The Marcy Games
“Eggs and Bacy!” lies the behemoth at the top of his tremendous lungs. I don’t move. Rarely is there ever eggs or bacon. More often there is sunlight, which I’m still not sure if that’s better than the days where there isn’t sunlight. Alas, the claws pull back the curtain, and the golden streams of Mother Nature’s obnoxiousness pour straight into my retinas. Through my eyelids. Dad sucks sometimes.
I say something eloquent like, “Uuuuuh.”
And he adds something eloquent like, “Uuuugghnnaaaffrruubbaaah,” which is a direct quote because he thinks waking me up and answering my grogginess with cavemen vomit-speak is funny. But before I have a chance to shake off the grasp of the sandman enough to demand justice, my father’s brain skips off into the magical Narnia inside of it and spits out, “Wake up, Marcy! It’s a beautiful day outside! Look at this gift we’ve been given! Sunshine! Blue skies! I’m gonna barbeque today and work on the garden with your mother! I’m so excited!”
I roll over. His bear paws grab me and flip me back to look at him. He sticks his Cheshire smile inches from my face and says, “Oh no you don’t! You’re gonna have a great day!” as he lifts me into the air and plops me back down sitting straight up.
The blood shaken within my system reaches the wrinkles in my brain that control speech patterns and I finally get the opportunity to say, “No.”
“C’mon, girl. Why don’t you like waking up to a beautiful day?”
“Have you heard of sleep?”
“When I was your age, I used to be so excited to wake up and play on a Saturday. Heck, you should at least wake up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons.”
“I watched them online last night,” I explain truthfully and what I think is reasonably, but for some reason his nine-year-old daughter’s grasp on technology angers the old man and once again I am coerced into losing contact with the ground. He slings me over his shoulder and carries me out my door.
On the way down the stairs, he offers condolences for my situation in the form of, “I bought you those Apple Cinnamon Cheerios you like; today’s gonna be a great day.”
Frightened by the acrobatics I am performing to not fall off his shoulder and die, I do not have enough wind in my lungs to harrumph.
* * *
I do not smile as I devour the apple-cinnamon heaven before me, but I fear my voraciousness gives away my pleasure. Fine. Fair trade to let him have an ounce of victory so that I can enjoy these Cheerios. Hopefully, this will make him buy them more often.
He’s not paying attention. He’s already on the phone chatting to some other early-riser who also doesn’t understand the purpose of life is to sleep. Specifically on Saturdays. I mean really?! Who doesn’t get that? I imagine the conversation is something like, “Blabbity blabbity sunshine! Blah blah wonderful goo goo day! Don’t you agree?” And then they’ll say, “Oh why yes! Lovely lovely blabbity! Outside worms garden fun fun fun!”
“Oh yes! She’d love to play with Duncan,” I hear Dad say.
I rack my brain. Does Mom know a Duncan? Mom doesn’t have that many friends I don’t know of, right?
“I’ll send Marcy over right after she’s finished with breakfast,” he says, with a crooked smile. He winks at me, the fiend. I look down at the bowl in front of me and realize what it is: a deception, a con, a distraction. Who would beguile someone into a false state of comfort with apple-cinnamon goodness in order seal their fate to a day spent with Duncan? Duncan?! I am your flesh and blood, father! Why desert me so!
* * *
I cannot fault him for missing his front two teeth; genetics and biology have chosen this time for his baby teeth to disperse. But Duncan seems so intent on the goofiness of his goofy smile that I feel like he practices in front of a mirror for an hour each day – two hours this morning – in order to find the perfect pitch of goofy. And please, Duncan, giggle me to sleep with your sultry chortles.
Duncan does his best car engine impression as he pushes his latest cereal box prize with wheels up a sand dune. He helps the toy car along with its two back flips, everything from spinning the car in the air himself to making the wind noises. The car lands; Duncan’s imaginary crowd goes wild.
