Chapter no 2 – ONCE IN A LIFETIME


“So, he just handed it to you?” Tom Grimley asked.

He took his eye off the road to gaze at his wife. Molly was smiling.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Molly replied. “Well, Macomber has gone to total crap over the last few years. I had to fish out broken glass from the sand the last time I took the kids. I didn’t even want to bring them again, but they love that place. The swings are all busted up too. I think there’s a couple of junkies living behind the bleachers back in the woods. Maybe that’s why he was there? Throwing a bone to families that have to use that sad excuse for a playground. That’s what it seemed like, anyway.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Who cares why? I mean, this place looks amazing! And three-thousand dollars just to have our kids test out an ultramodern playground for a few hours? It’d be a treat for the kids too! It’s a no-brainer! I swear, when he explained it, I felt like Charlie finding the golden ticket.”

Pushing her black hair aside, Molly looked down at the ticket embedded in the vibrant brochure, unable to contain her excitement. The play spaces highlighted in the various snaps on the pamphlet were nothing short of exhilarating—tall, twisting slides; sturdy swings; clean sandbox; cushy seesaw; multicolored merry-go-round; balloon house with ball pit; and a massive stretch of monkey bars were just a few of the alluring sights.

The area surrounding the pamphlet’s adolescent toys was filled with what looked like the softest sand and was encircled by the greenest grass. It was a space of pure magnificence, a visual that would cause the heart of any child to thrash.

Molly wasn’t even going to be the one playing, but she could barely contain herself. Her eagerness was mostly unselfish—she wanted the best for her children. But at the same time, the money felt like gravy. Gravy being laid on so thick it could drown them.

The Grimleys would be happy to drown in it.

While their bank balances were less than desirable, the payout wasn’t the only reason Molly wanted to take the trip. Showing her little hell-spawns a good time was always a top priority. Finding ways to have fun despite their fiscal fiasco was a challenge she welcomed.

The Grimleys were never rich but were able to live with relative comfort for the last several years. However, their content mediocrity suddenly vanished several months ago when Tom lost his job at Electric Boat.

The firing was outside of Tom’s control. Company cutbacks came because of an executive-level fixed pricing scandal. The EB stock tanked. Even now, the company’s survival wasn’t guaranteed, especially given the public outrage.

The company quickly cleaned house at a leadership level, but the reverberations of the scandal were felt by the little guys too. Tom still wondered if it was best that he’d been forced to move on. Either way, as a result of his exodus, money was tighter than ever.

“It just…” Tom began. “What?” Molly asked.

“It just sounds too good to be true.”

“I’d say the same if that thousand-dollar retainer wasn’t sitting in our bank account right now. But you saw the balance. I damn well know you saw it.”

“But isn’t that kind of weird too? I mean, who just gives someone a thousand fucking dollars at a playground? C’mon sweetie, you know as well as I do, we have shit luck.”

“Yeah, but just because you win the lottery doesn’t mean you’ll win every time you play.”

“It’s still hard to believe.”

“Well, hopefully, it sinks in when we’re another two grand towards the black and the kids are having the time of their lives.”

Tom furrowed his brow in deep thought. It wasn’t the first time he’d discussed it with Molly.

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess you’re right.”

“Thank God! I was starting to think you didn’t want to go anymore.”

“Don’t worry. Everything you said makes sense. I know I tend to overthink stuff a little sometimes.”

“A little?”

Molly rolled her eyes jokingly and returned to the pamphlet.

Tom found his smile again. He understood he was a pain at times, but he thought it brought balance between them. Molly was far more daring and spontaneous, as opposed to his tightly measured approach.

“Oh, look,” Molly said. “There’s more! I didn’t even see this part before.”

She touched her slender finger to the text at the back page and keyed in on the writing positioned under the header ‘OUR GOAL.’

“Geraldine Borden aims to implement one state-of-the-art playground in 1995 somewhere in the New England area. After a review of potential candidates, a less fortunate region will be selected, and the grand play space will be presented as a surprise to the chosen representee’s city and the lucky children who reside within it.”

Molly shrieked with delight.

“That’s why they didn’t want us to talk about it! This—This is some kind of super exclusive thing! Oh my God, imagine if we got selected? If they built it next year, right in Pawtucket?! We’d be set!”

“Relax. You always do this,” Tom replied, a melancholic tinge weighing down his vernacular.

“Do what?”

“No matter what the odds are, you always think the best things are gonna happen to you.”

“Well, you happened to me, didn’t you?” Tom remained silent.

“Didn’t you?” she persisted.

She tickled his side and gave him a loveable smile. Molly felt Tom twitch and squinted her eyes. She leaned into his stubbly cheek and planted a proper peck on his face.

Tom let out a chuckle. “You always were a charmer.” “And you’re as sweet as strawberry shortcake.”

The sign for Exit 13 appeared and Tom flicked his turn signal on cue.

His hand fell onto Molly’s tan thigh and he squeezed it twice.

“We’re almost at your sister’s,” Molly tittered excitedly, placing her hands over Tom’s. “The kids are gonna be so surprised when we get there.”

Molly stared gleefully out the passenger window, looking at the beautiful sunny sky. Tom glanced at the brochure in her hand, back to racking his brain.

“Geraldine Borden?” he asked. “Where have I heard that name before?” “Well, she’s obviously a state philanthropist of some sort. I’m not

surprised if you’ve heard of her.”

“I thought you said it was a guy that talked to you in the park, though.

Didn’t you?”

“Yeah, he was a big fella. Thought he might be trouble at first, but once he started talking, I realized he was just a gentle giant. He said he was a representative for the charity. He was really timid, especially for a man of his size. But I’m glad he finally mustered up the courage to give me this. It might very well change our lives.”

Tom rolled his eyes and huffed as if to say, ‘There you go again.’

Molly acknowledged his comical mannerism with a grin of her own. “What?” Molly asked. “At least for a day anyway.”

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