A Cry from the Ball Pit

by Samuel J. Adams

In the decade that I’ve spent trapped beneath an impenetrable pile of plastic spheres in the Gridley Family Funzone, I have had ample time to consider ways to live by Gandhi’s famous dictum to “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and keeping the goal of world betterment in mind, I have compiled numerable virtuous causes I pledge to address the instant somebody tosses me a rope and hoists me out of this godforsaken ball pit. 

I would begin with childhood obesity. This national crisis and social problem impacts me directly each time a portly child plunges through the ball pit’s upper layers and lands heavily upon my chest and ankles. Childhood hunger is another injustice I’ll combat, so that famished children never again enter play structures wielding injuriously pointy knees and elbows. And I’ll campaign to make sure children everywhere have access to nutritious non-GMO food, rather than the plastic spheroids I subsist upon down here, which taste like sweat and cleaning solvent and leave my body painfully, looking only slightly more indented than they appeared going in. 

Kids aren’t the only ones having a tough time up there in the place beyond the ball pit, and when I’m finally rescued from this vat of gumball-shaped quicksand, I will work to spread awareness about “silent killers” of the adult world—intangible problems like depression. Because even with my visual field full of happy Crayola-bright colors and my ears thrumming with the pleasant oceanic swish of the ball pit’s shifting stratum, I’ve known depression.

There were days when it seemed that I would forever wake trapped in this varicolored netherworld—my eye sockets stuck full of yellow and green globules, my nose tempted by the greasy smell of unattainable Funzone pizzas, my ears taunted by the laughing children swimming effortlessly through the canopy and enjoying themselves so thoroughly they for some reason never inform their parents of the sad man stuck at the bottom of the ball pit—and I would become self-centered and resentful. Why me? I’d think, while painstakingly scratching “SOS” or “Send Help” with my incisors on yet another orange ball. 

I had, after all, entered this pit with the purest of intentions: to chaperone my nephew Jayce’s birthday party. I was twenty-eight then—admittedly a bit old to be in a ball pit—so perhaps the adults at its perimeter didn’t like the looks of me. Nevertheless, those onlookers should have said something when I vanished, melted away from their view like the chunks of polar ice caps I would struggle mightily to save if someone hauled me back to civilization.

During those early years, I cursed those bystanders, just as I cursed my family for not once sending a search party to the site of my disappearance, and the owners of the Funzone for not installing safeguards to keep their ball pit from irrecoverably swallowing its users. The worst of my ire I reserved for that kid who seemingly celebrates six fucking birthdays a year by entering the ball pit in soccer cleats and dancing their dagger points across my emaciated stomach (sometimes I still feel like Gandhi himself would tell that kid to fuck off). Ultimately, however, that cleated child was just not mindful, and if I’ve discovered nothing else during my internment in the ball pit, it’s that mindfulness is the key to a virtuous and successful life. 

Knowing that I had to follow another path, I began to assemble Bodhi trees of green balls and sit half-lotus beneath them, practicing breathing exercises. When I attained a sense of calm, I would reflect upon various bumper stickers I had seen in the world and internalize the wisdom of their messages, and as I felt wisdom and compassion well up within me I began to realize that mindfulness was itself the first step of my escape from this hellacious orb-pile. 

For despite all I’ve endured, I will not let my sorrowful experiences in the ball pit define me. I refuse to fall into the solipsistic thinking patterns of people who believe the world revolves around them just because millions of globe-shaped objects literally revolve around me. To quote John Lennon, I believe “the world can live as one,” and living as one with the world sounds a lot better than struggling alone against an unbeatable army of demon-sent balls. 

So please, whoever’s listening up there, give someone strong a suitably dimensioned synthetic or hempen rope and bid them to sound the depths of my iridescent prison until my praying hands grasp the tether. I ask not for my own sake, but for the sake of every being on the beautiful planet I will devote the remainder of my life to bettering the instant I am wrested from this terrible fucking ball pit.

Samuel J. Adams was born in Tokyo and for an inordinate length of time considered that his greatest achievement. He is an MFA candidate in fiction at Bowling Green State University and an enthusiastic worshiper of woodchucks, bunnies, and other scampering mammals.
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