But oh no! What’s this?! Mr. Man lost a bet that the Hot Lightning car wouldn’t make a 720 flip and now he wants to beat up the driver! Not if Megadude can help it! Good thing Megadude is super strong and super fast and super able-to-fly!
As I sit in the sandbox watching Duncan smush action figures together in a way that resembles kissing way more than the intended action-packed martial arts that Duncan is making the sounds for, I wonder two things: one, how does Duncan know that two full rotations is 720 degrees? And two, why am I friends with him? I blame Tony Hawk as the answer to my first question. The second is harder.
I admit that I don’t have very many friends, but that is purely out of choice. The children at my elementary school fall into one of three categories. There are the snot-nosed spoiled lot that are so caught up with the latest bedazzled backpacks and dribble of curse words they heard that they lack the self-awareness to notice the aforementioned nostril leakage. Then there are the prissy pink-addicted lemmings that steal Cosmopolitan from the local Supercuts in order to continue their cycle of media-fueled self-hatred. But the majority of children are a mish and mash of plebs, boring simpletons like Duncan who are simply content with what is given to them. They read only the books on the summer reading list – and only two at that; they are satisfied with only one Dominoes day for school lunch; and they rarely, if ever, ask questions of our teachers further than “can I go to the bathroom?” Some of them even laugh when the teacher corrects them to say, “may I go to the bathroom?” Horrid creatures. Not my kind.
So then it is a wonder why I spend so much time with Duncan. Even more wondersome is why I have never yet questioned the fact. I’ve always thought of him as my friend. But why? Is it that he lives so close and that my parents are too lazy to drive so they force me to play with someone down the block? Is it that our parents are friends and that’s the only way to make friends in elementary school? Certainly I’ll have more choice in Junior High. Right?
That can’t be enough of a reason. You’re supposed to like your friends. I should tell Dad when I get back that I don’t want to play with Duncan anymore. We don’t click. No friendship-chemistry. I mean, why should I be friends with him? He’s not on the same level with me vocabulary-wise – and that’s not because he’s a math wiz or something. His conversational skills are lacking. He doesn’t even understand the meaning of playing with someone. Sure I haven’t offered to join in the high stakes excitement of the Super Tricky Car Tricks Games or offered any threads for the superb drama of Megadude as he overcomes the nefarious Mr. Man, but he hasn’t exactly offered me much opportunity besides looking up at me with his stupid goofy smile. But I wouldn’t want to join anyway. And why are we in a sandbox?! The magic of sand drifted away long before I learned how to spell. Hasn’t this kid heard of television?! We could be playing video games right now! Vivid three-dimensional renderings of fantastical worlds could be washing over my eyeballs right now!
But no, here I sit with Duncan. This is my friend: uninteresting and unspecial.
“I’m bored,” I say out loud, simply to express it.
Duncan looks up. Befuddlement replaces the usual goofiness. Then, an idea blunders around his brain until it lights his face with excitement. “Wanna play tag? Or hide and seek? Or race?” he asks.
“Why don’t you just get a treadmill?” I answer.
He doesn’t understand the sarcasm, letting it smack him in the head and then fly over him. The jolt must have helped him come up with his next gem: “Wanna see my new cuts?” he asks.
Woah, Duncan. That’d be the coolest thing in the whole history of the world.
He pulls back the dirt stained cloth of his shorts to reveal a scraped knee before I have a chance to recover from my inner monologue’s wit and actually protest. “Check it out!” he exclaims so gleefully he misses a beat in the rhythm of his breathing, “I got this from kickball in school this week!”
I nod. I make a special effort to make sure my expression of disinterest doesn’t venture into the territory of disgust, since that would only encourage the boy.
He lifts is shirtsleeve to expose fresh red lines on his elbow and says, “I got these from climbing a tree yesterday!”
Again, I nod. Disinterest, I repeat to myself. Do not encourage. Do not engage. I try to fake a yawn. I put my hand up to my mouth, open it wide, and make the yawn noise.
