The World's Smallest War | Teen Ink

The World's Smallest War

November 30, 2014
By FollowingLeader GOLD, Moline, Illinois
FollowingLeader GOLD, Moline, Illinois
10 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everything stinks till it's finished," -Dr. Suess

It started on a day in March, when winter’s wrath was withdrawing, the sky seemed to have a fresh coat of powder blue paint, and the air was still and thick. Jimmy tossed a football to Emmett, who tossed it to Steve, who tossed it to another one of them. There were seven of them standing in Jimmy’s unfenced backyard, which seemed to have no specific boundaries. There was a comforting and friendly presence looming over the kids: a large oak tree with a small wooden treehouse just big enough for all of them to fit. They were fairly bored, and their usual shenanigans were tired.
Jimmy looked from his backyard and saw a group of kids poking around the field. They had never met them, only ever saw them from a distance. Jimmy looked behind him; everyone was there.
“Let’s go say hello,” suggested Jimmy, hoping to maybe increase the size of the group.
“Really?” asked Emmett.
“Yes,” Jimmy replied. They didn’t have anything better to do at the moment.
They began to march across the field confidently, the thin unmowed grass swishing around their legs. When the other group noticed the movement, they also started to parade toward them. When they met, Dave, one of the strangers, spoke first.
“Hey,” Dave said skeptically, surveying Jimmy and the others.
“Hi,” Jimmy responded. “I’m Jimmy, and this is Emmett, Steve, Earl, Ralph, Phil, and James.”
Jimmy waited a moment.
“Oh, yeah,” Dave said, still contemplating the newcomers. “I’m Dave, and that’s Doug, John, Paul, Gary, Kevin, Larry, and Walter.”
Jimmy thought of their boredom. “Football?”
“All right,” Dave answered. “What are the teams?”
` It was decided that Jimmy’s group would go against Dave’s in a game of tackle football until noon.
A game of rock-paper-scissors decided who would start with the ball, and boundaries were set. Dave snapped the ball, and John, who was the fastest, immediately shot out past Jimmy’s team. Steve, who was the tallest, ran to cover John. Dave took a step forward and chucked the ball at John. The arc of the ball was nearly perfect, so perfect, in fact, that Steve was able to jump up and intercept the ball. As soon as Steve’s feet touched  the ground, however, he was immediately jumped on by John and taken down. Jimmy and the others on Steve’s team whooped in joy, and Steve got back on his feet, raising his arms in victory.
John became agitated at this small sign of vanity and pushed him, putting Steve back on the ground. Steve got back on his feet and glared at him. “Hey!”
John replied by sticking his tongue out. Steve’s quick anger flared up, and he retaliated by cutting the air upward with his fist and smashing it into John’s jaw… who still had his tongue out. John stumbled back; he wasn’t sticking his tongue out anymore, and dark, thick blood began to ooze out of his mouth. A crowd had formed a circle around the two.
Gary, a nine-year-old who sided with John, launched onto Steve’s back and began wailing on him; blow after blow struck Steve’s head. Phil, an eleven-year-old who was from Oak with Steve, pried Gary off of Steve’s back and lifted him into the air. Gary flailed helplessly, but Phil’s rage at what Gary had done to his best friend (who was now laying on the ground in a ball) compelled him to swing him by his ankles and launch him as far a he could.
The crowd exploded. The children fought each other. Dust whirled around everybody, and it got into their eyes.
Dave was repeatedly striking Jimmy in the face, and with each blow Jimmy took a step backward. Eventually Jimmy tripped over the huddled form of a crying Steve, and Dave loomed over them.
“You little rats!” Dave shouted and positioned the heel of his shoe over Jimmy’s face. Jimmy braced himself for the connection of his foot, but it wasn’t enough. The stomp knocked out Jimmy’s tooth, and he let out a weak yelp. Just as Dave was about to stomp Jimmy a second time, Emmett flew into Dave and pinned him on to the dusty ground.
“Get off of me, you piece of-” Dave never got to finish the sentence; Emmett forcefully smashed his head into Dave’s chubby face.
Dave slipped away from reality.

