Stretch

Another essay (around 900 words) about my experiences in primary school as a 5 - 8 year old. I describe the struggles, emotions and personality changes I went through. This is strongly based on the truth, but due to my young age at the time, not all of the finer details stayed with me. Hope you enjoy reading!

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2. Stretch (revision)

    Time seemed to slow as the ball left my hand. The deathly silence was fractured by the small plastic sphere crunching on the concrete playground in front of me. Maggie and Nick’s dinner plate eyes followed the ball as it bounced into the air, arcing higher and higher, until it finally reached its peak. Nick began to run forward, hands extended, as the ball started to fall, but the attempt was futile. It fell and fell, beyond them both; beyond me, still standing proud on the railing; beyond the school fence. We heard a gentle crunch as the ball struck the grass of the neighbour's lawn. All was still for a moment. Suddenly time caught up, the bell sounded, and I ran to class.

 

   It was just another day of school: up and out, bright and early. Bag, Pe kit, homework, lunch-box: tick, tick, tick. I began to walk, crossing the two zebra-crossings between my house and the school. Black, white, black, white; good, bad, good, bad. I played with the colours in my mind, trying to jump from white to white, but I couldn’t: my foot always caught the black. On I walked.

    Ten minutes later, I arrived at the front gates and hurried to my classroom, where I to hung up my bag on the peg labelled, with an old and peeling note, ‘Jack’. I then ran down the steps to the playground as fast as my little legs could carry me.

    “Jack Marley! No running in the corridors! You’ll hurt yourself, for goodness sake!”

    “Sorry, Miss.” I walked the rest of the way slowly, eventually arriving at the expansive concrete playground, where I was confronted with the noise of hundreds of kids playing and screaming. Doing a quick survey, I saw some kids from my class playing football. I like some of them, I don’t like others, I like football. Weighing it up in my head, I decided to go over and join them.  

  “What team am I on?”

  “Dunno, be on their team.” This kid was one of the ones I didn’t like, but they were playing with his ball and as we all know: your ball, your rules. We played for a bit. Two nil to them became two all, and the bell was just about to ring nine o’clock. Suddenly I had the ball. Run, run, run, legs hurting but keep on going! Left, right, left, always forward, the goal ever nearing. Shoot! I did, and watched the ball fly into the goal. Yes! Seconds after, the bell rang out. The kid who owned the ball came up to me as I celebrated.

  “Doesn’t count. The bell rang before and the games ends when the bell rings, so it wasn’t a goal.”

   Furious, I screamed internally at the injustice of this obvious falsehood, but restrained my anger as all his mates closed in, agreeing that it couldn’t possibly be a goal and I was a cheat for playing on after the bell had rang. Stretch. The bell had rang though and I didn’t want to be late, so I began walking as fast as I could to class, not wanting to be told off again.

    Once we’d all gathered in the classroom the register was completed, all present, and the first lesson began: maths. The teacher walked around the classroom, giving everyone printed worksheets. When mine arrived, I got out my rainbow pencil and duck shaped rubber and began filling it out. Fifteen minutes later, I’d finished the fiftieth and final 5 + 3 question. I peered over the shoulder of the kid sitting next to me to see which one he was on, which transpired to be question number twenty-two.

    “Jack Marley! I see you trying to look at his answers! The only person you’re cheating is yourself!” (this was a classic school mantra)

    “Sorry, Miss,” I replied. For the next half an hour I kept my head down, entertaining myself by fiddling with my pencil and doodling on the my desk. I remember being so focused on what I was drawing that I didn’t even notice the teacher peering over my shoulder.

    “Jack Marley! Drawing on the table?! Young man, you are behaving dreadfully this lesson! I think I may need to have a word with your parents!”

    “Yes, Miss. Sorry, Miss.” The kid with the football snickered to his mates. I spent the rest of that lesson staring into empty space, wishing I was at home, anywhere else. Sttrreettch. Finally,  the second bell of the day rang, signifying the start of recess. I found a few of my friends playing handball on a court they’d managed to secure and joined them. We played for a while, and I managed to get into the ace position, the highest of the four. This meant I had the veto on all the close decisions. We played on: bounce, hit, bounce, hit, miss. The ball landed right in the corner of the court.

