Picked last. Again. I always get picked last. While it is sixth grade Physical Education kickball, it still seems unfair. I think my head was the largest part of me in sixth grade. I was thin. I was so thin that doctors had actually accused my mother of starving me. Couldn’t have been further from the truth. But I never seemed to gain an ounce, except to get taller. It stings to get picked last. At least in Scholastic bowl, I am one of the top performers. Why do I have to take this class that I am obviously not good at, anyway? Asthma ensures that I lose my wind faster than everyone else. It isn’t as though I am fat. I’m healthy. As usual, the other kids are plotting where I can be put so that I’ll do the least amount of damage. I hate them.
The hour is nearly over now. Good, after this, I can eat lunch. Then I’ll be back in class with a math book. I don’t like math, necessarily, but I am good at math. I’d prefer to do something I am at least good at. I’m waiting on the bench for my turn. Coach announces this is the last inning. This hell is almost over. Nobody ever calls the P.E. teacher a teacher. He’s the high school wrestling coach, Coach O’Connor. Coach O, for short, or just Coach, he’ll answer to any of the three. We’ve gotten to the bottom of the order. The jocks get to go first, then the wannabes. The eggheads, the slow, fat and lame get to go last. Always seemed odd to me. It seems like you’d want the guys who do the worst to be intermixed. At least then, if one of us did get one base, you’d be set up for a double, or a triple. Then again, it’s kickball. Or maybe they just figure if the wannabes strike out, at least we scored a few runs. Or the jocks just want to make sure they play.
Oh, I am almost up. Damn. I’ve been daydreaming. Let’s look around. Wow. Kevin is on second base and Chris is on first. Donnie is up to kick. I can hear the jocks behind me, resting from their mighty labors. From their conversation, I gather that Coach O has promised sodas to the winners. I must’ve missed that part. We’re a couple of runs down. The jocks tell me just to get a base hit, and Bret would get me home. Bret Green, The Jock, is after me, as I am last in the order. They’re expected either Donnie or I to strike out. Actually, they’re just playing the odds, but it does hurt, a little. I am not a cripple, after all. If Donnie and I both strike out, then we have no soda.
Donnie gets a base hit. He runs to first base, puffing. I’m up. The jocks have lost interest. If I strike out, then The Jock will rescue them. I have become insignificant. As I am coming up to the plate, one of the guys has lead off the base. Their jock notices. Kevin is out. Now I am it, the man to make a play. The jocks are interested again. I wonder if I should be flattered, but then decide that greed for soda would make them interested in the Elephant Man. Now there are two on base, and me up to the plate. We need three runs to win. I stop myself from figuring my “batting average”. “Base hit,” Bret tells me. Just a base hit is all we need.
I get up to kick. I’m relaxed. I’ve already told myself I do not care. In the long run, this will mean little to me. The ball comes over the plate, and I kick it. By some fluke of physics, I kick it square. I watch it sail to the other end of the gym, where there is a division of two colors on the wall. Above the line is an automatic home run. The ball hits above the line, way above the line. It nearly hits the electronic scoreboard. I have never kicked a ball like that. I run the bases in bewilderment. As I cross home plate, the jocks start running up to me. They actually pick me up on their shoulders and start chanting my name. Suddenly, I know. I know why they are jocks. I experience it for the first time. I get it. I know this taste will be all too brief, but I revel in their adulation. I will likely never be here again, so I might as well enjoy it. But the jocks are here all the time: this is where they live. Suddenly, I get it. I know. I never looked down upon them again. And I was picked second to last, from then on.