“There is a solitary way to stick inside your lonesome home: Disregard the flesh, but kill! Yes, kill the rats, and eat their bones!” The hangman cackled, as he passed, Jangling the keys, These words mean nothing to a man Whom death has never seen; But were these bones of simple marrow How they would snap! And I, compose A blade of bone, thin and narrow In answer to his prose: “A coward’s tongue always speaks thus, He expects me to shudder! But, once his chord is cut, A doll of wood, who does the work Consigned to him by others, As sure as I have killed a man Will find Himself amongst the gutters.”
The brutal sun bludgeoned our bare skin, twisting our lanky forms into coils and pushing them down, down, into the pavement until we bounced up and bounded over the benches that lined the parking lot. With a spear in each hand and a face full of feathers, Noah and I were on the warpath. The means of our brutality - bamboo shanks with broken CDs taped on their ends, broken side up - hungered for the imaginary blood of our enemies. We crossed into the gated area of the playground, being sure to avoid the bubbling, smoldering pits of acid were so conveniently placed anywhere that we chose not to step. “LOOK! LOOK UPON THE PROW!” I shouted as I pointed up at the giant, three-story wooden boat-themed tower which cut through the acid as it slid up to the dock. Aleks had been quick enough to avoid my gaze, but bumbling Andrew hadn’t hid until we had made eye contact. Does he even take this game seriously?! Noah looked, and laughed, and said “Why are you talking like that?” as we rushed up the grass sheet that stretched taught all the way to the cabin in the base of the boat. “I’m enjoying myself. I call leader! Ok, hide here,” I pointed at the dark, wasp-infested base of the boat, “and I’ll herd them over, at which point you will STRIKE FROM THE SHADO- “You realize that they can hear us right? They’re right above us.” My eyebrow raised. I went inside the cabin, stretched my arm out to Noah’s confused face, touched his nose, grabbed his shoulder, and pulled him in. I whispered: “I did that on purpose, now they’ll think that we’re going to camp out, so they’ll never come down here. This is where we set up the big trap.” He whispered, “What are you talking about?” I stuck my hand in my pocket. I whispered, “Oh, I have a little something right here that will make this game a little more interesting. I have fireworks, bro. Let’s scare the hell out of them.” A wooden sword hit me in the chest, an extension of Aleks’ laughter. “You really shouldn’t stay in one spot, especially when we know where it is.” “Noah, you’re supposed to be on my team! What are you doing?!” Lurching into gear, Noah’s spear carved an arc where Aleks had been moments before. He ran off, laughing and saying “Tricked again by Loki!” He had insisted that he was the reincarnation of Loki for about three weeks now, even though I had assured him that Odin had turned Loki into a fish. “Not until Ragnarok you SLIME!” I shouted. I turned to Noah. “Where’s Andrew?” “Oh, he’s right over there.” Noah pointed to the hexagonal section of the play-structure: it was like a raised Gazeebo. There, in what we called the basement, a pale face grinned out at us. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” I said, flashing him a scrunched-up nose. “It’s Andrew, Sam.” He was smiling like he always does when he’s being a dick. My lips twisted into what I thought looked contemplative. “Good point. I wonder why he’s just watching us.” “I don’t think he’s seen us,” Noah said, dropping his chin and sneering. “He’s not thick like you think man, he’s waiting for something. OH G-“ I checked my pockets. “Ok,” I said, “it’s not the fireworks, but what could it b- OH G-” Aleks’s knee hit me in the chest. “FALCON KICK!” ruptured joyously through his lips. Mother nature wrapped me in her itchy embrace. “HACK HEACK UGH TIME OUT COFF MAN TIME OUT KOFF COFK KUH COFF,” fell out of my mouth like a piece of gristle. Aleks walked over to me and stared down with a grain of apology and a tablespoon of contempt. “So you need a time-out, eyy? Did mom remember to pack you a diaper?” His face split into a wicked grin. “FINE. TIME IN.” I kicked his shin out from under him and he fell on the floor. “SMELL THE POLLEN MOTHA-” His eyes flashed, and I knew his “berserker mode” had been activated. This kid seriously played too many