The following is an excerpt of:
The Boy Who Dreamed and the Big Bad Wolf Which He Became
By Tex Batmart
If you haven’t been with us from the start, check out Chapter One here
Chapter Five: Kindergarten, and Other Injustices
Two little old men, sitting on a log. That is how his Kindergarten teacher described Tex Batmart’s friendship with Arthur Grant. It was a friendship which would supplant the one which he had cultivated with Ty, and which would provide him with emotional and moral support until adulthood. It wasn’t until Mr. Batmart moved away to Seattle proper that he fell out of contact with his friend, and even then, he still managed to make occasional contact with either Arthur or his parents, from time to time. But it all began back in the fading days of summer in 1985.
Both children had been placed into the afternoon Kindergarten class, which Tex would later attribute as the cause for his aversion to rising early. For Tex, it wasn’t really all that terribly much different from what he was used to in daycare, aside from the giant yellow bus he got to ride to get to and from the school. They still played with toys and munched on snacks, but there were also lots more books, and even a computer. His teacher had been surprised to find that he could read even before his first day in her class, and began the tradition which would haunt him until his first report card of high school, stating that he was a pleasure to have in class.
Through the years, the boy discovered that, as he struggled to find a way to completely disappear from notice, for he didn’t much care for all of the attention that came from being put on the spot, that unless he had failed spectacularly at something within a week or two of the end of the trimester, the most that his teachers could ever really say of him was that he was a pleasure to have in class, or that, ironically, he worked well with others. Of course, there aren’t all that many grades in Kindergarten, and usually the only way that someone might fail is if they couldn’t keep their paste addiction under strict control.
Of that year, the most that Mr. Batmart could truly recollect was time spent playing some sort of educational spelling adventure on the computer, and playing with toys at recess. And it was there, upon the playground of that elementary school, that he first got to know the boy who he would come to call his friend, though, considering their first encounter, it’s almost a wonder that there was any kind of friendship at all.
It wasn’t that our hero was unable to make friends, for he had shown himself to be at least marginally proficient at mimicking normal social etiquette, but that, in some ways, he exemplified the natural state of being of a native northwesterner: to outsiders, often considered chilly or aloof, but once comfortable with the people in his surroundings, warm and easygoing, sometimes to a fault. No, the friendship nearly didn’t happen due to a heated political debate.
“GoBots are stupid!” one of the squealing children yelled.
“Transformers are stupid!” another countered immediately.
A group had gathered near the monkey bars as the children (mostly male, as the girls had better things to do than defend the honor of their chosen brand of cartoon-advertised toys and action figures) began a spirited discussion of the relative merits of the two major toy lines of vehicles which were secretly artificially intelligent robotic lifeforms currently deep undercover.
Perhaps it was the quality of the Transformers toys, or then again, perhaps it was a preference for the cartoon, but the proponents of an Optimus Prime-led hegemony outnumbered the GoBots supporters by at least two or three to one. Tex had rarely been in the majority, and actually, had never truly had the opportunity to participate in an activity that was so polarizingly decisive, but he himself was a strong believer in the supremacy of the Transformers, and had quickly and easily mastered the transformation sound effect.
He knew of the GoBots, and to be fair, had nothing against the competing program. Cartoons were cartoons, after all, and to him, it was a moot point in any case, as everyone in possession of the slightest amount of sophistication knew that Thundercats was the finest program to debut in the Year of our Lord, 1985.
But when push came to shove, as was likely to happen quite soon if the recess lady didn’t come over in time, he would have said that he was a Transformers man. Of the group facing the moral judgement of superior numbers, Arthur seemed the least fazed about the prospect of conflict. He stood his ground and just reiterated that he thought GoBots were cool.
The crowd was beginning to whip itself into a frenzy, when the recess lady descended upon them and broke up the mob before things could truly get out of hand. As everyone began to shuffle back in the direction of the classroom, Tex walked up to Arthur and helped him gather up the fallen toys. “GoBots are all right, I guess,” he told the other little boy.
“Okay,” was the only reply he got.
As far as friendships which would one day change the course of human history go, it wasn’t the most auspicious of beginnings. But that simple act of kindness matched against an unflappable sense of calm drew the two together, and soon they began to seek one another out at recess to talk about the things which only five-year-old boys can talk about. Upon examination, they rather resembled the stand-up comics of the 1990’s, in that most of their conversations about things revolved around talking about things from their childhoods which they thought were cool, and asking one another if they’d seen this program or heard about the latest toy that would be coming out.
Soon, they were comparing He-Man action figures and asking one another over for the weekend. This was more of a problem for Tex, as he was still maintaining a friendship with Ty, who was in the morning Kindergarten class. They had seen less of one another since the end of summer, as Ty would leave daycare early in the morning, and be arriving back shortly after Tex had gone to school. The weekends had been their time to compare notes and wash away the stresses which only organized education can bestow. By the time that 1986 had come, they were lucky to see one another every other weekend, but it all came to a head shortly after Kindergarten graduation.
Having been friends for as long as either of them could reliably remember, the boys had a little ceremony at Ty’s house to commemorate their successful completion of their first year of school. Their parents had planned a little party, and there were diplomas, cake, and silly looking headgear. Neither of the boys had truly felt all that much different, as by June, they had both grown accustomed to their new routines.
