Dodge ball was invented by the devil and introduced to our class by Sister Claire. Why this is the chosen activity on a perfectly good Friday afternoon when everyone would rather be making daisy chains in the shade of the oak tree or lying stretched on our backs in the middle of the wooden merry go round as the clouds hypnotize us, I can’t figure out.
Maddy got cloths-lined last Friday during Sr. Claire’s dodge ball drill, and now she tries to hide behind me as we all line up and hold hands on the imaginary goal line. The fact that she’s thirty pounds heavier and three inches taller than me, doesn’t seem to dawn on her.
“I don’t want to play, Ruthie, I don’t want to play, I don’t want to.” So close to my ear that it is soon covered with her spit.
Sister Claire begins dragging her clubbed foot across the heat-parched grass, her heavy black robe and rosary around her neck swaying in time with her steps. Her glass eye looking toward the merry go round, but her good eye launched straight at me, or rather at the shivering bulge of navy and white behind me.
“Oh, shit, what do I do?” Maddy spits in my ear.
“Heat Stroke, Maddy, and don’t say shit.” I say in my best Edgar Bergen impersonation.
“We read about it in science last week. You have it.” I say.
“No, I don’t.”
“You have about thirty seconds to come down with it.” I warn her.
As Sister Claire makes her last few steps toward me, I feel a weight hit the back of my legs causing my knees to give out and throw me forward face first onto Sister Claire’s orthopedic shoes; on top of me Maddy doing her best heat stroke imitation; the other kids moving quickly away in confusion.
“What in the world is going on with you two?” Sister Claire asks.
Maddy remains silent; I’m impressed with her acting ability.
With a mouth full of shoe and grass I mumble in a weak, last breathe kind of way, “Heeeeeat stroooooke.”
The secret now is to remain convicted to our rolls, so Maddy and I lie in a limp pile atop Sister Claire’s feet. She yells for some other girls to get help and soon Maddy and I are escorted into the rectory and put to rest on big comfy sofas in an air conditioned room with cold towels on our heads as we wait for Mrs. Roy to come in and pray on us.
Just as I feel a tinge of guilt for causing such drama and begin imagining how mom will react when she gets the call from school, Maddy turns to me and whispers, “Thank you, Ruthie. I never knew you were so cool.”
Neither did I. Suddenly I have no regrets.