A/N: This story came out at a little more than 9k words, so it will be a two-shot. The next and last chapter will be posted tomorrow.
I think this was a cute idea. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for reading.
"What'd you get?" James asked Kendall.
The blonde boy opened his brown paper bag and reached inside. "Looks like PBJ," he said, eyeing the sandwich in the Ziploc bag. His hand went back in, and pulled out a pudding cup, some carrot sticks, and a bright red apple. The last thing he discovered in his lunch sack was a small note, written on pink paper, that said, 'Have a great day!' Kendall groaned and stuffed his mother's message back into the bag.
"You got pudding?" James exclaimed. He held up a pouch of fruit snacks. "I'll trade you."
"No way!" replied Kendall, moving his pudding away from his friend. "What did your mom pack, Logan?"
The eight year old sitting across the table from Kendall didn't respond. His Power Rangers lunchbox remained untouched.
"Lo-gan," Kendall said in a sing-song voice.
"What?" Logan finally looked up from the sheet of paper that had previously held his attention. "I need to study my spelling words. We have a test after recess."
Kendall ignored him and pointed to his lunchbox. "What did you get?"
With a sigh, Logan flipped the switches on the top of the metal box and turned over the cover. He immediately made a face. "Ugh… egg salad, again." He held up a clear, plastic bag. James and Kendall grimaced at the yellow mush squished between two slices of bread.
"Here," Kendall said sympathetically, handing Logan half of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Logan thanked him, tossing the rejected sandwich aside.
"I'm here!" a voice announced. The three boys turned and greeted Carlos, who took a seat next to Logan and across from James, his bright yellow lunchbox in-hand. "Guess what?"
Kendall munched on a carrot stick. "What?"
Carlos grinned. "My dad let me pack my own lunch today," he said proudly. He messily dumped the contents of his lunchbox onto the table. The boys' eyes widened as a cupcake, a container of Tootsie Rolls, a candy bar, and several bags of chips rolled out.
"Cool!" said James. "My mom would never let me eat that."
"Mine wouldn't, either," agreed Kendall.
The boys looked at Logan, who was once again studying his spelling words, oblivious to their conversation.
Carlos snatched the paper out of his hands.
"Hey!" Logan protested. "I need to memorize the bonus word!" Mrs. Melby's second grade spelling list ended with a bonus word, and whichever students could correctly spell it would receive a sticker.
"Invention," Carlos read. "That's so stupid. When are we ever gonna need to spell that?"
"Yeah," muttered James, biting into his ham sandwich. "Spelling words are dumb."
"I-N-V-E-N-T-I-O-N," Logan recited, taking the paper back from Carlos. "You're gonna fail your test."
Carlos stuck out his tongue before peeling back the wrapper on his candy bar and taking a big bite.
Logan was about to say something, but changed his mind when he saw James waving at someone from across the school's lunchroom. Two tables away, a little girl waved back.
"Ooh, is that your girlfriend?" Logan teased.
"Ew!" Carlos exclaimed. He twirled around in his seat to get a look at Cindy Smith. "My dad says girls have cooties."
James finally cast his gaze away from Cindy, and turned his attention back to his friends. "What's cooties?"
"I think it's a bug," Kendall said through a mouthful of peanut butter and jelly.
James's eyes widened. "Girls have bugs?" He looked to Logan for confirmation.
Logan only shrugged. "I've never seen any bugs on a girl before."
"But my dad's a policeman, so he would know," Carlos insisted. He pointed his candy bar at James. "You're gonna get bugs on you."
James popped a handful of fruit snacks into his mouth. "No I'm not. I'm sure if I ask Cindy nicely, she won't give me any of her cooties."
Carlos, Kendall and Logan snickered at their friend, and the four boys finished their lunch quickly, eager to get outside for recess. They had a daily routine: eat lunch, throw away their trash, go to Carlos's locker, and then enjoy their playtime.
The energetic boy bounced down the hallway to his locker, leaving James, Kendall and Logan trailing behind. He pulled open his locker door and retrieved his helmet. It was something Carlos got teased about a lot, but he never seemed to be bothered by it.
