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The Biggest Brag
“I’ll bet you can’t do it, Joe. You’re such a wimp.”
“Of course I can! I’ve done this same thing loads of times! It’s easy!”
Yeah, that sums up the sad, misguided beginning. Me and my big mouth.
I’ve always had problems with bragging. I remember one example from my Kindergarten days. I had told all my friends that I could build the biggest block tower ever. I had built it way above my head, and I tottered upon one leg on top of a chair. Suddenly, I tripped and flew down to the carpeted floor, while the tower crashed down on my head! Had I at that moment come down with a terribly timed case of miserable luck? Or had I overestimated the limits of my supposed talents? I don’t know.
I suppose it crept through the generations. I am the latest of a long line of braggarts. Take my dad. He once boasted to a robber at our house that he could break in much faster than the robber had. You can ask my dad after he gets out of jail. So it’s no surprise what happened that frigid December day. You’d think I would have learned, right? But no.
And that brings us back to the “I’ll bet you can’t” sequence with which I started. The negative ned is fourth-grade giant, five foot six inch tall Fred. He has a bright red head of hair, like a high-up spiky flame. I’m Joe, if you haven’t figured it out. I started out that gray day just like any other, telling everyone another story about my feats on the playground, mostly to impress Lori. And as always, she didn’t seem to care. Out of the blue, Fred decided to speak up, probably tired of being topped. I chewed it over for a moment, and agreed to, at recess, show everyone what I could do.
“There’s no way you can stand on the top of the monkey bars and dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe, Joe!” hollered Fred, while our whole class trudged outside in our snow pants and boots, our jackets and hats. I ignored Fred’s remark and waddled over to the monkey bars. I looked up to the top of the bars—tall, blue, and taunting. I shoved one foot on the steps and started to climb. I looked over at my audience. Every eye was on me (including Lori’s)! I took a deep breath and continued.
My climb must have taken a very long time, because beside me, I heard a cry of, “HURRY UP ALREADY!” I looked over to see whose bellow I’d been at the receiving end of, but all was silent. I persisted on my journey to the top.
Okay, I must admit, I wasn’t the best climber. Or the best dancer. And I miserably failed gymnastics week in gym because of that stupid balance beam. But man, I sure hoped this would turn out to be an amazingly convenient fluke.
At last, I reached the top of the monkey bars. Imagine my despair when I threw off my gloves to steady myself in my inevitably unsteady kneel—the bars were soaking wet from the snow! Man, did I choose the wrong day to try and prove myself. How was I ever going to stay standing on wet metal if I could barely balance on dry land?
I had a decision to make—do that which I had said in my blatant lie that I could, or be safe? I knew I didn’t have much time. The audience was getting restless, and recess only spanned 20 minutes. I knew to keep from being a laughingstock, I would at least have to try. After a moment’s hesitation, I finally decided to stand up. Slowly, I unbent my knees, shifting into the stance I claimed I knew so well.
Halfway up, my feet started to slide. I groped for the bars below and steadied my stance. I sighed with relief, and let go. I resumed my standing position. Finally, I was standing on top of the monkey bars. I looked down at my class. No longer were all eyes on me. Some kids were playing on the playground, but most were still craning their necks to see if I’d fall or not. I was relieved to see Lori still watching intently.
All of a sudden, my feet began to slip! I stretched out my arms like an airplane to keep my balance, and tried to hold my feet in place on the bars. I wobbled and leaned. It must have looked kind of funny, this kid who claimed he had done this loads of times, trembling and shaking. It was all I could do not to trip, and soon the bars won the fight! I lost my footing and tumbled down.
I twisted and turned through the air for what seemed like hours. I landed on the ground with a sickening thud and a crack. Fortunately, I was wearing thick snow pants, because as I fell, I whacked my legs on the bars; when I landed, my legs were protected from the frozen ground. I wish I could say the same for my arm—it was killing me! Everyone rushed over to see what had happened to me. To my surprise (and by surprise, I mean delight), Lori, next to me on her knees, leaned over me.
“Joe! Joe! Are you all right? That was a loud thud! It sounded like it hurt a lot!” Lori gasped.
“Uuuuuuh. I’m fine, Lori,” I groaned, with the brightest smile I could muster through the pain in my right arm.
“Are you sure? Here, let me help you.”
Lori then proceeded to fuss over my arm, and aided me to get up and into the school nurse’s office.
It turned out I’d broken my arm. I got a bright blue cast, as blue as the monkey bars from which I had fallen. On a brighter note, Lori’s my girlfriend now. And to think, it all happened because of my big mouth. Oh, and by the way, the rest of the class thinks I’m a prodigious liar…which I guess is the truth, though I’ve promised myself I’ll never brag again. I’d rather not break my other arm, too.