A Line in the Sand

February 16, 2009
By Benjamin Altshuler BRONZE, N Barrington, Illinois
Benjamin Altshuler BRONZE, N Barrington, Illinois
4 articles 2 photos 0 comments

The stage lights come up on a backyard playground. Stage left is a set of swings and a slide, stage right, the outer wall of a suburban home. The set centers on a sand box at center. Ethan Hurwitz, a boy age 8, sits contently in the sand box with a pail, shovel, and set of action figures. He narrates the plot unfolding at his fingertips.

Ethan: (in an adult voice) What a shame that this is our final meeting, Mr. Stupendous. Now I will destroy you! Psshow Pucch! (In a deeper heroic tone) You cannot stop me, I’m invincible. Shwing! Foom! (He takes a figure in each hand and they grapple together.) I’ll get you yet! (He lowers his voice as Jake Hurwitz, a slender boy of 6 years, approaches at stage left. Ethan looks up with an annoyed expression)
E: (Now in his boyish voice) Go Away!
Jake: Mommy said that I could share the sandbox with you. (He plops down on the opposite side of the sand box with finality)
E: (defiantly) Nuh-uh. Now way José! I was here first. So there.
J: Oh yeah? Well I played here yesterday. I built that sandcastle in the middle of the sandbox. I built it all by myself. (He crosses his arms) My name is not José, my name is Jake.
E: Fine, but here’s the rules: (he rises while he speaks) You have to stay on your side of the sandbox. (Picks up a stick from the nearby ground.) You cannot cross this line, no matter what. (He draws in the sand with his stick.)
J: Hey, Ethan! No Fair. Your side is bigger! My sand castle is not on my side. (He kneels in the sand and gently draws a new line in the sand, this one dividing the box equally.) Now my castle is safe.
E: Whatever, I didn’t like your silly castle anyway. (He throws his plastic shovel, knocking most of the sandy structure down.) I’ll just play with my action figures.
J: Great idea! Let me play. I have a superhero too. Watch, when I push the button on his back, he does a somersault. (He demonstrates) I want to play with you.
E: I don’t care; I don’t want to play with you. You barged into my sandbox. My guys will beat up your little guy. (He laughs maliciously)
J: But you have lots of action figures. I just have this one. It’s not fair! (He holds his figure closer.)
E: So what? Are you a scaredy cat or something? (He picks Jake in the ribs, laughs again)
J: Leave me alone, I’m not scared of you. Why don’t we play tag!
E: You are just scared to fight, cuz you know you and your tiny toy will lose.
J: Fighting is bad. Someone could get hurt. Mommy said I should just use my words when I’m upset. I don’t wanna fight.
E: You are a scaredy cat and a stupid head.
J: Stop calling me names, Ethan!
(Ethan pushes Jake. Jake keeps his balance but drops his action figure.)
J: (Louder) Cut it out. (Ethan crouches and picks up Jake’s toy.)
E: Does the baby want his little toy? (Ethan holds the action figure high above Jake’s head, taunting him)
J: Ethan! You know Mommy doesn’t like it when you tease me. You’re going to be in big trouble. Stop being a big meanie. Give me my guy back. (He reaches for the figurine) Now. PLEASE. (Jake reaches higher and steps toward Ethan. Ethan steps back, but trips over the lip of the sandbox.)
E: Ouch, I-
J: Are you okay, Ethan? I’m sorry you fell down.
E: AAH! Jake look! (From the ground, Ethan holds up his arm. It hangs limply at a crooked angle) It hurts, Jake. Go get mom. (Tears well up in the boys eyes. He hugs his injured arm to his chest to stymie the pain.) Owwww…
J: Okay, Ethan. Okay, I’m going. (The younger boy is already running off stage right to the “house”. Moments later he returns with the boys’ mother at his side.) See Mom? It’s not just an ouchy. Ethan is hurt. Should I get a band-aid Mom? Should I get an ice pack?
Mom: (She rushes over to Ethan pushing Jake out of the way. She speaks breathlessly.) Omigosh! Ethan! Are you okay Sweetums? Are you hurt? Let Mommy see, honey, let Mommy make it better. (Ethan holds up his arm for inspection. Mrs. Hurwitz pales, and then holds her head in her hands) What am I going to do?
J: Do you want the first aid kit, Mommy? Should I get it from under the bathroom sink?
M: Ssh, Jake. Be QUIET! (She yells, with furrowed brow) We need to go to the hospital. Follow me to the car. (She picks up her elder son and carries him back stage right. Then loudly over her shoulder,) Hurry UP, Jake! (In measured tone) Don’t be scared Ethan, I’ve got you, everything will be fine. (She exits stage right, Ethan in hand.)
(Jake hangs back, briefly. As Mom carries Ethan away, Jake reaches down to the spot where Ethan was laying and picks up his own special toy, now broken in two pieces. He presses his lips together, waits a beat, and then quickly follows his mom out stage right. The lights descend. A solitary warbler song is heard in the distance.)

