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Cyrus Six
An Hour with a Chance-Met Child: Substitute Grand Parenting Part 2

Megan walked behind in her gray sweater as her granddaughter Emma and I hunted turkey vultures with sticks and stones in the woods and pushed Emm’a little baby carriage around. Last year I was pushing Emma in a carriage, now she’s got her own plastic baby that she pushes around and feeds medicine and milk to.

Numerous feral children were out and about, ranging from 4 to 14. The youngest, an unnamed “Pup-a-rican” was very curious about Emma but wanted to take her toys and had no sense of respect for personal space, so I kept him at arm’s reach with stern words.

Eventually we were at the 40 by 40 foot playground with a set of stairs, two ladders and a sliding board joining a platform, a plastic crawl tube and a small catwalk. It was 5:30 P.M. and not an adult was in sight other than those driving into the lot and going inside. All of the children were unaccompanied by guardians. Of about 15 out and about 4 were black, one mixed, the rest children of the ghost race. Most packed up, played ball, rode bikes and had a good time, only one of them, a 12-year-old boy cussing. A violent older black girl and older white tom girl both lead their various factions in play. The racial disparity in such places among children is far higher among adults, with almost all adults in the complex sprung from the dry womb of the ghost race, but a full third of the children being of the races of innocence and martyrdom.

The two children who decided to enter the playground with the ghost elders and their pale, toddler princess, were the feral pup-a-rican and a handsome little blonde boy with a well-earned spring tan who ran together with a soccer ball. They gravitated towards a child younger than them and towards the parental presence.

As Emma climbed aggressively and slid, and jumped and fought giant imaginary vultures with her vulture stick, the feral child attempted to take her toys and Megan told him no and he ran off with the pack of children, leaving the blonde boy with us.

When Emma climbed assisted he climbed faster and higher, looking to me for my approval, which I gave, telling him he was a good climber.

When Emma learned to climb herself he climbed to the very top, 15 feet off the ground and posed like Chinese Gordon before the Madi hordes at Khartoum.

Megan then urged him to be cautious and I asked his name as he took more care walking on top of the round plastic tube and Emma looked up at him wide-eyed.

He told me his name was Cyrus and that he was six.

He then began escorting Emma up the stairs and showing off on the slide.

He was a handsome little boy.

Megan whispered, “Ah, he’s soaking up the attention. The parents around here are for shit—I’ve never seen a father with a child out here.”

Then there was a disagreement with Emma, who is headstrong and Cyrus made a fist at her.

I said, “Cyrus, we don’t make fists at babies or at girls. We don’t hit girls.”

He opened his hand, smiled to Emma and let her pass and turned and said to me, “But I take karate, kenpo.”

I countered, “Cyrus, Mister Mike [his instructor] wouldn’t want you hitting girls either.”

He looked at me as if not hitting girls was the best new idea he had ever heard, then tarried on my face as if trying to place me among the tiny pantheon of adults who care about kids in his world. I neglected to tell him that Mister Mike hates and fears me.

I said, “Cyrus, I coach stick-fighting. I coached at another kenpo school for nine years.”

Cyrus then ran and found a stick and brought it back and him and Emma began to fence, until I reminded her that her stick was just for vultures and told him that the best practice was to hit the bars on the jungle gym. He attacked the bars and then showed me a kenpo stance with the stick held back in his right hand.

He came back soon, as I played wolf man and princess with Emma on the jungle gym and showed me that he had tape for a handle and asked about what kind of handle a sword had. I taught him about the hilt, consisting of the grip, crosspiece and pummel and showed him a saber guard, explaining that you lead with your right when using a sword and he went about climbing the jungle gym until he was 15 feet up again and holding his sword on guard with his right hand while he looked for dragons with his left hand as a visor as the sun went down on that brisk, cloudy day on the Eastern Baltimore County waterfront.

Cyrus then ran off with the pack after I complimented him on his guard and Emma was up for another shot at the 20 pair of turkey vultures that perch at dusk among the trees behind her apartment. As we walked by the rear units of the complex Cyrus came running out with a rubber band gun and tried shooting me but it misfired. Then, kind of embarrassed, he waved and looked at me and I held up my hands and said, “Don’t shoot, Cyrus. I’m unarmed.”

He grinned and ran back down the concrete strip past an elderly black man who smiled at me and nodded good day.

To this Megan said, “These kids are so starved for attention it’s said. That old man is the first adult I’ve seen take an interest in these children in two years.”

Then Emma chirped, “Altures, Ranpa Yim, so big!” and there they swooped over the still bare trees, in the glow of the big yellow-white sun sinking behind them.

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