“Can’t you read?” little Nancy Pelosi snarled as she pointed at the red kickball tucked under her arm. “It says Ms. Burro’s Class Only!”
Johnny B. turned to the small caucus of his fellow classmates that had gathered behind him on the blacktop. “Just because there’s more of them doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to play, too!”
An eruption of cheers and jeers nearly drowned out Nancy’s response. “What are you going to do about it, 'Complainer' Boehner,” she teased.
Recess had just begun, but the feud between Ms. Burro’s and Mr. Packaderm's fifth-grade classes was a daily ritual that was starting to become somewhat of a problem at South Democracy Elementary School.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” Johnny B. retorted. “We’ll tell everyone that you hate South Democracy, and that you are planning to steal everybody’s lunch money.”
Nancy knew he wasn’t bluffing. Over his shoulder she could see Michele Bachmann on the other side of the playground hawkishly perched on the slide. Even Michele’s own classmates disliked her, but her knack for spreading titillating gossip and writing scurrilous notes made her a valuable ally.
“Fine, you can play,” Nancy succumbed. “We don’t have enough people anyway; that good-for-nothing Mike Ross and those six other mutts are still on our bad side for sitting at your table during lunch last week.”
Counting Nancy, there were 10 members of Ms. Burro's class who wanted to play kickball, and including Johnny B., there were six from Mr. Packaderm’s class. Arlen Specter volunteered to help even the teams; he never cared which side he was on as long as he got to play. Nancy decided to also give them Heath Shuler — he had never exactly lived up to expectations on and off the field.
“Hey, we’re still short one player,” piped up a toe-headed John McCain. “Maybe we should get an all-time roller. My mom tells me I’m a maverick cause I think outside the box. I should play that position. I’m a leader. I once got frozen behind enemy lines in freeze tag and …”
A collective groan came from the group. John had an annoying habit of telling the same stories over and over again.
“I could be your all-time roller,” said a wiry fourth-grader wandering over from the four square courts. “I know I sit with some of Ms. Burro’s class at lunch, but I have no intentions of letting that change how I roll. What’s important is that we work together, so that we can lay the foundation for a fun game.”
“Too bad,” Harry Reid shouted over his shoulder as he led the group down the hill to the oblong shaped kickball field.
Last summer, a company had built a plant next to South Democracy, and the once expansive outfield had been cut in half by a security fence, but the students didn't seem to mind. The elongated shadow the building cast over what was left of the field provided shade from the afternoon sun, and they enjoyed the luxury more than the room to play.
“First up,” both groups yelled simultaneously as they raced toward the backstop. After a relatively brief tangle, they decided to settle the dispute with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, but nobody could agree on the rules, and another argument broke out.
"You have 5 seconds to cut this out and start the game," Barry yelled. "I have the ball, and you guys have to listen to me!" His threats disappeared into the din and the fray continued on for several minutes.
A shrill whistle pierced the laughter filling the rest of the playground and ceased the ruckus at the kickball field. Disbelief fell across everyone's faces. Recess was over, and it was time to go back inside.
“No way, it’s all your fault," Johnny B. shot back. He lunged for the ball and ripped it from Nancy’s hands. The two began to struggle over the rubber sphere as a small crowed gathered around.
“Freeze!” yelled the teacher on recess duty. “It’s gonna be the wall for you two for the rest of the week if you don’t figure out a way to get along. There’s other people on this playground too, you know.”
The two quarreling children scowled at each other for a few more seconds before they both dropped the ball.
Bewildered, Barry shook his head and followed everybody inside.
Andrew Del-Colle is a former Missourian reporter and a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism.