Charlie quickly learned that recess usually began with a fist full of sand thrown in his face. Today was no exception.
Sitting alone in the schoolyard sandbox, Charlie busied himself playing a quite game of trucks. With careful precision a surgeon would have envied he filled the beds of the plastic figures with lumps of sand and drove them a few inches away (complete with sound effects of course) , adding to a neat little mound he’s made for himself, calling it the next Mount Rushmore.
He liked it, the sand box. He was the only one who ever seemed to play in it. He didn’t have any friends and seeing as no one asked to share the space, in his mind he had claimed it as his own.
Out of nowhere a small tennis shoe stepped into his vision. Charlie cried out but too late. Away in a gust went his hard work. Away went his trucks into someone else’s ownership. Hands shoved him hard, knocking him over into the sand. Tears flooded up to wash out his eyes as he sputtered dirt out of his mouth.
“Ha ha ha, look at Charlie! He’s eating sand!”
“He’s crying! Crying like a baby!”
Charlie made out the figures of his classmates who just happened to be the local schoolyard bullies. He couldn’t be sure how many there was this time. They always banned together, swaying in a wind of cruel laughter.
“What’s a matter Charlie?” One voice said. The biggest boy stepped forward to shove Charlie again.
The taunts continued. This was Charlie’s only interaction with boys his age. One boy, who’d stolen the toy trucks, threw them over the fence nearby. Charlie didn’t know when these things started to occur or why they continued. None of the teachers ever seemed to notice, and the boys never seemed to tire of the game. Sit and take the abuse was all Charlie could do, hoping against hope that one day they would let him and his sandbox be.
Without warning a basketball entered the fame, hitting one boy in the back, nearly snapping him in half with the force. “Hey!” A new voice entered the fray. A small boy no one recognized stood confidently nearby, hands on hips. Everyone stared at him.
“Who are you?” One of the miscreants scowled.
As answer the lone boy strode up and punched the boy who had spoken right in the gut. This time he did snap in half, crumpling to the ground in a whining heap.
“Hey,” The other boys chanted, banding together into one mass again. Taking everyone off guard the boy charged at them, yelling something that sounded to Charlie like an ancient warrior cry.
All of the boys, every single last one of them, turned tail at this sight and ran away screaming. The one felled boy scrambled to his feet and limped on his way as well, sounding like Charlie’s father’s old truck when he started it up on Sundays.
Satisfied, the boy walked up to Charlie, who by now had dusted himself mostly off. His mouth hung open in the presence of such a great being.
“My name’s Brad,” The boy stuck his hand out.
“My name’s Charlie.” The two shook hands.
“I can’t get your trucks back until after school,” Brad continued. “Do you want to play basketball instead?”
“I don’t usually play sports.”
Charlie thought about this. “Because no one ever asks me to.”
“Well I’m asking you.” Brad walked over to where his weapon of choice had rolled. He motioned for Charlie to follow as he made his way to the small paved court nearby. Without much thought for the old familiar and comfortable, Charlie stepped out of his box, leaving a certain part of his childhood behind.
By the end of recess neither one remembered a thing about the lost trucks nor the desire to retrieve them. Instead they discussed sports tactics and the possibility of putting a team together for next season.
Charlie soon forgot what had been and who he’d been. He learned a friend could be a powerful and wonderful thing, and only thought of what could be in a future walking along side one.