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Neighborhood War Stories

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There are basically two streets that make up my neighborhood: 1st and 2nd street. I live on 2nd street. For as long as I can remember the 1st and 2nd street kids have hated each other. There isn’t anything wrong with the 1st street kids. It’s just one of those things you don’t question. Every year all the kids from 1st and 2nd street gather in the clearing of the woods and play a game. I guess it’s not really a game because no one likes it much. A lot of kids are “drafted” by supporters of the game. All the older kids get out their paint ball guns and the younger kids get rocks. No one is wearing padding so the paint balls hurt and the rocks…. Well let’s just say I broke my arm last week and it wasn’t because I fell out of a tree. I guess you could call it a war; it’s a lot like war.

Obviously this war isn’t safe. I don’t know why any of our parents stop us when we pull the paint ball gun from the garage each year and head to the clearing in the woods. You would think the game would stop the first time a kid came home with a black eye and a bloody nose. I live in the rough side of town but you would think someone might care. But I guess that’s the same as war too. It always happens again no matter the casualties. You can’t even guess how many times I’ve seen someone charge forward and fling their rock, then just stand there petrified. It’s the feeling of “What have I done.” I can’t imagine a war where you fight to the death instead of fight until it’s time for supper.

Of course there is always the younger sister or brother who is sworn to secrecy on the matter, but isn’t allowed to play. They will worry about their sibling, scared they might not come home because one of the paint balls hit too hard. I’ve never had a sibling or friend in a real war so I’m not sure, but it seems to me this is a lot like how they feel.

My neighbor John is usually the first drafted for the war. He’s tall and strong and has the flashiest gun on the block. He’ll nail about thirty kids and will get out without a bruise on him. When we’re not in the game, all of the little kids will run and hide from him. Even his little sister doesn’t trust him with a paint ball in hand. He doesn’t tell his friends who are all for the war. But he has nightmares after every fight. He told me that he wakes up screaming even weeks after the neighborhood battle. In his nightmares his sister and friends will all be lying dead on the battlefield and he will be the only one with a gun in his hands. I don’t know what would happen to John if he really hurt a friend in the battle. I bet he wouldn’t ever feel the same.

Sometimes I imagine scenes from real war when I watch the battle. The scary thing is it’s not that hard to visualize the neighbor kids as soldiers. I guess that shows something about us kids already. We’ve hardly talked about war in our classrooms, or learned about all the wars that have ever happened. We have no interest in memorizing the battles in the Civil War, or reciting the name of each person who died in Vietnam. But the neighborhood kids know war; we know how it affects us. I know the feeling when I hide my bruises before the Christmas party. It’s like the feeling John gets when the little kids hide from him. So when Mrs. Henderson asked us to write a paper on what we thought of war I told her just that, and the game stopped; we were exposed, and the neighborhood war ended.

The funny thing is, looking back now; I can’t recall who won all those battles fought in the forest clearing. Or who cleaned up the paint and blood left on the battle field. Though a lot of people gave me a hard time for ending the war like I did, I know a lot of people were secretly happy it was over. Our neighborhood battle had drawn to a close.



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Hoosierpop said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm:
This story shows an excellent understanding of conflict among individuals.  I would like to see the author analyze conflict among nations.
 
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Andydog said...
Nov. 30, 2011 at 7:08 am:
This piece showed a clear understanding of how violence of war continues and how most people wish it would stop.
 
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