I can’t remember if I was six or seven years old, but it really doesn’t matter, since my best friend was a kid named Gary. I’m not sure why we were best friends but we both knew it was the truth. Maybe it was because I was kind of fat and not a very popular kid and I thought Gary was the coolest. That doesn’t explain why he liked to hang out with me but that’s just the way it was. When we were at school we always hung out together at recess and after school, with my mother’s OK, I would go over to his house climb up into the tree house in his back yard and pretend to be cowboys or army guys fighting off bad guys. From up there we could fight off whatever or whoever might attack us; the high ground was ours. Sometimes we’d go over to my house but since I didn’t have anything to compare to that tree house, we most always went to Gary’s.
In the summer there was a lot more to do, but a day didn’t go buy that we didn’t climb the ladder to our hideaway and spend hours together imagining and then doing great and brave things in defense of those who needed our protection. Once and a while Gary’s mother would call up to us and ask if we wanted a snack or something and we’d hurry down, grab it up and return with our rations to our fort in the sky. It was all great fun, that is, until it all changed one afternoon in late May. School would be out in just a few weeks so it was sort of a surprise when our teacher introduced Steve as new member of our class, but we all did what she asked and in unison said, “Welcome to Wells School.”
Steve seemed like a nice enough kid, he was friendly but not too much so, talkative but he didn’t talk your leg off and unlike me, wasn’t a fatso. Fatso was the name that Gary called me when we were alone, never in front of anybody, it was just something best friends could do. At recess, that first day, Gary and I ran over to the monkey bars, as usual, to see who could reach the top first, an event that I rarely if ever won. Gary could climb like a chimpanzee, faster than anyone else in our class but on this day he had competition. Just as we hit the bars, Steve made his move and for the first time Gary had real competition (there was one girl who was actually faster but we didn’t like to talk about it). Gary won, but everyone knew that there was a new competitor for king of the monkey bars and it was the new kid, Steve. What I also saw that morning was another competition about to kick-off and it was between Steve and me. Not for king of the monkey bars but for my best friend, Gary.
It was a about noon on a Saturday and as usual I made my way over to Gary’s house to meet him in our treetop fort to battle whatever enemies might come by, but as I began to climb the ladder I heard something I’d never heard before, two voices talking about things only Gary and I had spoken of in the past. I heard Gary exclaim, “You missed um, and they’re coming around the other side…open fire!” This was followed by another voice saying, “I got ‘um both… look out there are more coming your way.” This was followed by the sound of gun fire, you know, the sound that every kid knows how to make. When I got to the top of the ladder, Gary yelled at me, “Hurry up…get on in here, we’re under attack!”
I did what Gary said but I didn’t join in the action because I almost felt sick to my stomach and didn’t know if I felt like yelling at Gary, at Steve or just crying. This was our fort, not Steve’s or anyone else’s, Gary and me…no one else. They both looked at me and could see something was wrong, and it was Steve who spoke first. He asked me, “Which window is yours? I’ll shoot out of the other one.” Gary was the next to speak, “Hey fatso we missed you. Steve wanted to wait for you, but I told him you wouldn’t mind if picked we off a few of them before you got here.” Steve reached out to hand me my imaginary gun and said, “I think this is yours Dick, I was just warming it up for you.” In that very moment in time the sick feeling in my stomach went away and those small tears in the corner of my eyes vanished and I replied, “Just call me fatso.” We spent the rest of the afternoon shooting bad guys, eating the Oreo’s Steve had brought and did what three best friends do, you know.
Who was being selfish in the story and selfish over what or who?
Who was jealous of whom and why?
Can you find an example of someone trying to understand what I was feeling and then reaching out in friendship?
Do you think it was OK for Steve and Gary to call me “fatso