Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Year of the Mikes

There must have been a secret alliance of boys named Mike who set out to pick on girls named Kelly in first grade. Every time I turned around, one of them was poking, pushing, or shoving me. By the end of first grade, they were everywhere taunting me. I didn’t want them near me on the playground or in line; it became obvious they enjoyed annoying me.

It all started on the playground. I was minding my own business when I felt a swift push on my back that nearly sent me flying out of the swing. A boy named Mike Brown delivered the shove. He sported a skin graft on his cheek from being burned on an iron, and if it hadn’t been for that element of intrigue, I doubt I would have noticed him at all before that day.

On a swing, I was happy to keep my feet near the ground. I had no desire to go high and less desire to have some boy push me. Mike pushed mightily, making me scream like a banshee. When I told him to stop, he only pushed harder.

“Miss Reinhart,” I yelled, “Mike is pussssshing meeeee.”

Obviously, she mistook my screams of “Oh God please help me, he’s going to kill me,” to be those of a child who was elated at having such a great friend.

“Well,” she yelled from across the playground from where the teachers stood when they were on duty, “Isn’t that nice of him?”

It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t nice at all. I screamed some more at her, and waved one arm while I held on like crazy with the other, and she smiled and waved back at me.

It was hopeless, I thought as I tightened my grip and expected death when I did a loopty-loop over the top bar of the swingset. I knew he enjoyed every minute of me screaming like a girl. I wanted to get off that swing and knock his block off. Better yet, I wanted to grab a hold of that graft and rip it right off his face. With tears in my eyes, as the teacher raised her hand to let us know recess time was over, the swing came to stop.

“Next recess it’s my turn for you to push me,” he said.

It wasn’t going to happen in my estimation. I hadn’t asked for a “turn,” especially from not some stinky ole boy.

“You have to,” he told me.

“Oh no, I don’t. I didn’t ask YOU to push ME,” I muttered while we waited in line to enter the school, boys on the right, and girls on the left.

“Yes, you do. I’m telling if you don’t. I pushed you, so you’ve got to push me.”

I was going to push him alright. I had never been overtaken by the urge to punch somebody who I was not related to at that moment. Sure, I’d slugged my brother a good one, but never anyone else.

Then something happened that night. For some reason, he got to spend the night with the teacher. His mom was sick, or in jail. I didn’t know, and I didn’t really care too much about the specifics.

Instead, I wondered if she made him learn at her house. Did she have a huge teddy bear like the one that set in our classroom in the corner that we used during story time? Did she read him a bedtime story? The teacher certainly was one of the best grown-up readers I’d ever heard.
I was envious. I wanted something to happen to me. I wanted my chance to spend the night at the teacher’s house. I wondered what she would make me for dinner. Maybe she would invite me over on a whim to spend the night since she’d let Mike.

He bragged incessantly the next day about staying with the teacher. She had even packed him a lunch to eat the next day. I wasn’t allowed to pack, which made it sting even more.

Every time I turned around, there was a Mike just ready to cause me stress. Typically if you shared a name with another classmate, you were referred to by your name and the first initial of your last name. Like Kathy R. and Kathy L. There was a small glitch with this because both of Mikes had last names that started with B.

Mike Brown and Mike Bay, they were called. It worked well with me because they deserved to get the last name if I had any business with them. They both took great pleasure in tormenting me to near tears.

While Mike Brown stuck to the playground, Mike Bay took over while we were in line or in the classroom.

He would knock over all the other kids just to get behind me in line. Since we weren’t allowed to tattletale on those who butted in line, I was stuck.

Standing behind me, he would pull my hair and pinch me. When I would turn around telling him to stop, he would quote the TV commercial for garbage bags, “Don’t get mad, get glad!”

He would cackle like it was the funniest thing he ever heard. It wasn’t funny, and it only made me madder. I was anything but “glad” when he crept up behind me. I wanted to kick him in the shin.

I told the teacher, “Mike won’t stop touching my hair.”

He lied. He lied like the stinky dog that he was.

He said, “Her butterfly was falling out. I put it back.”

“What a nice boy you are. Kelly, thank him for fixing your barrette.”

I was going to thank him all right, and I hoped he’d be glad that when somebody the urge overtook me to kick him in the shin and not in the boy parts.

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