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taking on a premature ruddy hue as he had taken extra care in his daily reaming of Squirrel.

“Today all you little closet-queers are going to play a little game with me. It’s a little game I learned over in Da Nang, only this will not be a live ammunition drill. We will play with dodge balls and tennis balls. In the green, we used to play this game with our good buddies the Viet Cong. Now you all don’t know those sons of whores, but you’d know em if ya saw em. They’re slanty little guys in black pajama-lookin’ uniforms and sandals, and they can just disappear like little magicians into the jungle, and you won’t hear a thing but a flurry of whisper-soft footsteps and some crazy foreign gibberish.”

He stared out over the tiny sea of humanity at his command. A tiny purple vein in his neck surged. He eyed us up, each one as he spoke, and we stared at the horizon just over the peak of his brow, just as he had instructed us to. He continued, barking the nature and rules of his game at us.

“In this game, there will be three teams and four bunkers. The bunkers will be in the four corners of the gymnasium. You will occupy three of the four bunkers. I will occupy the fourth bunker. You will be armed with tennis balls and dodge balls. I will be armed with two volleyballs, a tennis ball, and the clothing on my body. You’re job as a class will be to overrun my bunker while sustaining your positions. If you compromise the integrity of your bunkers or you are captured, you will be forced to sit in the maintenance closet in my office next to the heating pipes and coils in the dark with the door closed until class is dismissed. And I don’t care how hot or crowded it gets in there, keep the door closed! Otherwise you’ll be running in place next to those heating pipes in the dark!”

I looked to the four corners of the room. There were piled up milk crates to serve as bunkers with dodge balls and tennis balls lined up neatly next to each one

“You will find pinnies to wear over your shirts so that you will be signified to me as the enemy and to each other as allies. Mcallister! Get those pinnies, they’re in a tan burlap bag in my office.”

Mcallister, a little brown-haired kid, small for his age but surprisingly good at almost every sport we played in gym, ran off in the direction of Mr. Joanne’s office at a full sprint.

Moments later Mcallister returned with a tan burlap bag filled with black mesh pinnies. He handed them out one at a time to us as we stood in formation. A smile was creeping across Mr. Joanne’s lips as we began to pull on our pinnies. He wrapped up his synopsis of the game for us.

“If you are pegged by a tennis ball, you are out. Get in the closet. If you are pegged with a dodge ball or volleyball twice, you are out. If you get close enough to me that I can touch you with a stabbing motion using my arm,” he stabbed at the air, his biceps and triceps wrestling with each other, “you are also out. I am only able to be taken out by brute force. You must make me bruise and/or bleed to win, because I will not give up my bunker. Do you all have your pinnies on?”

“SIR, YES, SIR!”

“When I say ‘scatter!’ you will split up into three approximately equal platoons, negotiate any obstacles in your path, and secure your platoon’s bunker. Once you and a group of your peers have acquired a bunker, you will band together! Once you are a platoon in your bunker, you are brothers no matter how much you hate one another. You


   
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