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noise and static commotion, I got a good panoramic view of the entire gymnasium, albeit through spread fingertips. From my little corner, still trying to find some shelter behind an overturned crate, I saw the complete pandemonium that my mind was afraid to imagine when I was safe behind my crate. The kid who got pegged in the neck was rolling around in the middle of the floor, and kids were jumping over him and bumping into him, all running to the closet. Mr. Joanne was sprinting everywhere, screaming, foaming at the mouth and just howling, pegging kids, kicking kids, stabbing at kids. One kid was just laying by his crates, cupping his bloody nose and yelling ‘help me, help me, help me!’ but everyone just ran right by him, whether they were running to escape Mr. Joanne or running to the closet or running to the last bunker standing, which had fifteen kids and a maniacally laughing, twisted-faced Johnny Bronson brandishing tennis balls and dodge balls behind it. I could do nothing but watch as Mr. Joanne barreled into the pile of kids huddled behind the crates, pegging them with balls he had picked up off of the ground. The kids all scattered, running for a hot dark crowded closet and ignoring the few kids laying on the ground hurt or scared. I just sat in awe, watching as the last of the kids cleared the gymnasium floor and Mr. Joanne raised his head and arms to the sky, his entire body heaving and glistening with sweat, and let out a bellow that actually shook the room. I closed my eyes until it was over.

When everything turned silent, I opened my eyes and saw that Mr. Joanne, good old Rex, was just standing in the middle of the gymnasium, breathing, looking at the floor and clenching a tennis ball in his right hand. He looked like he was thinking about something.

All at once he just dropped the tennis ball and he snapped his head up, licking his lips. I wanted to laugh at him in his tee-shirt bandanna, but the lump in my throat disallowed that. He didn’t look at anyone, he just kind of looked from one point on the wall to another to another. He looked ready to say something, but he didn’t. Kids began to file from the humid stinking bowels of the maintenance closet to see if the game was over, a sweat-soaked Squirrel the last one to push his way out.

Mr. Joanne sniffed, then in a voice I hardly recognized, one made hoarse and gravely by screaming, a voice that sounded strangely resigned, he wrapped up today’s fun and games for us. “Get back into your civilian clothes, guys. You’re all warriors, and maybe if you fought like this all the time I wouldn’t have to PT you so hard. Hit the lockers.”

We did just that.

After we changed at our lockers, each of us noiseless and rigid, with Mr. Joanne inspecting the aisles to make sure there was no tomfoolery amongst his troopers, we stood in a single file line in front of a closed door, the entrance/exit to the locker room. We stood in front of a door that stood in front of a hall that would eventually lead us out into the rest of our day.

After class, Mr. Joanne was scribbling in his little green notebook like he always did. He was standing about five feet to my left, and if I looked out of the corner of my eye I could see part of what he was writing in his journal: ‘…and finished the last ones off, so gook threat to the area was neutralized, however our camp itself is still being sniped from the jungles bearing southwest, so I….’

Pretty soon the bell rang, but we all knew better than to leave just yet. We stood


   
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