Several months ago in gym class, the students were playing badminton. Unfortunately, Carlos could never hit the birdie. He would swing his racquet and end up twirling in a circle and crashing dizzily to the floor. No one but his three friends wanted him on their team. Then, one day, after the helmet-clad boy backpedaled into a wall while trying to smack the birdie out of the air, the gym teacher approached him.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" she had asked, helping Carlos to his feet.
Carlos patted his helmet and blinked slowly. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"Do you need to go to the nurse?"
He shook his head. "No, the nurse doesn't like me very much 'cause I always go there. I'm okay."
The teacher chuckled and let Carlos continue failing at hitting the birdie. However, the following Monday, the boys' homeroom teacher, Mrs. Melby, had a special announcement: Carlos was being transferred to a different gym class.
At first, he didn't know what to think. He didn't want to be away from Kendall, James and Logan, the only kids who would let Carlos be on their badminton teams. But, Carlos's dad always encouraged him to make new friends, so, even though he was a little nervous, he followed Mrs. Melby to the second gym.
He was surprised when he entered. At least twelve kids were in the gym, along with five female teachers. All the kids had helmets on, even the two in wheelchairs.
"Why do I have to play here?" Carlos asked the teacher.
Mrs. Melby put a hand on his shoulder. "I know you like your old gym class, but Ms. Ross thinks this class will be a bit easier for you."
He shrugged at the response, and proceeded to play with the other kids. However, the class turned out to be pretty boring, since most of the kids would throw fits when the teachers wanted them to do something they didn't want to, and the kids that didn't throw fits weren't very good athletes at all. Carlos mostly just awkwardly stood in the corner of the gym for the remainder of class.
When he returned to homeroom, Kendall, James and Logan were eager to know what his new gym class was like. "It was weird," Carlos replied. "But all the kids have helmets." The three boys shrugged. But, when Carlos came home from school that night, he told his dad all about his new gym class when he was asked about his day. Mr. Garcia didn't seem too happy, and Carlos wondered if he did something wrong.
The next morning, Mr. Garcia - or Officer Garcia, as he was known to some - grabbed his son's hand and marched into the main office of the school. Mrs. Melby and the gym teacher, Ms. Ross, were called down to the office as well.
Mr. Garcia demanded to know why his son was placed in a different gym class, to which Ms. Ross replied she thought the class would be simpler for Carlos.
"So because my boy can't hit a birdie, you decide to put him a special needs class?"
Carlos looked up at his father, not really sure what he was talking about.
The teachers' jaws dropped. "You mean he's not…?"
Mr. Garcia's face reddened with anger. He managed to refrain from smashing the two teachers into the wall only because they were women, and because he had finished his second course of sensitivity training the week before.
Countless apologies later, Mrs. Melby finally asked the question everyone was wondering: "Is there a reason why he wears a helmet all the time?"
Response: "How many times have you seen my son hit his head or crash into something? My wife and I can't afford to keep sending him to the emergency room!"
Eventually, Carlos was sent to class. A substitute teacher was assigned to the classroom for the first half of the day. Carlos was allowed to go back into his regular gym class with his friends, and after recess, the students had their regular teacher back.
"How come you get to be in our gym class again?" Logan had asked him.
Carlos shrugged. "I dunno. I think maybe it was because I have a helmet."
The Latino could practically seen the gears turning in Logan's brain. "Oh, you mean they thought you had an unfair advantage when we played games? So they made you play in a class that let you have helmets all the time?"
"I think so," Carlos said. "But my dad got mad, and now I get to stay in your class. And I get to keep my helmet."
So, it was only instinctive that the boys would follow Carlos to his locker, so he could wear his helmet during recess, which, next to gym class, was the most dangerous time of the school day.
It was a warm, spring day in Minnesota. The snow was finally gone, and school would be out in a few weeks. The boys were excited to be third graders. After all, being in second grade was tough.
The school yard where the children attended recess was very large. A blacktop where several groups of kids played four-square or jumped rope was laid right outside the door. Beyond that, the playground, and beyond that, a grassy field dotted with trees. Far to the right was a baseball diamond, where the older kids would form teams and play a competitive game.
