Grade 9. Gym. Physical Education. Every day with this, the most unnatural yet bizarrely primal institution in existence. Sometimes it is first thing in the morning, other times right at the end of the day, but the worst is mid-morning, after Math and before Drama so that I arrive sweaty and breathless to my favourite class of all, the only reason to live….Drama! First tho? Gym. Today we get to go outside and play soccer! In the rain! The jocks cheer and race out to the field. As usual I am the last one to arrive, loitering and lagging in the hopes I can dart behind a bleacher and teacher won’t notice. Teacher always notices though, so here I am standing alone at one end of a muddy cold field, with a few others dotted listlessly around me, while the thrust of the game is happening at the far end. This suits me fine. I chew a hangnail and watch them down there, running around like they are having the time of their lives. They are covered in mud, and will remain that way for the rest of the day. That thick ooze is not coming out of their hair or their ears without a thorough washing, and who has time for that in the middle of your school day?
Teacher has put me in goal. I have never been in goal and these posts are hilariously far apart. Dad loves to watch soccer and if I am supremely bored I will watch it with him, and to see these pro goalies diving across this wide open space, the tiny ball easily eluding their flailing arms is painful. Once I did see this guy make an awesome save. He threw himself in the air, his whole body parallel to the ground and just caught the ball with the ends of his fingers. Dad leapt from his seat cheering and I couldn’t help being a little excited, a mite impressed.
Would you look at that way down there at the end of the field. A girl on my team has kicked the ball into the goal and Mujadra, poor, fat Mujadra, just stands there and it hits her right in the face. She crumples to the ground and the only one who goes to her is Teacher. Everyone else has already turned back to centre field. Well Mujadra, at least you made the save. That ball bounced right off your face and out of the net. Good one.
Now the game is brought back into my area, and just when I thought I was safe. That bitchpig Barb has the ball, and I loathe Barb. Last March I was sick for a week and it was a really warm Spring so I lay out on the balcony and sunbathed for hours every day. It dried up my sickly juices nicely and by the end of the week I was really brown. Monday came and everyone was marvelling at my tan and saying I really went to Hawaii for a week, you know, just kidding around, and suddenly Barb jumps up and screams “You are a liar! That tan is right out of a bottle.’
Everyone got real quiet, including me. Shock mostly, until I pulled an ace out of nowhere by pulling down the shoulder of my kangaroo jacket and asking in a super icy way: ‘Do you get tan lines from a bottle, Barbie?’ and displayed the white stripe from my bikini top. Barb hates to be called Barbie and besides everyone laughed. Since then it has been pretty clear that Bitchpig has it out for me, but so far no opportunity has come her way. Until today. Until now. I watch her booking down the field, kicking the ball in front of her. My whole grade knows our history and the blood thirsty rats deliberately fall back, giving her a free and open shot. What will Bitchpig do? Will she try and score? Unlikely, as it would be so easy with me just standing there. The humiliation quotient needs to be much higher for Bitchpig.
She is going to kick it as hard as she can right at me, and knowing our Bitchpig, she will aim for the face. I will get nailed in the nose and crumple like poor Mujadra, only Bitchpig is really big with track star thighs, so she can kick really hard, and with her blood coursing with revenge and expected triumph I am a dead girl. My face will implode under the kick of this Bitchpig jock. I am suddenly furious. I am suddenly tensed and crouched in goal. Bitchpig sees the change in me, realizes that for the first time in my life I am actually going to make an effort in gym class. This means that scoring a goal with me sprawled in the dirt after my useless effort will be a worthy humiliation after all.
I see it all happen in her face as she adjusts her body, makes her decision and shoots for the top right corner of the goal. She telegraphs her impending kick with her eyes so I spring up, fully airborne and flying left. I am parallel with the ground as the ball comes hurtling toward me. My arms are stretched taut in front of me, my whole body longer than it has ever been, my very bones lengthening so I can make this save. The ball thumps into my fingers. There is considerable pain as one of them bends back. A sprain for sure. But I have the ball. I have the ball Barbie Bitchpig, and for the first time I have tried in gym class. For the first time I will go to Drama with mud in my hair and I will hold my head high, because today, in this moment, I am shining and untouchable.
Samantha Bennett is a writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org