The lights come up on starkly furnished hospital waiting room. Jake sits slumped in a chair, alone, in the middle of the room. A dozen empty chairs stand vigil around him. Jake looks for a way to amuse himself. A TV plays above his head, a news story. The voice of the announcer is heard, from offstage.

TV Announcer: Israeli troops advanced on a group of Palestinian militia today in an apparent dispute over border rights. The skirmish resulted in 19 casualties, including 11 civilians. This attack comes in the wake of recent attempts to establish peaceful relations between the feuding nations. We now go live to our reporter in the field… (The TV voice fades out)
(Jake picks up a celebrity magazine, runs his eyes over the cover page, sighs and casts it aside. He changes positions, the holds up his own arm, examining it, and running his other hand up and down. He turns his head back to TV set.)
TV Announcer: (still offstage) Several key border-crossing stations were damaged or destroyed in today’s attacks. An historic Israeli temple sustained major injuries in an apparent retaliatory maneuver by the Palestinians. Much of the relief efforts were suspended by harsh desert sandstorm conditions. In related news, the UN Security Council is backing US-led peace talks in the Middle East. For continuing coverage of this action, here now is staff reporter…
J: Mom!
(Mrs. Hurwitz leads Ethan out of the trauma unit slowly. Ethan now wears a heavy cast on his arm, from above the elbow to below the wrist. He smiles weakly.)
M: (To Ethan) You were so brave in there, Ethan. I’m so proud of my big boy. (Hugging him)
E: Mom, they said I have to keep this cast on for at least five weeks.
M: (Looking him in the eye) That’s right. Just think - you only have a little time to make the boys at school jealous. (She gently pats the plaster cast on Ethan’s arm.) They are all going to think you are so tough and cool with this on your arm.
E: Really? Do you think so?
M: You bet. What do you say we stop and get some ice cream for my big brave boy on the way home? Anything you like.
J: I’m kinda hungry, too, mom.
M: (Without missing a beat) And then I think we’ll stop at the toy store. I hear they have some new action heroes on display. How does that sound?
(She hands a clipboard to the charge nurse behind the glass partition and leads out through the automatic doors. Ethan moves to follow, but Jake grabs his free hand, keeping him back.)
J: I wanted to say I was sorry, Ethan. I did not want you to get hurt. I can tell you don’t like this cast.
E: No way. I’m going to have an exciting story to tell tomorrow at school. I’m going to get all my friends to sign my cast. You don’t have a cast. I guess you’re not brave like me. (He turns up his nose laughing at Jake’s expense.)
J: I am brave! I just didn’t fall out of a sandbox. Don’t laugh at me.
E: (Only laughing harder) Oh yeah? (He pushes Jake hard with his healthy had; Jake falls) Looks like you’re clumsier than you thought. (He exits, smirking. Jake slowly climbs to his feet and follows out up stage.)

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