THIS IS THE VERY BEGINNING of the second story from my collection titled, “The Ink and the Drumming.” The first story called, “Martin” is available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073HNY59…
When I was in the third grade, I had a huge crush on Sherrie Ingermann. Ingermann with two Ns. I don’t know why that was important, except to say I always thought the second N was just trying too hard. No one told N Number Two that it was redundant, that nobody really needed it. Maybe what I was always hoping was that N Number Two did know those things all along and stood there anyway, not giving up or giving in.
Anyway, one day in the spring of my third grade year, Sherrie Ingermann took it upon herself to chase me around the playground—up and down the high slide, around the monkey bars where I would almost lose her with an ankle-breaking head feint, and back to the 4-Square court to the side of the kickball diamond where I would let her catch me. She always squealed with delight like a rabid Sade Hawkins contestant when she put her arms around me. I wanted her arms around me, even though I always knew what would come next.
As soon as she was through with me, she would push me away and then kick me right square in the shins with her clogs. Nothing good can come from people who wear wooden shoes—at least from third-grade girls who wear wooden shoes that you have a crush on and who want to catch you on the see-saw every school day of the spring.
Sherrie had been chasing me for eight days in a row. I know this because it had started the Monday prior and went the whole five days of the week. The weekend was off and then back at it on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Five and three is eight, and it was a string of eight straight school days that I will always thank God I had. Looking back on it now, of course, I can see how important they were, those eight crazy days, but it was what happened on the ninth day that set me on a crooked course for all of these years until now.
Actually, let me back up because this bit means something, I think. The night of Day 8 my parents, my two brothers, and I were across the street at my grandparent’s house. We usually had dinner with them on Wednesdays and Sundays. After dinner, we were sitting in the living room and I was sitting on the stairs rubbing my shins. My grandmother said, “Rob, why do you keep rubbing your shins like that? And you’ve been walking with a limp all night.”
“It’s nothing,” I said. “They’re just sore, that’s all.”
“Let me see them.”
“They’re okay! Really!”
“Rob, show me your shins!”
I stood up on the bottom step and lifted both of my pant-legs up to my knee.
“Oh, my word! What on Earth happened?”
Everyone was focused squarely on me, looking at my shins like they were some kind of newly discovered Picasso which had been rescued from someone’s garage sale in Abilene, Texas or someplace.
“Robert. Tell us what happened.”
I thought about lying. I thought about it really hard, too, for about ten solid seconds. But, I decided to come clean and see if they might be able to shed some light on my dilemma. I wanted to figure out how to get her to put her arms around me without having to get kicked in the shins.
“Well, you know Sherrie Ingermann, right?”
“ You mean, the one with two Ns?”
“Funny, Dad. Come on, I’m serious!”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Well,” I said, taking in a stream of air that let me say the next part all on one breath.
“She has been chasing me around the playground for eight days in a row until she catches me and then she puts her arms around me and kisses me and then she kicks me in the shins and she runs away.”
I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect my grandfather, Pop Pop Jack, to say, “Well, that just means she likes you!”
“How can that mean she likes me, Pop Pop? She’s hurting me every day!”
“Don’t worry about all that,” said Pop Pop Jack. “This is the good stuff! This is when it’s the most fun! She’s chasing you all over the playground! You are a KING, my boy! Don’t worry about a thing and just enjoy it. It all works out. Listen, it’s when she stops chasing you that you’ve got to start worrying. Then you’ll be sad and miss these days.”
I thought he’d lost his mind. But, that conversation has come to mean more to me than any other moment in my life, except my wedding and the birth of my kids.
“No, I won’t,” I said, remarkably confused. “I hope I never see her again.”
That was a big fat lie, of course. You already know that. I knew it was a lie while I was saying it, and to this day I regret that I did.
Day nine rolled around. It was Thursday and at recess, I waited on the see-saw for Sherrie to come around and start the chase. She never showed.
“Hey, Donna? Is Sherrie here today?”
“Yeah. She’s right over there!”
Donna pointed to two other boys in the fourth grade who were out for recess on the far side of the playground. I tried to play 4-Square by myself but the ball I found in the corner was flat. I kept looking over at her and she wouldn’t look at me. I tried my best telepathic mind connection techniques but she still wouldn’t look at me. I saw her a few times in high school some years later but that was it. I don’t know if someone had told her to stop chasing me and kicking me, like if my mom had called the school or something. My parents told me later that they never did. It must have been a stupid coincidence. At least I learned early that love doesn’t just hurt, it leaves bruises.