Duncan continues on, his excitement building. Am I not doing a good job at disinterest-face? It works perfectly for Mom and Dad. But Duncan seems immune, oblivious. Fervent, passionate pride fills him as he regales me with the story of the puppy so happy that he jumped on Duncan and scratched his chest. Then there’s the yarn about a Boy Scouts trip in which peril seemed around every corner. And when he starts touching on the saga of his grand victory of losing his training wheels, my mind starts imploding! Fine, Duncan! If you want to be my friend so bad, if you want to show off all your scratches and triumphs, then you’ll have to prove your worth as a friend! If feats are what you love, then show me feats. And maybe if I scare you enough, you’ll never want to hang out with me again and Dad will let me sleep in and watch TV instead of setting me up on these stupid play dates.
“…and then the bear was like five dads stacked on top of each other—“
“Duncan,” I interrupt, ignoring that my interest was actually piqued at the thought of an actual bear and wishing that that had been the one story I’d paid attention to, “Duncan, let’s play a game.”
“Okay, cool! What game?” says goofy-face.
I think… I hadn’t gotten that far. I mostly wanted to interrupt him to shut him up so I could focus on thinking. “Uuuuuuh….the Marcy Games” I say quickly, then add, “Duh.”
Duncan’s face lights up as if he got a new booboo and got to show it off to an astronaut, “That sounds fun! How do you play?”
“You don’t just play the Marcy Games, you conquer them,” I declare, adding some pizzazzy hand motions, “The Marcy Games are a series of challenges that I make up for you that you have to do. Got it?”
Duncan nods with verve.
“Good. Let’s get started…” I look around. How do you test Duncan, the human test-dummy? I need to find something so horrible, so disgusting, so vile, that even he wouldn’t do it.
On the edge of Duncan’s backyard, there is a perimeter of trees that Duncan has already mentioned his affinity for climbing four times today. I walk over to it, hoping for inspiration. Duncan follows like a lost dog. My first instinct is to find squirrel poop and make him eat it. Poop definitely crosses the line that Duncan won’t; it’s a sure-fire victory. But alas, I cannot find slash recognize anything resembling squirrel poop. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to find it before. Actually, I’ve most likely tried not to think about it before. Life is lived best not thinking about other creatures’ or people’s poop.
But eating something is a good idea; I should find something super gross. I peel a piece of bark off a tree. Duncan watches with fascination at my every moment… I have to think of something fast because that is creepy. I smell the bark. Unfortunately, the smell is actually kind of nice, almost a mix between a mesquite and a pine. Plus, he might get splinters and I don’t want to kill the kid. An ant scurries from the bark to my finger and I freak out and toss the bark away. But that gives me an idea. I scour the ground for what I’m looking for: a giant rock. Aha!
“Duncan, flip over that rock” I command pointing to a large, flat one a few feet away.”
“Piece of cake,” he laughs.
“That’s not the challenge.”
He flips over the rock and sure enough, we’ve hit pay dirt in the dirt. See, underneath most flat rocks is a cool, moist spot where the creepiest of creepy crawlies hang out. The ickiest roly-polies, the slimiest worms, and the stinkiest beetles crawl around down there. Even Duncan shudders a little when he flips the rock and sees all that squirming.
“The first challenge in the Marcy Games is to eat one roly-poly, one worm, and one beetle from underneath this rock!” I shout to the heavens as if trumpeters were accompanying me.
Duncan gasps. He looks from me to the creatures of the earth and back to me. He’s going to crack. He’s going to give up. He’s going to cry to his mommy and leave me alone. I’m going to be able to go home and watch the latest season of Dr. Who.
He kneels down next to the overturned rock and braces himself on it. He sticks his face close to the myriad of critters skittering around the dirt. Delicately, he reaches down and grabs a roly-poly, his hand trembling a little as he does. He drops it, snatching his hand back to his body. His lips curl into a complete 180-degree semi-circle of disgust. I’ve got him. He won’t do it. Marcy victory.
