January 16, 2015

Chad and Me (sequel to "Legless Ants and Recess")

Perhaps you remember my "Legless Ants and Recess" short story. Well, if you just can't get enough of Chad, Walter, and Daphne, here's a little sequel I wrote!  :)

Chad wasn’t exactly popular, but he could kick a soccer ball farther than anyone else in second grade (although not with great accuracy). And he could swing around from bar to bar on the half-dome jungle gym in the center of the playground. Chad was so often on the jungle gym that he was practically a part of it. He even hung upside-down, holding his somewhat creepy sidekick, Walter, fast with one arm. The stuffed animal bat, black with beady eyes, never left Chad’s side.

Most kids on our class thought Walter was creepy.

Walter was present the day I first met Chad. It was my first day in first grade. During recess, I sat in the corner of the playground underneath a tree, trying to pretend I was invisible. “Hey, you!” a voice yelled. I glanced up and saw Chad bolt off of his perch on the jungle gym.

He raced in my direction, but stopped several feet away where a red-haired boy squatted over a magnifying glass. The glass was angled to magnify the sunlight onto a tiny object. As I squinted, I could see that the object was actually a bug of some kind. Gently, and almost tenderly, Chad lifted the small bug off the ground. Magnifying Glass Boy began to protest, but Chad didn’t even seem to hear him.

Chad walked in my direction, the bug on a single finger--and Walter gripped in his other pudgy hand. As Chad set the bug in the dirt next to the tree, I inched away from the creature. Chad started and blinked, then said, “Oh, hello!” Apparently, I had done a pretty good job of making myself invisible … until now. I waved weakly. To my surprise, Chad plopped down next to me. He settled the bat on his knee. “I’m Chad, and this is Walter,” he said, gesturing to the long-winged bat balancing on his knee.

“Hi,” I said quietly. “You’re Daphne, right? The new girl?” Chad offered. I nodded, my short brown hair bobbing up and down. “Well, just so you know, if you want a friend, I’ll be your friend.” I looked up into Chad’s merry, earnest blue eyes. Then, Chad stood up. “Back to my post!” he said, saluting with the hand that held Walter.

At the next recess, Chad asked if I wanted to come and play on the jungle gym. I never climbed more than a rung or two, but Chad was okay with sitting on the ground nearby and playing a game of tic-tac-toe in the dirt, too. And Chad and I have been friends ever since.

But one year later, Chad started to act weird. Well, weirder than usual. He still carried Walter everywhere he went, so that made him pretty weird to begin with. During story time in our second-grade classroom, we all sat on rectangular carpet mats. Chad always sat next to me. But one day, he leaned over and began picking at the bottom of my white tennis shoes where the rubber had started to detach.

And then Chad started cutting in front of me in line for the drinking fountain, flashing me a toothy grin. It made me angry, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint why, but I glared at him.

One night, I asked my mom why Chad was cutting in line and picking at my shoes … even though he knew it annoyed me. “It’s probably because he knows it annoys you,” my mom said, smiling. “Boys do stupid things when they like girls … anything to try to get their attention.”

Well, I mused, if the more a boy likes a girl, the stupider he acts, Magnifying Glass Boy must like our classmate Alicia an awful lot. He’d thrown rocks at poor Alicia yesterday, trying to get her attention.

But I should get back to my story. Mom was right about Chad. I found out for sure on one sunny Tuesday I’ll never forget. Chad was showing me how to find caterpillars under the trees. I didn’t like most bugs, but caterpillars, with their fuzzy bodies, were okay with me. One caterpillar marched precariously close to the edge of my palm, so Chad gently lifted my other hand next to it, to keep the fuzzy critter from falling right off my palm! I started at the caterpillar as it crawled up on my thumb.

Chad suddenly set Walter down on the dirt (something I’d never seen him do!). Chad opened a sweaty hand, revealing a little scrunched-up dandelion, then he knelt on both knees. That afternoon, Chad asked me to be his girlfriend. “No,” I said. I looked down after that one irreversible syllable escaped my lips and saw that the caterpillar had peed in my hand. I didn’t touch caterpillars after that.

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