"What do you guys wanna do?" Kendall asked, stepping onto the blacktop. Before anyone had a chance to answer, a pig-tailed girl in a flowery pink dress skipped up to James.
"Tag!" Cindy laughed, and began to prance away.
"Ah!" James brushed off his shirt where Cindy had touched him.
The blonde-haired girl stopped and turned around on her heel. "Well? Aren't you gonna chase me?" she asked, putting a hand on her hip.
Logan, Kendall and Carlos looked at one another, smirking.
"Well…" James uneasily turned to his friends, who nodded. "I can't. I mean, I can, as long as you don't… infest me."
Her expression changed to one of confusion. "Huh? Infest you?"
James rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, yeah. I don't wanna get cooties."
Cindy cocked her head to the side. "What's a cootie?"
Kendall answered. "They're bugs that girls give to boys."
Cindy rolled her eyes and held out her arms. "But I don't have any bugs on me, see?" James took a cautious step forward, scrutinizing her skin.
"Hmm… Turn around." She complied, and James seemed satisfied. "Okay! Tag, you're it!" He touched her shoulder and then ran away. Cindy laughed and skipped behind him.
"He's done for," Carlos whispered.
Logan and Kendall nodded.
The three boys meandered around the blacktop for several minutes, trying to think of something to do. James and Cindy ran by them a few times, laughing. That gave Kendall an idea.
"Let's have a race!" he suggested.
"Ooh, yeah!" Carlos excitedly bounced on his heels.
"Where to?" asked Logan.
Kendall's eyes scanned the school yard. "We have to run around the bases on the baseball field, then climb across the monkey bars, go down the slide, and touch the tall tree over there." He pointed across the yard.
Carlos slapped his helmet as Logan bent down to tie his shoe.
"Okay, ready?" said Kendall, taking a starting position.
"Wait," said Logan.
"No, wait, I'm not -"
Kendall and Carlos bolted for the baseball field. Logan scrambled to his feet, attempting to follow his friends. Unfortunately, he tripped on his shoelace and fell flat on his face. "Ow," he murmured, removing his shoe all together. He raced after Kendall and Carlos, clutching his left tennis shoe in one hand.
Kendall reached the baseball diamond first, with Carlos closely behind. He touched first base, ignoring the shouts of protest from the fourth and fifth graders occupying the diamond. Then Kendall rounded second, then third, and finally touched home.
The older kids continued to shout at him even as he ran away, heading for the playground equipment. But, to his surprise, Carlos passed him, laughing as he did so. Carlos made it to the monkey bars before his friends. With a big leap, he grabbed the first bar and swung his arms forward. His aim was off, however, and his hand slipped, causing him to drop to the ground.
Kendall let out a "Hah!" and picked up where Carlos left off. Determined, the boy on the ground jumped up, grabbing Kendall by the waist.
"Hey, you can't do that!" Kendall cried as his arms gave out from the added weight. He collapsed to the pebbles below, landing half on top of Carlos, who was already managing to clamber away.
"Cheater!" called Kendall as Carlos hoisted himself up on the playground equipment, forgetting the monkey bars all together. Kendall hurried after him.
Several other kids moved out of the way as Kendall and Carlos brushed past them on their way to the tube slide. Carlos threw himself down headfirst, Kendall immediately following. The boys slid to the bottom, landing in an awkward pile. Kendall stood first, shrieking in laugher, and bolted across the field and to the tree.
Carlos touched the finish too, only half a second behind. Both boys panted hard.
"You tried to cheat," Kendall breathed, putting his hands on his head. He began to pace the ground.
"Yeah, well, you cheated too!" Carlos insisted. "You fell on me when we got off the slide."
"But that doesn't count."
"Yeah, it does."
Then, Logan appeared, one shoe on his foot, the other in his hand.
"What took you so long?" Kendall said.
