I love the adventure playground at my school, Blackhorse Infants. The gnarly wooden fort has two levels, with wooden slats and a slide for getting up and down. It’s the terrain over which we scramble when playing Cowboys and Indians, War and sometimes Kiss Chase.
On the top deck, I feel like King of the Castle as Miss Nelson rings the bell. Craig slides down to the playground, but I need one more moment. I turn my back and look across the yard at everyone getting into line. Behind me, I hear several feet clambering up the slats.
Miss Nelson looks angrily in our direction and gives the bell a good shake.
I turn to run down, but am surprised to find my path blocked by my little sister, Susan, who eyeballs me with brazen disdain. Behind her is dark-haired Graham and two other boys.
“What are you doing here, Christopher? This is our adventure playground.”
“It’s not, you’re just first years.”
Susan looks over her shoulder at Graham, who is smirking. Suddenly, she turns and punches me hard in the stomach. I double over and fall forward, as shocked as I am hurt, skinning my palms on the wooden floor. Winded, my eyes smart with bitter tears, as I look up into their laughter and Susan’s crowing scorn.
Miss’s bell rings indignantly, and they scatter down to the playground.
“Christopher, get down here now!”
I try to get up but I can’t breathe properly. My raw hands are bleeding and the splinters hurt. I pull at the big one but it breaks in my shaking hand, the remainder embedding deep as pencil led.
Miss Nelson’s beige corduroys and bell are beside me.
“What are you crying for? Who did this?”
“Susan hit me,” I mutter, and show my hands.
“Susan? You’re crying because you got hit by a girl?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” I yell, and tears come again, snot bubbles.
“Well you’d better not play up here if this is what happens.”
And she pulls me up and brings me down to the office, where the needle and the TCP sting, but not as much as what has just happened.