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Scott Stankey

© 2000

Where’s the Whistle?

“Scott, stay back and try not to get hit,” Chris whispers to me just before the last game of dodge ball begins.

“Fine. You don’t have to keep telling me”

Even though he is my friend, I am tired of being looked after all the time. My mother has been reminding me since kindergarten to be careful of my eye and my ear. “You only have one left of each,” she always says, and I can hear it in Chris’ voice as well. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him.

The game begins. I watch carefully the players on the other team as they try to hit us with the red balls to get us out. If we catch their throws, however, we get them out instead, so I look for the wild throws, try to get myself under them, and nearly always get the throwers out. This is my defensive contribution to the team. I’m really not supposed to play any “contact” sports, but I figure dodge ball is O.K. since it’s not the same as football or hockey. In any case, I always stay back and try to keep my eye open. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I’m told I can if I want to, but I don’t want to look like a baby.

I notice that our team is losing fast, and soon, only two of us are left. There are at least four kids left on the other side. Suddenly, my partner gets nailed in the hip. As he walks off the court, I look across the centerline and see that their two best players are planning to throw at the same time, guaranteeing that at least one of them will hit me. I’m not afraid. Since I’m the only one left on our side, I’m expecting the teacher’s whistle. It doesn’t come. Instead, I hear, “Oomph, Oomph.” A second later, I feel a slap on my left thigh and a sting on my left ankle. I’m stunned. Where’s the whistle?

“Game over,” I hear. “The blue team won.”

What? My head snaps to the left and my eye pierces the teacher. I haven’t moved. No one has moved.

“It’s supposed to be one on one,” I hear myself say.

“Sorry. Game’s over.”

“Scott, let it go,” Chris whispers from the sidelines.

“That’s not fair,” I shout instead, the infamous middle-school mantra.

“I said, the game’s over.”

“Fuck you.” No one moves. I step toward the door.

“Oh my God,” Chris whispers.

“Get back here. Now!”

“Fuck off.” I push the handle, the lock clicks, the door opens, and I am in the hall.

I know he is on his way across the gym, so I head past the gymnastics room and up the stairs, past the locker room without bothering to stop and change, and down the hall into the school lobby. I hurry past the trophy cases, up the stairs, and across the hall into the principal’s office. I figure I’ll be better off to get my story out first.

“Is Mrs. Powers in?” I ask, in a high, winded voice.

“Yes, Scott, she is,” Mrs. Powers replies with a wink, walking out of her office behind the secretary. She knows me, somehow, even though I’ve never been to her office before. “Come in.”

I follow her back into her office and stand before her desk as she walks around it and sits down. She takes in my phy. ed uniform – white T-shirt, red shorts, and white socks and tennis shoes – and then focuses on my face. I stare straight back into her eyes. She immediately asks, “What happened?”

“We were playing dodge ball in Mr. Latzke’s gym class and I was the last person on our side and instead of stopping the game like he’s supposed to he let two kids throw at me at the same time and they got me out.”

“O.K. What’s he supposed to do?”

“In our other games when only one person is left on a side he stops the game and makes the team with more people choose one person and then there is one person on each side and each one gets a ball and then we each get two shots to try to get the other person out.”

“But he didn’t do that this time?”


“Then what happened?”

“He said the other team won and then I swore at him. Twice. And then I walked out and came up here.”

“Hmm. That doesn’t sound like you. Is that all?”

“I guess, except that he’s mad at me.”

“Mrs. Powers, may I come in?”

I didn’t have to turn my head to know who was behind me.

“I thought I’d find you here.” He walks to the side of the desk, positioning himself between her and

“Scott told me what just happened. Could you also tell me what happened?”

“Scott’s team lost and then he swore at me.”

“Why did he swear at you?”

“I don’t know. He was mad, I guess.”

“Scott says he was the last one on his side but that you didn’t stop the game to even things up.”

Mr. Latzke looks at me and replies, “I didn’t see that. I was paying attention to the kids goofing off in the opposing jail.”

I can’t tell whether he is lying or not. All I know is he didn’t stop the game.

“What do you usually do when there is only one person left on a side?”

“I stop the game and we do a shoot out.”

“Why wasn’t that done this time?”

“Well, like I said, I didn’t realize that Scott was the only one left on his side.”

I don’t know what to say. I don’t want him to get away with what he did, and I don’t want to be punished for swearing. I finally speak up, “But I was the only one standing there at the end of the game.”

“I guess I thought there were still two players on your side.”

“Well, I can see we’re not going to solve this, so let’s just put it behind us,” Mrs. Powers finally interjects.

I don’t know what else to do. I look from her to him and back to her. I’m not satisfied, but I’m not in trouble either.

“Should I go to my next class then?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

I turn around, walk out into the main office, and stop to ask the secretary for a pass to my next class. As Mrs. Norland stands at the counter writing it out, I sense Mr. Latzke pass behind me and out of the office. I’m sure, if the secretary had not been standing so close to me, I would have heard, “I’ll remember this one,” whispered in my good ear.

Scott Stankey was a 2000 Selective fellow who teaches Composition and Literature at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, where he is the English Department Coordinator. He plays the trombone, and his favorite authors are Jon Hassler and David Haynes. He has written several articles.