Logan touched the tree, nearly out of breath. He plopped down into the grass, wiping off the bottom of his sock. "You guys got a head start," he said, a bit of annoyance in his voice. "I was tying my shoe. And then I ran around the bases, and the older kids threw a bottle at me. So I kicked it back and then they started chasing me, but I lost them over by the swings."
As Logan was explaining his hapless situation, James was spotted jogging over to the three boys.
"Hi, James," the boys greeted their friend.
"What are you guys doing?" he asked, brushing a piece of hair out of his eyes.
"We just had a race!" exclaimed Carlos. "Logan got his butt kicked. And got a bottle thrown at him."
James and Kendall laughed, but Logan stuck out his tongue.
"So where's Cindy?" asked Kendall.
James's face suddenly lit up. "That's what I was coming to tell you! Guess what?"
James took a deep breath and relaxed his shoulders. "Me and Cindy are getting married."
"Eww!" the boys cried simultaneously.
"Gross! Why?" wondered Kendall.
James rolled his eyes. "Because we like each other. Duh."
"But if you get married, you'll get her cooties for sure," Carlos told him.
"Cindy doesn't have cooties," James replied.
Logan stood, his shoe finally on his foot and laced up tight. "But you'll still have to get a job to support her."
"No, because I'm gonna be famous and make a billion dollars, and then I won't have to work."
Kendall and Carlos shrugged in agreement at his reasoning.
James had started liking girls earlier on in the year, whereas his friends still thought they were icky. 'Marriage' was a popular trend with the second graders. Of course, to the eight year olds, marriage meant only chasing each other around the playground and possibly holding hands.
Carlos, Logan and Kendall had been told by several female classmates that they have a cute friend. And James sure worked hard at keeping up his appearance, thanks to his father. Everyday he came to school with his brown hair neatly combed, his shoes polished, and wearing nice clothes. But, of all his physical assets, his hair was the one he valued the most.
The summer before second grade, the four boys were at Logan's house. Logan had just gotten a mini gumball machine for his birthday, and was showing it off to his friends. His mother brought the boys a bag of pennies, which when inserted into the machine (that also acted as a bank), would give the boys three small gumballs in return.
The boys were chomping happily on their gum, when the unthinkable happened. James blew a bubble so huge that when it popped, it covered his entire face. Logan and Kendall and Carlos laughed as James attempted to peel off the sticky layer.
He felt a tug, then gasped. The gum was caught in his hair!
"Oh no! Help!" he cried. He yanked on the gum again, but it only made the situation worse. A big, pink wad matted the side of his head. "I can't get it out!"
Kendall, Carlos and Logan each stepped up to try to help pull the gum out, but James's cries of distress told them it wasn't going to give that easily.
"We need scissors," Kendall said.
"What? No!" shrieked James. "I don't want my hair cut." Tears pricked at his eyes.
"Don't worry," assured Carlos. "Once the gum is cut out, you probably won't even be able to tell the difference."
James sniffled. "Really?"
Kendall nodded. "Logan, d'you got scissors?"
"I think there's some in the bathroom."
Being wary of Logan's mother, the boys sneaked out of Logan's bedroom and crossed the hallway. They entered the bathroom and shut the door.
James hopped up on the counter while Logan rifled through a drawer. He handed the scissors to Kendall.
"Okay, so all I gotta do is cut the gum out. That's easy," said Kendall.
James gulped and shut his eyes. Carlos and Logan leaned closer to get a better look.
Snip snip snip.
Several gum-coated locks of James's hair fell into the sink. James whimpered with every movement of the blades.
"There!" Kendall declared a couple minutes later. He set the scissors down next to the pile of brown hair. He stepped back, admiring his work.
"H-How does it look?" asked James, nervously.
Carlos and Logan flashed him a thumbs-up sign.
Hesitantly, James turned to face the mirror behind him. The hair on the left side of his head was choppily cut, some parts much shorter than the rest.
"I guess it's okay," he admitted, using a hand to smooth it down a bit.
"No one will even notice," said Kendall.
A half an hour later, the boys were back in Logan's room, when there was a knock at the door. Logan's mother entered, wondering why there was a bunch of hair in the bathroom sink. She gasped when she saw James. At first she appeared angry and she scolded the boys for not coming to her in the first place, and for cutting James's hair by themselves. Then she laughed.
