Insidious Pervasion
Joanne Faries
  Mrs. Wisniewski strolled to the playground. She'd been gone longer than expected. Mrs. Mirnak stopped her in the hall to discuss the 1946 fall festival, but she extricated herself. "I'm on recess duty."  

Late August heat emanated from the asphalt. Yet, she shivered. It was too quiet. When she left, kids ages six to fourteen scattered about the yard, running, playing tag, and chattering. Now an eerie silence. Only a crow squawked overhead.   

At one glance, Mrs. Wisniewski noted eight children sat cross-legged on the non-spinning merry-go-round. Somber faced, they each grasped a pole. Six kids stood at the jungle gym, again clasping metal, their heads bowed. Finally the five youngest were looped in jump ropes, united in bondage.   

Peter Gruber, thirteen, and one crony roamed free. As the banker's son he wielded power over the poor kids in this upstate New York Polish-American community. Without right, Peter's minion Lech stacked stolen lunch pails by the swings.   

"I don't like this game," sobbed Annie. Gerta and Betty began to cry. Mrs. Wisniewski hurried to untie ropes and soothe the girls. She called out, "No more of this. Come here." The children looked to Peter who frowned, but gave a wave of dismissal. They scurried to freedom.  

  Mrs.Wisniewski corralled the lad. "Explain yourself." She feared his answer. Her left hand rubbed her right wrist, where inked numbers stained her soul.   

His clear blue gaze appeared innocent as they stood eye to eye. "Just a game I invented. Camps."

First published: August, 2011
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