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TITLE: Surviving the 8th grade
By Karen Petty
02/23/07
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This piece is written from the point of view of a middle schooler, who struggles in PE ( no athletic skills)& is aided by the encouragement of a friend. In some ways, I lived out this story. I still dont have the skills that others do, but now enjoy playing some sports.
The 8th grade hallway is jammed with bodies, as the bell whisks us away to gym class. I try to get to the corner of the locker room first. Maybe if I work fast no one will notice that parts of me still look 11 years old. It’s not the dressing out that I dread as much as game-time. I’ve never been athletic or good at any sport. This six weeks we’re studying volleyball. You’d think that hitting a big white ball would be easy. It is, for some girls. Just not for me.
Oh well, I’m last to be picked again. No surprise there. The team captain frowns as she says my name, barely making eye contact. Her disdain permeates me. I haven’t even screwed up yet, but the sentence is passed. There goes the whistle. I hope the ball doesn’t find it’s way to me. Oh, here it comes. Whap! I hit it. It’s not gonna make it across the net. Blondie on the front row, pops it over. I’m safe for now. Here comes another one. I lunge forward to no avail. The ball pings loudly on the gymnasium floor, near my feet, to the apparent disapproval of Blondie and her hand-on-the-hip friends. “Nice one, Loser.” she scowls. Her friends hiss along, backing her up. I feel the sting. It’s always the same from them. I’m just not good enough.

Adrenaline rushes through me, but not for the love of the sport. My face is turning red. I can feel it. I hope I don’t cry. That’s all I need. More reasons to get hassled.

As the game goes on, I look over at the clock, willing time to go faster. But it won’t. This is the longest 40 minutes of my day. Man, when are we gonna switch to archery or ping pong…anything?! If I can just make it through till next period, I’ll be fine. I think.

Finally, it’s back to the locker room. If I were superman I could change clothes faster. No time to check my hair. I just scoop up my stuff and get outta there. I wanna put some distance between me and a chance of another barrage of insults. Oh, what now?! Someone put their hand on my shoulder. I exhale and brace for impact. Whew! It’s only Cathy. We’ve been friends since elementary school. “They were real jerks today, huh?”, she spouted. “Yeah”, I said, as I pulled my books to my chest. Keeping pace with the moving crowd, Cathy wrapped her arm around me, giving me a brief squeeze. “ My face isn’t still red, is it?” I questioned to my friend. “Not anymore” she said with a smile. “You wanna meet me for lunch after 3rd period?” she added. “Sure” I answered. “What would I do without you?” I blurted, with relief in my tone. Cathy’s kind words had begun to melt away the anxiety I was feeling. We may have 4 more weeks of volleyball left. But I think I can make it, with the help of a friend.
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