When James realized she was laughing because of how funny he looked, he burst into tears. Mrs. Mitchell gave James a hug and told him his mother would most likely bring him to a professional to fix his hair.
The following day, James had sported a short new haircut.
"So, when are you and Cindy gonna get married?" Logan asked.
"We haven't figured it out yet. But you guys can be the best men."
"What's that mean?" said Carlos.
James shrugged. "I dunno. I had to go to my cousin's wedding one time, and he had a bunch of guys standing next to him in matching suits, and they were called the best men. So I think it's your favorite people, or something."
"Oh. Well, then I'll have to tell my parents I need a suit," said Carlos. "I spilled orange juice all over mine and hid it under my bed, so it stained -" He stopped. "Whoa!"
The boys followed Carlos's eyes to the tree trunk. Logan immediately backed away when he saw what his friend was looking at.
"Yuck, what is that?" exclaimed James, squinting his eyes to get a better look.
Carlos picked up a nearby stick. He cautiously approached the creature perched on the bark of the tree.
"It's a beetle," said Logan, still keeping his distance.
"Maybe it's a cootie!" Carlos laughed. He gently poked the body of the beetle with the end of his stick. The bug had a fat body, six legs, and was dark in color.
Due to Carlos's stick, the beetle suddenly fell off the tree and toppled into the grass below. Logan jumped backwards, ducking behind Kendall.
"Cool…" Carlos murmured to himself, getting on his knees to further examine the creature.
Kendall had an idea. "Hey, Carlos, I dare you to eat it."
James laughed, but Logan looked horrified. "Gross, no way! Don't eat that, Carlos. It might be poisonous."
But the boy in the helmet seemed to be considering the dare. "What'll you give me?"
Kendall and James reached into the pockets of their jeans, searching for anything to bet with. Kendall gave Logan a look.
Logan sighed in defeat. "I need new friends." He dug through his pockets as well.
Carlos continued to poke at the beetle as the three boys plopped down on the grass in a circle. Kendall threw his leftover milk money - a dollar and thirty seven cents - an eraser top, and a Jolly Rancher into the middle of the circle. James contributed two rubber bands and a roll of Chapstick, and Logan a broken Matchbox car and a piece of string. He briefly considered putting his spelling list into the pile, but decided against it.
"You gonna do it?" Kendall asked Carlos, eyes sparkling.
Carlos sifted through the items. "I gotta it eat alive?"
"You're gonna get sick," Logan repeated. "Some bugs are poisonous."
But it was too late. Without further hesitation, Carlos picked the beetle up with two fingers and dropped it into his mouth. Crunch.
Kendall and James started laughing. Logan turned completely pale, and he put a hand over his stomach.
Carlos made a face as he chewed the bug. Nonetheless, he swallowed, then opened his mouth to prove it was gone. One of the beetle's legs stuck to his tooth.
James and Kendall whooped loudly, and Carlos collected his prizes.
"I didn't think you'd actually do that," James said. "You ate a cootie!"
"It wasn't a cootie, it was a beetle," Logan tried to explain. His mother had taught him a lot about nature.
Carlos licked his lips. "How do you know? You said you've never seen a cootie."
"You haven't seen one either."
Kendall said, "We could ask a girl."
"But not Cindy," added James.
Just then, the recess bell rang, signaling the students had to get back to class. Carlos groaned as he rose to his feet. "My stomach kinda hurts."
Logan became more concerned for his friend. "Oh no! Maybe it was poisoned! You should go to the nurse."
The boys began to walk across the playground and back into the school. "No, the nurse is mean to me," Carlos muttered, stuffing the last of his winnings into his pockets. "She calls me a 'wild child' and says I'll end up in the 'mergency room one day."
Kendall rolled his eyes. "What an idiot."
"I know. I've already been to the 'mergency room lots of times. Psht… Shows how much she knows."
Logan still looked slightly uneasy as the four friends reentered the school and headed to their second grade classroom.