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Time slows to a crawl as Elenora wonders if she will make it out of a game of kickball alive

11:56, 11:57. I stared at my watch. The seconds ticked by oh so slowly. Seconds were suddenly minutes, and minutes were suddenly hours. At least, that’s how it felt. My face broke out in a cold sweat, even though I hadn’t moved a muscle. As soon as Coach Summit, the ruthless fiend, announced that we’d be playing kickball, I’d had a plan: station myself at the very back of the kicking line and pray for mercy.

It had to work. It had to work. But it didn’t.

The line got smaller and smaller. Mia kicked, then Ben, then Jackson. Elliana kicked. Three people in front of me. Zero strikes. My heart rate quickened. Noah kicked.

I started to panic. How do you play kickball again? You kick, and then you run and try to catch the ball? No, that couldn’t be right. Oh, my classmates are going to kill me! 11:59. C’mon, watch, C’MON! Move, clock, MOVE!

Rose kicked. I’m dead meat. As Oliver stepped up to kick, I saw my life flash before my eyes. What had I said to my family this morning? Did they know that I loved them?!

I remembered my fourth birthday when my mother baked me a beautiful rainbow cake. I was crazy about those little Jello cup things back then. She layered a normal cake with all of the Jello flavors she could find, making a culinary masterpiece. As I stood in that line, I saw her standing in the kitchen, carefully making the cake for me. So much love went into that cake. I never thanked her for it.

And what about all those hours my father spent reading to me before bed?! All that time, love, and effort, all for me, and I never thanked him. I would die without my parents knowing how grateful I was for them. It was too terrible to bear. I’m only eleven! That’s too young to die!

“It’s your turn to kick, Elenora.”

I should have gotten someone to dictate my will before gym class!

No one was in front of me. I took a deep breath, gathered my remaining courage, and walked up to my fate worse than death. Twenty-nine eyes bored into me. My menacing classmates. I could practically taste their mad desire to win, could almost feel their wrath and infuriated screams. I was aware of every breath I took, every footstep. My heart was beating so loud, I’m sure my classmates heard it perfectly.

“I am a heroine!” I declared out loud, throwing my arms out into the air. I wanted to embrace the world, the whole beautiful world full of life and opportunity! “Freak,” muttered someone.

Life was such a beautiful thing, more beautiful than anyone could ever imagine! To gulp fresh air, to breathe, to go to sleep and to wake up to a new day! Oh, world, you’re more amazing than anyone could ever realize! Oh, life is so beautiful and amazing, so unchanging, we can never understand it fully. How horrid that I should die right after I finally realized how amazing life really is! What a pity! What a waste!

It’s always like this, I suppose. In all the novels I’ve ever read, the revelations always come before the cruel knock of death’s hand on the door of life . . . Oh! How poetic! I’m turning into a real heroine!

“I am a heroine!” I declared out loud, throwing my arms out into the air. I wanted to embrace the world, the whole beautiful world full of life and opportunity!

“Freak,” muttered someone.

I didn’t care. No one knew what I was going through! No one knew how much I had matured in the last couple of minutes! My eyes were blind, but now they see!

I spun around in a full circle, arms outstretched, my hair floating rather enchantingly. It was a dull, dark black-ish color. Very unromantic. Well, not anymore.

I began to shout. “My hair is a rich ebony that frames my starry, violet eyes. Everyone who sees those eyes knows that there is a mystery behind them! For these are eyes which have seen both hardship and sorrow! Eyes that have had the bloom of youth brushed from them, to be replaced by wisdom! Eyes that—”

Coach Summit rudely interrupted my reverie with one of his famously feared “ahems.” This “ahem” was not something to be ignored. Suddenly, all my delirium and delight seeped away like sand falling down an hourglass. The hourglass of my life—every second my heart still beat, a grain of sand falling away, never to be retrieved.

Death was no longer romantic at all. All my happiness was gone. I closed my eyes tight and opened them again, hoping it would all be a bad dream, hoping it would go away, hoping that Mommy and Daddy could come to my rescue. When I was a young child, I thought my parents could do anything and save me from anyone. I knew better now. I had seen the world.

I closed my eyes a second time and saw it: My casket. White marble. I was being buried, to rot in the ground with worms and dirt . . .

No! I didn’t want to die! I DIDN’T WANT TO DIE! I didn’t want to leave everyone behind! I was only eleven, and there were so many things I hadn’t done, that I’d never get the chance to do. How unfair that some get to live and prosper and that others must die at such a young age! How I had wasted my life so far!

But I couldn’t ignore Coach Summit’s “ahem.” I had to do what I had to do.

My legs propelled my feeble body to the plate. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t cry. I wasn’t a heroine. I was just a silly little girl who couldn’t play kickball. Still, I did have my dignity. It was all I had left, and I wasn’t giving that, at least, to the ruthless hands of death.

Just as the pitcher readied to throw the ball, right before I died of fright, the most wonderful sound known to humankind rang through the gymnasium. The fates had been merciful. Some feelings cannot be described by mere words. It was the bell, signaling the start of lunch.

Lucy Laird
Lucy Laird, 12
Pleasant Hill, IA

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