Polly pedaled her bicycle swiftly as Mother trotted alongside her. Mother had to hurry to keep up with Polly. They were on their way to the park for their weekly outing. Polly's big blue bag with pink pockets was slung over Mother's shoulder. It held many of Polly's favorite things that she used to create wonderful pictures that Mother would fasten to the refrigerator door for everyone to see. Wonderful things were a part of these trips, wonderful sunshine, wonderful breezes, wonderful colors and most importantly, the big wonderful silver slide.
Polly was as happy as she could be today. The pink ribbon from her yellow pig-tails flew in the breeze behind her. Today, Polly felt more special than ever. Mother let her wear her new shorts outfit with the blue and pink flowers. Polly promised to be careful not to soil it. Polly loved Mother and always tried to make her proud. She wanted to be just like her when she grew up. Being outside today was like being in a beautiful dream of many colors. The windy sunshine was the yellowiest of yellows. It flooded Polly's smiling blue eyes and pink face as she looked at everything there was to see.
A tall, green Elm bowed its head to Polly and her mother as they passed. Several feet away, two young boys and a red, curly haired girl tossed a big green and white striped beach ball back and forth. The ball had just gone over the head of one of the boys. He scampered to get it before the red haired girl. Their happy yelps rode on the wind to Polly's ears. They only made Polly feel happier. Polly found the slightly off-key tunes of the ice-cream truck a special treat today. The truck was parked at the far side of the park's edge. Two teenagers dressed in white with tennis rackets raced to get ice cream and cold drinks.
Everything was wonderful today, even the birds sounded cheerier than ever. They whistled from nearby trees.
Polly's bicycle barely stopped as she jumped off. They had arrived at the special place in the park where the giant silver slide lived. Polly loved the slide; she got a shivery joy each time she slipped along its long slender back. She ran over to the slide.
"Slow down, Polly," shouted her mother, smiling at her young daughter.
Barbara enjoyed these outings as much as Polly. She loved to just relax and visit with the other women she would meet there. They would trade stories about their children. When she felt like it, Barbara tucked her knitting or an interesting novel into Polly's bag. She felt a little tired from her brisk jaunt and plopped down at the nearest picnic table. Soon Carol, one of her friends, wandered over to her.
Polly watched her mother and the other woman. Polly liked it when her mother chatted or visited with other women. It gave her extra long playtime.
The slide was cold today, but this did not stop Polly from whisking down its bare back. The cold metal sent shivers of fun through her. Faster and faster she slid each time she climbed the endless steps. Up, up, up she went eager to swoosh along the cold, silver slide. Polly loved to daydream while she rode on the slide. She would close her eyes and think of herself as a lovely princess on a white horse. Some days, she would pretend that she was either a lost puppy or a lost kitten looking for its mother. She would crawl around while she meowed or whimpered sadly. Polly had heard her mother say that she had a good imagination. She wasn't really sure what this meant. She guessed that it meant that she was really great at pretending things.
Polly continued her trips up the stairs and down the slide. On what was maybe her twelfth trip, a strange sound shot into the air. It was a very painful groan. "What's that?" she asked, jumping off the end of the slide.
"Oh, thank you!" came the answer over her shoulder.
"Who said that?" Polly asked again, looking round and round.
Polly bent at the waist, jumped to one foot and spun around. She was staring right at the slide. Two very, very sad eyes stared back at her. "Thank you for getting off," said a giant mouth just below the teary eyes.
"My back aches really badly today."
Polly rubbed her eyes. Was this really happening? Could she believe her ears? Quickly, she looked over to where her mother sat with her friend. The two women were laughing and talking. Everything seemed okay. Polly looked back at the slide. "Excuse me", she said, "did you speak to me?"
"Why yes I did," answered the silver slide. "I'm sorry if I startled you, but I can't take it anymore. Each and every day children jump on me and race down my back. It was fine when I was young, but I've grown so old and weary. I'm not nearly as strong and in the great shape I used to be. I love the children, especially you Polly, but I shudder when they dig their feet into my back. What can I do? Can you help me, Polly?" With that, the poor old slide began to cry loudly. His steps shook with each large, wet tear. He pulled a large white handkerchief from his back step and blew his nose sadly. "If this keeps up, I will have to be turned into a pile of steel and thrown onto the junk heap. I know all I need is a little rest. In time I will be okay. The park is putting in a new slide soon. Guess until then, I will have to be brave."
Polly stepped back as she was puzzled. It took her long minutes to understand. This poor old slide that had given so many children so much fun over the years was asking her for help. She felt sad and important all at once.
"I'm sooooo sorry you are feeling bad" she heard her small voice say. Her tiny hand gently patted the aching steel. "There must be something I can do." Polly thought and thought for some time. She walked to a swing and started to sit down, but stopped. She then started to go to her mother for help, but again stopped. "Would mother believe her?" Polly wondered aloud. "A talking slide?" Polly did not know what to do to help her friend.
As she returned to the slide, Polly saw two workmen fixing one of the park benches. The workman dressed in gray coveralls nailed a brand new wooden arm to the bench. The second workman, who wore a white cap, took brushes and two cans from the back of his truck. Polly watched. He dipped his brush in one can of paint and stroked the wooden arm. Polly saw the green paint go on the arm and cover the wood. It looked new and shiny. People would have to wait to a couple of days to sit on that bench she thought.
Suddenly her face lit up. She raced to her bicycle. "I've got it," she yelled. She grabbed for her big blue bag that was slung over the handlebars of her bicycle. Quickly, she sifted through it. She loved this bag; it had all of her favorite things. Polly pulled out a big, fat red crayon. She then snatched up a yellow sheet of drawing paper. Before a bird could eat a worm, she knelt and scribbled something on the paper. With that, she grabbed once more into the bag and was off in a race to her weary, waiting friend. "I have just the thing," she called to him, as she got nearer. The slide looked so unhappy. His big tears had made quite a large pool at his feet. Polly leaned over him. Her little hands worked quickly. She tucked and taped and finished. "There", she said, as she stepped back to see her work. Not too bad! This will work! Polly felt all warm and soft and good inside like she did when Mother hugged her. Just then she heard her mother's call that it was time to go home. "Don't worry, now you can get the rest you need to feel better." Polly called over her shoulder to the slide as she ran happily off to her mother.
Polly's arms waved to her mother. Barbara had been picking up the blue bag with its spilled crayons while she waited for her young happy daughter. She wondered why all the crayons were on the ground in such a hurried mess.
"What went on here?" she asked her daughter.
"A good thing." answered Polly, hugging her mother. Polly felt proud and happy. Mother would have been proud of her too. Polly wanted to walk her bicycle home so she could think about her special day and how she had made the slide happy. She really had done a good thing.
Mother and daughter left the park, arms around each other. They passed a bench where a mother sat holding her young son. The little boy seemed very sad. He asked his mother, "But Mummy, why can't I go on the slide?"
Polly heard his mother's answer; "You must stay off the slide for a few days, honey, the sign says "WET PAINT."
Polly smiled her biggest smile and hugged Mother tighter.