– It’s too hot to play basketball. Let’s do something else, ”Luke suggested.
The friends sat in the willow’s shadow deciding what to do.
Do you have more water balloons? asked Danny.
“No,” said Luke. – I wish I had.
“We can play video games,” Sameer suggested with a quick smile.
“No, we can’t,” said Luke. “My mother said we had to play outdoors.”
-I already know! exclaimed Jeff. – Let’s play the wars!
Luke got up soon.
– What a great idea! – agreed.
What if we were riding a bike? suggested Jen.
“No way,” Jeff said shortly. – War is better! We have not played for a long time.
And Luke added:
– We can hide and ambush. Jen, you’re good at throwing grenades.
Luke took a stick and traced a line on the dusty ground. On one side he wrote a big S and on the other he drew an I.
We have to split into two teams, Soldiers and Enemies.
Then he took off his cap and put it in the middle of the line.
Jen explained the rules to Sameer:
“We all have to put something in the hat.” Then we dump it over the line and see who plays Soldier and who plays Enemy, depending on where the objects fall. You’ll see Luke puts his military ID on it. It always does that.
What is a military nameplate? asked Sameer.
Sameer had come from another country to live with his uncles. I had learned to play basketball very quickly, but I didn’t know how to play wars.
Luke showed her a shiny metal plate around his neck.
-This is it. It was my uncle’s. He has been in a real war, and when he returned he gave it to me. Soldiers always walk with her. It’s very important.
Sameer rubbed the shiny plate with his fingers.
“I don’t have one,” he said.
-No problem. No one has, ”consoled Luke. – You can put something else in the hat. Jen is going to put a rock and Danny puts a baseball chrome.
Sameer rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a top.
Can I use this?
-What is it? asked Danny.
“It’s a top,” Sameer said. “Don’t you have this here?”
He took a cord from his pocket and continued:
-There were many in my country.
Suddenly the spinning top rolled at their feet. Sameer threw him into the air, caught him spinning, and put him in Luke’s cap.
What a show! – said this one.
Then he turned the cap around with a quick gesture and announced:
-The soldiers are Danny, Jen and Jeff. The Enemies are Sameer and me.
Even before the others moved, Luke ran down the slope, shouting:
-Enemies go to the pine forest. The soldiers are here.
“It’s not fair to start the war before we’re ready!”
How do we prepare for a war? Sameer asked as soon as they reached the trees.
– Get sticks to make weapons and pine cones to make bombs and grenades. We have to have an attack plan.
Within minutes, Luke’s cap was full of pinecones. Sameer had only one.
Just have one? marveled Luke.
I think that’s enough.
Maybe for you. As for me, I intend to rip their heads off!
Sameer gave his pine cone to Luke and said:
“I remembered now that I have to go home early.”
He turned his back and left his friend there.
-Wait! shouted Luke. – I can’t be the only Enemy! Too many against one!
But Sameer was already gone.
When the kids got together again the next morning, Luke’s plan was ready. She had picked up lots of pine cones behind her house and hidden them in the courtyard. I was looking forward to getting started. Commented to Sameer:
“I wish there was a war for kids.” A war in earnest.
“And there is,” said his friend in a low voice.
-What? At where? asked Luke.
-In my country.
Sameer picked up a basketball, dribbled and rowed.
Where you lived? asked Luke.
-Yes, near my real house, before coming to live with my uncle Mustafa. I even participated in it.
What in her?
-You are kidding! You never told us anything. Did they have child soldiers and machine guns?
Sameer dropped the ball and sat next to Jen. Although they had played a lot together this summer, none of them knew much about their new friend.
“I don’t like to talk about it,” Sameer confessed. – I was not a soldier. No one in my family was. We entered the war because they blew our house.
-Who did? asked Jeff.
-We do not know. There were too many shots to be fired from both sides.
The boy had picked up the top, however, and began to wrap the cord around it.
-My parents and brother were home when they died. As I was at school, I was saved and came to live with my uncle Mustafa.
But why did they attack your family? whispered Jen.
-It was a mistake. They did not plan to attack us. My uncle said the mortars must have hit other houses.
Everyone looked at him. No one knew what to say. Sameer was talking about something they didn’t even think existed.
“It was a terrible mistake,” said Luke at last.
“I wish it never happened.”
Hearing the story of Sameer, Luke wanted to cry. For a moment he just stared at his friend’s top. Then he went to the dividing line he had drawn on the floor and erased the letters S and I, as well as the line itself.
– Let’s not play more? asked Danny.
“Come on,” Luke said, putting his arm around Sameer. – Let’s play basketball.
Then he looked at his friends and said:
– It’s too hot for wars. Kathy Beckwith; Lea Lyon Playing War Maine, Tilbury House, 2005