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2003-07-10 - 3:33 p.m.

Visions of Grade Four

How strange, the blood, the water,
the ice, the light. How they came together.
Strange how the scent of blueberries
carries visions of the fourth grade.

After gym, all the grade four boys
would head for the drinking fountain.
Coach Wright, a regimented buzz-cut,
lined us up alphabetically.

Just my luck.
I was behind Louis,
the thirstiest and meanest kid
at Brookside Elementary.

He’d get up to the fountain and drink.
And drink.
I’m talking minutes would go by
while he lapped up water.

The bravest of us would mumble
c’mon Louis, hurry up, man,
until Coach Wright finally shooed
Louis to the end of the line.

Once when I was at the fountain,
I saw a rainbow in the water stream.
I just stared at it, deciding
it was wrong to drink from a rainbow.

In late November we had a foot of snow
on the recess yard. Snowball fights raged for weeks.
The snow was light and fluffy, so snowballs
That hit you burst into harmless frost.

But Louis packed his snowballs so tightly
they turned to dark, stinging ice,
and he whipped one at Vicky Dewhickey,
catching her smack-dab in the face.

Vicky cried. Against the snow, her skin
was neon pink. I remember wondering
why doesn’t she go as “Victoria?”
doesn’t she know she’s
asking for it?

Then the sun struck the ice chips
in her woolen hat, and I saw the rainbow again.
I thought I heard a voice behind it, telling me
grow up, be a man, defend Vicky Dewhickey.

So I challenged Louis to a fight.
That’s what guys did in movies when a woman was wronged,
but every fight I’d ever been in was half-play,
testing out wrestling moves we’d seen on TV.

Sometimes it got too rough,
someone would run off crying,
but no punches were ever thrown.
Louis, though, Louis punched.

He punched the wind out of my stomach.
I fell in the snow, gasping for air, and he kicked me in the head.
My first real fight, and everyone saw it.
Everyone saw me cry.

When the bell rang, Vicky kissed the corner of my mouth
before helping me up. My first kiss and no one saw it,
but it tasted like blueberry Hubba-bubba and it got me
through every beating Louis gave me that winter.

 

 

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