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Two lines were formed on opposite ends of the playing field.
It was the battle of the Titans.
It was a wrestling match to beat all wrestling matches.
It was the way we, the Standard Five class, seniors of the school, spent our lunch hour, testing our strength and prowess.
After hours in the morning spent poring over test papers under the eagle eyes of pacing teachers, trying not to shake at the sound of the whip lightly tapping against their legs coiled and ready to pounce at the slightest infraction, we had a lot of pent up energy to release.
There was a slight desperation to our play.
In a few months, we knew, our lives would change forever. The nationwide exam was drawing closer, the outcome of which the adults all claimed would determine the trajectory for the rest of our lives. In a few months, we would be sifted and sent off to separate schools to form new friendships and lead different lives.
We were powerless against the clouds of change gathering ominously in the distance. We couldn't fight fate, but for a few stolen minutes during the lunch hour, we liked to pretend the future didn't exist.
Red Rover is a team sport and, for the moment at least, we determined that we were still a team.
Children representing the two standard five classes formed opposing teams- the East and West teams- and each team then retired to opposite ends of the playing field and forms a chain by linking hands.
The game starts when the first team selects a player from the other team and calls to them in song, "Red rover, red rover..."
The selected player must run to the other team's line and attempt to break the chain. If the player breaks the chain, then he can select the broken links and take them back to join his team which would then call to a player on the first team, challenging them to break the link.
The game continues in this fashion until the last player on the losing fails to break the link or, for us, until the lunch hour bell rings.
One by one, our opponents cherry picked our strongest and challenged them to break their chain. One by one, our strongest ran off like battering rams, carrying promise on their shoulders, only to dash that promise against the wall formed on the opposite end of the field. Our numbers dwindled.
"Red rover, red rover, send Sandy right over!"
Finally, it was my turn. I wasn't particularly swift, nor was I strong. I was just a scrawny little kid with spectacles, but I was the last of the Mohicans and there was a war song in my head.
I became a matador.
I pawed the earth with my feet.
"Go!" I heard the whispered encouragement behind me and I was off, kicking up clods of clay.
I became a human missile, I shot across the field like a bullet.
I became a killer bee. I flew at my opponents at top speed.
The opposing team was hunched over, a defensive line, eyes determined, hands locked tight. Their line of defense was strong, but as I barreled forward, I could see nostrils twitching.
I wasn't particularly swift, nor was I strong, but I was clever. Midfield, I twisted to the right, a last minute swerve.
I aim for the weak link, Chitra, a shy girl whose fingers I was going to bust apart like a nutshell.
I became a tornado on my final yard dash.
Chitra's eyes widened. She yelped. She tried to pull away, but her companion, Larry, held on tight.
It didn't matter. I had them where I wanted them.
Zoom! Bam! Hands flew wide opened. I spun around, arms flailing like helicopter wings, toppled, lost momentum. Splat!
Now, there is a cherry on my lip and my teeth are stained red.