I spend a lot of time lying on my back, thinking about things (and sleeping).
I don’t know how long I stared at the underside of the air-hockey table. It could have been ten minutes or forty; I know what I’m capable of when I just lie down and think. The wood was mottled like plywood and rough, not at all like the white-and-red lacquered smoothness that coated the other side. A black, vented box made of hard plastic protruded from the center. I noticed it was a little closer to the left side than the right. It bothered me somewhat. A fan was trapped inside the plastic caging of the box, I knew, even though I could not see it. Some wires wove along the edges and around the fan. Winding erratically, the shiny, black cords reminded me of pasta or of thick, dark vines.
I shifted my shoulder blades slightly. The coarse carpeting pushed uncomfortably into my back, through my thin cotton t-shirt. Twisting to find a softer spot, I pushed my spine into something hard and pointed. Feeling blindly beneath my arched back, gasping in pain, I finally located a small object. I held it in front of my eyes, trying to refocus them. The object was a jack, silver-plated and tarnished. “Camelot,” I whispered to myself.
Camelot was, or had been, a circular wooden platform spanning a small creek not far from my house. The railings and floorboards were rotting and soft, and we had played there as children. Using a small, silver jack and a cup of tap water, we had christened the place Fort Oxenfree, among other names, and used it for our games of imagination and transformation. King Arthur had been one of our favorites; we all enjoyed being knights and magicians and lords and ladies and, in one case, a horse.
“Kids are strange,” I said aloud to the empty playroom, as I tossed the jack into the nearest toy bin, somewhere behind my left shoulder. The minute the words left my mouth, a song started playing in my head. I let it flood my thoughts, and the tune assembled itself coherently within moments. It was the Doors, “People are Strange.”
I suppose I’m strange, I thought. I am a person, after all. I wondered briefly who was stranger, people or children. Since “people” was a larger group that included children, I decided the Doors were right – which didn’t necessarily make me wrong. I don’t like to be wrong.
I didn’t think I minded so much when I was very young. I changed when I grew up. After all, I was lying under a hockey table, thinking about childhood games I played and how much wires look like vines. I spent a lot of time lying down, looking up. I need a Coke, I thought faintly. Is that all I think about now? How much I want to be a kid still and how much I need a Coke? And how much I want…other things.
They tore down Fort Oxenfree a few years after I had grown too old to use it any longer. Camelot went with it.