Dave felt himself regain consciousness. “Uh…” he groaned, opening his eyes. He shielded his eyes from the merciless sun. All of the Maple Street kids had gathered in a circle around him. “What happened?”
Nobody had time to answer; Dave remembered those kids from across the field and the football game. His scream of rage caused all of the kids to step back. “Where are they?!”
“Ay, wah, awah.” John attempted to say with his busted tongue.
“They ran away,” Larry clarified. “Back to their street.”
“Cowards!” Dave screeched. He sighed; at least they had won the brawl. Dave laughed a little. “Showed them their places, huh?”
“Erm…” Larry said. “Not exactly.”
“What?!” Dave flared up again and got off of the dusty ground.
“Well…” Larry looked down and shifted his feet. “Once you became unconscious, they kinda thought they won, so they ran away. We freaked out because we didn’t know what was going to happen to you. We didn’t know if you were gonna wake up…” Larry trailed off and swallowed.

Jimmy paced in front of the rest in the treehouse, biting his nails and staring at the floor after he watched Dave stand up from a distance. He stopped and turned; there were seven of them in total, including Jimmy, and they had eight. He hated them with a burning passion, especially the tall one, Dave. Jimmy looked at Emmett. “You have a chicken coop, right?”
“Yes,” Emmett answered shyly and with downcast eyes. “Are we going to…”
“Yes,” Jimmy replied. “Yes, we are.”

Dave punched the wall behind him in his own treehouse, with the others watching, and it stung his hand. He looked over at the other seven. Those pigs think they can do something like that and get away with it? Jimmy was especially infuriating, and Dave thought he wanted him dead. It was payback time. Dave snapped his eyes at Doug. “You still got those cows?”
“You bet,” Doug answered with a wicked smile.
“Excellent,” Dave replied. “Time for them to get what they deserve.”

Jimmy shivered slightly in the cool dark wind. The only thing guiding them across the field was the brilliant moon and her star companions. They arrived at their destination after a few minutes.
“Perfect,” Jimmy said. He was hoping for a structure like this; for in front of him stood a tall tree house not unlike his own. This one was painted crimson red, whereas Jimmy’s was a deep blue. “All right, you know what to do.”
Everybody else grabbed an egg from the basket Jimmy was holding and placed it in their respective slingshots. The kids lined up in a row facing the treehouse, while Jimmy marched back and forth behind them.
The sound was spectacular, and it included the crunching of eggshells, and smattering of egg whites, and the whoops of children. All of the kids smiled on their way back across the field.
Jimmy was proud of what they had done, and would’ve laughed, too, if it weren’t for that uneasy feeling in his stomach. Where was Billy? What if they were to retaliate? Maybe, Jimmy thought, egging their house wasn’t such a good idea.
“Are you okay?” The voice was Phil, who appeared next to Jimmy. “You look like you’re gonna faint.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy answered and looked up from the ground. “I’m fine. Do you smell something?”
Phil grinned. “Yep, and it’s walking right next to me.”
Jimmy slugged him but grinned back.
They arrived at their own treehouse, pinched their noses and dropped the smiles at their feet.
“What is that stuff?” someone cried in disgust.
“Oh, no,” Jimmy said. “Oh, my God.”
It took them all of the next day to scrub the cow manure off of the wooden walls of the treehouse.
With each scrub, with each time someone vomited, with each spray of the hose, their rage swelled.

Doug, exhausted from washing the eggs off, looked from Dave’s backyard on a cloudy night. The clouds blocked any natural light, and his lantern only reached so far; it seemed like the black space in front of him had stolen the normal field. He looked out into the nothingness, and something caught his eye. Over there. Way over there. A small orange ember glowed and disappeared. Doug squinted his eyes. The orange dot faded in and out, like a very slow heartbeat.
Doug gasped. The other kids had cigarettes! He and Dave have been dying for cigarettes ever since Doug stole a pack from his father and shared it with everyone. A plan already began to hatch in his mind.

