Legless Ants and Recess
The best thing about Chad was that he ate my raisins.
I hated raisins. They looked like ants. I used to watch black ants crawl in and out of their little anthills—formed in the sidewalk cracks outside school. Every time I chewed a raisin, I felt like I was eating a dead little ant without legs.
Chad’s small wooden desk—which he could barely squeeze into—was nestled behind mine in our tiny second grade classroom.
Our teacher had long red hair. Her last name was too long for us to say, so we just called her Mrs. Z. I always wondered why she had a chair behind her desk; she never sat in it. She constantly strode along the aisles, straightening the extra-large pencils on our desks. Mrs. Z was strict about us kids finishing our lunches before we could go outside for recess.
And it was lunchtime now.
I unwrapped my crumpled brown lunch bag and poured out the contents my mom had packed. Peanut butter sandwich. Juice box. Raisins. I grimaced, then felt the eyes of Mrs. Z piercing my skull. I froze. Finally, one of the other kids sneezed. Mrs. Z’s eyes whipped in that direction and snapped up a Kleenex from the large box on her desk, walking in the direction of the sneeze offender.
I gripped the edge of the plastic bag and raised the lid of my desk slowly to minimize the unearthly screech it usually let forth. As I sneaked the bag towards the edge, intending to slip it inside my desk, the plastic made a crinkling sound. I froze, glancing up in time to see Mrs. Z stiffen and turn around to look in my direction.
She glared at me and slowly shook her head. I set down my desk lid and stared at the bag of legless ants. How had she heard me over the noise of the other kids in the room munching and laughing?
I briefly considered concealing the taste of the ants in my thick peanut butter sandwich, but quivered with disgust at the thought. I ate my plain peanut butter sandwich and drained my juice box dry. I watched as the kids, one by one, finished their lunches and headed out to recess.
Finally, Chad and I were the only ones left in the room with Mrs. Z. I could hear the other kids shouting and laughing outside.
Pretending to stretch, I glanced behind me. Chad had a fistful of sandwich in his mouth, and his large cheeks were smeared with some sort of purple—maybe grape jelly. Ew. I caught his eye, then motioned to my raisins. “Want some?” I said in a barely audible whisper. He nodded cheerfully, saying, “Um-hum!” loudly through his half-chewed sandwich.
I turned quickly—and Mrs. Z was glaring at me again from her desk. Suddenly, she stood, commanding us, “Finish your lunches. Now!” With Mrs. Z staring, there was no way I could slip my baggie to Chad.
The formidable mound of dead ants stared blankly at me from inside the plastic baggie. I shuddered. I unzipped a corner of the bag. Slowly, I sneaked my forefinger and thumb inside, picking up a the smallest shriveled raisin. I tucked it into the side of my mouth and exaggerated a pretended chew, offering a half-smile to my teacher.
Her mouth turned down in disgust, then the screech of kids playing tag close to the window snagged her attention. Mrs. Z stalked across the room to my right, stopping to stare out the window.
Seizing the moment, I slapped my hand around the plastic baggie and flung it to the trashcan by the front door. I watched its flying arch, willing it to go into the mouth of the can. But it ricocheted off the side and landed next to it. My heart thudded to a stop. Then, it started again, fast and loud in my ears. Thankfully, a bag of dead ants doesn’t make much of a sound. At least, I hoped not. Mrs. Z was looking at me again. No … she was looking over the top of my head.
Chad was up, having dutifully finished every crumb of his lunch. He proudly held up his empty Lion King lunch box, which sported a grinning Simba on the front.
No matter how many sandwiches and Twinkies his mother packed, Chad always polished off each one. I might, too, if I had Twinkies instead of shriveled, legless ants. With a grim smile, the teacher nodded, dismissing Chad to recess. Squaaaaalch! Chad lifted up his desk cover and scooped up his little stuffed animal—a wide-winged bat—which he’d affectionately named, “Walter.”
As Chad ambled towards the door, Mrs. Z’s attention was back on me. I suddenly remembered the legless ant pressing against the side of my mouth. It was getting pretty soggy. Swallowing hard, I forced it down in one gulp.
In the corner to my left, I watched Chad walk up to the door, then pause. He scooped up my raisin bag with his free hand and walked out, a fistful of the nasty dead creatures already on its way to his mouth. My breath came out in a whoosh. Chad had saved me from the legless creatures today.
Now, it was time to escape … to recess! I held up my empty little brown bag aloft, just as Chad had done with his lunchbox. But the teacher shook her head and, with one spindly finger, motioned me to come to her.
Panic gripped my stomach. Had she seen? I hurriedly walked up to the front of the classroom, clutching my little brown bag. She peered inside it, and, appearing disappointed to find it empty, she motioned me away.
I sped out the door, down the wide hallway, and out the door into the bright sunlight. I sighed. Freedom.