My mom’s a professor and my dad’s a librarian. I’m an only child, which means no siblings to play with in the backyard. My best friend and I collect stamps for fun. So is it a big surprise that I don’t know much about sports? Maybe that’s why, when Mr. Morgan, my gym teacher, asked who wanted to be the first to “step up to the plate” for a practice game of kickball, I ducked behind Alexander Klein, the biggest kid in the fourth grade, and tried to remain very, very still.
My plan backfired.
“I see you hiding back there, Jake,” Mr. Morgan called. “Why don’t you lead us off?”
Alexander stepped aside. “Busted,” he said, smirking.
I felt my face get hot as I stood before home plate. All of my classmates watched, wondering if I would, for once, make contact with the ball instead of totally whiffing it. Beth Cooper flashed me one of her pretty smiles and gave me a thumbs-up, which made me feel a tiny bit better.
When Mr. Morgan reached the center of the gym he turned back toward me, the kickball raised to his chin. “Don’t get too nervous,” he said. “We’re not keeping score today. This is just for fun.”
Fun? As if being humiliated in front of my entire class could ever be fun!
And then, before I could worry about it anymore, the red, rubber ball was rolling straight at me, bouncing along the floor. For a second I almost panicked and dove for the nearest exit. Instead, I stood my ground, drew back my left leg, and swung my foot forward as hard as I could.
The ball shot past Mr. Morgan’s head like an out-of-control cannonball. I had done it! I had successfully kicked the ball!
Mr. Morgan stared at me and shook his head in amazement.
I stared back at him.
“Don’t just stand there!” Beth yelled. “Run the bases!”
I shook off my surprise and sprinted as hard as I could toward the first base. I stepped onto the flat marker and put my hands on my knees, exhausted but safe. I lifted my head, expecting to hear cheers. Instead I heard laughter.
“No way! He ran to third instead of first!” Alexander called. He grabbed his sides because he was laughing so hard.
I looked at Mr. Morgan, disappointed in myself.
“I can’t believe it,” Alexander continued. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Not so fast, Alexander,” Mr. Morgan said. “Normally, you’d be right.”
Alexander stopped laughing. “Normally?” he repeated.
“That’s right,” Mr. Morgan continued. “But, as Jake must already know, today is Opposite Day.”
“That doesn’t sound like a real day.” Alexander said. “Are you sure you didn’t make it up?”
“It happens every year,” Mr. Morgan said with a grin. “Better check your calendar.”
Beth clapped and cheered. “Way to go, Jake!” she called. “I love Opposite Day!”
I stood up straight and tall and waved back to her.
My classmates and I decided to spend the rest of that P.E. class running the bases the wrong way. Everyone agreed that it made for a fun change. Even Alexander.