Jimmy walked out of his house and shielded his eyes in the bright, sunny morning. There was an unusual huddled form a few yards away. Just as Jimmy was about to go inspect it, Phil strolled into the yard.
“Morning,” Phil casually remarked.
“Morning,” Jimmy absent-mindedly replied, cautiously nearing the shape. Phil noticed the form too. Jimmy finally got close enough so that he could touch it, so he turned it over. The form shook ever so slightly.
“No,” Jimmy said numbingly. “No!”
“What?!” Phil asked, responding to Jimmy’s angst.
“Emmett…” it was all Jimmy could say. Emmett's face was nearly indistinguishable. His closed eyes were black and blue, he had few remaining teeth, and his face was smeared with a bright red blood. His chest moved up and down ever so slightly.
“Emmett,” Jimmy said softly, Phil now at his side. “Can you hear me?”
“Y-Yeah, I’m fine.” Emmett said weakly. Jimmy and Phil helped him up.
“What happened?”
“I-It was those other kids,” Emmett sniffed. “I couldn’t sleep, so I came out here for a cigarette and-” he sobbed. “I never saw them coming. I think they took the whole pack I just saved up for, too.”
There was a silence. Each of the boys had different thoughts, but each thought had the same feeling.
They crossed the field again, this time quickly and swiftly. It was the evening, and a breeze swept across them. This time, it didn’t bother Jimmy; nothing was going to deter them from doing what they were about to do. Every step closer they got to the other treehouse, more and more adrenaline was pumped into their blood. They saw a dark shape in the faint glow of Dave’s treehouse window. The shape receded, and Jimmy heard yelling.
“They saw us,” Jimmy said. “Ready?”
All six boys readied their baseball bats, tree branches, slingshots, or fists.
Dave and company climbed out of the treehouse with their own weapons. The two parties met at the base of Dave’s tree house. They stood, staring at each other. Nothing happened for minutes. Tension clouded them.
Somewhere, a slingshot fired a single rock, and the fray began. Bats swung, slingshots fired. Screams and cries filled the air, as well as whoops and laughs. Phil was hit in the temple by an unseen rock, and he had an idea. Phil left the battle unseen and climbed up to Dave’s treehouse. Ignoring the heat from the broken lantern in the corner and the cigarette butts, he went to the window, where he got a good view of the battle. Doug had retreated from the battle a little, and was covering one hand with his eye, and crying out the other. Phil drew his slingshot, and released. The rock slammed against Doug’s head, and he fell on his back. Phil was sweating profusely with excitement.

From Jimmy’s tree house, Emmett watched from afar. He saw an orange square where the window of Dave’s treehouse was. The square grew brighter and grew in size.

Phil didn’t feel it until the flames licked at his feet. The kids fighting below didn’t notice it until they heard his screams.

All of kids stopped fighting and watched Phil burn. He looked around for any kind of solution, but found no easy one. He jumped out of the window, and all of the kids took a step back for him. Phil landed with a too-loud thud, and his leg went numb. Everything hurt, but at least he was alive.
“Phil!” Jimmy said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Phil wheezed. His right leg was twisted behind his back and obviously broken. “That was scary.”
“Now,” Dave said, “Where were w-” Dave’s sentence was cut short by a crack!
The sound came from the tree, which was still aflame. It bent over the crowd, and everyone fled the scene.
That is, everyone except Phil. He still lay on the ground, unable to move.
There was a second crack, and the tree bent over closer to the boy.
Doug, of all people, looked back. He stood for a second and watched the pitiful form squirm around and call out to anybody, anybody at all. It then gave up.

A lot happened in the span of a few seconds. A boy named Doug ran under a burning tree and picked up another boy, named Phil, and threw that boy as far as he could. A tree collapsed on top of Doug.

Emmett watched the bright orange square evolve into an even brighter ball. The ball collapsed, but continued to shine.

Everyone reproached the fallen, burning, murderous tree. They gathered in a circle around it, trying to grasp what just happened.
Jimmy looked into the fire. What had he done?
Dave looked into the fire. What had he done?
Jimmy suddenly rushed toward Phil. “Phil!”
Phil called out. “I’m okay, just help me up.”
They all sat around the burning mass for hours into the night; they didn’t care if their parents might be looking for them. Eventually they all got to talking mournfully under a gloomy cloud. Occasionally a chuckle that sent a spear through the cloud. Everybody talked to everybody; there were no more sides.
Jimmy eventually got around to Dave.
“Hey,” Jimmy said, downcast.
“Hey,” Dave said back.
“How did this all start?”
“I don’t know.” Dave frowned and thought. “I think there was a football game or something.”
“Something like that.”
“I don’t think it matters.”
“It doesn’t,” Jimmy concluded as he stared into the dying fire. “It never mattered.”

The author's comments:

This is something that I've been working on for a month or two. I feel like it turned out very well, and I hope others will enjoy it. It was inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird, and I wanted it to feel timeless. Thanks!

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