In the schoolyard, two boys — at least kindergarten, possibly preschool. They work crouch-balanced along the far auditorium wall, fistfuls of found sticks being arranged carefully against the brick, occasionally reconfigured after conspiratorial whisper, guarded in glances over shoulders. Sweet seventh-grade James skids mid-running-jump to bend beside them, and I watch small fingers point, outline, explain. The boys are radiant with their upperclassman audience, and mutatis mutandis — James wearing his thirteen years as if they were six.
He moves on. A group of girls stop in passing. Another boy, apparently friend, drops in. Stick, brick, stick, brick, stick. They are organizing them in descending height, the triangle between wall and asphalt narrowing. It is a silent, steady work, with the occasional nodded approval between them, but when I wander over the architects pause, and panic. “You have to go!” they shout. On their feet, arms outstretched and slightly behind them; guardian stance.
“I only want to know what you’re making,” I explain. “It’s terribly lovely, but I don’t know what it is.”
“And we can’t tell you!” they say, tumbling over each other all hands and legs. “You’re a girl!” “Girls are not allowed!” “You’ll ruin it!” One reaches for a nearby frisbee and waves it like some frenzied Jerusalem palm, an attempt to waft me away.
From exile I watch them confer; it seems they are in need of new building material. Rock, paper, scissors. The smaller boy loses and takes off running, zig-zagging the straight shot to the far end of the square, reminiscent of a bumblebee. All the impulse to fly and none of the aerodynamics to follow.
James tells me, days afterward, that it was a leprechaun trap, minus the chocolate they would (obviously) need in order to bait it. “The leprechaun would be so intent on the chocolate, you see, that he wouldn’t notice the tunnel narrowing,” he says.
“I didn’t know leprechauns were partial to chocolate.” Casually, re-shelving dictionaries after a writing hour. I pull a torn post-it from between J and K. (Should we let Tessa in on—, it says. In on what? Tessa who?)
He shrugs, turning to leave: “Maybe you just forgot.”