In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
April 24, 1993
They sat in a booth near the just-completed McDonaldland Playground. Ordinarily they would have sat near the back but the restaurant was crowded, even by the usual lunch-rush standards. These had been the only available seats. The air was alive with the din of playing youngsters as they ran from the jungle gym to the slide and back again. A four year old boy sobbed as his parents finally dragged him from the ball pen. A girl coached her younger sister up the slide. John watched them play wistful traces of a smile tugging at the corners of his handlebar mustache. “This is the Goddamn biggest waste of space I ever saw in my life!” Phil growled, oblivious to the reproachful stares of the parents sitting around them, “Why the Hell aren't these kids in school?”
“I think it's nice.”
“When exactly did your brain turn to pudding?”
John poured his coffee from the McDonald's cup to the jelly-jar he'd brought with him. He enjoyed McDonald's coffee but there was something about the taste of it in a Styrofoam cup that he found disconcerting. He added six sugars and six creams and stirred lazily. One of the older boys was hanging upside down from the jungle gym, whooping with delight. “Are you sorry you and Zara never had kids?”
“We’ve got you don’t we?”
Phil shook his head, “There's too many fuckin' kids on this planet as it is!”
There were several angry gasps and a frenzy of whispers. John found himself slinking down in his seat, “Language please Phil.”
“Medical science has doubled the average human life span and people are still turning out kids by the truckload. We already have more people than we can support now!”
“Uh, Phil would you-”
“Who cares about the environment? Who cares about the economy? Who cares about feeding and clothing all these people?” the old man's voice was rapidly rising in pitch, “At the rate things are going all those little twerps in there are going to have to eat when they're my age is each other!”
A woman stormed into the playground and dragged her son out with such speed that he didn't even have the chance to utter a cry of protest.
John tried to let some menace creep into his voice, “You are embarrassing me.”
“Hell! Everyone is so all-fired up about those Branch Dividian kids that got killed yesterday. I say good riddance! One less hunk of white trash! One less minimum wage nobody!”
Several more parents forcibly removed their children from the playground, glaring at the old men as they passed. John shrugged apologetically.
“What we need is some kind of a plague. Not this AIDS baloney- all it kills is butt-bangers anyway. No, what we need is an all-out-don't-give-a-fuck-who-you-are-leave-you-dead-in-the-street plague.” Phil slammed his fist down on the table for emphasis, “Now Polio- there was a plague!”
The last mother left, her bawling toddler flailing in her arms. She paused to shout at them, “You ought to be locked up you... you... jerks!”
Alone in the booth near the McDonaldland Playground, John gaped as Phil stretched and grinned, enjoying the silence.