The park playground was always full of kids, always full of smiles and of laughter. It was a place where kids could go to forget their troubles and just enjoy life. There was one boy, however, who served as the sole exception to this rule. This boy was shrouded in mystery, for no one, not even the parents, had ever talked to him. When he had first come to the park, he was all but ignored; not a single person acknowledged his presence. But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, a sense of intrigue was born. They never understood why he wanted to come to the park, of all places, to just sit on that old, weathered bench situated off in the grassy corner. "The park is a happy place," they would exclaim, "so why does this sad little boy want to come here?" Instead of simply asking him why, they decided to craft a new reality for him, a reality that encompassed his past, present, and future. They made up fanciful stories about him, creating wild explanations for his oddity. They did not know his real name, so instead, they fashioned one for him: The Bench Kid.

They were always whispering about him, always wondering why he chose to sit there all by himself. And yet, nobody cared to ask. As he sat there on that Saturday evening, imagining that their voices were only the whispers of the wind, he wished that for once he could tell them why. He wanted more than anything to share with them the fact that he had but a memory left, to impart upon them the impression of a man no longer for this world: his father. With his eyes squeezed tightly shut, he let the memory take over, images flashing by against the black back drop of his eyelids. As a single tear dripped from his chin, he wished only to show them that he was just like them, a person with a story of his own.

A flash of bright blue and they were gone. Tears welled up in my eyes, leaving tracks of wetness on my face as they made their way down my cheeks. I slumped down in the grass, allowing the soft, spongy squares of bread to roll out of my loose grip. With my brow furrowed in an expression of extreme frustration, I tilted my head upwards to meet the gaze of my daddy's very friendly looking knees. "Daddy, the birdies flew away again!" I wailed, "Why don't they want to play with me?" He flopped down on the grass next to me, a smear of green providing stark contrast to his crisp white shorts. "Maybe they're just no good at building castles in the sand and didn't want to embarrass you! Maybe you should ask them what they want to do instead, I'm sure they would appreciate that!" I couldn't help but to smile; my daddy could be so silly at times. I meet my daddy's eyes, seeing nothing but deep brown pools of compassion. "Then why don't the other kids want to play with me?" I whispered softly. I looked at him expectantly, knowing that he would have the perfect answer. But there was nothing but silence, nothing other than the buzz of the cicadas hiding in the trees far behind us. "Hey", he started, his voice wavering as he struggled to respond. "How would you like to meet me here after I'm done with all of my boring work? I don't think anyone wants to play with daddy either." I stopped tearing into the sea of grass to raise my arm, blades of green whirling away from me on the slightest breeze. "Can we meet on the deck of the Allegrezza, the mightiest bench to ever tame these vicious waters?" He nodded his head as he brought me into his warm embrace, a beautiful image framed by the portrait of the setting sun.

As that reddish glow faded from his mind, dwindling away into nothingness, he was greeted by a sudden, but blissful quiet that had settled over the park in the time that he had been gone. All the other kids had likely gone home some time ago, for the sun had already begun to dip down below the horizon. He stretched his legs out, vaguely feeling the gritty sand enveloping his toes as the pins and needles set in. Staring into what would soon become the pitch blackness of night, he began to make his way out of the park, away from the place that made him feel both whole and broken. As he strolled along the sidewalk, he could still feel the warmth from his father's hand on his shoulder, a feeling that was more than just mildly reassuring. As he fought back the tears he knew would never come, he was faced by a sudden rush of youthful vigor, something which felt so alien to him. It was in this moment that he was disrupted by the blinking red lights of a low-flying airplane, soaring through the darkened skies above. Without thinking, he raised both of his arms to shoulder level to imitate the wings of a jet and let his imagination do the rest…

"This is Fighter 1 to Tower Control, are we clear for take-off?" He leaned back into his chair as he waited for a response, allowing the sight of the cerulean sky to calm his nerves. He felt confident and safe in his cockpit, as if he were truly in command for the first time in a long time. By the time Tower Control sent their response, he was mentally prepared for what lay ahead. "Fighter 1, this is Tower Control. You are clear for take-off."

"Roger that. Proceeding to Runway 3." It was finally time. He reached down…

His imagination failed him at this point, mainly due to the fact that he didn't know much of anything about how fighter jets work. Instead of trying to imagine what would actually happen, he merely made an engine noise with his mouth, sprinted forward, and…

He was suddenly in the air, seemingly floating on the dense clouds surrounding him. He continued to sprint forward, pretending that he was ripping through the sky at an unprecedented speed. Suddenly, a blip showed up on his radar screen- it was an enemy fighter! "Banking right!" he yelled, leaning his body so that his fingertips were mere inches above the cement. He looked down at his radar screen and saw that the enemy fighter was still on his tail. He was about to attempt some risky maneuver when he realized that he was almost out of fuel…

His breath was so sharp at this point that it actually hurt his chest, but he couldn't feel the pain at all. As he gradually came to a halt, he nearly tripped over his own feet as he dropped down on the curb. He couldn't help but to touch his face, a face adorned with the largest smile this side of town had ever seen. "That was so much fun!" he thought, "but maybe I should try something a little more familiar…" He sat there for a while, the long list of possible choices in his head making it nearly impossible for him to choose, when a car roared past. Without another thought, he stood up in one fluid movement, twisted his arms to get into his own lane, and…

He was racing down the street at upwards of 70 mph in a new Mustang convertible. He had the top down, so the wind was whipping through his already tousled hair. He pressed down the accelerator as he yelled as loud as he possibly could. For the first time in a long time, he felt alive. As he sped through the neighborhood streets, he noticed a small figure running in the road. He moved quickly, the horn blaring in response. The kid continued running. "Beeeee…."

The police found his sad, broken body the very next morning, lying on the side of the road in a bloodstained pile of leaves. The absence of The Bench Kid didn't change the scheme of things at the park in the slightest. They still gossiped and still weaved an intricate web of falsehoods to account for the kid's behavior. They had always talked about him as if he weren't there, so why would things change now?