“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” The sneer on Jimmy Dimble’s face told me to steer clear. He’d cornered me at the metal slide, cornered Maggie Mort the week before and she now had a permission slip to stay inside during recess. I didn’t know what it was… a rat, a toad, or even worse a flower, or something gross, something unimaginable, probably green whatever it was. Dimble’s oversized grey sweats were covered in dirt. The bottoms, damp and muddy. only made his balance worse, so I thought I could outrun him. And I did. I ran all right. Ran with all the force of my too-tight pigtails down the hill. I didn’t even stop to go around the third graders playing kickball. Looking back I should have… I smacked right into Sammy Baker’s butt and just kept on going. The shove helped little Sammy slide into first, at any rate. “Way to go, Sammy!” I yelled because, well, what do you do when that happens. He landed face first too. I tried to ignore the fact that my face was running faster than my feet. Tried harder to ignore that my nose had probably just left a mark on Sammy’s backside, and I ran for safety.
“Olly olly oxen free.” I hollered as I touched the gate that bordered the schoolyard. After all I didn’t want to appear ridiculous so I pretended to be in the middle of a game of tag. There were always at least five of these going on at once. I was sure no one would notice.
I scanned the crowd. There was a wedding to my left that I wasn’t invited to because I told the bride Charlie that she had a boy’s name, a club meeting for fifth graders only under the tree to my right, and a group of little kid third graders giggling in a circle near the old M-Shaped climbing station. Thank goodness no one was watching me, and yet what if slimy Jimmy Dimble were to catch me, touch my arm with his big, gross, sweaty, never-been washed hand. Who would save me?
“Tommy!” I screamed the answer. Ignoring my panting and holding my side I headed back up the hill towards my brother Tommy. He was a year older, a fifth grader. Maybe he would help? As I began the incline up the hill, Jimmy Dimble stumbled from behind the Big M and trudged after me.
“Eeeeee!” I yelped, ran to the left of the kickball game this time. “Sorry ‘bout your nose… or my nose, I mean. Not yours… Your butt, Sammy… Sorry my nose hit your butt.” No reply. He didn’t even look up. Boy did I feel dumb.
“No running, Miss” some substitute no one cared about called out in a whisper. It was easy to pretend I didn’t hear her, so I did. And I ran on. I was all-force straight ahead like an arrow. I didn’t turn around.
I reached the Merry-Go-Round, fifth grade territory. “Tommy, help me. Tom, please? You gotta. Hurry.”
“What are you babbling on about?” Tom’s buddy Travis asked.
I looked past him. “Tommmmmy, slimy Dimble’s runnin’ after me and you know that will ruin my rep. He wants to give me something and I don’t want it; so I ran down the hill and back even and he’s still after me, trying to make me kiss him or something gross, trying to give me frog warts or worse!”
Dimble approached the Merry-Go-Round. Was he out of his mind? He knew no boy forth graders were allowed here. He knew my brother’d kill him, I secretly hoped. He was out of breath.
“What do you want, Jimmy Pimple?” I yelled, then stepped behind Travis, just slightly.
He grinned. I needed to work on my insults. “If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it,” Jimmy said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know what’s in your pocket. Don’t be gross. I know you have some toad or snail or something, prolly dead now with all your running. And I’m not kissin’ you neither. And I don’t know what you said to Maggie Mort but I’m not her, Dimble. I’m not guessing. I’m not playing this game.”
Jimmy Dimble smiled. “You dropped your barrette to your pigtail there.”
“Oh. Thanks James, mighty nice of you.” I took it. The bell rang and I rushed for the door, just in case.