By Bryan Paul Thomas
Sammy hates me and I hate him right back.
I’m on the swings at the beginning of recess all by myself and he just comes up and gets on a swing and he starts picking on me and starts making fun of my Cub Scout uniform. So I say, “Leave,” and he goes, “It’s a free country,” and I go, “I was here first,” and then we start calling each other names.
“Dirty bird,” I say.
“Jerk-head,” he says.
“Sissy-boy,” I say.
“Cry-baby,” he says.
“Asshole,” I say.
“Nigger,” he says.
Nobody ever really teased me about being black before except one time this kid did but he’s in sixth grade now so he doesn’t go to our school anymore. But still, nobody ever called me that word before, but it doesn’t make me mad even though sometimes I thought that if somebody ever called me that I would get really really mad. And Sammy is so stupid anyway, cuz he’s a Indian and sometimes people call Indians that word too. Especially cuz he’s not even a Pilgrim kind of Indian from America, he’s a Indian from India, and sometimes he gets teased a lot cuz for his religion he can’t cut his hair and he’s not old enough to wear a turban like his daddy does so he has to wear his hair up in a little ball that sits right on the top of his head. Everybody used to make fun of Sammy cuz of the little ball on his head. They used to call him Ballhead and sometimes they called him Hadji cuz of the Indian guy on Johnny Quest, and they still call him that sometimes but not to his face anymore because he got real big in second grade and now we’re in the third grade and he’s even bigger so now he picks on people a lot cuz I guess he used to get picked on a lot.
But even the kid who’s in sixth grade who made fun of me sometimes never called me what Sammy called me and I thought I would be real mad if anybody ever called me that but I just look at him and don’t say anything, not cuz I’m mad but just cuz I can’t say anything back really, even though he’s a Indian and sometimes people call Indians that word too. I could make fun of his hair but it’s not as bad as what he called me. I could make fun of his real Indian name but I can’t ever remember what it is. I could go I am rubber you are glue but it wouldn’t be true. But I still don’t get mad cuz he seems like he was almost afraid to say it to me, cuz I probably should get mad but I don’t know why I don’t even really care.
Then I see Greg and Brendan walking across the playground so I tell them to come over cuz they’ve got on their Cub Scout uniforms too so Sammy will shutup about making fun of Cub Scouts especially cuz Greg is even bigger than Sammy is. Except then I see that all of these girls in our class are behind them and following them over to me and Sammy by the swings and I don’t know why. Cuz usually we have a game where me and Greg and Brendan and George and everybody chases the girls at recess, and we spray them with pretend Boy Spray and they spray us with pretend Girl Spray. Except one time Susie got her mommy’s perfume and started spraying the boys with it and she didn’t even get in trouble, but one time when George got his daddy’s cologne and sprayed the girls he got in big trouble. But nobody is chasing anybody today. Just all of these girls are following Greg and Brendan. And it looks like Amy and Jennifer are in charge of something because they’re walking next to Greg and Brendan and they have some paper in their hand and all the girls follow them over to the swings.
“Is this a club or something?” I say. “What are you guys doing?”
“We’re just going up over there,” Amy says. She points over my head to the woods behind the school. Sometimes people go back there to kiss and one time Jennifer and Jimmy got caught back there and everybody was laughing cuz Mrs. Johnson pulled them back to class by their ears. So I kind of think that Greg and Brendan are gonna go kiss with some girls except there’s like ten girls so it seems real weird. But then Jennifer says something.
“We had a contest about who’s the most handsomest boy,” she says. “Greg and Brendan tied for first place.”
And then, she doesn’t have to say anything else, but then, like kind of mean but not really mean, she goes, “You and Sammy came in last place.” And then she goes, “Sorry.”
And just like when Sammy called me that word and I was thinking I should get mad because that was mean, I’m thinking about being angry about what Jennifer says but then I’m not angry at all. I just sit there again, not saying anything because there’s really nothing to say back really. Cuz I know why both me and Sammy came in last place out of everybody in our class. So after they all leave to go behind the woods to kiss Greg and Brendan, I go:
“Looks like we’re both niggers now, huh Sammy?”
I laugh but he doesn’t really laugh at all. It’s the first time I ever said that word and it feels weird saying it and I don’t know if I’ll ever say it again.