Then, in an instant, he snaps his hand forward, grabs the roly-poly he dropped, and tosses it into the air and into his mouth like someone catching M&Ms. I watch as he chews, slowly. Ever so slowly. He savors the taste, the texture, the roly-ness of the poly. He swallows.
“Salty,” he says with a smile.
He reaches back into the slimy shantytown and picks the biggest of the two worms. He wiggles his eyebrows at me – ew – and proceeds to suck the worm through the gap in his smile where his front two teeth should be. He swallows it whole, and giggles as it travels down his esophagus.
“Tickles!” he giggles.
Next he grabs the biggest, baddest beetle of the bunch. He finds a large blue one with what seems like horns. A part of me is worried that it might be poisonous, but that part of me is overpowered by the majority of me that’s completely repulsed by the boy’s glee. Duncan starts his victory lap at the first Marcy Game challenge by biting of the bug’s head. I have one eye closed but I think I saw green slime spewing out the neck when he bit it. After chomping the head around, Duncan delights in the crunch by ingesting the rest of the beetle in three itty-bitty bites. He chews, swallows, and smiles that goofy smile.
“Challenge complete!” he shouts. He thrusts his fist into the air for effect.
I try for disinterest-face, but I am only capable of astonished-disgust.
* * *
I curse my naivety – I should have known that Duncan would enjoy something gross – and I lead Duncan away from his backyard and towards the school for a more daring challenge. He protests the change of locale, but I call him a sissy and he submits. Boys are stupid; refer to them in any way something that resembles a girl and they get all hoity-toity and upset. You just proved being a boy is stupider: You ate bugs. And liked them. Boys are gross.
No, Duncan, we have to leave your dumb backyard and its dumb sandbox because we need a challenge much more formidable. You’re too dimwitted to gross out and you’ve already conquered every inch of your own backyard so many times that you’ve resorted to your imagination in a sandbox for entertainment. No, we need something real. We need something big. We need something scary.
At the edge of the schoolyard, beyond the soccer field and the smattering of trees where the first graders play butt-tag, is a craggy cliff that goes straight up for about twenty feet. The cliff leads to a street on a hill that circles around the schoolyard as it slopes downward. I’ve seen middle-schoolers climb it, so I know it’s not impossible. And judging by several YouTube compilations of people falling from various heights that I frequent, I imagine a fall from this cliff won’t kill the boy. So I’m gonna tell him to climb it. He might break his leg, however, which would be an important lesson on risk versus reward for him and the dangers of peer pressure. I only wish fear on Duncan and not physical pain, but if he breaks his leg, he might not want to play with me ever again. That’d be nice. But what I really want is to see him run crying home to his mommy, screaming that he can’t do it.
I point to the top of the cliff. His eyes grow wide. The goofy fades. “Marcy Game challenge number two,” I say, “Go to the top.”
Duncan’s jaw drops as he looks up the sheer cliff. I imagine the caw of that bird from the western movies accenting the moment. The cliff narrows its imaginary eyes and stares down the fear in Duncan’s. The horns play a somber melody. The guitar rolls in. The heat blurs his vision. Sweat drips down his forehead.
“Wait, what do I get if I beat all these challenges?” he asks.
I stop short. I hadn’t counted on him thinking for himself. Oh well, I’ll be honest. “You win my friendship,” I tell him.
He smiles wide and nods determinedly. “Okay!” he shouts and heads for the cliff.
He puts one hand up and grabs a rock for a solid handhold. He searches with his foot for a place to stick it, settling on a gap between two rocks. Holding onto the cliff with just one hand and one foot, he lifts himself up and repeats the process with his other limbs. Slowly, he makes his way up. One hand. One foot. One hand. One foot.
