The Boys are Training to Kill
|My son doing boy stuff, back in 2010, when he had his hair long and people kept thinking he was a girl. Picture by "B" Gordon|
I stood on the sidewalk, watching the boys. They were playing, hollering, running—doing the crazy things that boys together do. I’d walked to Daniel’s house hoping to find him by himself and instead he had a friend. With the friend here, the rules of our usual friendship did not apply. No tea parties or dress-ups, no complicated fantasy book schemes. Should I go home? I stood awkwardly on the sidewalk, which was wet with recent rain, shifting my feet and waiting for clarity about what to do. On the ground around me, worms were drowning, and sodden flowers fallen from the yard’s camellia bush lay flattened on the ground. The sky was ready to erupt again at any time.
“Bam!” yelled the second boy, a redhead. A wet camellia went spinning through the air. I dodged it—barely.
“It’s a bomb,” he said. “You’re dead.”
I didn't want to be dead. I stood there, calculating stubbornly my response to a scenario in which I did not want to play my part.
“Come on, Tara,” entreated Daniel. “Play along. You can bomb him back.”
Well, I supposed. I bent, picked up a flower. It was as soggy as a sponge. Pink like Pepto Bismol, rose-like, damaged by the rain. In my hand it felt substantial, a water balloon ready to be tossed. I chucked it. I couldn't aim and it missed the redhead by a yard. It landed with a satisfying splat on the concrete by the steps. The boy ran away, whooping. The war was on.
Racing, smacking through wet shrubberies, running over saturated grass, we gathered up camellias and lobbed them at one another until out of breath. I was hit once. Surprisingly, it stung. The flower smarted when it smacked me on the cheek! Nothing but petals and yet there it landed, hard as a mother’s warning slap, leaving my cheek red. I felt anger rise up in my gut.
“I’m going to get you now!” I roared.