Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

The Penny Hunter (Part 1)

Alone with my son at the school playground just down the street. It’s nearly 8pm on Good Friday and we have the playground to ourselves. We’ve already accomplished grocery shopping and decided to drive to the park, even though it was just blocks away, because he says it takes too long to walk there. I’m the troll under the suspension bridge, then he’s the polar bear in the zoo; next we’re taking the sick polar bear to the hospital on the back of a fire truck sirens blazing, and then back home again. Another family arrives, a boy not much older than Rowan wearing glasses and a man who is his grandfather swishes a metal detector across the gravel of the playground.

First thoughts: ambivalence, curiosity, polite introvertive acceptance. The new boy seems accustomed to playing on his own. His name is Noah. Rowan watches Noah and wants me to help him overcome his shyness, take him by the hand, and walk over to where Noah is playing. The two boys start their orbital dance around each other until they are at some point actually playing together – it is impossible to say exactly when that transition occurs.

I watch the man with the metal detector. He’s on his knees with a screw driver in hand poking at the gravel. Soon he is near enough to me to enter the zone of conversation. He tells me that the kids that go to this school must not carry a lot of change because he’s only found a penny and a dime so far. His detector beeps again and the man wonders if it is a piece of trash or a deeply buried pipe. He tells me the detector has a display that predicts if the blip is a coin or jewelry. He kneels and pokes with his screw driver and finds nothing. Carefully he fills in his hole, stands up, and continues sweeping the playground underneath monkey bars and jungle gyms where upside down children may drop their left over lunch money.

I play with the boys for a time to leave the man to his hunt. Rowan follows Noah to the step-up bars and shows him how he can hang by his hands for several seconds while bending his knees to his chest and swinging back and forth. I’m alone again and the man is there and is talking about hunting. He has poked the ground a few more times carefully covering the hole back up each time but hasn’t found anything since I first spoke with him. He tells me he just had this detector rebuilt and hasn’t gotten it back into the flow.

The boys play chase – one a cop, the other a bad guy – and as the man sits on the geodesic dome that was the polar bear’s zoo home it becomes apparent he’d rather tell me some stories about hunting than continue to sweep for treasure. I’m all ears; I’m a sucker for stories.

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