Kyle hated gym. This was more than just the casual dislike of most students; Kyle could seriously believe gym had been designed just to torture him. He hated the uniform, even if he did get to choose most of it. He hated kids laughing that he still wore "tighty-whiteys". He detested being led in warm ups, and even more, having to lead them, himself. He thought that running laps taught him absolutely nothing. He had no interest in the intricacies of the rules of basketball. And he hated showering after gym. He could get away with out that, when gym got moved to the last period on some days.
Today, though, the coaches had made him shower, even though he could have showered, much more comfortably, back home.
"Why gym?", he asked no one in particular, "why couldn't the computer just miss that part of my schedule?" He sighed, "I wish there were some way out of it..."
Suddenly Kyle heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw a pleasant looking young man in a suit, apparently coming to talk to Kyle. Kyle stopped and waited for him.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Are you Kyle Parin?"
"Look, kid. I've been told to assist a Kyle Parin with his wish to get out of Gym class. Are you him or not?"
"Yes. Can you actually do something about it?"
At Kyle's affirmation of his identity, the man's demeanor relaxed. He started acting more like a big brother wanting to help Kyle out. "Kyle, this is your lucky day. I can do far more then something to get you out of it. I can do anything to get you out of it!"
Kyle's eyes narrowed. "Really? Like what?"
"Anything you can dream up. Notes from the nurse every day. A computer glitch. Or, you could really make things more fun..."
"You like the games you play in Gym, don't you?"
"Most of them, just not they way we have to play them."
"How would you like to play them?"
"Hmmmm..." Kyle thought for a moment, "More like I do at lunch. When it's just kids playing for the fun of it."
"Kind of like recess in elementary school?"
"Well, yes, actually. But you can't make the teachers give me recess. I'm in Middle School."
"True...but I could make it so you aren't."
"Want me to prove it?"
"Yes I can. Here..." he pulled a mirror out of his briefcase, "how old are you?"
"No Kyle, look in the mirror, and tell me how old you are."
He looked, and was shocked to see a boy about eight years old looking back at him. Kyle looked down at himself. His rock'n'roll t-shirt was gone, and a soccer-playing raccoon sat there instead. He knew that was some popular cartoon, but didn't know anything about it. He looked up at the man, "Ummm...nine?"
"Close. You're an eight-year old boy, a third-grader. Third graders don't have to go to gym."
With that the spell was broken and Kyle was fourteen again.
"There you have it Kyle. You'll be out of Gym for the next four years...and you'll be quite smart for your age. Take it or leave it..."
"I...I...", Kyle thought about elementary school, being a little kid again. But then the thought about the teacher who'd forced him to shower even when he didn't have to...and then came the memories of warm-ups, laps, and stupid rules. "I'll do it!"
"Excellent! By this time tomorrow, you'll be quite safe from gym class."
Kyle shook his head. The man was gone, and, well, he didn't really know what to think. He wandered home. A real shock awaited him in his room. His room was painted blue, and covered in soccer stuff. His posters were gone, replaced with posters that same raccoon. His bedspread had a raccoon on it too, He sat down on his bed, and started to change out of his school clothes. He reached into his drawer, half expecting to he kid's stuff there, too. It wasn't though. They were still his clothes like any fourteen year old would wear. He turned on his TV, hoping to find something good (and distracting) on. He happened upon the show with the raccoon. He missed the name of the show, but the raccoon's name was Kyle, "Just like me", he thought. He thought about changing the channel, but Kyle the Raccoon was kind of cool. He played soccer real good too. Kyle's mom came in soon after the show ended.
"Alright buddy boy, homework time."
"Buddy boy?", Kyle thought, "She hasn't called me that for years! Maybe this is gonna work out!" He decided to act his (soon to be) age. "Awww..."
"Yes! You got to watch your cartoon, and you have a soccer game this evening."
Kyle grumbled a bit, but finally dragged his backpack, which now sported Kyle the raccoon, from under the bed and prepared to try and do his Algebra homework. He got a pleasant surprise. His suddenly younger backpack contained a third grader's homework. Instead of Algebra, he had fraction addition to do. He laughed. This he could definitely get used to. Ten minutes later he was done. He looked around, nothing more seemed to have changed. Running to the bathroom, he checked his reflection. Still fourteen there, too.
So he went back to watching TV. When his mom came in to scold him, he showed her the homework, and she had to admit that it looked good. "Go ahead and get ready for soccer, then."
Soccer...Kyle knew he liked soccer, but he didn't know about any games he had planned to be in. And what did she mean by 'get ready'? Kyle started digging around the room. On his dresser, he found a picture of him, age fourteen, in a soccer uniform. Next to that was a team picture...everyone else on the team was eight years old. Which meant, even though he was short for his age, he was roughly a foot taller then anyone on the team. The pictures had given him an idea of what his uniform looked like, though, and he found it and his cleats without much trouble.
Even though he knew that everyone else on his team was eight, he was struck by the size difference. He seemed to tower over his teammates, who nonetheless accepted him as one of them. Kyle found it a little hard to talk to them, simply because the maturity difference made them less than exciting conversationalists. None of the kids noticed however, and Kyle decided it wouldn't be prudent to ask whether they were surprised by his height.
