True or false: Seeing the most popular girl in Gr. 7 or being kicked in the "nuts"? by Dawn Reddick
Dawn Reddick, from London, ON, takes Lawrence Hill's first writing challenge and tells us one tall tale and one true story.
Which one do you believe: was she the last one to see the most popular girl in Grade 7, or did she get kicked by Larry Gamble in Grade 5? Let us know in the comments below!
UPDATE: Yes, it's true, Dawn Reddick was kicked by Larry Gamble!
This is how I had spent the entire summer, it seemed. Bobbing up and down in the waters off one beach or another, while my parents unpacked coolers and lay plastic tablecloths across picnic tables.
I was in yet another haphazard line, rising and sinking rhythmically with the lazy waves just in front of the red buoys that kept us in, and danger out. Then I saw her. And she was coming towards me!
She was wearing a red bathing suit that day: the one-shoulder strap tied in a gracious bow over her right, super-tanned shoulder. And she had tiny gold butterfly earrings in. They glistened in the sun, foam from the water dripping from her ears.
Tara Phillips. The most popular girl in grade seven. All of last year I had watched as Jake Albert and Paul Risso pushed past one another trying to retrieve her dropped gloves, hats, pencils. Every recess I had watched her sitting with Monica, Cindy, and Kelly, on the edge of the schoolyard, under the oak tree, reading from Judy Blume’s Wifey-- scandalous at the time. I had watched her, but had never been invited in.
“Hey, you!” she called out as we rose up over the swell in the water. I wondered if she even remembered my name. “I’m so happy to see someone I actually know! Can I tell you something? I’ve been gone ALL summer. FINALLY, after, like, six weeks sleeping in a trailer park, tonight—I’m sleeping in my own bed!”
Though the truth was, I was here on a day trip; I told her that I’d been gone all summer too. That this was my last stop too. That yeah, it’ll be so good to finally get back to my own bed after all these weeks away.
She told me other things out there by the buoy-line; about how her parents were splitting up. How their house (with the pool) was up for sale, and she was moving in to the town houses off Elm Street with her sister and mom and her mom’s new boyfriend. How she wasn’t even sure if they’d be keeping their cat. Her mom’s boyfriend was allergic.
It was big news in our town the next morning. I calculated it couldn’t have been more than an hour after I left her, bobbing up and down along the buoy-line. She’d gone under them, swam out a bit further. Sometime in that hour, the waves had changed.
First there was shock, but almost immediately after that; excitement. I wish there wasn’t, but there it was all the same. It was me! Me! I was one of the very last people to see her! I could already see myself under the oak tree, telling the other girls all about it. I can’t remember how that conversation went, or if it even happened, but thirty years on, one image still lingers: A white Princess bed with pink, ruffled pillows, and a girl drifting off to sleep in it, after such a long time gone.
It wasn’t every recess that I was tolerated, running in the same pack with the popular boys in our grade five class. For once I was in the right place, at the right time, and I was in hot pursuit of Larry Gamble, our latest target. When he suddenly veered right, and ran through the doors, I was right behind him. He was heading straight for the girls’ washroom.
I was having none of that.
By the time I dug my fingers into his shoulder, he already had the door a quarter way open. There was a flash of recognition as he spun around. Then his knee jerked upward, right up between my legs.
“Oh, man! I didn’t I thought you were I was trying to kick you in the nuts!” I was doubled up in pain, and he was sputtering, but I got the point. He had mistaken me for one of the boys.
By third recess, the story had spread. Larry Gamble kicked Dawn Ruddick in the nuts (not a great story to be associated with when you are a girl). Once my brother, in grade seven, was informed, it was a done deal.
Larry had long, dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes, like a bad cliché for a kid from the wrong side of the tracks. He had an angular face, an overly muscular body, given his age, and I now knew, an ability to kick someone really hard in the nuts. I didn’t know much else about him, except he was a foster kid. My brother said he had already peed his pants twice, sitting right in his chair. I doubted it: He had only been in my brother’s class since Monday.
When the last recess bell blasted, kids charged out the doors like horses from the gate. Larry was being practically hydroplaned forward by my brother and his posse of Adidas clad 13 year olds. The stampede pushed him all the way up to the school fence. Then the chant began: “Go home Larry! Go home Larry! Go home Larry!” the chant getting faster and louder kind of like an old Italian wedding dance.
I suppose there was a second there, when I could have shouted it out—a disclaimer, that he hadn’t meant to hurt me, that he’d thought I was a boy. That he hadn’t broken the ancient law of never, ever, beating up a girl. But I didn’t. Maybe because my brother, who would never be caught dead talking to me at school, was defending my honour, or maybe because for once I was in the crowd not chasing it.
My brother gave him one hard push against his back, sending him just beyond the gate in the fence. When the bell rang again, we left him. He was standing at the bus stop facing away from us, looking down the road. He never looked back at us and none of us ever saw him again. Just like that. He was gone.