It was more of a shock to them on the first day of their very first summer vacation when they felt the first stirrings of restlessness which untried sloth can bring. It was kind of like a weekend which never ended, although there was still daycare all throughout the week. By that time, Tex had grown tired of being forced to live two separate lives, and had decided that both Ty and Arthur should finally meet each other. It made sense to him, for he was good friends with them both, so it stood to reason that the both of them should enjoy the others’ company as well.
Sadly, this blind spot in human nature never fully disappeared from Mr. Batmart, despite decades of actually knowing better. Had he been paying more attention to what happened on his lawn in mid-July of 1986, he might have fared better fourteen years later, in similar circumstances.
That day began well, as he jumped out of bed, voice already set to “outside,” and immediately set about peppering his mother with queries as to the time, what the time of arrival of his friends was estimated to be, what the differences in those times amounted to, and finally, what time was it? Just as his mother felt that she might actually have a nervous breakdown if her son was not miraculously struck dumb within the quarter-hour, the first of his guests arrived. Ty came in, and the boys started playing, their voices no less piercing that Tex’s alone had been, but at least directed at one another with no expectation of participation by his mother. Ty’s father gave Mrs. Batmart a nod of consolation, exited through the front door, and quickly drove off before something could occur which might necessitate the cancellation of his so-infrequent-as-to-be-nearly-mythical Saturday plans for peace and quiet.
The boys were so consumed with what they were doing that neither of them noticed when Arthur finally arrived. One minute they were reenacting a crucial scene from that week’s Voltron, and the next, Arthur was standing just behind them, waiting to be introduced. It is perhaps necessary, at this juncture, to bring up the fact that most social situations outside of a binary combination tended to make Tex fairly uncomfortable, and even such a simple task of making the introductions between his two best friends was beyond his grasp. And so, much in the same fashion as he would for the rest of his life, Tex Batmart, given the choice of performing a straightforward social nicety or ignoring his obligations, took the one which allowed him the opportunity to pretend that nothing was happening, in the hopes that the situation would resolve itself, or that everyone might just go away.
His mother noticed his reticence, and stepped in quickly, so as to keep Arthur from feeling alienated. “Ty,” she said, “This is Arthur. He’s a friend of Tex’s from Kindergarten. Arthur, this is Ty. Tex and Ty have been friends since they both started at daycare.” All three children had stopped what they were doing just so that they might give the ranking adult in the room their full attention so that she would see the exact moment when they all dismissed her. “Hi,” the two boys said to one another. Eager to get back to what they had been doing, Tex quickly brought Arthur up to speed, explaining that, though the episode which they were replaying was from the second season, and therefore the use of the vehicle-based Voltron toys was technically correct, both Ty and young Master Batmart had agreed to use the characters and mannerisms of the (far superior) first season, which had featured a lion-based Voltron.
Soon they switched over to playing He-Man, though that came to a screeching halt, as they could not decide to got to play with He-Man and who had to play as Skeletor. They all agreed, however, that no one wanted Man-At-Arms. It was about an hour into their playtime, when Tex’s mother suggested, a little more firmly than any of the boys felt was strictly necessary, that perhaps they might have a bit more fun if they transplanted their adventures to the front lawn. In age before the ubiquity of personal electronics, where video games where still played in arcades, and television channels were changed by an act of manual labor, such a banishment was hardly seen as such. There was no Wi-Fi signal to worry about, and the toys which they were happy to play with indoors were just as fine (as no more likely to be irrevocably damaged) outdoors. Each boy grabbed an armful of action figures, and they trotted out the back door in single file.
What transpired next, or rather, the moments immediately preceding it have been lost to the mists of failing memory and time, but the outcome of what was shortly to occur set down the paths which at least two of the boys in that childhood triumvirate would travel. As they played outside, there was some sort of disagreement, as is not entirely uncommon among small children, or even males of any age, and, in a moment of inspiration, one of them decided that the best way to settle their differences was with a quick kick to the groin. Loathe to keep you in suspense, this author wishes to reassure you that Mr. Batmart’s testicles and remaining genitalia remained untouched by violence on that solemn day, but that one of his friendships would be irrevocably damaged, while the other would be immeasurably strengthened.
Were our hero a callow sort of man, perhaps he might have sided with the victor in that particular confrontation, but even at six years of age, he knew that a swift kick to the gonads was unsportsmanlike, and sided with the victim. And so it came to pass that Ty, who had most likely sought to drive away the boy which he had perceived as a clear and present danger to his friendship with Tex Batmart, instead brought about the very thing he’d been desperately trying to avert. As his sneaker-laded foot impacted upon the genital region of Arthur, he lost his status as best friend, and by never forgiving Tex for having a friend other than himself, Ty eventually lost his status even as a friend.
This drifting apart took time, of course, but by the time that Tex went to visit Ty out at his new house in Bothell, theirs was a friendship in name only. That weekend only came to pass as a sort of nostalgia brought about by the rapid decline of childhood. When they parted ways that time, each promising to stay in touch with the other, neither of them really felt inclined to try.
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