Never noticed it before. It’s smaller than I thought it’d be from your description.”

“I think it’s just an odd piece of lawn, honey,” Pop said. “Let’s take a look at the stands and see what we want to get.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “If you see the man from yesterday anywhere here, point him out to me. We can ask him how he knows Duchess.”

“Okay,” Annabelle agreed. She was disappointed. Yesterday the park had seemed special. Tucked away and quiet, she’d thought it was a hidden place, a secret known only to a few. With all the cars parked on it, she could see it was really only a strip of green, and nothing very interesting after all.

She followed her two fathers into the depth of the farmer’s market. Everything seemed frenzied and rushed. The vendors smiled behind their wares, confident in the knowledge that at the end of summer, everyone was seeking out that last fresh taste of vegetables before a cold winter.

With a limited budget, they chose their purchases carefully. They bought crusty rolls from one place, nearly black-red tomatoes from another, three kinds of cheese from a third, and kettle corn. Then they settled in a small free space at the end of one table to enjoy their finds. Pop rushed off at one point to bring back a loaf of bread for dinner later, and Dad sagely chose an early apple pie from another vendor. They dug in with plastic forks, ate half the pie, and forced themselves away to save the other half for later. Annabelle bought two meatballs from a food vendor and gave one to Duchess, and split the other with her dads. Pop slipped Duchess slivers of cheese.

With a pat to his belly, Dad stood up from the table. “The bank has hit rock bottom. Time to head home, what do you think?”

“Agreed,” said Pop. “Annie? How about you?”

The sunshine, fresh air, and rich food had made Annabelle very tired. She longed to take a pleasant Sunday afternoon nap. “Oh, yeah,” she said.

As they picked up their things, she glanced back to the small green space. The grey stone walls were more visible now that some vehicles had vacated the space. As she turned away, she realized that the door in the wall had been open. She looked back quickly, and saw the bushy tail of a dog vanish into the dark space, and the door shut closed. Her curiosity flared again.

After school tomorrow, she decided. She’d go take a look at the front of that grey building.

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