★ ‘The Yellow Slide Agreement’ by Amber Beardsley

soft cartel may 2018

Once upon a playground there were two kingdoms. One of these was ruled by me and JoEllen, my greatest ally, and the other was ruled by two older boys named Jake and Josh. Because the only ones who knew about these specific realms of power were limited to the two rulers who had founded them, not only did JoEllen and I rule over our side of the playground as co-queens, but we also served as knights under our own rule, protecting our land and enforcing our own policies. Naturally, Jake and Josh did the same on their side, as they too had no other permanent members of their realm.

Unfortunately, the boundaries of both of our domains were very poorly determined, and the lands of our respective reigns often intersected. This meant that we met one another in disputed territory frequently, and whichever side spotted trespassers first was generally also the first to give chase. Most days, Jake and Josh were successful in chasing JoEllen and I back to our side of the playground, mostly because they had the advantages of being in third grade when we were in second, and they were energetic boys and we were slightly less energetic girls.

While most of our encounters involved Jake and Josh chasing JoEllen and I from the green and brown slides set near the gymnastics bars in a curve all the way across the blacktop, finally ending by the big yellow slide in the middle of the wood chips, we did have our own small but glorious victories every now and then. One winter afternoon, after several feet of snow had been collected and then plowed toward the wooden 4x4s that separated the blacktop from the wood chips, JoEllen and I were working with my friend, Rebecca, on building a snow couch the three of us could sit in after we had completed our work. It seemed that since the already muddy boundaries regarding the kingdoms were now further covered up by mounds of fluffy white snow, we had to be in some kind of M.A.D.-esque stalemate for the season.

Either we were wrong, or Jake and Josh decided to break the truce without scheduling a meeting to re-negotiate our relationship, because the moment they spotted us with our guard down, they pounced. And I mean, literally, they pounced and tackled me and JoEllen into the snow, and poor Rebecca was abandoned as battle in the form of frantic snow-throwing broke out. Somehow, JoEllen was able to escape Jake’s clutches and run away to the far end of the playground, and I was able to gain the upper hand in the struggle that Josh and I were involved in. He must’ve had slippery gloves and couldn’t hold his own, for I succeeded in flipping us over and throwing snow into his face and peeling his hands off my arms before I, too, ran across the blacktop toward the doors that led inside the school. I made sure to mark that day as a victory for JoEllen and me, despite initially being surprised.

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