Dirty Kids With Sticks

17 Jan

Watch out for that little boy

 

As a child, it wasn’t the risk of gaping head wounds that disturbed me about the whack-the-piñata game. It’s odd, but I don’t remember ever taking a swing at a one myself. Ever. It’s possible, however, that I repressed the memory. Being a shy and awkward kid, I can guess that if I did participate in such a game, I was mortified afterward that my swing wasn’t as forceful as those of my peers, for it does turn competitive.

My daughters are always bringing home birthday party invitations and I study them to determine if a piñata will be involved. If it’s a Fiesta, I know I’m screwed. Other than that it’s hard to tell. Parents will sneak a piñata into any type of party these days. The danger of the whole affair is obvious to me, but not so much to others, I’m afraid.

The last party my 6-year-old attended was one to celebrate a classmate’s birthday. I arrived to pick her up at the scheduled time, but when I got there it was obvious the party wasn’t over. The large room was filled with several adults and 20 children. The kids were vibrating with excitement and dripping with sweat, cheese and sugar after two hours of play and ten minutes of devouring party-type foods. Now they wanted candy. They wanted candy real bad.

The candy was hidden in the innards of a multi-colored donkey piñata hanging from a string in the center of the room. An adult female stood by the stuffed animal holding a big brown stick. It appeared she was waiting to be charged at any second and forced to strike down the children one by one with her weapon.

The adult chose a tiny girl to deliver the first blow. She tied a black blindfold over the child’s eyes and spun her in two circles. Some kids were standing on their toes, almost levitating, punching the air with their fists, yelling at the blind girl. One kid, I swear, was making claw shapes with both hands, eyes rolled up into his head, bent over at the waist, head cocked funny. “Agh, aaaaah. Grrrr.” For a second I thought he was in the throes of a seizure. I took a step back for no practical reason.

The adult yelled “Stay back, please!” but they ignored her. They kept inching closer. Now it appeared they wanted to attack the blind girl. They were rabid. She swung at the piñata and missed, then swung and missed again. The kids laughed and moved in. I wanted to jump in to push them back at least five feet. The adult guided her towards the piñata and tapped it with the stick and said “Swing right here, honey.” She delivered a glancing blow and the donkey spun.

“Who wants to go next?” the adult yelled over the roar. Twenty hands shot up like tethered rockets. “Yes!” the chosen boy hollered, face covered in blue icing, a chunk of brown cake hanging onto his cheek. He jerked the stick away from the girl as the adult was removing the blindfold. He held it out like like a Jedi Knight. The cake shook loose and fell to his feet.

The adult turned him around and around, but he held steady. He took a wild swing as the adult ducked. The mob was chanting and moving in. “Move back,” I said, but nobody heard. I searched for concern among the faces of the parents, but found none. I got the feeling that some of them were fantasizing about busting the donkey themselves. The boy with the stick wanted to destroy the piñata–his face was twisted into a snarl–but he was weak. Plunk. The arc of his swing was 18 inches from the surging kids.

My daughter was on the left, smiling, trying to win a turn. I went up behind her, put my hand on her shoulder.

“Why don’t you come back here with me? I don’t want you to get hit.”

She looked at me like I had lost my head. Her face said leave me alone, daddy, I’m fine. She shrugged my hand off and even took a step closer. Well, she did seem to be far enough away from the stick–unless, of course, what if…

I’ve never witnessed it, never heard a second-hand story of it, but what is preventing a swinging stick from disengaging from tiny, sugar-slicked, nervous hands? The projectile would hit my daughter in the face with such force, that–would it get lodged in her head? Somewhere, in a basement not unlike this one, or outside under an oak tree, I’m sure it’s happened–a small child shish kabobbed in a game of whack the piñata. All for what?

The adult chose a girl, then a boy, then another girl. They took forceful, determined swings. The crowd moved in, the adult moved them back, they moved in, back. But not far enough back! The piñata was taking it like a champ and I was seething. I wanted it to end. I wanted to move in, shove kids from my path, yank the thing down from the ceiling, and then stomp on that cardboard donkey until candy spilled like blood.

The biggest kid–an awkward giant–kept yelling for his turn and the adult kept overlooking him. I silently thanked her for this mercy, but she was growing weary and thought, perhaps, that it was time to let the giant take his thumps, end the madness.

“I want all of you to take a step back, okay? Your’re getting too close,” the adult yelled.

She blinded the giant and slowly moved him in a circle, not even enough to–he almost fell! Clumsy. Unsure. Dangerous. I peered in at his hands and thought I saw green icing. I clenched my whole body; my teeth felt like they were going to explode from the pressure. “His reach is longer,” I said to no one. “Bust it, Brian!” the red-faced guy next to me yelled.

Five kids beheaded at birthday party, details at ten.

The wobbly blind boy fished for the donkey with his stick, found it, and then reared back. The room cringed and shrank as the air was sucked from the room as the stick whooshed through the air. Boom!

And that was it. The donkey exploded and the candy spilled. The throng of manic kids erupted. The invisible fence lifted and they surged. My daughter charged, dropped and slid on her knees as she plucked up a string of Tootsie Rolls. A boy fell over her. She pushed him off then grabbed the back of his shirt, pulled. The awkward giant was celebrating with puffed chest, leaving the spoils to the weak.

I systematically unclenched my body. We had survived another piñata. Barely. This had been the wildest, the loudest, the most violent ever. When the candy had disappeared into pockets and sacks, I bent down and hugged my daughter.

“Daddy, you’re squeezing me.”

On the way home I couldn’t help to imagine her as older, eagerly leaning in too close to something dangerous, with the sharp punches of life whistling right over her head or inches from her face. Again, she’ll slip out of my grip and give me that same look, but the “daddy” will be shortened, or dropped altogether.

Leave me alone, I’m fine.

But here, now, as I glanced at her in the rearview, I was grateful that she was just a little 6-year-old, strapped in, and letting me do the driving.

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5 Responses to “Dirty Kids With Sticks”

  1. kodiko January 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    By far my favourite post since I subscribed, love this one! I agree, pinatas scare me too…

    Keep writing, I love getting them in my inbox 🙂

    Sincerely,
    Kodiko

    • fightn4it January 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks! I’m glad you subscribed!

  2. mom January 18, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    I don’t remember any pinatas at parties you went to….or me either…it is scary to watch! Plus they show bad results on America’s Funniest Videos so we know what can happen…

    • fightn4it January 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      Kids should be behind a rope, at least 20 feet back!

  3. Lunar Euphoria January 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    This is hysterical and touching all at the same time. Great writing!

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