Once there was a girl whose name was Aundra. Her mother was the only person she knew who thought this was a pretty name. Nevertheless Aundra was a pretty girl; the prettiest girl in the sixth grade. Everyone else agreed with Aundra’s mother about that.
Perhaps it was hearing herself called “a beauty queen” that gave Aundra the idea of organizing all the other girls in the sixth grade into a Queendom of Beauty.
Aundra was, of course, the Queen. Ruthanne, Diona, Christine, Suzie, and Jennifer were the Court Ladies. Brian, Ryan, Justin, Matthew, Joshua, and Eric were the Palace Guard. Alice, Chellie, Amber, Natalie, Grace, Katie, Sarah Lynn, Brooks, Chad, Sam, Cody, Steve, Tyrone, and Kendall were the Commoners. Crystal, Sarah Jane, Kim, Juniper, Hannah, Cynthia, Clementyne, Van, Rafael, Shaun, Paul, Jason, Fallon, Dylan, Jeremy, and Bentley were the Peasants.
“What do we do?” they asked.
“The Court Ladies stand around admiring the Queen and her beauty,” Aundra said. “The Palace Guard stand around protecting them. The Commoners go around outside being mean to the Peasants. The Peasants just have to take it. They ought to be doing hard labor but there’s not much hard labor to do at school.”
Cody smirked. “Yo, Van! Do my homework for me!”
“Do it yourself,” said Van. “I’m not helping you cheat!”
“Too bad you have to be a Peasant,” said Natalie to Hannah, who was her best friend. “If you hadn’t worn that awful shirt you’d probably get to be a Commoner.”
Hannah was wearing a Kingsport Fun Fest shirt that had been in her family since 1994. It had pink and purple stripes going around and around the waist. It clashed with Hannah’s red hair. Hannah enjoyed wearing the shirt. “Who wants to be a Commoner?” she sneered. “Peasants got to have Uprisings. Over here, Peasants! Let’s storm the palace with sticks!”
“Let’s not,” said Rafael. “That’s not worth losing recess time for! Let’s play something better, like dodgeball.”
“Hey, yeah!” said Chad, who was Rafael’s best friend. “Dodgeball! Dodgeball!”
Other people began to chant along with Chad. “Dodge-ball! Dodge-ball!” They walked away from Aundra and her Court Ladies and started numbering off teams.
“Oh, Queen Aundra,” said Suzie, “your shark’s head ring looks so beautiful.”
“Oh, that old thing!” Aundra pulled off her shark’s head ring. “It is not beautiful. It is childish, and clashes with my outfit. I don’t think I’m going to wear it any more. It’s only a souvenir from my cousin in Afghanistan. He only got it out of one of those machines where you put in a quarter for a good cause.”
“That makes ten on each side!” hollered Chad from the other side of the playground. “Play ball!”
“Please, Your Majesty, Queen Aundra,” giggled Diona, “we don’t seem to have any Peasants any more. They’re all playing dodgeball.”
“Right,” said Chellie. “Who wants to be a Commoner and not even have any Peasants to pick on? I’m going to play dodgeball too.”
“Deserter!” Aundra said.
“Be fair,” said Ruthanne. “It is a cool, windy day. If we run around and keep warm, it is not too cold. If we just stand around admiring you and making fun of Peasants, it will be too cold. I’m going to play dodgeball too.”
There are several different ways to play dodgeball. At this school they played “shirts against jackets.” If someone wearing a jacket hit someone with his jacket tied around his waist, that person had to put on his jacket. If someone with her jacket tied around her waist hit someone with a jacket on his shoulders, that person had to take off his jacket. It was a fast game, with people pulling their jackets on and off constantly.
“Get back here, Matthew!” screamed Aundra.
“He’s ignoring you,” observed Brian. “You don’t have any Palace Guard any more, either. I resign.” He galloped across the playground to the dodgeball game.
“Well,” said Jennifer, “see you later, Aundra.”
“What kind of best friend are you?” screamed Aundra. “Don’t desert me!”
“Oh, stop being silly.” Katie tried to grab Aundra’s hand. “Let’s go and play dodgeball.”
Aundra threw a very un-beautiful tantrum. “I hate dodgeball! I hate Chad and Rafael! I won’t play! I’m going inside!”
“What’s the matter with her, anyway?” said Jason as Katie and Jennifer joined the game.
“Is something the matter with her?” Jennifer asked Katie. “She didn’t eat much lunch.”
The ball bounced past Katie’s leg. She kicked it to Hannah. Hannah kicked it back. Jennifer kicked it into the circle and caught Ryan. They forgot all about what might be the matter with Aundra.
Meanwhile a teacher had told Aundra, “If you don’t want to play, you had better see the nurse.” The nurse had told Aundra to sit still, or lie down, on a cot. As Aundra lay back on the cot, the nurse asked, “What’s that on your leg?”
“What’s what?” said Aundra weakly.
“This.” The nurse looked more closely at her leg. “Does it hurt? Does it itch?” It itched. Aundra’s temperature was high; there were more spots on her other leg, on her arms, and one on her neck. “What it is, is chickenpox. You’ll have to stay home for a while,” said the nurse.
Everyone except Fallon had chickenpox next week. Fallon had had chickenpox when he was just three years old. He still had two scars on his face, which was why Aundra had made him a Peasant. As a result he and a few fourth and fifth grade students had to sit together in one room, doing their separate lessons at the same time, and he bitterly regretted having had chickenpox when they weren’t even good for a vacation from school.
Then the rest of the sixth grade came back to school. Clementyne wanted to come back first. Since she was now the tallest child at school she wanted to play basketball. She scored all the points for ten minutes, then became pale and tired. Fallon passed the ball straight to her. She let it fly through her arms and thump against her ribs. Then she sat down in a corner and was sick. Then she had to stay home for another week.
A few days later, when everyone but Clementyne was back in school, Jennifer said, “Are we going to have a Queendom of Beauty again? I’ll be the Queen. You can still be a Court Lady.”
Aundra turned the shark’s head ring on her finger and said, “Oh, shut up!”
She had four scars on her face.
“Let’s play dodgeball!” said Van, who had a scar, too, but his hair covered it most of the time.
Chad and Rafael started chanting. Aundra started chanting, too. “Dodge-ball! Dodge-ball!”
During the winters when I was in grades six and seven, when there wasn’t much gardening to do and we’d outgrown the Shetland Pony, my brother and I used to slog around the hills after school, making up stories and acting them out. I liked stories about girls who wanted to be pretty and popular; my brother liked stories with a lot of running and shouting in them. I think this one was our best effort.
There really was a girl called Aundra at our school. She was older, and neither of us knew anything about her except that she had a pretty face and an unusual name. Both of us liked hiking, bicycling, or swimming better than tennis and tennis better than dodgeball, but what students were allowed to play at our elementary school was dodgeball. Only senior high school students were trusted to bring tennis rackets to school!
However, the character in this story who’s most like me is Clementyne. I had chickenpox during summer vacation, wanted to get up too soon, and collapsed on a half-mile walk. It’s important not to try to do too much too soon after chickenpox.
(Picture from Pedrojperez at www.morguefile.com/archive/display/923338/ :