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The Best Kind Of Monster

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | July 31, 2022

I take my son and daughter to a park with a large playground to play. I am sitting on a bench keeping an eye on both of them and the park in general.

It is nearly impossible to not notice several kids all playing with a single man. The kids are running around on top of the playground equipment while the man is on the ground trying to grab the kids from between the bars. The kids are trying to use the height of the equipment they are on, and the fact that the man’s arms are too thick to reach too far between the bars, to stay out of reach of him. There are somewhere between eight and ten kids in total playing along with the game.

I see my son stop to talk to the man, who responds, but I am too far away from them to hear what is said. Then, my son comes running up to where I’m sitting.

Son: “Mom, can we play with them?”

Me: “Are you asking about playing with those kids over there?”

Son: “Yeah, the man said we had to ask you.”

Now curious, I walk up to the man to ask what is going on. I take a minute to listen in once I am close enough to hear them better before asking any questions.

Girl: “No, don’t get my brother!”

Man: “But he’s so cute I could eat him up!”

Girl: “Gross! Don’t talk about eating people.”

Man: “But that’s what us monsters do. We catch little kids and eat them. You wouldn’t want me to starve, would you?”

Girl: “Yes!”

Man: “Oh, harsh. You shouldn’t be so mean to a nice monster like me who only occasionally try to eat brothers. If you want to see a mean monster, though, I’ll show you one! Look behind you!”

The man points excitedly and the girl half turns to see what he is pointing to, at which point he makes a leap for her, and she and three other kids standing near her and playing along all shriek and laugh as they back away from the grasping arm. The kids all look like they’re having fun.

Me: “Excuse me, do you have a moment?”

Man: “Sure, one second. Hey, kids, this monster needs another water break. But my minions, vampire, ghost, and Pennywise the evil clown, are still going to get you. Go, my minions!”

As he mentions each monster, he points to a specific kid, and all three indicated kids start chasing the others trying to catch them. He gestures for me to follow, and as he talks to me, he walks over to a large insulated container and chugs down some water.

Man: “Okay, how can I help you, ma’am?”

Me: “My son said you told him he should ask me if he could play with you?”

Man: “Yeah, sorry, I’ve made all the kids ask for permission before letting them join. It’s safer for me that way.”

Me: “Safer?”

Man: “You know, there are those that don’t trust men around children. When I take the kids out, we always get tagalong kids wanting to join in, but if I just let kids join us, I risk an upset parent accusing me of trying to steal their kid away to my windowless van or something. I figure if the kids ask permission before joining us, then I’m a lot less likely to get angry parents yelling at me. But if you don’t want your kid playing with us, that’s fine and I’ll respect it.”

Me: “No, no, I was just trying to figure out why [Son] was asking me like that. So, he asked to join you, and you told him he needed to ask me first?”

Man: “Well, honestly, it’s hard to keep track of all the kids. Ether he asked to join or he was one of the ones that just started playing without asking and I told him he would have to ask first.”

Me: “So, how many of those kids do you actually know?”

Man: “Mine are the girl failing to hide behind the climbing wall and Pennywise over there; for the record, it was his mom who let him watch IT, not me. The rest just sort of show up over time whenever I bring the kids to play, Luckily, my two seem to prefer playing with other kids so they don’t mind others joining.”

Me: “Well, they all look like they’re having fun, and thank you for getting my kids to ask permission. Those two are mine and they have permission to play with you if you’ll let them.”

Man: “Sure, the more the merrier. Though, if you’ll excuse me, I think the monster has to go back to work now.”

I watched him sneak around and grab the girl he said was his while she still thought he was on break and wasn’t watching for him, forcing the other kids to run and try to “save” her as he dragged her in to be eaten and loudly declared that he was back.

We stayed at that park for over an hour while the man continued to chase an ever-growing assortment of children, including my two, while they all screamed, laughed, and seemed to have a blast. In fact, my kids didn’t relent to going home, despite the heat, until shortly after the man and his kids left and their playgroup finally broke up.

The man sure livened up the day of my children, and presumably quite a few others, by letting them join the fun. Thank you, random stranger, for making our park visit extra fun.

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