Saturday, July 06, 2002

Yeah, it's been a month

let me tide you over with a little story...


Imagine an two-story octogonal school, laid out around a gymnasium/auditorium. Around the wall-height rim of octogonal gym, a balconied walkway rings the inside of the second story. Off this walkway are the doors to twelve classrooms and two bathrooms. At ground level, the asbestos-tiled concrete pavement is bounded by khaki-painted cinderblock walls intermittently cut by doors to storage room, computer lab, the niche with the milk-fridge and the hamotzie hand-washing sinks, curtained stage, the portico to the front lobby, the door to the dairy kitchen.

The long minute hand of the clock nears the quarter-hour. In class, sugar anticipation inspires fidgets and salivation in the spoiled children with Ding-Dongs in their lunchbags. The rest of us had celery, or pretzels (bleah).

Rabbi Preil is vainly explaining to Jason Gardner that the summary of the mishneh reading was due... yes, now! and why didn't he have it?

Amir raises his hand and asks if it's time for gym yet.

It is time. The combined class of fifth and sixth grade boys bolt for the door, the walkway, the stairs, for... the gym. Well, depends on how bolting is defined:

"David, put down the book and come downstairs!"

I slink past Rabbi Preil sullenly. Gym time is fear time.




For the purposes of this recollection, we will call him Mungo, or Shit Head, or.... because I have forgotten his given name. I remember drawing a caracature of him as a donkey pissing on a buried head, on a page in my ruled mishneh notebook. I remember that I labeled this caracature, for future references' sake, presumably. I remember that I wrote some epithet that contained the word "fuck". I remember all these things, because I saw the lovingly preserved notebook some months ago in my parents' house. But I do not remember Giant Retardo-Neanderthal's name.

He was near six feet tall. He had a mustache. He shot spit-balls. He was a merciless storm-trooper fascist bully, and he could fling a vinyl, textured-surface dodgeball very, very fast.

The game is not yet started. There are no teams. It is the war of all against all, strong against weak, hormone-supercharged super-annuated sixth grader against sylph-like petal-delicate fifth grader. Shimmie Weiner and Mungo Death-chucker are the tallest boys in the combined class: they jump for the ball in the center of the gym, in the center of the school, the geometrical minimal-energy point where all culture, all mercy, melt away like hot wax in a blowtorch's flame.

Kill-bot's mutant long arms grab the ball a full foot above Shimmie's reach - the hope of light and truth and justice is swiftly snuffed out. Mungo pegs Shimmie on the shoulder with the down-swing. Shimmie is out. The ball rolls away, to Jacob Kleinberger, who hucks it at Steve Fernandez, who catches it. Jacob is out. Steve throws the ball at David Marcovici. The ball catches Marcovici, hits him on his calf while he is extended in full stride, and Mungo scoops up the ricochet. He stands in the center of the gym. He is Hitler, holding his Wehrmacht, and we are little feeble Polands. The first victim is chosen.

"I'm gonna get you, Jackie!"

Yaakov Azoulay begins running along the outer rim of the gym. Mungo starts throwing the ball - hard! He misses, catches the rebound off the wall, lopes into another throw, misses, catches the rebound. Jackie is a fast runner, but Mungo likes to play with his food. He throws again and misses. The rebounds are too fast for anyone to catch except Mungo. He throws, misses, and abruptly bores of the cat-and-mouse. Splat! Jackie is hit in the face with the ball. He stops running, trips, falls. There is a little blood. The game goes on.

Amir Roth gets the face-bounced ball, tries to get Mungo. Mungo catches Amir's girly throw. Amir is out. I get hit in the back by somebody. I stand behind the curtain. Mungo hits Jason in the back of the head. Ross Jacobs is brought down by a gut-shot. Fat little Ari is hit in the ass. Uri Leibowitz catches the ball. And drops it, because Mungo tackles him on the gym floor, seizes the ball, and aims it at Uri's head. Steve Fernandes gets the bounce. He is the last. Mungo slaps the ball out of Steve's throwing hand, chuckles, and goes in for the kill.

Rabbi Preil is standing outside the front entrance of the school, smoking. Shit Head wins again, news at seven, eleven, and wedgie on the stairs back to class. And people wonder why I hate dodgeball.

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