Not Any Girl
A lazy summer day. A field. A football.
What more could a group of nine-year-old boys want?
Being an even number, apparently.
"We'll have to have a team with an extra player."
"No, we won't."
The first speaker looked at his friend incredulously. On closer inspection, though, one could detect a trace of insecurity also. Peter never spoke unless he had good reason, and if Tom had been a twenty-nine rather than nine-year-old, he might have taken the hint that insecurity provided him with by reasoning, "opposing for the fun of it is not Pete's style. He's more the practical sort. Determines the different sides of an issue, takes a good look at one, inspects a good look at the other, considers the optional rest - and picks. That's that. It's not that the word 'but' isn't in his vocabulary, it's just that he can't conceive that anyone would want to make use of it. Come to think of it, he doesn't use superfluous language, period. He knows what he wants and patiently waits until the dunderheads around him have finished the discussion. So for him to utter something that is, at first glance, so blatantly in contradiction with the facts as this, is totally out of character. He must have his reasons for it".
As it was, Tom said, "Yes, we will".
Meaningful look accompanied by silence.
"Okay, what do you know that I don't?"
"My cousin Alex is staying here for a few weeks. Came yesterday. Will be here in a couple of minutes. Had to help my mum with something. Plays a wicked game of football, our Alex."
"Why didn't you say so? I guess we can wait some more. But if he doesn't show up we're starting without him!"
"You mean I've never told you about my cousin Alex?"
"I didn't mean that, but no, you haven't. Why?"
Peter would have answered this in his usual down-to-earth manner. In this particular instance, his answer would have had the impact of a brick falling down to earth from a ten-floor building. Because boys will be boys. But at this moment, the front door of one of the houses on the other side of the field opened, and out came cousin Alex. Who ran across the field wearing a pink shirt and long hair in a ponytail.
And the brick became the entire building. Because girls will definitely not be boys.
"That's a girl."
"Nah. That's Alex. And she..."
"Is a girl."
"If you put it that way."
"I just did."
"Alex, this is Dave, and Rob, and Mark, and Tom. Tom was just saying that..."
"I can't play, right? Because I'm a girl?"
"Well if you're going to be stupid, you are."
"Girls can't play football. They're slow and they stink at it. My sister Kate won't even be goalie because she might chip a nail, and girls whine!"
"Well I can. And I'm fast. And I'm not your sister Kate. And I'm not going to fight you over this."
"Well duh, you're a girl. They're chicken. Ow! My foot!"
"That's for saying that I'm chicken."
"You just said you weren't going to fight!"
And the bickering continued. One might almost forget there were four more boys in the vicinity. Rest assured, three of those four boys had almost forgotten this themselves. They were staring open-mouthed at the exchange, thinking that while Alex certainly was a girl, she certainly was not like any girls they knew. The fourth just grinned. He'd seen this before and knew how it was going to end. Alex would convince Tom to take ten penalties with her being goalie. She'd stop at least six. And then she'd go off and play in front.
He was partially right. Tom finally said that fine, Alex could play. But in the goal. And not on his team. Which was rather stupid, seeing that he'd just encountered her skills personally. But Peter thought it best not to argue.
"No! Peter, look out!"
The sound of breaking glass indicated that this warning would, really, have done a good thing by coming a bit sooner.
There is really not a silence quite like the silence that booms into existence after the sound of something breaking. Especially if the object breaking is of one of Mr. Peabody's windows. But as is the way of silences, this also gave way. For a resounding
"Whooooooooo did this?"
Mr. Peabody in a good mood was not to be trifled with, as every single one of his current targets had experienced either first or second hand. Mr. Peabody at this time gave every impression of being a tank on the rampage, from intimidation factor to his slightly mossy green colour. The effect was slightly spoiled by Mr. Peabody carrying a football and wearing slippers, though. As by unspoken agreement, six bodies made a single front, for it did not appear that Mr. Peabody was in a good mood.
After coming to a full stop, Mr. Peabody seized up his opponents. Thoroughly. Then he came to a decision. "Nice try, boys. No single-fronting me. Who?"
With a silent call for help, Peter opened his mouth.
"Me, sir," came a small voice from the other side of the line.
It appeared Peter's call had been answered. By his cousin.
"And you are?"
"Alexandra O'Neill, sir."
"From the O'Neills down the street, I gather."
"Yes, sir. They're my aunt and uncle."
"I'll take it up with them. What were you doing playing football anyway? Not a game for girls."
"I'm not terribly good, sir, but they needed a sixth."
"So I gather. Well. Off you all go then, here's your ball. Peter, is your father at home?"
"My mother is, sir."
"I'll go talk to her, then, and you, young lady," accompanied by another stern look, "will be hearing from your parents, I trust. Here's your ball." And off he steamed.
Peter let out a sigh. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Now let's play."
With that, positions on the field were taken again. But Tom wouldn't let it go that easily. "Now hang on. How did you do that? When I broke Mrs. Cleat's window last year he talked her into keeping my ball for a week!"
"I know. Peter told me. I figured I stood a better chance. Anyway," she shrugged, "my mum and dad know that accidents happen. To me, mostly."
"You can play on my team next time. And you don't have to be the goalie if you don't want to. You're better at it than Dave, though. And er..."
"You're not a girl."
"You're a brick."
© 2004 Copyright held by the author.