94. Schoolyard

“Did you bring it?”
James near-pounced on
Barker, steering
To a vacant
Corner of the yard.
Barker’s hands flashed,
Whirling on and on–
James hopped, foot to foot.
Finally: “Don’t
Tell me it! Just
Show me!
I can’t figure out
A word you say!
Show me if you
Have it, Barker, cripes!”
But the other’s
Signing did not cease.
James grabbed Barker’s
Fingers: “Show! Show!”
A dark scowl spread
Over Barker’s face,
His blonde breathless
Brightness shadowed dim.
Barker shrugged.
Out of his hip pocket
Carelessly, he produced Prince
Albert: thin square can.

“Wow!”
Eagerly James
Seized it to inspect.
His face fell.
“Barker,” sternly,
“Lookit here. It’s
Busted! Lid won’t
Close. You told me
It’s okay!” James,
Angry–bent
Tobacco tin!–
James grabbed Barker’s
Hand though he knew
Better. And that knowledge
Made James madder
Still–“Broken!
How–say–broken.”
He mouthed Tarzan talk
To needle Barker.
Barker motioned
As to snap a stick.

“Could have stored stuff,”
James said ruefully. “Could’ve
Put my marbles.”
James was peering
Closely at the can.
“Tell you what.
It could still hold
Marbles. Hold gum safe.
We could do that. Or–”
James smiled winningly–
“Sure! Kazoo! Sure,
Barker,” he pressed,
“Last one with
A Prince Albert kazoo,
Was Matthew last
Summer. What you think?
Bet you’d like a nice
Kazoo. Okay?”
His friend had not
Followed this, James saw. But
Barker nodded.
Yes.

James wrenched
The lid so roughly that it
Twisted, dropping down.
Can was ruined
Now for keeping things.
James stooped, hunting
Gravel. With these
Pebbles he’d half-fill the can,
Punch holes in it,
Then he’d blow
A tune! It would sound
Great! “Barker!”–
Urgent–“We need
Scissors! You sneak
Back inside,” James whispered–
“Get the teacher’s.
Keeps them on her
Desk. Get them!
Teacher’s scissors!”
Barker read his
Lips: he disappeared.

James was crawling
Low along the fence,
Gathering more rocks.
He plopped each one
Loudly in the can. That’s
Enough! He squatted,
Squeezing the top in,
Eyeing every
Angle, gratified. Had
Holes now. Perfect
Timing: here came Barker.
James gaped. Here came
Teacher!–with
A puzzled frown.
Barker’s got
The teacher! James thought:
Reading lips–
“Get the teacher’s
Scissors”–“scissors,”
He’d not seen.

Without pausing,
Teacher snatched Prince Albert.
James stood watching
As she marched away.
He sighed: Albert,
A rare find these days.
Worse–in front of
Barker, teacher
Had told James that
He had let her down.
Thinking of these
Words, he writhed in
Shame.
Well-versed in
The ways of school, James
Knew. Knew no matter–
High grades, working hard–
With one slip you
Fall tumbling from grace:
Bad boy.

On their walk home,
Barker trailed behind.
Down the dirt road
James sped, scurrying.
Barker, so far
Back, looked very
Small. James
Yelled: “Ain’t ¬†talking
To you!”

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