Jack stood smack-dab in the middle of the playground. Kids whooped and trooped around Jack’s standing-spot. Some stopped to say “hi.” Jack wanted to say “hi” back. Instead, he studied his shoes, because his “hi” was too shy. After a while the kids played right past him.
“Maybe they can’t see me,” Jack said, to no one at all.
So on warm days, Jack wore his screaming-neon orange shorts and a melt-your-eyeballs yellow shirt. One girl saw him and put on her sunglasses. On cool days, Jack wore shocking purple ski pants and a pucker-your-lips lime green jacket.
The teacher saw him. “Come and swing,” she said, but Jack just shook his head no.
Jack wanted to jump in and play. He wanted to “walk up and talk” like his mother told him. But when he tried, his feet grew roots and his words slid down his throat and hid in his stomach. Day after day, from his standing-spot, Jack watched and wanted.
One day a ball landed in front of Jack. He picked it up. A kid ran over. Jack tossed him the ball.
“Thanks,” the boy said. “I’m Willy. What’s your name?”
Jack wanted to say, he started to say, “My name’s Jack,” but his words got stuck. Willy jammed back to the game. Willy and the kids ran and kicked and laughed. Jack watched the fun. He stepped off his standing-spot. His stomach twitched and twisted, so he stepped back.
And that’s where he stayed at every recess until Halloween — the day he wore his Superman suit to school.
Jack walked with his head high. He smiled at a princess, grinned at two monsters and laughed at three kids wearing one big silver box. On his standing-spot, Jack turned in circles looking at all the costumes. Then Jack saw something that made him stop — another Superman.
It was Willy.
“Should I walk up and talk?” Jack said, to no one at all. He wanted to. He started to, and then — Jack stepped forward. His heart thumped behind the big S, but he took another step. His feet shook inside his boots. He took another step. He wanted to run and hide, but he didn’t. He took another step. One step… two steps … three, four, five — until Jack stood face to face with Willy. Jack opened his mouth and out popped a small “hi.”
“Hey,” Willy said.
When Jack opened his mouth again, “I’m Jack” leaped out.
Jack’s words didn’t hide. “Super costume, Willy.”
“Thanks, Super Jack.”
“Want to fly?” Jack asked.
Jack and Willy ran and swooped and climbed and dived. They circled around the playground, their capes whipping. When they landed, they stood together. Kids came over. They talked to Jack. Jack talked back.
The next day at school Jack walked out to his favorite standing-spot. But it didn’t feel the same. He stepped off. And that didn’t feel the same either. When he saw Willy, Jack wanted to talk. So he did.
“Hi, Super Will.” Jack’s word flew into the air brave and strong.
Willy ran over. “Hey, Super Jack.”
Jack’s heart thumped, but not as hard today. “Want to play?”
“OK!” Willy said.
From then on Jack made a lot of friends. But his super best friend was Willy.
Special thanks to Julia Shahin Collard for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit nomadicconcepts.com.
For more Kids’ Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.Ever wondered how a newspaper operates? Be sure and check out ‘A Day at the Times’ by Mary Ellen Walker in Activity Center. It describes the daily workings of The Los Angeles Times.
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