Morning Recess (a short story)

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Ine. She was 7. One morning at recess – she was of the age where there were two recesses every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon – she was playing by herself, because for a little girl like Ine, playing by herself in the morning was only natural.

So she was sitting by herself, drawing pictures with chalk on the concrete. She was using all of the in-between colors: purples and pinks, oranges and greens; and also neons. She was drawing all sorts of things. None of what she was drawing ended up the color they are in real life, but she didn’t mind. Finally, she stood up and looked down at what she had drawn and thought, “That’s a nice picture.”

So she picked up her jump rope and walked over to the boys playing basketball. She asked if she could play, and they said of course! So one of the boys tossed her the basketball, and she threw it up into the air and made a perfect basket, nothing but net. “Wow! You’re good!” Said one of the boys. “You should play every morning!”

“Every morning?” Said Ine. “But I might not like to if I play it every day.” So she said thank you anyway, and picked up her jump rope, walking to the other side of the playground where there were boys and girls playing Tag. One watched for a moment, and thought, “Tag. Gat. Gatsby. The Great Gatsby. I’d bet he’d like to play tag.” And so she went over to one of the girls and tagged her on the arm. The little girl looked at her and tagged her back. “Hey, no tagbacks!” Said Ine with a smile. The little girl looked sad. “I’m sorry.” She said. “Tag me back and we’ll start over.” Ine’s smile faded and said, “I can’t tag you back, it’s against the rules. But let’s instead just pretend this never happened.” The little girl tilted her head to the left and giggled. So Ine picked up her jump rope and walked away.

She ended up over by the jungle gym. She saw some children going down the slides, some going up the slides. She saw some children dangling from the monkey bars, and some on top of the monkey bars. She saw children underneath playing in the wood chips, and some were stacking the wood chips, some were throwing the wood chips. Some were even eating the wood chips! Ine just laughed and picked up her jump rope.

She figured it was almost time for recess to be over, so she made her way over toward the door back into school and started to jump rope. She was very good at jumping rope. She could do it fast or slow, stepping or hopping. She could criss-cross. Once she even threw the rope around herself twice before her feet hit the ground!

Suddenly, the bell rang. She was up in the air and she was so startled, she dropped her jump rope. But she landed anyway, because that’s what happens after someone jumps.

So recess ended, and Ine ended up at the front of the line, leading her class back into school. And all of her classmates were behind her thinking about what she had been doing all recess, and hoping she had fun.

At afternoon recess (because what happens in between recesses doesn’t matter too much to a 7 year old…or 8 year old…or 9, or 10, or 11, or 12 year old. Because at some point there’s no more recess, and no one is sure why) Ine joined all of her classmates in one big game of soccer. They played the whole recess. And they all made a hat trick! All two dozen of them.

When she got out of school that afternoon, Ine’s Mom and Dad greeted her at the bus stop with hugs and kisses and a slice of warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. They walked and talked about how their days were, and discussed what to make for dinner. Finally, they asked her what she learned in school that day. With a grin, Ine looked up at the birds all spread out across five rows of power lines. She hummed a little tune and said she’d show them when they got home. Of course, her Mom and Dad looked at each other knowingly, smiling all the same.

As they arrived home, Ine filed them into the living room. She got out a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote:

(3×24) ÷ 2 = 36

Her Dad smiled very wide and then asked her if she knew the name for the kind of math she had just done. Smiling even wider, Ine replied, “Afternoon Recess.” Her Mom smiled the widest, and looked to her husband expecting him puzzled. He looked back and winked before asking Ine what she learned in Morning Recess. “The Future,” she replied. And giving her parents each a nice hug, she went off to her room to read until dinner.

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