All children grow, but not always up, and not always older.
Gilbert Mess grew big before he grew up. He was quicker and larger than any of his classmates, stronger even than some of his teachers; the only thing that topped him was a confusion of red hair eerily similar to the cross-hatching of the red rubber ball in his hands. Gilbert had been elected captain of one of the day's kick-ball teams. As he chose his players, Gilbert's eyes kept reluctantly returning to his little brother, Inky.
"Martha . . . Reed . . . Laura . . . Kyle . . . Kathryn . . . David . . . I'll take . . . what's-his-name, the kid with one leg. . . ." The names were called, and kick-ball players ran (or hopped) to join their sides, leaving Inky closer and closer to being all alone.
Inky had a head shaped like a chestnut and the look of a frog prince about him -- a confidence that his days being tiny and slimy were few. It was a confidence confounding to the other children, for Inky was slow and weak, despicably smart, his kicking foot misshapen and inward turning, his face splotched with a birthmark that looked like an army of squid.
The other children could tell, just by looking at him, that there was a piece missing. He was the only kid anybody knew who could consistently strike out at the game of kick ball. Nobody wanted Inky as a teammate, not even his own older brother. Any other child would have cried, but Inky was very nearly all dried out.
As the players took their sides, and the line of kick-ball candidates shrank toward Inky alone, he realized that his brother Gilbert would choose him, not because he wanted him, but because he was the only one left.
All children grow, but Inky Mess was going to grow into something entirely different.
Copyright ©2006 by JT Petty