Friday, February 20, 2009

I Choose YOU


She stood there against the backstop and waited. She looked from Ronnie then back to John. She had her hands behind her back with her fingers crossed. She repeated the mantra to herself “Please don’t let me be the last one picked again. Please don’t let me be the last one picked again.” She looked down at her brown suede Hushpuppy shoes, her white bobby socks and her skinny, scrawny scabbed over knobby knees. “I’ll take Kurt” John said. Oh Great! Kurt got chosen before me? He throws more like a girl than I do, she thought. Then Ronnie said “I’ll take Frankie.” Frankie? Stinky Frankenstein Frankie is more desirable than me, her mind cried. How much more humiliation would she be made to bear? She was beginning to feel sick to her stomach and woozy she looked around and there were only three left to be picked. John could pick Freaky Frog Freddie the geeky nerd boy who wore high-water pants and horn rimmed glasses and always had some type of an amphibian in a jar. He could pick Nosepicker Natalie who was a miner for a nugget of booger gold. Nat had the ability to stick her finger up her nose so far she could scratch her brain but that wasn’t her only talent. She also had a reptilian like tongue that swiped the nugget off her finger so fast that only stop motion photography could prove it. Then there was her, Found Under A Rock Gladys, who was half the size of her classmates and bone assed skinny with big frizzy poofy hair and a hand-me-down too big wardrobe. It wasn’t looking for Gladys.

Then she heard it and her heart sank. John, the cutest boy in second grade had made his choice. He chose Nosepicker Natalie over Gladys. Nat turned to Gladys and patted her booger picking hand on her back and said “Better luck next time” then she snorted up a big wad of snot and went to stand next to John. Gladys knew this wasn’t about popularity it was about sports. Ok maybe it was about popularity but in second grade your athletic ability had a lot to do with it too. I mean the geeky freakishly smart Frog Boy Fred wasn’t the most popular person. Unless of course it was science fair time and you wanted a partner who would get you an “A” without you having to do any of the work. Nope it was looks and the ability to kick the ball past the home plate pentagonal piece of concrete that won honors at Robert E. Lee Elementary.

Not wanting to risk another moment of humiliation and degradation I did what any reject kid would do. I went to Miss Perkins or better known as Perki-dicki-di-do and said “I don’t feel well. I think I’m going to throw up.” Now Ms. P had been around the block and knew my M.O. She looked me up and down and looked once again at the line-up on the kickball diamond. She turned to me and said “So how bad do you feel? Call your momma to come pick you up bad, or maybe you just need to go sit in the library for the rest of recess?” I looked up at her with a look of pure gratitude and relief and said “Just library sitting sick.” She patted me on the shoulder and said “Okay, you go on in to the library and return to the classroom when the bell rings.” I could have hugged her I was so relieved. She was my hero and my idol at that moment, although I often felt differently when she made us do word problems.

I had started towards the library when I had a thought, an epiphany actually. I stopped and retraced my steps to Miss P. She looked down at me a little confused and a bit put-out. I mean after all she had given me a get out of humiliation free pass. She said with a little tinge of irritation “Yes, Gladys, what is it?” “Miss Perkins,” I stammered “would it be okay if Fred went to the lie-berry with me?” She looked at me and then turned to look at Freakish Frog Freddie standing there all alone while Ronnie and John argued about their teams being lopsided and why did one have to take Fred and not the other. She blew her whistle and yelled over to the crowd “Fred, could you come here a second? I have a really IMPORTANT task for you and Gladys.” Fred looked at Miss P then he looked at me. I recognized the expression on his face as one of pure deliverance. He ran in his geeky arm flapping wildly by his sides way towards me and Miss Perkins. He looked up into Miss P’s face with a look of pure unadulterated love and said “Yes, ma’am. What can I do? I’ll do anything.”

Miss P leaned down to our level and said very quietly so the other students wouldn’t hear and said “I need you two to go to the library, tell Mrs. Brown, the librarian, that I need to make 25 copies of this Quiz.” She pulled a piece of paper off her clipboard and handed it to me. Then she said in a much louder voice “I know I can trust you two with this.” We shook our heads in a conspiratorial fashion and both ran off arms flopping wildly at our sides feet kicking out to the sides in our non-athletic geeky kid run.

I felt so rescued from the horror of being last picked I didn’t bother to look at the “Quiz”. Freakish Frog Freddie however did look. He stopped me just before we entered the library and said “Hey, this is the Quiz from yesterday. I think Miss Perkins gave us the wrong paper.” Then he grabbed my hand and headed back out to the play ground. I dug the heels of my hushpuppies into the concrete and said “I’m not going back out there. She has a reason for wanting this and I’m gonna make sure she gets it. Besides what if she makes us PLAY kickball if we go out there?” Freakish Frog Freddie was intelligent, he was book learned but he wasn’t too street smart. He didn’t look at things from the same stand point as your regular old common sense type reject. I could tell he was taking in the information I had supplied. He processed it in his computer like brain. He weighed the facts to the hypothesis. Heck he even worked out the whole word problem in his head. Two rejects leave the library at the same time which one will be made to play kickball? Then the light bulb illuminated above his head and he got it. He realized that he had just been given a bogus mission in order to save him from last pick humiliation. That is how Gladys acquired a science fair partner for life.

7 comments:

lagirl said...

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Bonnie from Iowa said...

Great story! You have a gift for storytelling and I hope you are writing a book with all these fantastic tales you possess. I can SO relate to this one, not as being picked last, but as realizing later in life what it meant to be that person. I was picked first mainly because I grew up in a neighborhood of boys and could kick, bat, throw and tackle as good as the older ones. I also was cute and popular with the boys and on top of it all, I was smart. It all came easy to me and I had a great childhood. I never once thought about what being picked last meant to that person, to me it was just a divvying up process and we were probably already arguing over positions. Was I naïve or just too wrapped up in my own enjoyment to know someone was hurting? I never comprehended how damaging this was to someone because I was friends with everyone and nothing seemed amiss back then. I’m not boasting here, these are just the facts, plain and simple, as Gladys would say. Later, at class reunions, I looked for these people to tell them how sorry I was that they had to go through that. Of course, they wouldn’t come to a class reunion! They weren’t the “cool ones” and most assuredly didn’t want anything to do with “us“. I wish I would have been a better friend but “we were what we were” back then. So today I want to say I’m sorry to all of the last-picked and picked-on kids, and to you, Gladys. Please be my friend?!

LiLu said...

Oh, I HATED kickball... but dodgeball was the worst!

terri said...

Ms. P was one of those rare angel-teachers who really "got" kids. Great story! It brings back memories of all the things that worried me to death during my school years and makes me glad those days are long past.

Queen Goob said...

I didn't have a Ms. P - I had a Ms. Poo for gym class.



So, whatever happened to Freddie?

Gladys said...

Queen Goob...

Freddie grew up and went to medical school. He also joined Gold's Gym and turned into a gorgeous surgeon with a heart of gold!

Gladys said...

Queen Goob...

Freddie grew up and went to medical school. He also joined Gold's Gym and turned into a gorgeous surgeon with a heart of gold!