I saw Shirley working the hand drill, putting the mast way too far forward. I looked down at my boat with its perfectly placed mast-hole and I wanted to help her. Her boat probably wouldn’t even float, let alone sail, if I didn’t show her where to put the mast-hole.
I even stood up from my chair and had a mock-conversation in my head: “Shirley, you probably want to drill that hole back toward the middle. That way your regatta boat can hold both sails, instead of just one.”
“Oh thank you, Jimmy!” she responded in my head. “I always knew you were smart, but thank you for being so helpful and cute, too!”
I blushed and steeled my resolve. I walked toward her desk. I had to hurry, she was just about to drill the hole. I was about two steps away when she started to turn the crank. I walked right up to her. She looked at me, all curly-haired and tan, the prettiest girl in the whole of Mr. Schaeffer’s 4th grade class. And I walked right past her to the drinking fountain.
I heard her drill going as I took a too-long drink, letting the water run into and out of my mouth as I tried to see her out of the corner of my eye, knowing that I could have helped her if she was just a little less cute and wondering what had happened to me.
When I was really young, I could talk to all the girls. I’d go right up to show them my eyepatch or new glasses, my jumping skills or big belly; and, if they were truly beautiful, I’d show them all four.
I gave away kisses left and right. I proposed to the babysitter’s daughter who, at 22, was 18 years older than me.
And more than one lucky lady tried to kiss me, too.
And then, around Kindergarten, the girls became more beautiful and my eyepatch confidence waned. I began passive bragging and sly stunts to get their attention. I learned hopscotch, tripped on purpose, and, for the prettiest girls, ate sand.
The night before the regatta, I thought of the comforting words I would give Shirley and her ridiculous looking ship after she lost. I would hide my blue ribbon and say, “That was a good effort, Shirley.” And she would say, “How did your boat do?” I’d respond, sheepishly, “Well, I won first prize, but I was lucky.” And then she’d say, “Oh Jimmy, I always knew you were smart, but thank you for being so humble and cute!”
Zach went to a one-year-old’s birthday party yesterday. He played it smooth at first, taking her toys away from her and crawling away. But then he crawled to her, played peek-a-boo around the coffee table, and laughed.
My boat went about twenty feet and started to sink. One of the teacher’s rescued it and brought it back to me. Shirley came in second.
And she didn’t say anything about my effort.