Diana K Sharp “I’m Right Here” water color and mixed media
Hildie S Block
A playground deserted is a creepy sight. One swing sways and the steel jungle gym casts shadows on its concrete platform covering the dark stain from where Lisa’s sister fell last year.
I look around, and check the time on my watch. 4 p.m. That’s when they said.
* * *
I’m one of the first people to the lunch table, most of the other kids are buying, even William who is allergic to milk, so there will be a hold up in line when they have to go get his iced tea, as if it didn’t happen most days.
Alone for the moment, I open my Disney World lunchbox in such a way that it shelters me from the kids who will sit across from me. I start to pull stuff out — I think about that book where the girl sets up her lunch just so with a cloth napkin and a small salt shaker and I wish I could do that, but instead I open my plaid thermos of milk. And I pull out my lunch wrapped in foil, last night’s leftovers which is Grandma’s idea of a hot lunch.
William sits down which signals the others will come now. This is when it starts.
“Hey look! It’s Mrs. Ca-blubber-kins,” says Jimmy as he slides in next to John and Stevie. Jimmy’s older brother is still MIA in Viet Nam which means he rules the table. He also decides what we can sing on the swings during recess, which is almost always, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” or “Seasons in the Sun.”
They are laughing at the lunch room monitor, Mrs. Caruthers. She is remarkably fat, her arms and legs jointed together so that there is a just a line where her knees and elbows should be. Still, if she hears them, they’ll be sent to the Principal’s again for sure. Principal Fox has a paddle in his office, but I’m not sure how often he really uses it. I know he uses the telephone.
Lisa and Holly sit across from me, talking about their nail polish. I’m not allowed to wear nail polish until Junior High and that’s still two years off.
Chrissy sits next to me with the milk she bought in line. That’s good. She’ll be a buffer. Chrissy is an easier target.
Chrissy has her lunchbox open — it’s got Dumbo on it. That’s harsh, but hopefully the kids are just bored with that, it’s half-way through the school year already. Chrissy has been held back before, she’s bigger than the rest of us, in every direction — lucky for her, she doesn’t notice half the time when the kids start in.
She’s got five Flintstone’s chewables in her lunch box. One of each of the shapes, Fred, Barney, Betty, Wilma, and Dino. Dino is her favorite. He’s a pinky purple dinosaur. She plays with them like toys, making Dino bark.
“Chrissy’s a dog!”
“Did you hear her?”
“She just barked!”
“Hey, you know what they call girl dogs?”
I can’t actually believe I said that out loud.
Apparently, neither could Holly. She poked my cheek with a shiny nail.
“What are you eating?”
“PU,” said Lisa holding her nose, “smells like dog food!”
“We should give it to Chrissy!”
Jimmy grabbed my chicken drumstick that I was holding, and started swinging around like a caveman’s club.
“Look!” Holly points, “you can see where its pee comes out and it’s running down its leg!”
I should have stopped at this point. Honestly, nothing from here could go well for me. But sometimes I think my grandmother is right and I’m not all that bright.
“It’s a chicken leg,” I said, “there’s nowhere for the pee . . .”
“She said pee!”
“It’s not a butt . . .” I continued, because clearly I’m not that bright.
“She said butt!”
“Do you really believe that? Have none of you people ever seen a baked chicken?”
I went too far. There was a pause in the laughter. It seemed like no one knew what to do.
Then Jimmy did it. He threw the leg at Chrissy, who was completely oblivious and still playing with Fred and Barney. It bounced off her head and hit William, who pushed back from the table and stood up.
That was enough to finally, finally get Mrs. Caruther’s attention. In slow motion, she turned toward our table.
Holly pushed Chrissy’s lunch box closed on her hands. Chrissy let out a howl and started bawling like she was a toddler who dropped a lollipop. Mrs C looked from Chrissy to me, to William to Jimmy to Holly and Lisa. I held my breath.
After what seemed like a commercial break, but was probably a lot shorter, she grabbed William by the ear and Jimmy by the elbow and marched them to Mr. Fox’s office.
“You’re dead,” Lisa whispered across the table.
“I call you out,” said Holly, not even bothering to whisper. “Four today, the playground.”
So here I am, 4pm at the playground, having snuck out while my grandmother was watching Merv Griffin. I guess I’m pretty stupid for showing up, but like I said, I’m not all that bright. Time to get punched in the face by Lisa and Holly and get it over with. I’m actually more scared of my Grandma right now, noticing I left.
There was a noise behind me and I turned. It wasn’t Holly or Lisa. It was Chrissy and her mom.
I turned back, waiting for my doom.
“Sweetie?” Chrissy’s mom came up to me. She put her hand on my shoulder. Oh, this couldn’t get worse. Lisa and Holly will think I brought her — I shrugged her off and walked toward the slide.
“They aren’t coming!” Chrissy yelled from the swings. “Mr. Fox knows.” Then she started singing, “Keep your head doooooowwwwn. . . . .”
“I have something for you,” Chrissy jumped off the swing and came over to me. She held out her hand. A Dino Flintstones chewable. “It’s my favorite.”
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