With thanks to the ever-generous Lynne, Rob, and Susan, here is the latest and greatest version of Nina and Meana. I plan to begin submitting it to magazines for publication as a story, rather than a picture book. Did I mention I’m working on a new manuscript?
Nina and Meana
The soccer ball bounced out of bounds. Nina cringed. Not again! “You’re out!” called Rachel. Nina watched Rachel run to grab the ball.
“Nuts!” said Nina. Rachel ignored her, booting the ball toward a pigtailed girl, cheering as it caught her below the knee.
Nina frowned and wandered over to the slide. Today is becoming a BAD day. Her left foot twitched as she started climbing the ladder. Halfway up, she stopped, the rungs blocked by a sign. ‘Do not use! Wet paint.’
“Miss Waldorf told us to stay off the slide, Nina!” Brandon shouted as he ran past.
Nina frowned again. Today is becoming a VERY BAD day. She trudged over to the hopscotch corner of the basketball court, shaking her right arm. It prickled and tickled.
As she bent down to pick up a stone, Olivia shouted, “Come back later, Nina! Too many girls are playing already. Sorry!” She turned to pitch her stone, giggling as she wavered, one-legged, on the 5 square.
Nina threw the stone back in the dirt. I always give them a turn when I play hopscotch. As she tramped away, her face stung, growing hot. DEFINITELY a BAD day!
The more she thought about it, the madder she got. Why is everybody so mean to me? Her arms and legs cramped and tingled. I hate them!
Nina began to cry, but it turned into a growl. Fangs filled her mouth, claws sprouted from her fingers, and her legs twisted and knotted like tree trunks. She stomped back toward the court.
“Nina! What’s wrong?” gasped her teacher, Miss Waldorf.
“I’m not Nina,” snarled Nina. “I’m Meana! And I want to play hopscotch!”
Olivia looked up and shrieked. Girls scattered as Meana bent down and snatched up the marker stones.
There’s no one to play hopscotch with! Meana threw the rocks back on the ground. Fine! I’ll just play kickball. Meana barged over to the field.
Where is everyone?
Children peered out from beneath bushes and behind benches. Miss Waldorf peeked around the slide, while Brandon, the biggest boy in the class, scrambled up the monkey bars.
“I want to play!” yelled Meana. “And I don’t want to always be out!” She kicked the ball. It burst as it flew off her foot. How can I play kickball by myself?
Tears burned her eyes. As they rolled down her face and hit the ground, she watched them sizzle in the dirt. Flopping down, Meana howled.
Boys and girls peeped from their hiding places, watching fearfully. Meana kept crying. “All I want is to play with somebody,” she snorted.
Meana got up and plodded to the water fountain. She glimpsed herself in the metal.
What a scary face! No wonder no one wants to play!
Meana ran back to the playground. “I’m sorry,” she called. “I don’t want to be a monster! I didn’t mean to be nasty.”
No one moved.
“Please? I just want to play…” Meana tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace. Her shoulders drooped, and she hung her head. “It’s OK. I wouldn’t want to play with me, either. No one wants to play with a monster.” Meana turned away.
One girl crept out of her hiding place.
Meana didn’t notice. She kept digging the marker stones out of the dirt, cleaning them off and putting them in a neat line by the hopscotch grid.
“Hey, Meana!” Hanna held up her super-bounce ball and her pouch of jacks. “You can play jacks with me.” She smiled, just a little.
Meana sniffed. “I can? Really?” Her voice cracked, no longer a growl. “Thank you, Hanna!”
She swiped a hand across her eyes. Wait a minute? A hand? No claws? She looked down at her legs. No longer twisted and gnarled, yesterday’s pink bandage was starting to peel off a normal right knee.
“Hurry up! Recess will be over soon.” Hanna held out the ball toward Nina, no longer Meana.
“No, you go first.” Nina grinned, skipping over to her friend. Today is becoming a GREAT day.