Playground Heroes

..He insisted that we call him, “Robin Hood,” and each day he would zip his green sweatshirt up and pull his hood over his slightly mouse-like ears. And during lunch recess, he would dash through the small patch of trees just beyond the swing set, his younger brother quick upon his heels, “Little John,” he’d call him, as he proffered a yellow plastic drum stick in place of a giant (possibly dangerous) bludgeon. The small, trigger activated Nerf bow he took as his own weapon. And the two of them would pounce upon the group of unsuspecting 5th graders, over by the basketball courts, filching their rubber balls and plastic jump ropes, and dashing back into the thicket to return the loot back to his fellow 2nd graders hiding under the jungle gym on the far side of the playground. “All in a day’s work,” he’d say, after returning a blond pigtailed doll to the small girl with a face full of freckles and a slight lisp. He was a modern day playground hero. And when the 5th graders stole my soccer ball from me on one unusually overcast day, he called out, “Don’t worry M’lady! I’ll have that back in a jiffy!” as he dove down the slide, landing easily on both feet, and off he went, prancing into the trees leaving me standing alone. And all the rest of the 2nd graders slowly emerged from the jungle gym to watch as he pounced on the small group of soccer players. “He’th tho Bwaaaaaaave!” the small girl lisped from next to me. We all watched from behind the marry-go-round as the bright squishy nerf dart bounced off the left shoulder of that one, particularly-mean-looking-5th-grader known for stealing the 2nd grader’s milk money, and the occasional hanging by the elastic of one’s boxer shorts, for those he was particularly fond of. The attack was a mistake, the soccer players had surrounded Robin. There was nowhere for him to run. Little John attempted to cover my eyes, saying, “don’ wook,” but couldn’t reach my eyes with his fingers. Instead he shielded my lips from the gasp that tried to free itself. Realizing he was cornered, Robin stood boldly to face his fate with a brave face. He’d be hung by his shorts for sure! “Com’on guys!” a fellow 2nd grader named Will yelled, brandishing his fist and running to the basketball courts, Little John hot on his heels, wielding his yellow drum stick. It would be a most gruesome battle to save Robin (and my soccer ball). I watched from afar as the two parties were coming to a head, when a distant chime caused everyone to stop in their tracks. And had that one particularly-mean-looking-5th-grader not reluctantly dropped Robin, things might have turned out differently. Robin Hood might not have been there the very next recess to rescue our rubber balls and plastic jump ropes..

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