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  • When Sissy got sick, for the hundredth time, of Paul calling her a sissy, she publicly challenged him to a game of Mumblety-peg. She’d been planning and practicing for weeks. "I double dog dare you," Sissy said to Paul.

    They argued about the rules. Paul wanted to use the normal rules. He said Marc should throw his knife and that whoever came closer to Marc’s knife in three throws would win. The loser had to bend over and take Marc’s knife from the ground with his teeth. Sissy reminded him that double-dog-dare Mumblety-peg was played with feet—whoever could throw the knife closest to his or her own foot would win.

    Paul looked down at his beat up All-Stars and then at Sissy’s bare feet. Sissy, as usual, had tossed her All-Star high-tops and socks just outside the playground door when they came out for recess. Paul nodded. They went back to the edge of the woods, where the teachers, who were busy gossiping just outside the gym door, wouldn’t see them. Marc threw his knife for the loser peg. The other kids gathered around.

    “Get back,” Paul said, “you’re blocking the light.” The kids backed up a little. Paul threw first. Marc measured, holding up his finger, marked at the second joint. Sissy got her first throw down to one joint. Paul’s second throw was long. Sissy halved Marc’s finger-joint.

    “Sissy’s winning,” Guy said, taunting his older brother. “You’re going to lose!”

    Paul turned red, gritted his teeth, and took careful aim. His knife sliced down a hair’s breadth from the side of his sneaker. Everyone gasped.

    Sissy didn’t pause; she shot the knife directly into her foot. Mrs. Murdock, who had come up unnoticed during the moments of intense concentration, snatched Sissy off her feet and walloped her. While Mrs. Reardon gathered the knives, Mrs. Murdock carried Sissy to the nurse’s office, the knife still stuck in her foot.

    “Maria Mancini, what were you thinking?” the nurse asked Sissy, as she extracted the knife. “Mumblety-peg is against school rules, so are knives.”

    “I’m not a sissy!” Sissy squeaked through clenched teeth, trying to keep from crying.

    “I guess not,” said the nurse.

    “Sometimes,” Mrs. Murdock said, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”


    1)I am breaking my vow--must stop reading and sprouting until I get some work done!

    2)On the other hand, this IS work, as I intend to incorporate it into one of my novels. This is newly written just now in response to Kelly's piece.

    3)We played mumbley-peg, or mumblety-peg on the playground at school when I was a kid--the teachers never (rarely) paid any attention. And there were accidents, but I never saw anyone intentionally hit their foot. Mostly, we used another knife to aim at. Only the when someone challenged with a double-dog dare did we use our feet.

    4)The image is Mrs. Reardon with Marc's knife. (Actually, it's a knife of mine from childhood that I just photographed.)
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