Playing Hooky

By Candace Angelica Walsh

November 20, 2023

Playing Hooky

Dad sat at the park picnic table smoking one Marlboro after another, with not a word of protest from my sister or me — poles apart from the week before when we snapped his whole pack in half and flushed it down the toilet. We were extending some grace in exchange for the freedom of a Tuesday outing during the school year, not yet knowing he’d lost another carpentry job, that we wouldn’t be going back to Baldwin Elementary anyhow.

That morning he picked us up in the Toyota motor home borrowed from Grandpa that we used as a car, and we drove around East Los Angeles looking for a place to swim. On the floor amidst the empty McDonald’s bags and Mobil oil bottles I magically found my rainbow one piece from our lake trip a month prior, and my sister threw on one of Dad’s big white Hanes work shirts over her underwear.

We settled on a park with a two-foot-deep wading pool, and for hours we played mermaid royalty to a handful of preschool kids who didn’t yet know how to judge us. The afternoon sun haloed our court and warmed us to a glowing notion. Stolen time offers a unique joy.

As it started to get dark, I looked at Dad, who made no indication he was ready to leave. He took another deep drag and blew smoke toward the scorched sunset, and the coming tomorrow, like a summons to a duel.


Candace Angelica Walsh is originally from Los Angeles and now resides in Chicago. Her work has appeared in Midwest Review, The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism, and elsewhere. She is currently writing her first memoir based on the journey from an impoverished childhood to her travels around the world. Connect with Candace on Instagram @candaceangelicawalsh.  


Image by Muharrem Aydin courtesy of Pexels

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