The date is March, 1983:
It's a sunny morning in Columbus Georgia, and I'm at school. The bell rings.
Math class is over, which means it's time for gym. Math is getting pretty damn complex by fifth grade, but dear god, why had recess evolved into 'gym class'?
What a load of crap! Now I have to 'do' stuff. And I'm supposed to have skill.
As I follow my classmates down the hallway leading to the rear entrance of the school, I realize we're probably headed for the makeshift baseball field. That can only mean one thing: we're going to play kickball.
For the first time in my life, I'm looking forward to playing a team sport. And I'll tell you why.
I suck at sports, and every kid in this class knows it. In FACT, I probably exude an aura that alerts kids worldwide to my lack of coordination of any kind. For them, my aura is handy, because it makes it easier to avoid getting stuck with me on their team.
Whenever the class is split into teams, I'm always next to last... it comes down to me or the blonde chick who can't even run. And yet sometimes kids debate which one of us to pick.
We started playing kickball when Freddy fell on the wiffle ball and squished it. Fat bastard. Oh, what do I care? I suck at wiffle ball.
The first few times we played kickball, I kept rooting for Freddy to flatten that ball too. A lack of supplies was the only good thing about going to a poor southern school.
I lost hope of Freddy - or anyone else - ruining the kickball when I saw at least three of them in a box labeled 'First Aid.' There's no getting out of kickball.
So... when we started playing kickball, I watched the other kids running bases and having fun. When everyone else on my team had kicked, finally it would be my turn, and the result was obvious. Always.
I always bungled the kick, sending the ball rolling across the ground. Sometimes I'd make a half hearted effort in hopes of reaching first base, but let's be honest here... that wasn't going to happen. More often than not, I'd shrug and walk back to the bench - usually followed by the kid trying to tag me out.
"Hey!" the kid would say. "Y'er s'posed ta run this way!" Like it matters. Regardless of whether or not I decide to work up a sweat, out is out.
"Just tag me out."
The other kids knew an easy out when they saw one, so they kept moving in closer and closer whenever my turn came up. I always felt so tense as I waited for the pitcher to roll me the ball. God, how I hate that feeling.
The last time we played kickball, I was, of course, the last person on my team to play. The pitcher rolled me the ball. Everybody on the other team moved in closer and closer to quickly tag me out as the kids on my team opened up a spot on the bench so I could sit back down. I felt so humiliated... "How could I even have a chance with everybody so close? Even with a decent kick, how could I get it over their heads?!? They're too damn close!! It's not fair!!! Aaaauugh!!!"
I felt angry... embarrassed even.
The ball left the pitcher's hand... I *HATE* him... The other kids crept in closer and closer (I *HATE* THEM) as the ball rolled towards me.
Damn you ball! I *HATE* you too!
I made some kind of noise... some sort of "Auauauagh!!" It was supposed to sound manly, but it probably just made me look even more pathetic. I swung my foot at that freaking ball! I HATE YOU BALL!!!
Oh christ. For the first time, I managed to kick the thing in the air, but it was headed straight for Bubba. If they all hadn't come in so close... I got a good kick! Honest, I did! It should have flown right over their heads - but they were too close.
"It's never gonna make it over that kid's head" I thought. "He'll catch it for sure... Do I even bother running to first base? Is it just a waste of ti..."
Bubba reached up to catch the ball, but it was coming too fast. Before he had time to react, it slammed into his face, and he fell over. The other kids stood and stared in shock as the ball bounced away.
The game was called off because Bubba was bleeding. Geez. A good kick, and I still didn't make it to first. Still, that would be the last time anybody comes in close when it's my turn to kick.
I - LOVE - KICKBALL!
...at least, for now.