    “It was in!”

    “Yeah, I saw it hit the line! Jack! You’re ace, it was in, wasn’t it?”

    I stared at the four eager facing looking at me. My mind traveled to when I played handball with these same people at nursery (then a much simpler version). I was nearly always ace and therefore made all the close decisions. I distinctly remember my motto: It's always in. Even if I new beyond a doubt that the ball bounced beyond the line, why would I force one of my friends to be out? Then I thought to the game of football earlier, the injustice of that un-counted goal, and how angry I still was about that. I decided to take my revenge on the world.

    “It was out, it didn’t touch the line.” Shocked, the girl who was out due to this decision stomped away from the pitch, sniffing up tears. My two other court-mates, Maggie and Nick, looked at me coldly and went over to comfort her. The third bell of the day rang out, and I headed to the classroom, feeling somewhere between sorry and satisfied.

    Next on the timetable was art. Now-a-days I love art, I find it really relaxing and meditative, but back then it was the opposite. We once again assembled in the classroom, where the art teacher waited with his infamous randomised seating plan, that helped us to ‘make new friends!’ Tensely, he read it out and we subsequently took our places. Just my luck, I ended up at the back next to the kid with the shiny football from earlier. Help, I thought.

    “I have put the crayons in the middle of each table, share nicely. I want a beautiful drawing from each of you,” declared the teacher, who then sat down at his desk and began marking some homework. Everyone started drawing, except me.

     “Can I have the blue, please?” I tentatively asked my neighbor, who seemed to require all the crayons simultaneously.

    “No,” he grunted, “I’m using the blue.”

    “Can I have any colour, please? The teacher said we should share, and… and sharing is caring.”

    “Yeah. I don’t care. Get your own crayons.” He turned away and continued his drawing with an air of finality, this was clearly non-negotiable. By the time I’d managed to secure myself a single blue crayon from a nearby table, the lesson was half over and most of the kids had nearly complete their drawings. Quickly, I started. A withered flower, beside a ugly skull; a punctured football and a naked tree. Random items, all on a hard, empty, concrete playground. Towards the end, the kid sitting next to be peered over my shoulder. “What even is that? Where is the action or the cool bit or the blood or anything? And It’s all in blue! God, you’re so bad at art.” I mumbled an agreement and glanced at his drawing, a bloody scene of a Jurassic massacre. “Sir! Jack is looking at my drawing. He is trying to take my ideas, Sir!”

   “Behave Jack, don’t steal other people’s ideas. Art is about originality,” he replied, not even looking up from his papers. I looked down to my drawing, sniffed up an innocent tear. Ssttrreettcchhh. For the rest of the lesson I continued adding item to the random collection. This time a teacher's corpse beside a rusted crown, a scarecrow. Eventually, the bell rang and the teacher realised he hadn’t looked at our any of our drawings. “I’ll look at then next week. Now off you go, lunch time.”

    I walked down the corridor, remembering my telling-off earlier, and stepped out into the noisy playground. Nick had got a ball, Maggie had secured a four man court. When I’d finished my plain sandwich, I went over to them and joined in the fourth position.

    “Jack, we don’t want you to play with us this time.”

    ‘What?!’ Confusion, betrayal, hatred, surprise. I was the court though, I had to play! That was non-debatable etiquette.

    ‘Run!’ They sprinted to a two man court, I was two. Back to the four man court, I was four. Two man court, three. They grinned.

    ‘Sorry Jack, no subs for this game.’ The other kids moaned and went off to join other games and Maggie and Nick started playing. Sssttrrreeetttccchhh.

 

Snap.

 

    Bam. I ran in, stealing the ball. Powered by the stress I’d bottled and adrenaline that flowed through me, I ran and jumped onto the handrail. I held the ball high above my head. That’s when I did it. With all the power I could muster, I threw that ball, Nick’s ball. I intended it to go into the neighbour’s. And it did.

 

Soon after, I left that school for another.

That’s a story for another day.

 

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