At ten feet above the ground, halfway up the cliff, I realize he is two and half of himself up off the ground. He must be realizing this himself or he might be realizing that he still has two and a half of himself to go. The problem with being halfway is that its neither easier to keep going or quit. But, he should have thought of that before he went up. It’s a stupid idea really. Why would you climb a cliff? All I said was “go to the top.” If he were clever, he would have gone around the slope; that would have been more impressive. Think outside the box, boy. But nope, good ol’ Duncan has to go the obvious way. Straight up.
Duncan’s hand slips. He slides down the cliff, trying to brace himself against the wall. The jagged edges slice his knees and forearms as he clings to the rubble that slides out from under him. On second thought, maybe I had the bad idea. Duncan could hurt himself. Badly. He shouldn’t have to pay for his own stupidity. “Duncan!” I shout, “You should come down.”
“Why?” he shouts back down.
Uuuhh, “because you could hurt yourself.”
“Right, so come down.”
“Nah, I’m almost there.”
Is he serious? “Duncan, I was joking about the game. We don’t have to play anymore.”
“No! I can do it!” he squeals and leaps upwards, reaching for a ridge in the cliff.
Time slows for me so slow that I think I see the movement of Duncan’s jump in separate frames of still images as if I slowed down a movie clip.
Second One: Duncan hunches his knees.
Second Two: Duncan pushes off.
Second Three: The tips of his toes lose contact with the cliff.
Four: Duncan is flying parallel to the cliff.
Five: His fingers stretch.
Six: Pebbles flutter down the wall.
Seven: Four fingertips pass by an indent in the rock.
Eight: They come down on the indent.
Nine: The dirt gives and crumbles under the stress of the fingers.
Ten: Blood rushes to the nails.
Eleven: The fingertips slip!
His second hand catches hold of the seemingly two-centimeter indent. Duncan’s body swings as he regains control of it and then he lifts himself up to the place he had originally fallen from and takes another step higher.
If Duncan dies, I decide, I’m going to tell his parents to their face that it was his own fault. Yes, I started the game, but it was his moron-ity that put him in danger. I cannot be held accountable for that. I gave him a way—
“I did it!” he yells from the top.
Flabbergasted, I look up to find Duncan lifting his arms to the sky a full twenty feet above me. He jumps around and wiggles his booty in triumph. Smug.
“You should try, Marcy!” he shouts down.
“No.” I answer.
“No, really. It was so cool! And this view is awesome.”
“You know, you could have just gone around,” I advise, pointing to the way the rode curves around the school and slowly upward to the spot, “you didn’t have to climb.”
Duncan giggles, “But the climbing was the best part!”
I finally realize how to deal with the boy: I sigh. Duncan’s an idiot.
* * *
His Goofiness skips behind me in his bubble of happiness as I pace around the playground trying to come up with something dastardly for the third challenge. Duncan has proven that he is impenetrable to both grossness and fear and I’m having great difficulty fathoming anything worse than that. Between the gears of the membranes in my brain I think I hear him whistle. I hate him.
I search the playground for something truly horrible. Monkey bars? Slide? Basketball hoop? Any physical challenge on a playground will no doubt be fun for the primate. Think, Marcy, think. Go back to the start. The purpose is to prove why he should be friends with you, right? Maybe a mental challenge? I glance over at Duncan. He smiles at me. He looks vapid. It doesn’t seem noble to dangle algebra in front of him. A pit of snakes would be kinder.
Then what challenge should he face? I don’t care about eating stupid things or climbing stupid walls. And no one can match me intellectually. Do I even want a friend then? Why should I care about him or even testing him? This is a stupid game. I just wanna go home. I just wanna go back to sleep.
“Hey Fart-sy!” shouts a whiney voice that I recognize as the whiniest of whiney voices.
Cindy and Arnold swagger over from the other side of the playground. They literally swagger; Cindy intentionally limps in order to imitate someone she saw on MTV. Arnold blunders along next to her, imitating Cindy. Sheep.
“What’cha up to Fartsy?’ trills Cindy.
“Nothing.” I say.
“We’re playing a game,” smiles Duncan.
