Bad Kindergarten Children

"Now, then. Shall we go pick up the bad kindergarten children?"
Hakkai, Gensomaden Saiyuki: Chapter 47

The room was a bright and cheerful oneeverything from the floors to the walls was covered in splashes of primary colors, or simple blocky letters, or the faint light from tidy rows of windows. Kleenex boxes were lined up like battalions of doomed soldiers. Cubbyholes awaited shoes, or papers, or anything else that could be shoved inside. Building blocks were stacked in neat piles, ready to be constructed into tiny, fantastic castles.

One of the first few children to arrive was a small blond boy, who might have been showing more signs of fear if it weren't for the fact that he'd just escaped his little brother. It had taken his father, three teachers, and a moon pie to separate the determined toddler's fingers from around his ankle. With a short huff, the five-year-old settled his hair, ignored the sonic-pitch screams, and strode into the classroom, without even looking back at his adoptive father. Well, maybe a little bit. And he had most definitely not cried in the car.

He took in the room slowly, looking down his long nose at this place that he would have to come to everyday. His verdict was another huff, even while part of him thought maybe some of it could possibly look fun sorta. That was until he noticed those neat rows of tape on the floor, the ones that marked where students would sit while listening to the teacher. Telling him where he should sit. Telling him what to do. Telling him what to do.

In pent-up frustration and definitely not fear at all, he turned and kicked one of those neat piles of blocks, and felt temporarily satisfied at the destruction.

One of the careening blocks hit a redhead boy square in the nose, and this boy, feeling none-too-happy about being separated from his own brother, gladly returned the nose injury. The two happily began to tussle, and each understood that this was a no-rules match: biting, scratching, and kicking should be used, if the fighters valued their own dignity. Nothing in the world could separate them once they had started, not even cheers from the other boys or squeals from the girls. It was on. And the blond knew how to bite.

"I'm trying to read."

A quietly exasperated voice filtered through the mess of noise, and both boys stopped simultaneously (mid-chomp and mid-hair-grasp) to swivel their heads (or try to) in the voice's direction. Seated neatly in the center of a tape-line, a book carefully opened on his lap (it looked like a 12-pager at least), was a dark-haired, bespectacled boy blinking calmly back at them.

As one, they both released death-grips and vise-holds to seat themselves on either side of him, compliant but in various degrees of injured sulk.

Of course, this meant that they were all now Best Friends.

The first day of school rolled along rather well, despite the numerous fights Grouchy Blond got into, and a disastrous incident at lunch where The Redhead had to rescue Spectacles from a food fight with his own twin. They were still trying to wash pudding out of his eye by the time the most glorious and holy hour of school rolled around: Recess.

As it turned out, Grouchy wasn't as free from his little brother as he thoughthis father, unable to stand the screaming anymore, had brought Little Brother up to meet them all at recess. And then promptly left. The boys did their very best to lose their new tagalong, but the whole deal was looking hopeless by the time Grouchy had to storm over and rescue the kid from where he had become trapped behind the air conditioning unit. After a lot of zig-zagging through bushes and running through puddles (Spectacles really needed to stop falling in those), they'd finally lost him again. In savage celebration, they grouped by the small monkey bars and practiced throwing mud at each other, you know, for future reference. Grouchy's throwing arm was frighteningly accurate.

By the time Mud Throwing Practice had turned into Mud Wrestling Practice, their prim, white-haired teacher returned their burden to them, this time shoeless and wailing.

Grouchy allowed Little Brother to clutch onto his shirt, long enough to tell what had happened to his little shoes. Looking up with fat, glossy tears, the toddler snuffled and jabbed an incriminating, stubby finger across the playground.

There at the other end, they could just barely make out the shapes of other students, lounging under a tree and half-obscured by shadow. Redhead scowled and (moving so the teachers couldn't see) made a very rude gesture at his enormous second-grader brother. If Grouchy could have seen the lanky sixth-grader with them, he would have first remarked that he was "a weirdo" and then would have identified him as the boy that took piano lessons at their house. For now, though, both groups stared each other down from across the playground. Adversaries. Arch enemies. Pitted against each other, in life and in death. (Except for Fridays at 7:00, when there would be a Time Out because some of them were on the same T-Ball team.)

"We're taking your shoes, too," came the call from across the field.

That was just too much.

Grouchy drew himself up to his full height (3'10"). Little Brother tried to develop a mean glare. Spectacles calmly tied his shoes. Redhead wiped his nose on his sleeve, thereby smearing mud across his face.

The blond stepped forward, with the other three children close behind and the white-haired teacher watching it all, with a bemused but polite expression. The Principal would undoubtedly want a full report.

And so it began.

"We go...