Chapter 2 of 3
The Championship and Dilemma
As the student’s exited the building, Carmen’s brain focused on Vickie. She wondered if Vickie would reveal the truth to Principal Vermon. Artela had intentionally smacked Vickie and deceitfully tricked Mrs. Ward into allowing her to carry the jumprope. Vickie was now headed to the Nurse’s office and Artela had the jumprope.
The fall weather outside was beautiful. The roar of laughing children and balls striking the concrete playground, consumed the air. Today was the final day of outdoor recess since winter season was rapidly approaching. Soon the playground, sandbox, slides and concrete grounds would all be covered with snow. The weatherman forecasted that Sunday’s daybreak may bring be the first snowfall of the season. Today’s doubledutch championship was important, and the 6th graders were hoping that Vickie would return on time.
Vickie was a member of the doubledutch elite. Vickie, Carmem, Lisa and Karen were all 6th grade winners during the doubledutch games of the past week. Now with Vickie’s injury, there would only be 3 6th grade competitors against the 3 -7th and 4-8th graders who were also competing. The 8th graders were really tough and Carmen knew Vickie’s presence would be missed greatly. The 8th graders had won every single doubledutch competition this school year and the 6th graders were ready to take their throne.
Last week, Vickie came in 2nd place after losing by 2 jumps to Rosie Bialey, the best jumper and prettiest girl in the 8th grade class. How on earth could the 6th graders win this final competition, without the very best doubledutcher in their grade? Carmen had no idea that after recess, doubledutch would be the least of her concerns and there was danger lurking in the shadows.
Carmen watch as Artela gallantly walked over to a group of girls. She put one hand on her hip and held the other arm high in the air, jump rope outstretched.
Artela hated doubledutch and was absolutely terrible at it. The balance necessary to jump, move and sing, while two wire ropes sway above your head and below your feet - wasn’t something Artela didn’t possess. Artela’s hands and body would not coordinate so that she could jump as both ropes crossed the ground. She would always fall and the other girls would laugh and make fun of her. Once, Artela tried to jump in the rope while Toi was jumping. Her left foot got caught in the cross rope and both ropes slapped her so hard across the face that she fell to the ground screaming. The Play leader took her to the Nurse’s office while the entire playground seemed to taunt her. Artela vowed to get even with everyone who laughed and today, she wanted revenge.
Artela spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. “I’ll bet nobody wins the competition, as long as I have the rope, there won’t be a doubledutch match today.”
Carmen replied, “Artela, Vickie should’ve carried the jumprope today. What you did in the hallway was wrong and you should be ashamed!”
Carmen’s words struck Artela like a bow’s arrow hitting a bull’s eye. Artela walked over to Carmen, who silently prayed that she hadn’t just started a fight. Carmen had no idea where those words that just flew out of her own mouth, just came from. As fright began to creep over her entire body, Artela’s face looked both surprised and angry.
Artela exclaimed, “Vickie’s in the nurse’s office because she couldn’t keep her big mouth shut. Now this is my rope and I have it and you can’t get it back. But I will give you a ...’
Just as Artela raised her hand to deliver a swift blow to Carmen’s face, Rosie grabbed the jumprope from Artela’s hand and quickly spun Artela around.
“Artela, today is the Championship and we ARE gonna use this rope. Go play soccer with the boys if you aren’t going to cooperate.”
Rosie was much bigger than Artela and not afraid of her. She was also an 8th grade play leader, which meant, she could enforce playground rules.
“But Rosie, Vickie let me use the rope today and I was going to….”
Rosie raised her hand to signal stop. She wasn’t interested in hearing Artela’s lies and was ready to begin the Championship. Rosie pointed to the huge boom box that Lisa and Maya were carrying to the playground.
“If you behave, you can be today’s DJ. I have a new house music CD from Farley Jackmaster Funk, and I don’t want you to scratch it. It is your responsibility to ensure that it stays safe. My brother just brought it yesterday, especially for today’s match.” Rosie told Artela. Farley was one of many musical savants that reedited and produced songs that made you want to dance the day away. She was just as anxious to hear the music as the doubledutch elite were anxious to begin the competition.
Artela obeyed and rolled her eyes at Carmen as she ran to start the music. The Championship began as Farley’s “Jack, jack, jack your body – jack your body – jack your body” rang through the air as the crowd gathered to watch the Elite warm-up. The competition began without Vickie and the 6th graders really seemed desperate as their uncertainty showed on all three girls faces.
Vickie was the 6th grade team captain and she was an exceptional leader. She motivated her teammates to strive and do their very best. After she took her turn in the jumprope, Vickie coached the other girls to jump higher and longer, by cheering them on from the sidelines.
As Carmen jumped into the rope, she peered over her shoulder searching for her best friend. Vickie always told her to jump into the rope with eyes wide open, but she really wanted to close her eyes. Silly Artela was standing cattycorner to her position and was making an ugly face to distract her. Artela’s tongue was moving side to side as she rolled her eyes all the way around to the back of her head and back again.