“What game?” Cindy asks, feigning cordiality.
“Butt-tag?” taunts Arnold.
“Nope,” says Duncan, “We’re playing The Marcy Games. Wanna join?”
“Marcy Games? What kind of fart is that?” my enemy shrieks.
“It’s great! It’s a bunch of challenges Marcy makes up. I’ve already eaten bugs and climbed a mountain!”
“A mountain? I don’t see no mountains around, Butt-can,” reports Arnold.
“Thanks, I wasn’t sure if there was one or not. But now that we know that there are none, we’ll be going,” I say as I turn to leave.
Arnold catches my arm, “Not so fast Fartsy.”
“It’s Marcy,” corrects Duncan earnestly.
Arnold narrows his eyes, “No, Butt-can. It’s Fartsy, ‘cause she smells like farts.”
“No, she doesn’t.”
“Nu-uh,” says Duncan. I look over at him. The confusion in his face is so palpable I could eat it.
Cindy’s wretched lip-sticked jowls eek out an upturned semi-circle that objectively could be argued to not be a smile because of the supreme rottenness of her character, “Marcy, Fartsy, Fartsy, Marcy. Whatever. It doesn’t matter what she smells like, ‘cause no one ever wants to be around her.”
“Yeah!” agrees Arnold.
“Poor little loner Marcy. It would almost be merciful if you smelled like farts. Then you’d have a reason why no one likes you.”
“Oh snap!” agrees Arnold.
“But in reality? You just suck. That’s why no one likes you.”
“Ye-yeah!” yells Arnold. He hops around clucking and flapping his wings like a chicken.
I hate Cindy…. She’s a jerk. I don’t smell like farts… I … I don’t even need to respond to her. She’s just a bully… Tons of people like me. I’m lovable. I’m smart. I’m fun—
Cindy juts her witch-face inches from my nose. She fashions her fangs into a smirk and adds, “It’s only going to get worse in junior high. I’m really excited for you to hit puberty. You’ll finally be the freak on the outside that matches your insides.”
“STOP!” yells Duncan. I look over at him. Anger has broken through his confusion.
“Stop what, Butt-can?” asks Arnold.
“Stop saying mean things to my friend.”
“Okay, Butt-cab” ripostes Arnold.
“No really,” says Duncan, stamping his foot into the ground, “It’s mean and not true. Marcy’s awesome! She comes up with a bunch of fun games. And she’s really smart. And- and- and she’s just a cool person. I like her and that’s all there is to it. She’s my friend. And I don’t care what you guys think, but I’m not gonna let you say mean things to her.”
“What’re you gonna do about it?” says Cindy through her parseltongue .
Arnold attempts to crack his knuckles menacingly.
Duncan shakes his head, “I don’t have to do anything about it. I just wanted to say what needed to be said.” With that he puts an arm around my shoulder and ushers me away from the playground.
I don’t look back.
* * *
I run home so that Duncan won’t see me cry. I rush passed my parents and ignore my father’s stupid smile and the stupid smell of the burgers he’s barbequing and every-stupid-thing else.
I shut the door. I open it again and slam it. Just ‘cause. ‘Cause it’s stupid that’s why! I hate it. I hate barbeques and sunshine and outdoors and Arnold and the gremlin named Cindy and the rat that died that she calls a face. I wish they’d all go away and just leave me alone and let me sleep. Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone! Just let me be by myself. I’m the only person worth being around.
* * *
A knock on the stupid door.
“You okay, Marcy?” asks the voice of the fiend who set this horrible day in motion.
“I’m fine” I lie to the liar.
“Okay, well… I thought you might be hungry so I brought you this.”
A hand opens the door enough inches to let light poor through from the hallway and blind me. I toss the covers back over my head.
I hear the click of the stupid door close gently. Stupid curiosity makes me peek out of the covers. Stupid moonlight lets me see a plate with a burger on it.
