As the fall trimester drew to a close, that meant two things: report cards and sports competitions against our school’s rival, The Murray School for Boys. However, this chapter will not focus on the report card part, because the sheer thought of report cards sends shivers down my pimple-covered spine.
Yes, I do have bacne (pimples on one’s back).
But I digress.
So, The Murray School for Boys, according to the extremely unreliable source of information that is the students at Lamone, is essentially a prison. The kids are fed bread and water and enslaved by the faculty who teach there.
According to the faculty, Mr. Murray copied Monsieur Lamone’s idea for a boarding school. Murray is a British variation of Lamone.
My adolescent-itis diseased brain struggled to determine who to believe.
However, I had another problem to worry about: my upcoming water polo game against Murray that weekend. It was the last weekend before winter break, and after those three weeks off, the winter trimester began.
If I haven’t already told you, I SUCKED at water polo. I couldn’t play the game to save my life.
Originally, I thought it would be easy. I was a solid swimmer with good strokes. I was decently fast at freestyle, coming from California, where I had swum semi-competitively on a team. I could also throw a ball pretty well.
Then I found out in water polo, you cannot stand on the bottom of the pool.
You had to either tread water or swim the ENTIRE game.
Soon I was doomed to the lower echelon of junior varsity. “Lower echelon” is a glorified term for benchwarmer. I sat on the bench and remained there for usually the entire game. Mark and I would get into intense battles of rock-paper-scissors (I know, it’s sad, you can laugh, haha) to cope with the boredom.
For those of you who don’t know how to play the sport, here is a brief guide: Throw the ball into the net. If you get it in, that’s a goal. No touching the bottom of the pool. No slapping, punching, or too much physical contact (otherwise it’s a foul). 6 players in the field per team, one guy per team in the goal (the goalie). Games last 28 minutes with 4 quarters of 7 minutes each. Team with the most goals wins.
Fast forward to the actual game. As usual, Mark and I were glued to the bench like heaters, warming up the cold metal seats for our starters to rest on between quarters. Everyone on the team BUT us were soaking wet; we were as dry as a fish out of water under the blazing California sun.
Also, in water polo, I forgot to mention that you wear Speedos that really squeeze your legs like a cement sandwich (except they’re made from nylon), and a cap with uncomfortable ear protectors that make you look VERY weird. So although sitting down in most cases is relaxing, in Mark’s and my case, it wasn’t.
It was the fourth quarter. Murray was good. We were, too. Game tied at 13-13. Clock winding down; 1 minute 12 seconds remaining. The game was getting intense, and the players were getting a little too physical. Players from Murray were pulling down the pants of players from Lamone underwater, so the referee couldn’t see them. A fight broke out between our star player, a massive 7th grader from New Hampshire named Chris Pierce, and a big kid from Murray.
Chris got nailed in the eye by the kid from Murray, and my pimples started to pop under the apprehension. The referees shouted to try and break it up, but they couldn’t (in water polo, the refs stand outside of the water). Chris started bleeding and had to be taken out.
Suddenly, Coach Andersen (Mark’s mom, needed a replacement for Chris). There were only three kids on our bench: an injured Chris Lima, Mark, and I. Coach didn’t want her precious son, Mark, to go out and get hurt by the kid that hurt Chris, so she sent ME.
I was shaking as I entered the freezing pool. The cold water jolted my body awake, and I felt alive. I was also terrified. I didn’t want to get punched in the eye and bleed. I prayed silently to myself, I’M ONLY 11… I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!
The whistle blew, and a flurry of splashing and kicking ensued around me. I struggled to see anything except for the white foam of water. The clock was ticking down. I decided to swim, got kicked in the face by somebody from Murray (on accident), but continued blindly.
That was, until I realized that my team had the ball. 10 seconds to go, and our best shooter other than Chris, a 9th grader from Chile named Jonah Lima, had the ball. Our team screamed at him to shoot.
But he couldn’t. Two players from Murray had rushed him, and he was being double-teamed. He was trapped. Then he saw ME, left open, about 5 meters away from the goal.
And he passed it to me.
As soon as I realized he was going to do that, I tried swimming away. I wanted to get away from the ball. Because if I had the ball, that means the kid who punched Chris would be coming after me.
What I didn’t realize, as my pimpled face and I sprinted away from the ball, was that Jonah had already passed it to me.
I popped my head up to survey my surroundings, to look around and see if I had successfully avoided getting the ball.
As I did, I felt a giant smack on my head that sank me underwater.
When I resurfaced, confused and with a massive bump on my head, the players from Lamone erupted in cheers. The game clock blasted, signaling the end of the game. Our bench was going insane. Coach Andersen was screaming with joy.
And soon, I was mobbed by all the players from Lamone. I wondered who had scored, and why they were mobbing me.
That was when I found out that I had scored the winning goal. Jonah passed the ball, and as I popped my head out of the water, the ball had clunked me on the head and went in. Like a header in soccer.
I had won the water polo game against Murray for Lamone. Me, my railroad track enforced teeth, and my pimples.
Life Lesson #29: When life presents with an opportunity, take it. (Even if it causes a ginormous red bump on your head, which has enough bumps called pimples already)