video games. He struck out with his blade, and it shook through me, cutting softly into my shin. I rose above him, fighting through the pain. He tried to stand and face me, raising into a crab-walk, but Noah kicked his hand out from under him and he fell back to the ground, crumpling like the insect he is. I held my spear to his throat. “YIELD.” His eyes were tracing the edges of his sockets, and he was saying things backwards. I said, “Are you ok, dude?” I knelt down, putting my weight on the spear. “Dude. Aleks. Are you ok? I think he hit his head on a rock man. Aleks. Hello? How many fingers?” I held up four, and slapped myself with them as Andrew’s hands pushed my head forward. He had snuck up on us like Black Friday and sprung like Aerosol. Aerosol with a laugh track. I heard my brain thunk against the front of my skull and landed on the ground. Noah followed shortly. Aleks laughed and jumped to his feet in a single motion, wrapping his arm around Andrews roaring head. “I’m kind of tired of this game. Do you guys want to go on a walk?” Noah and I glared up at him. “Sure man,” Noah said. “Wait you guys, wait. Aren’t you forgetting something?” Triumphantly, I rolled out my strip of fireworks. “If we set them off under the boat,” my teeth bared, “We can make a WASP BOMB.” So it was set. We went upstairs to get a lighter from our art teacher and clambered back down the steps, talking about or plan a little too loudly. We ran into the play-structure, and Noah showed us how you could twist the ends of the fireworks together and attach them to a single string to make them all pop off at once. After installing a the whole string right under the biggest nest we could find, we lit it and ran out, only to be met with the cloaked form of our teacher bobbing towards us. “What are you doing in there? You said you needed it to light some candles for Ms. Anne!” We were running. Andrew screamed, “Ms. Naiomi, NO!” “RUUUNN!” We all screamed, and then, they symphony started. It sounded like a star had been born, then smoke groped its way out of the cabin and onto the surrounding playground. “BOYS! WHAT IS THIS? COME BAC-” We were gone, through the giant double-doors, and into the icebox beyond. We turned and looked out the windows. There was nothing we could do for her now. The smoke seemed to boil. Suddenly, hundreds of angry wasps speared out from within that molten mass. They hurled themselves in every direction, but when they saw Ms. Naiomi, their mission became clear. With surgical precision, they swallowed her into a cloud of violence as she jiggled her way to the double-doors, cursing in Yiddish and looking at us with confusion and rage. “That’s a hivemind for you,” I said. When she got near the doors, Noah and I opened them up and shouted “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!” like Cops on TV. “I don’t think I’VE EVER BEEN DISRESPECTED LIKE THIS IN MY-” “We told you to run!” I shouted, feebly. Our faces were breaking now. “WHY is the PLAY STRUCTURE SMOKING?!” She asked, throwing her hands up and reaching, trying to pull God out of Heaven. Her face was pockmarked like the Moon, and puss oozed out from the craters that had sunk in below her eyes and around her lips. “We.. We thought it would be funny if…” I looked at everyone else, but they were already crying. I stepped towards her “We were trying to get rid of your wasp problem and…” Her face looked like an insurmountable cliff, and I knew she was about to erupt. I walked up to her. With each step, my composure degraded, until I was just a puddle. Between heaving sobs I said “We’re sorry Ms. Naiomi, we love you.” I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tightly, and, even though I’m sure that I was squeezing the puss out of what could be hundreds of stings hidden behind her wispy gown, she hugged me too. “You are terrible children!” she scrunched her face up, but then it swelled into a smile, like when you put a marshmallow into the microwave and it grows to be twice its original size. Now, go upstairs, and help me with clean up today! If you don’t clean up, then NO OREOS!” We all looked at her like she had just thrown a baby through a basketball hoop. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Samuel Rhodes tore his way out of the earth’s crust, effectively performing his own cesarean section surgery. He has never trusted doctors, and has not forgotten leeches.