Wheat bun. Burger patty. Thousand island dressing. Red onion swirl. Just enough iceberg lettuce to get a crunch. Wheat bun top. The way I like it.
But it’s presented on a tray with a mug of water like they shove through the slots in the doors at Arkham. I’m not sure if outside or inside is the cell.
* * *
Does anybody like me? I can’t think of anyone at school that I’m actually close with. Miranda lets me borrow her crayons sometimes. Craig laughs when I make fun of Cindy. Duncan follows me around when our parents set up a playdate.
But no one chooses to be around me. No one actually likes me. Why should they? There’s nothing fun about me. I hate everything. I sit inside all day. I dislike sunshine? What homo-sapien does that? Sunshine? Everybody loves sunshine! Why the hell don’t I like sunshine?
Why the hell does anybody else like it? Like honestly? What’s to like about it? Cause it’s warm sometimes? It burns people! It’s annoying when you wake up. You have to wear that goopy stuff when you go to the beach. It’s so stupid that humans evolved to where they still can’t go outside without getting burned by the sun. Seriously. What the hell is that?
But there I go! Criticizing everything! Why can’t I just shut up? It’s life; let it be what it’s gonna be. And “homo-sapiens?” Who talks like that? Who uses that word? No wonder I have no friends. Who can talk to me? You need a dictionary just understand what I’m saying. I’m nine for cryin’ out loud! I’m supposed to like glitter and horses.
And Duncan. The one person in the entire universe that’s nice to me and what do I do? I try to get him killed! I make him eat poisonous bugs and climb perilous cliffs! He could have gotten really hurt! And I wanted him to! I literally remember thinking that I hoped he broke his leg so he’d go away. I’m horrible.
I’m horrible. I’m horrible. I’m horrible. I’m horrible. I’m horrible.
What’d Duncan ever do to deserve that? Be nice to me? Want to include me in his Mr. Man slash Megadude battles? Sheesh, if I spoke up instead of being so mean to him he would have let me play with some of the toys. I could have even made my own sound-effects.
Well that would’ve been dumb. But still, I didn’t have to want to see him piss his pants. I’m horrible. I deserve no friends. I can’t believe it. No I can, but I wish I couldn’t. I wish I wasn’t such a horrible person. I wish I didn’t treat people like squirrel poop.
I wish I liked sunshine… no wonder I have no friends.
* * *
When sunshine hits you through the stupid curtain you left open the night before and wakes you up by piercing your stupid retinas through the specific piece of skin specifically designed to protect you from the specific phenomena of light so that you can enjoy the specific phenomena of sleep, you realize it’s a new day. Then you curse your dad for being such a stupid goof-head and spouting his candy-coated slush about new days. Then you reluctantly thank him.
Duncan called me a friend. He’s just enough of a goof-head not to realize how much of a goof-head I’ve been to him.
I run downstairs and grab the phonebook from the basket next to the fridge. I flip through until I find Duncan’s parents’ name and then call the numbers.
“Hello?” says a woman through the phone.
“Hi, is Duncan there?” I ask.
“Yes, may I ask who’s calling?”
“Oh, Marcy! Are you okay? Duncan said you were shaken up when he last saw you.”
“Yes, I’m much better now,” I say – it’s easiest to politely lie on the phone – “thanks for asking.”
“Glad to hear it, I’ll put Duncan right on. One moment please.”
I hear a shuffling of feet and the receiver on the other end. I don’t have time to ponder why both our parents are so behind the times that we both have house phones because Duncan says, “Hello?”
“It’s Marcy. Meet me at the school. It’s time for The Marcy Games Challenge Number Three.”
I hang up. That was dramatic enough to catch his interest, right? He’s gonna meet me there, right?
* * *
I twiddle my thumbs as I stand on the blacktop by the handball court. I’m still not sure why people twiddle their thumbs, but there’s something addicting about it. Duncan should be coming soon. He’d definitely come. He’s my friend. Right? No, yes. Definitely, maybe.
