Stompers and Fashion (or how to open pudding):

Recess too, was not what I had expected. The boys and girls separated themselves not by decree but rather by choice, which seemed strange to me. Half of the students refusing to play with the others seemed a madness. Soon though, I would understand. The boys were, for reasons unbeknownst to me, permitted to bring toys from home. This quickly devolved into a game of who had a Stomper truck, and who did not. The toy trucks in question were quite simple: a single AA battery ran a motor on a chassis designed to look like a Monster truck. Indeed, the boys were agog over them. Well, I didn’t have a Stomper, so I wasn’t invited to play, and after watching for a couple of recess breaks, I decided they were largely over rated anyway. A couple days later, I quit trying to play and wandered off to lean against the handrail of the short staircase leading to our classroom. I would eat a pudding cup that Mother packed in my lunch each day as I watched the girls running back and forth along the series of decks built above a particularly in-navigable series of angular boulders. I noticed that the girls always wore more expressive clothing than the boys ever did. If the boys wore clothing in colors best suited for hiding dirt and grass stains, the girls wore floral explosions, embracing life rather than obscuring it. The school secretary’s daughter always had the most interesting outfits, in colors I didn’t know the names for. She had one pair of pants in particular, I waited for the days she would wear them, skin tight and of a material iridescent in the light. As the days went by, no one spoke to me, and the tin pudding cups became more difficult to open. Sometimes I could open them, but the rest of the time, in my shame, I just threw them out. One day as I was looking up at the girls, one of them came and leaned against the stairs with me. A1 followed my gaze up, then looked back at me. “What do you suppose they’re doing?” she asked me. I chuckled at her “How should I know? I should ask you.” But A1 said something I wasn’t expecting, “Oh no, I don’t play with them. They don’t like me. I usually stand over under the trees because there’s more shade.” “The boys don’t like me either.” I confided, as I reached into my brown paper bag and pulled out a pudding cup. She watched me struggle with it for a moment, then struck out here hand. “Lemme see it.” With an ease that underscored my shame, she ripped the lid from the metal can. “Here ya go.” A1 said casually as she handed it back to me. For months to come, the two of us leaned against that stair rail, and when needed, A1 was there to open my pudding for me. We never did learn what game those girls were playing at.