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A third grader’s playground story

July 17, 2016

July 17, 2016 @1608

My third grade classGirls  played “horses” at recess or kicked the boys in the shins with the toes of their leather shoes.  Steve wanted nothing to do with them either way, but they often found some way to trick him into chasing.  He’d catch one and get kicked.  And cry.  Yesterday the scab on his shin came loose and he bled down into his sock.  Recess was horrible.  What good were girls anyway?  Why did they always want to play horses?

The boys weren’t any better.  The choice there was to play marbles in the snow and mud puddles until you lost all of your brother’s marbles or play baseball and get yelled at.  His nickname was “strikeout” because he couldn’t seem to hit the ball.

Bigger kids were willing to punch you out.  After your brother’s marbles were gone, that is.  He saw a big fat kid punch another in the face and wouldn’t quit even though the smaller kid begged for mercy.

Another time at the playground he saw a group of boys clustered in tight around another who had a Trojan prophylactic he was showing off.  He overheard the boy reading from the package, sounded like “one lubricated skin. . . .”  Didn’t make any sense.  Skin?  He didn’t know what was going on, but it had to be creepy.

Fifth graders were capable of unspeakable behavior.  He saw one sit on another boy’s chest and spit into his mouth while the smaller one squirmed.  Steve and the kid went crying to the boy’s mother, who wasn’t even horrified.  She only smiled.

Steve liked to stand by the building during recess where it was warm, close to the teacher for safety.  Ugly girls and stupid boys stood next to the building.  He once got into trouble for looking through the window into a classroom.  Mrs. Olson — Ruth Olson — said he made an ugly face.  He didn’t mind getting into trouble for looking through the window, but he cried at home because she said he had an ugly face.  Just like the girls who stood by the building.  The ones who didn’t play horses.

Steve’s full name was Steven Little, and he was small for his age.  One time he was crossing from the building to the swing set when a big fifth-grader saw him and came after him.  Steve ran away as fast as he could, through a group of girls playing horses.  Usually that strategy would be enough to lose a big predator, but after he cleared the group he looked behind him and. . .the big boy was still coming.  Fast.

Steve was scared.  He ran so fast he could feel heat coming from his upper thigh where it met his torso.  He sailed over mud puddles and over snow and settled into a fast run.  The big boy was still coming.  Relentless.

At last Steve looked up ahead and around.  He was starting to run parallel to the sidewalk on the north side and he was coming to the intersection of the sidewalk on the east side of the playground.  In other words, Steve was running into the corner and he didn’t know what he was going to do.  All kids were forbidden to leave the playground during school hours.

When he could run no farther, Steve stopped and turned to face his pursuer who was only about 50 feet from him and running toward him fast.

What could Steve do?  He fastened his gaze at the boy’s belt and ran right toward the fifth-grader as fast as he could, all the while wondering what he would do when they met.  Steve never did come up with a plan, so he ran right into the boy, dropping at the last moment so that he struck the big boy in the legs with his body.

The boy seemed to fly up over the top of him and Steve rolled a time or two in the slushy snow, then jumped up and ran with all his speed toward the school in the distance.

The bell signaling the end of recess rang just as he sprinted back across the paved section of playground and Steve cruised right in the side door of the building.

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