Good Little Soldier

Sally writes a poem in class and it is called Waiting. I am waiting, she says. We all laugh and make fun of her and tell her she wrote a stupid poem. I am waiting, we mock. There are five of us and we are all holding hands and celebrating the birthday of our nation. We have such a great nation, Rita says. It is raining outside because of your stupid poem, Mark says. He gives Dave a high-five. Nobody high-fives anymore. The rest of the day is spent like that and then the day is over and we all go home to different homes. It is not raining anymore and Sally is walking by herself holding a flower. She is petting the flower and she is singing to herself: I like sunflowers, I like sunflowers. Such a stupid girl. Hey, Sally, you are a stupid girl. Sally doesn't say anything but I know that Mike and Dave would have given me high-fives and would have laughed too. Hey Sally, your poem sucked,I say again and I am thinking that Rita would have told me that I was a good soldier and a good addition to our group. We only have five members in our group. But we are all very close and we do everything together except the other ones live on the other side of the river with the big houses and the long driveways and I live on this side of the river with Sally and with the little short driveways and the small houses. I think it is on the wrong side of the tracks except it isn't tracks at all it is a river. I bet Dave and Mike are giving each other high-fives right now, I think. I wonder what it is like living on the other side of the river. Hey Sally, why'd you write that stupid poem. Sally is still singing and petting her flower. Stupid girl, she isn't listening to me. Hey Sally, why'd you write that poem? Leave me alone, Roger, she says. I am going home. Rita says I would make a good lookout man when they build their fort. She thinks that I have good eyes and that I could see if anybody was coming and then I could do something about it. You could throw a stick at them or chase them away. You would be a really good soldier. Mike and Dave are smiling, too, because they know I'd be a good soldier. I could do all kinds of things to protect the fort, I think. You know that is a stupid flower, Sally. Everybody thinks so. Sally stops singing and looks at me. You're such a jerk, she says and she turns to run away but I can see she is crying and I stop her. Why are you crying stupid girl? Never mind. She turns to run again but I have grabbed her backpack and I won't let her go. Let me go. No, why are you crying? I would never run from anything, I know I would never cry either, no I would never cry at anything or run from anything because that would make me a bad soldier. Let me go, she says. Sally wiggles out of her backpack and runs down the dirt road. Hey, wait up, stupid. Leave me alone. She is running as fast as she can. I can tell she is running as fast as she can but that is not that fast, not really fast at all. Hey, stupid, stop running, I say. Sally runs off the dirt road and into the woods where there are branches and holes and all kinds of animals. Sally, don't go into the woods. This is stupid. Sally ducks under branches and keeps running. Here, take your stupid backpack. I don't want to keep running after you, stupid girl. I'll give you the bag and you can go cry in the woods. Stupid girl. Sally, I don't care anymore, take your bag. But Sally won't stop running. By now I can see that she is still crying very much, she is crying all over her face and all down her neck. She is crying quite a lot, I think. Just leave me alone, Roger, she says again. I wish I was on the other side of the river, I think. There are houses with yards as big as the playground there. And the kids all sleep over at each others houses and tell stories and I can never go because I live over on this side of the river. It just isn't right, Mike says. No, Rita agrees, it would be wrong for you to come. You're a soldier. Sally doesn't stop running until she is in the clearing by the tire factory. Then she falls to the ground, out of breath. Her legs are all cut up. Here's your stupid bag, Sally. Sally doesn't say anything. She is crying and looking at her legs and she is out of breath. I turn to walk away. You know, she says and she is almost smiling, I don't think the river is really the reason they don't let you go over there. I look at her and I know that my face is turning red. You're a stupid girl, I say. I am suddenly very warm. Besides, I mutter, I am just waiting for a chance to go. I know, Sally says. You don't know anything stupid girl, I think. I am a good soldier, I think.

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