I started this manuscript about 11 years ago. It was to be called “True Confessions of a Kickball Reject.” It was one of those stories that sounded really good when I was slightly manic but now hurts my head. It’s supposed to be a kids’ book. Like if Judy Blume and James Joyce had a kid and didn’t give her the Ritalin she needed.Chapter one here:
Good afternoon folks! It’s the top of the fifth inning, and the blue team is up to the plate. They’ve gone through their first string, and Livingston is up. Livingston, a fifteenth round pick, has quite a reputation on the field. Here comes the ball. And she appears to be ready. Here she goes. Wow! Did you see that folks?! Not only did she kick the ball backwards, she landed flat on her backside in the dust! What a play! No wonder she was picked in the fifteenth round.
I’m not sure about you, but I am very glad that elementary playgrounds do not have sports announcers. Having Walker Haney’s voice echoing against the brick wall is bad enough. It’s not like I planned to kick the ball backwards.
What is it with kickball anyway? Or any sort of ball, for that matter. It isn’t a fair fight. If you’re good at throwing, catching, kicking, hitting, and running, you can do anything. But if you’re only good at playing the piano and using the pottery wheel in the art room, you’re in big trouble. I should know. I’m Livingston, the fifteenth round pick. And that’s just because there were fifteen on a team!
Now, take Kimberly Tate, for instance. She is good at everything. She always gets picked first. In fact, William once threatened to punch Mickey right in the face if Mickey picked Kimberly first. Not that he could have – Mickey was big. He just got mad and put William on the top of his beat up list. I was on Mickey’s beat up list once. He wanted to wear my glasses, and I wouldn’t let him. I got scared after I found out I was on the list, though. I let him wear my glasses, and he said I must have deformed eyes because he couldn’t see a thing. I thought, duh, why do you think I got glasses. I wouldn’t tell him that, though. Especially after he had just removed me from his beat up list.
Oh, sorry, I was talking about Kimberly. She could run faster than a lot of the boys, and I never once saw her wear a dress. I guess dresses slow you down when you want to run. I used to wish I could hit a softball like Kimberly. Of course, when she drew a horse, it looked more like a whale, but at least she got picked first for kickball.
Now, I want you to understand. I don’t have anything against P.E. or even kickball. My Dad taught at the college, and he taught all the future P.E. teachers. He played football, basketball, tennis, and a bunch of other sports. Sometimes I wondered if he liked having a daughter who played the piano, wrote poetry, and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, much less a softball. But he always got this goofy smile on his face during my piano recitals, so I guess he was okay with it.
Well, after I landed flat on you-know-where that day, I had just about had it with kickball. And I had just about had it with Walker. I walked back to the sidelines, and I noticed Walker giving me one of those looks. I looked him and yelled, “Don’t say a word.” He looked at me and yelled back, “A Word!” That’s exactly the kind of thing you would expect from Walker. My Dad likes telling this story about Walker and me. We were in kindergarten. According to my dad, I came home crying and said, “Walker hit me!” Dad asked me why Walker hit me, and I answered, “Because I spit on him.” Ha ha. I think my dad left something out; this cannot be the whole story. Walker had to have been doing something to me. I would never spit on a person for no reason. That’s just gross.
Anyway, I was fed up with balls. I wanted to climb the monkey bars – to the third rung, of course. And I wanted to swing and walk on the balance beam. But the gymnastic equipment was only up once a month, and even that had its down side. On Gymnastics Day, we had to climb the white metal fence.
The white metal fence looked easy from the ground. You climb up one side, just like a ladder, throw your leg over, and climb down the other side. Like I said, it looked easy from the ground. But when I got up to the top, there was just something about throwing my leg over that did not seen right. This couldn’t be a safe thing for children to do. If I didn’t throw my leg far enough, I wouldn’t make it, and I might fall on my head. If I threw my leg too far, the force of the leg could knock the whole thing over. Nope, sorry. There was no way I was throwing that leg over. That is, until the day my dad came to encourage me. I figured being crushed by a white metal fence wasn’t that much worse than having your dad yell, “Come on, sis! You can do it! You can do it!” In front of Walker, Kimberly, and twenty other kids I’d have to face every day.
I used to go to my dad’s office and look through all of his students’ notebooks. They had to make these big P.E. notebooks and fill them with games and sports and exercise stuff. The writing part was boring, but the pictures were great. Sometimes the girls would cover their notebooks in puffy fabric and sew characters like Snoopy and Bugs Bunny on the front. Then, they would decorate the divider parts with more pictures. One time a girl even cross-stitched a matching picture for my dad to keep. It had a lamb on it, and it said, “Ewe are special.” I didn’t know then that baby lambs are called ewes. I just thought, boy, she can play basketball, but she sure can’t spell. The boys’ notebook weren’t near as interesting. They had pictures of famous athletes cut out of magazines and glued on. One boy took that sticky paper that Mom uses to line her kitchen drawers, and he stuck on his notebook. It looked gross, but it smelled like flowers. Anyway, the notebooks were neat. They had all sorts of games, and even things like dancing or playing with giant parachutes. My school didn’t have a P.E. teacher, so we just played kickball. Well, sometimes we played baseball, and occasionally we played battle-ball, which should be against the law for children.