A tiny dot appears on the horizon. That’s an exaggeration. It’s more like a blur of a person I can’t quite make out. As it gets closer, I start to pick out its features. The goofiness becomes clearer. The Goofiness is coming.
“Sorry, I’m late!” huffs and puffs Duncan.
“It’s okay,” I shrug. I hide my relief.
“What’s the challenge?” he asks, hunger in his eyes. He sure does like this stuff. He might want to get that checked out by his pediatrician.
I don’t know how to tell him. Spin it, Marcy, you can do it. Spin it….
“The next challenge is different. It’s also the final challenge of this iteration of the Marcy games.” Mental face-palm when I say iteration. This is Duncan, Marcy, take it easy with the vocab. Mental face-palm at mental face-palms. Too much meta. I should get that checked out by a pediatrician.
“What is it?” he says, bringing me back.
“Since the Marcy games are a test of your friendship with me… the final challenge is…”
His eyes get googley. That’s distracting.
“The final challenge is that you have to help me up the cliff and make sure I don’t die,” I spit out.
Duncan’s face lights up, “That sounds awesome! You’re gonna love it!” Duncan runs away towards the same cliff he climbed the day before.
Deep breath. In. Out. In—
I run after him. He stops at the foot of the cliff and smiles at me with his goofy gap. He wiggles his eyebrows at me and then points up to the top of the cliff with his pupils. “You got this!” he says patting me on the back.
I nod. I got this. I can do this. I want to do this. Bye bye stupid Marcy; hello indefatigably awesome Marcy.
One of my hands reaches up and grabs a rock above me. I lift my leg and find a solid footstone in the wall. My second foot comes up. My other hand reaches a little higher.
“Stay close to the wall! You use less energy that way!” shouts Duncan.
“You don’t need to shout, Duncan. I’ve only gone two feet.”
I carefully reach my leg up a little higher. I pull my weight up with my arms, heeding Duncan’s advice. A foot higher, I look down. The ground doesn’t spin below me. Duncan doesn’t look like an ant or an action figure. He just looks goofy. I look up. It doesn’t look so high when you’re climbing. I pull myself up another foot.
Hand after hand. Foot after foot. Careful, sure, calm—
I’m really good at this. I’m awesome!
I lift myself up another foot. My hand reaches up and my fingertips feel for a crevasse; they find the top. What? I step up with my foot and then pull myself up to the top.
Around me, the schoolyard spreads out. The sunshine almost twinkles on the metal of the playground. Duncan looks like… a slightly smaller Duncan. But still, the view is impeccable.
“I’m coming up!” yells Duncan.
As he clambers up, I continue to admire the view. An overwhelming head-rush comes to my heart. It bubbles within my blood! I beat my chest and scream, “I’M QUEEN OF THE WORLD!”
“Yep,” says Duncan as he swivels his leg over the top. He stands up and puts an arm around my shoulder, “you sure are.”
I don’t like to let people see me cry, so I turned my face away from Duncan’s goofy eyes. He takes his arm off my shoulder, sits down, and sighs admiringly, “That was a fun game, Marcy. Great idea!”
I sit down next to him and his broad smile. I bite my lip to stave off any liquid leaks and pretend I’m rubbing my to get out any evidence. Duncan doesn’t notice. He looks out over the perfect blue sky of the day.
“You’re a good friend,” I tell him, “you’re good at it.”
“Thanks!” he smiles, “you too!”
A moment passes where I think about whether he means that last statement. He just sits there and smiles.
“We can play the Duncan Games next if you want… but I’m not going to eat any bugs… or squirrel poop.”
“Woah! Really?! That’s a great idea!”
“No! The Duncan Games! I don’t think I’ll be able to make ‘em as fun as you did, but I’ll try!”
I smile – a real genuine one – and put my arm around Duncan’s shoulders, “You like barbeque? My dad’s on a barbeque kick. You should come over.”
Duncan nods. Goofily.
It makes me smile.