Penelope loved the fountain, loved the way the water sprayed, cooling her in the hot sun, making her clothes cling as she called her joy to the heavens.

"What are you doing?" asked the man in the blue uniform.

Some sort of park official, thought the girl. "Nothing. Just enjoying the water."

"This isn't a waterpark, you know," said the man, a note of disapproval hanging from his lips like a dangling cigar, ready to drop and burn.

"So?" she asked. She kicked up a fine spray as her feet pattered against the thin layer that had built up over...

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"Mallard duck," she said, just before she placed the binoculars back down on the car hood. "No doubt about it."

This was the third time she had drug my out to this place to observe ducks. Or, in her words, to "administer some duck justice."

"Do we really need to be here this early in the morning," I asked. "I didn't sleep very well."

"This is when they're most active," she told me. "This is when they feed most, and that's when they pick on him."

"Him" was a duck with, so she said, a clipped wing of some sort....

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Massachusetts was beautiful; I was 5 years old, and it was summer. I collected wishbones, crab skeletons, a jellyfish in my shoe. I swam, played, and had the time of my life.

In 1991, at 4 years old, the carousel in Martha's Vineyard was my favorite place to be in the whole world. My dad let me ride it for what seemed to be 100 rides. The horses had those horns on the top that made them look like Unicorns. There was a game involved; the object, to collect a brass ring and place it atop your horse. I won....

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"Of all the songs ever written, his favourite is Lola? You can't be serious."

"Dead serious."

"Wow. That's a guy who really needs a friend."

"I know. So will you do it?"

"Why on earth would I?"

"Out of the goodness of your heart?"

"There's goodness in my heart?"

"You might be surprised what you'd find if you went looking."

"Calling all spelunkers! Is there anyone out there daring enough to embark on the most dangerous of quests, the search for goodness in the depths of my heart? Finders keepers, down there!"

"Very funny. So you're not...

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"Surprise!" The lights flickered on, and the balloons flew up to the ceiling. I jumped back, startled. A surprise birthday party! My grin reached both my ears.

"Oh boy! Thanks, guys!" I ran up and hugged my dad.

"That's alright, my boy. Look, there's your presents! Go open them, kid." I disengaged and rushed over to the pile of gifts. I ripped them open, tearing the wrapping paper into tiny shreds. The first one I opened was the best.

It was a dinosaur costume set of pyjamas. I immediately rushed to my bedroom and put them on, and ran back...

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I could have danced all night. At least that's what I thought. Nobody told me that these shoes would be the bane of my existence - what 13 year old goes to a school dance in anything but flats? At least that's what I thought.

I will never forget my eighth grade school dance. I've never danced so hard. My feet never hurt so bad. I had never had so much fun in my life! The dancing, the singing, the laughing, and, oh man, the pictures. I still have them. Real pictures, unphotoshopped pictures, the kind you had to get...

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We were out of gin. The night was off to a great start. How was I suppose to get blackout drunk within an hour. I had a case of beer but none were cold. I left the apartment and walked over to the liquor store. I'd eventually get there and then I'd return and get drunk.

Why the hell was it all the way down the block. Not to complain, but that was actually great. It kind of was a problem when week after week the same routine went down.

"If you just waited, we could've went to a bar"...

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She had always been in love with him. He was so cool, so mysterious. She spent three years watching him. When he started watching her it was divine. Heaven come true.

When they got together she was so happy. For once, she'd gotten what she wanted. She was a prize winner, a champion, a woman. Bye bye Mum. Bye bye childhood bedroom and tears.

But then things got boring. From a distance he'd seemed exciting-but living with him everyday was a different story. All they did all day every day was stay in and watch television. it wasn't even so...

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The day had dragged on. Lari looked around the street as she left work. She felt as if she had just ran a marathon with cement shoes on. You wouldn't think that being a marketing assistant would make someone so tired.

The street was full of the regular faces. People that she saw everyday, but never really looked at. Lari sighed as she waited for her bus. I need a vacation, she thought.

A young girl walked by, licking a dripping ice cream cone and holding a large red balloon. The girl didn't care that she had dripped chocolate down...

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Sandy was impressed. Her son, John, had never thrown a ball back like that before - so hard and fast that it bypassed her completely and flew over the wall at the bottom of the small garden they shared. "Nice one, Johnny!" she yelled. "Let me go and get it, I'll be right back!"

She yanked open the wooden gate recessed into the red brick wall and entered the narrow alleyway at the back of her house - and all the other houses like it. She looked left and right and spotted the ball rolling away from her, towards the...

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