Kyle wasn't surprised that he got to be center forward, but it was still exciting to dominate the game. His older body was stronger and faster than any of the other players' by an order of magnitude, which meant he could score almost every time he got the ball. It wasn't long before he'd scored five points for his team while letting only one goal through against them. With that kind of a lead, he spent most of the game stealing the ball when opponents had it, and then passing to his teammates, figuring there was no need to steal all the thunder. In the end the score was eight to five, with Kyle responsible for all but two of his team's points.
After the game, the coach decided to take them to McDonald's to celebrate. Kyle was the hero of the day, and spent the evening basking in the eight year olds' admiration. The day before he wouldn't have cared what the little kids thought of him, but now that he knew he would be joining them, he enjoyed their praise as much as he would if it had come from one of his fellow fourteen year olds. More so, in some ways, since he knew this was sincere. He was thrilled to discover that he had apparently made plans previously to have two of the kids over for a sleepover that Friday.
All too soon the celebration was over, and Kyle's mom took him home to bed. Kyle complained about the early bed time to his mom.
"Now Kyle, we agreed on your birthday that 9 o clock was a fair bed time for an 8 year old. Bed!"
So Kyle cleaned up, dug out pajamas, which were, of course, emblazoned with his new hero Kyle the raccoon. Wearing them, he thought, almost made up for the early bedtime. They were soft, and very comfortable, and he could pretend he...was...tired.
Kyle's morning was a pleasant switch from the routine. His mom woke him up gently, not with a casual flick of a light switch and "Get UP!". She even had breakfast ready for him.
"It's a special day for you", she said.
Kyle knew it was true, though he didn't know why his mom thought so. He grinned when she make him get into the car.
No more busses! He thought. But, to his surprise, she took him to the middle-school.
"Have a good day sweetie." She kissed his cheek. Normally he would have reacted, but he was too stunned. He had to survive another day of torture?
By the time gym rolled around, Kyle's hopes were beginning to fade. He was supposed to escape gym class, and the last twenty-four hours had certainly given him enough reason to believe that he would, but now it looked like things wouldn't happen in time. He kept hoping that whatever was going to happen would finally start, and when it was time for gym, he walked slowly to the locker room, looking around for the man he had met the day before. But nothing happened, and he got to the locker room and began changing. As usual, he was mocked for wearing "tighty-wighteys," and after he had gotten so excited about escaping this, it seemed even worse then usual. Nonetheless, he changed into his hated gym uniform, and hesitantly entered the gym.
As he entered, one of his classmates sneered, "Nice sneakers, Kyle." Looking down, Kyle noticed that his sneakers were velcro ones with the raccoon on them. But he didn't have any others, and he figured most of the class wouldn't notice. They began the day by running laps; usually, Kyle could keep up, although it wasn't easy, but today, no matter how hard he ran, he fell behind. After a few times around, he was actually lapped, and the rest of the class laughed at him as the passed one by one. After laps, it was time for warm ups, and, as if to compound everything, the teacher made him lead them. He hadn't realized it before, but his shirt and sweatpants also had the childish raccoon character on them, and as he stood in front of the entire class trying to lead the warm ups, he could see people snickering and whispering to each other. He had thought he was going to escape, but this was turning into the worst gym class ever.
After warm ups, the teacher announced that they would play basketball. As they lined up to pick teams, one of the other kids said (loudly enough for the rest of the class to hear), "Kyle, since you've got that cartoon on everything else, is he on your underwear too?" Before Kyle could respond, the kid pulled down his shorts, and, to Kyle's horror, the answer was yes. At this sight, the entire class burst out laughing. Kyle quickly pulled his pants back up, and stood in the line with everyone else, wishing he could melt into the ground.
One by one, all of the other students were picked for teams, and when he was the last person left, the team captain looked from side to side for a while before declaring, "I guess we have to take raccoon boy." Kyle fought back tears as he walked over to his team.
No one passed the ball to Kyle, so he mostly ran up and down the side of the court, occasionally shouting, "I'm open." Eventually the gym teacher intervened, ordering an otherwise cornered player to pass to him. The weight of the ball surprised him, and he actually stumbled with it, promptly getting called for traveling. Obviously the fact that he had messed up the one time he got the ball didn't improve his chances of getting it again.
Finally gym ended, and the class went back to the locker room. Even though it was last period, the teacher said they had to shower, so, reluctantly, Kyle stripped, facing the humiliation when everyone saw his raccoon-decorated briefs again, and went to shower. After he dried off, he pulled the underwear on again, not really having much choice in the matter. Once again, his peers started in on the jokes: "Gee Kyle, you really are a baby." "Why don't you come play at my house after school. I bet you'd get along great with my kid sister."
Finally, Kyle couldn't hold it in anymore, and began to cry, which of course only made the situation worse. He wanted to stop, but he couldn't, and the more he thought about it, they were right. He hated middle school, and he felt like a little kid, standing in his cartoon underwear crying. He probably did belong in elementary school. And with that realization, he started shrinking. The clothes he held started to change. The t-shirt was still a t-shirt but it had that raccoon on it. His shorts turned into cotton shorts with a raccoon on the leg. There were even raccoons of his socks. He threw his clothes on, then ran out of the building with all of the older kids laughing at him. Fortunately, his mom was outside waiting. She look relieved to see him.
"Kyle, how did you end up here?"
Kyle was still crying, "I don't know, but the kids here are mean!"
"Shhh...it's OK. I'll take you to get some ice cream, then you can back to school, alright?"
Kyle sniffed once more. "Yeah..."