Carmen closed her eyes and imagined the doubledutch ropes slapping the concrete. She listened to the rhythm of the house music blarring from the boom box and synced it to the exact moment the ropes collided and hit the ground. Carmen worried if she jumped in with her eyes open and blinked, the roped may get tangled up in her feet, and she would miss her 1st turn. Just as she was about to jump in, Carmen remembered Vickie’s advice and opened her eyes. She jumped in perfectly and continued to showcase her athletic ability and skills by jumping eight long minutes. It was a fabulous jump, and new record for the entire school. Carmen was proud and really missed Vickie. Surely, no one could beat her time today and eight minutes would be the time to beat!
Artela frowned as everyone congratulated Carmen for a valiant effort. Carmen knew that the crowd’s adulation could pose a potential problem, but was very happy at her own accomplishment. She smiled as she walked over to the sidelines to watch the other girls compete.
Each of the elite took their turn and jumped their hardest. Every girl wanted to be the doubledutch champion. Girls were performing athletic stunts in the ropes to show off their jumping ability. There were toe touches, one-leg hops, 360 degree turns and even a cartwheel performed. The elite loved the attention and entertaining the audience, which by this time, included almost everyone on the playground.
There were only five minutes of recess left and Rosie enchanted the audience with her doubledutch talents. She’d jumped for about 5 minutes and had ample time to win the competition. She dazzled onlookers as she jumped high, doing a toe-touch with both legs and arms outstretched and landed flawlessly, while continuing to jump. Rosie danced, jumped and looked gorgeous, simultaneously! As the house music reached the point where the DJ repeats his moniker continuously, the audience and Rosie seemed to be in a trance. This was Rosie’s favorite part of the CD and the crowd was mesmerized.
The music blarred, “Farley, Farley, Fa-Farley, Farley, Farley – bang the box, ba-ba-ba, bang the box,” and Rosie danced and jumped as if she were a prima ballerina or at a ballet recital.
As two and a half minutes passed, Carmen tuned to see Vickie running down the long sloped stairs ascending onto the playground. Carmen nudged Lana, who was standing next to her. Lana looked over Carmen’s shoulder, pointed and shouted, “Vickie’s here!”
Lana’s voice was so loud that nearly everyone around her, including Artela, changed their attention from Rosie’s performance to Vickie’s entrance. As Artela stood to see over the crowd, she accidentally kicked the boom box. The CD scratched and Rosie’s left foot caught the bottom of the rope and the doubledutch rope turners, stop turning. The crowd stood in amazement and listened as the time keeper yelled “Seven minutes and fifty-eight seconds!!!”
Unbelievably, Carmen had won the doubledutch championship! The time keeper announced the 6th grade winner, just as the recess bell chimed. The 6th graders celebrated quickly as students ran to their respective lines and the play leaders organized and gathered the recess equipment.
Vickie was so proud of Carmen. They smiled at each other as they ran and grabbed each other’s hands and twirled circles, singing “I told you could do it. We won. We won!” and laughed while running to their classroom line. Carmen couldn’t wait to tell Vickie everything that happened while she was in the Nurse’s office. The girls agreed that they would pass notes once class began to share their exciting stories.
As Carmen entered the building, Artela had managed to get behind Carmen in line, with one person between them. Artela reached around Mildred and shoved Carmen from behind. Carmen jerked around quickly to see why she had been pushed to find Artela’s finger pointing directly in her face.
“You better be scared!!! I AM going to get you!” Artela stated in a frightening voice. “Even if I don’t get you in school, I know where you live, Ms. Goody Two Shoes. I will come to your house after school. You are gonna get a beating and I will teach you to stay out of my business!”
Carmen was scared all over again, but didn’t want to give Artela the impression that her intimidation was working! She remembered the conversation that she’d had with her oldest brother Wayman.
He told her to “Never show fear- even if you were scared” truthfully, Carmen was scared of Artela. Wayman would also remind Carmen that he’d taught her how to fight and she was perfectly capable of defending herself. Carmen would often respond to Wayman, “Yeah, I can fight, but I don’t like to fight.”
Vickie and Carmen were such good friends and their family life was very similar. Both girls had three brothers. Vickie had one other sibling, an older sister that she would sometimes share with Carmen. The brothers were good teachers and taught both girls how to defend themselves against attackers. The girl’s both lifted weights with their brothers and had developed muscles and strength, necessary to become good athletes. Their muscle strength assisted and improved their jumprope ability. Still, neither girl liked to fight.
Wayman would often tell them both, “You don’t have to like to fight - you just need to know how, so you don’t get your butt kicked. At least, you will know how to defend yourselves and you’ll always put up a good fight.”
Wayman was right but Artela was tough and Carmen didn’t want to test her own fighting abilities, at this particular point in time. Artela had beat up many girls, far bigger than Carmen, and even a few boys. Carmen didn’t think that fighting was the way to resole problems and Carmen wished for a better resolution. Unfortunately, Artela favored fighting.
Carmen rolled her eyes at Artela as she continued to follow her classmates in line entering the building, to their classroom. Mrs. Ward was watching closely and walked towards the girls as Artela immediately pretended to follow the rules.
Mrs. Ward ignored Artela’s deception as the students returned to their classrooms. The rest of the afternoon carelessly passed for all the students who anxiously awaited the dismissal bell at 3:15 p.m., except Carmen. She couldn’t help but think of Artela’s threat and kept staring at the clock on the classroom wall.
Carmen thought, “Someone must’ve fixed that clock while we were at recess. The time is moving by so fast…