Funny Creative Nonfiction Kids

           “Line up at the free throw line.”

           I wasn’t sure where the free throw line was; I didn't pay much attention to what the gym teacher said. It was never interesting. I just got in line behind the other kids who got there first. 

           I hated gym class. Why shouldn’t I?  I was seven years old, short, spindly, and a klutz. Nothing good was going to happen to me in gym class.

           Today we were practicing shooting baskets. We would wait until we got to the front  of the line and the gym teacher would hand us the orange ball with its odd rubbery smell. We’d attempt to make a basket and go to the end of the line while the gym teacher retrieved the rebound and dribbled it back to hand to the next kid in line. 

            We were in second grade and the basket looked so high that misses greatly outnumbered baskets. Some kids aimed and shot expecting to make a basket. When they missed they treated it as if something had gone wrong and their brains and arms subtly made corrections. Some kids aimed and shot thinking they might make a basket. They gave their brains and arms silent praise when they missed but got close. Both group’s shots were getting better, the former more quickly than the latter. Eventually, some of them were making baskets with some consistency. 

           I was absolutely sure I wasn’t going to make a basket. I didn’t even aim. I just threw the ball in the general direction of the hoop and hurried back to the end of the line. I didn’t even really want to make a basket. It’s impossible to want something that you truly think is impossible. When my classmates missed they were disappointed. When they made a basket they were satisfied. When I missed I got the lesser but real satisfaction of having things go the way I expected. As the class rotated through most of them were getting better. If anything my shots were getting wider.

           After I made a shot that the gym teacher had to chase down, it was so bad, my classroom teacher said, “Stop, John, you’re going to stay there until you make a basket.”

           Oh, no! No more going to the safety of the end of the line. I was going to have to stand there and heave that wretched ball while all my classmates watched me throw miss after miss. This was bad but what was I going to do; she was my teacher and I was the kind of kid who usually did what his teacher said.

            LookIng back, I’m sure she saw that I wasn’t even trying. She knew what I was, a smart kid with “potential” who blithely accepted defeat way too willingly. If something came easily for me, and some things did, I did them. If something was difficult for me, I just decided it wasn’t for me and quit trying. She believed I’d never become a “success in life” if I just gave up all the time. 

           The gym teacher handed me the ball again and I threw and missed. He retrieved it and I threw and missed. This continued until the gym teacher decided maybe he had other things to do than bring me the basketball. Now I had to get the ball myself. If I wanted to show I was interested in learning basketball I suppose I would have dribbled the ball to the free throw line but I was way past caring; I just picked up the ball, waddled to the line and threw another miss. My classroom teacher just stood there watching just outside the key. My classmates went and sat on the bleachers and watched me. They were only seven or eight so they didn’t shout encouragement or insults; they just sat there confused as they wondered what was going to happen.

          Eventually, it was time for gym class to end. The student teacher had the other kids line up to go back to class. I longed to go back with them. Reading, math, and social studies weren’t always fun but they were all better than basketball.

           Throw the darn ball, miss, chase the darn ball, return to the free throw line, repeat over and over all while being watched by an overweight blonde woman with glasses. I was beginning to actually hate the color, feel, and smell of the ball.

           I began to wonder how long this would go on. How long could my teacher hold out? Was she obsessed? What if I never made a basket? Would I miss lunch? Would I miss the afternoon classes? Would she let me go home!? The tedium and fear began to get to me. Somehow I was going to have to make a basket. 

            I tried to aim. The ball brushed the net. Not good but better than most of the shots I made. The next shot was higher but short of the basket. I made a few more shots with varying results but all in the vicinity of the basket. My arms were getting tired. The next shot was a blooper that wasn’t even close to the basket. I’ll never get out of this hell. On the next shot, I aimed and gave the ball an extra push. It bounced off the rim. I began to see a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe I wasn’t going to die in this gym while my teacher looked on. I made a few more shots, two more bounced off the rim. I kept shooting. One of the shots bounced off the rim and instead of rebounding toward me, it hung there for a second and fell into the net. 

           “See, John, I knew you could do it if you kept trying. You can do anything if you just keep trying.” 

           I’d gotten a smelly rubber ball through a metal hoop. So what? Now I can get out of this gym and go back to class.

March 11, 2022 23:24

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