The Dodgeball Trap by Diana Jenkins


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When people ask why I don't talk much, my mother always says, “Corina's shy.” That isn't really true. I'm quiet, but I'm not shy. I know what shy is. Emma Townsend is shy. She's always been that way. She used to burst into tears every time a teacher called on her. Now she will answer in class, but only in a tiny whisper! Emma's shy outside of class, too. At recess she's always reading a book. She never talks to anybody, and nobody talks to her. That's why it was so weird when Courtney Bailey spoke to her. I was shooting baskets with my best friend, Thai, when he said, “Look!” Courtney walked up to Emma and asked, “Do you want to play dodgeball?” Emma looked up from her book. Her mouth formed the word “okay,” but nobody except Courtney could have heard her. “You're the guard,” Courtney ordered. Emma put her book down and hurried to the edge of the playground. Someone always has to stand there and keep the ball from hitting the cars in the parking lot. Anybody else would have complained, but Emma stood guard the whole recess. I don't usually play dodgeball, but even I would have said, “Somebody else's turn now!” Every time there was a dodgeball game after that, Courtney made Emma stand guard. It had to be incredibly boring! One day, in Science class, we got to work with partners on a worksheet. Everyone was amazed when Courtney picked Emma for her partner, but Thai and I figured it out. We were close enough to tell that Courtney was letting Emma do all the work! After that, Emma started hanging around Courtney all the time. If Courtney wanted another milk at lunch, Emma went and got it for her. She gave Courtney pencils and markers and other supplies. I think she even let Courtney copy her math. “This makes me sick,” I said to Thai one day at recess. “What?” he asked. “That!” I pointed to Emma, on guard again. Thai shrugged. “At least she gets to play.” “That's not playing!” I said. “She never gets to participate in the game!” “Well, no, I guess not,” said Thai. “But it's good she has a friend.” “You can't be serious!” I said. “Courtney isn't really her friend! She's just using Emma.” “You know, Corina,” he said, “Courtney can't make Emma do anything.” “She can, too,” I said. “Well…kind of. If Emma doesn't do what Courtney says, she'll just drop her. She's trapped!” All day I kept thinking about Emma, and I decided I had to do something to help her. That night I planned what to say, then I called Emma's house. “Corina?” she said, like she had no idea who I was. “Yeah,” I said. “From school. I wanted to talk to you.” “Okay,” she said softly. “Look, Emma,” I said. “You don't want to be friends with Courtney. She doesn't care—” To my surprise, Emma interrupted. “What do you mean? Courtney's a good friend.” “Get real!” I said. “She always makes you play guard and—” “That's okay,” said Emma. “I don't like getting the ball thrown at me anyway.” “Yeah, okay, but she treats you like you're her personal slave!” “She does not!” Who knew that shy Emma could sound so mad? “You don't know what you're talking about!” Then she hung up! The next day I told Thai about the phone call. “It's like I said,” he told me. “No one is making Emma do those things.” “I know,” I said, “but it's just not right.” At lunch, I went up to Emma when she was getting an ice cream for Courtney. I had to try one more time! “Emma,” I said, “Courtney only cares about herself. She's just using you.” Emma looked at me and whispered, “I don't care.” I stood there and watched her walk away. The whole thing seemed hopeless! At afternoon recess I told Thai, “I wish I could help Emma. She just doesn't know what it means to have a real friend.” Thai smiled because he knew I was talking about him. Just then a dodgeball game started with guess-who? on guard. After Thai and I watched awhile, I got this fantastic idea! “Hey, Thai,” I said. “Let's play dodgeball.” “Huh?” he said. “Come on!” I jumped up and he followed me. We joined the other “targets” for a while. Then I ran over to Emma and said, “I'll guard for a while.” “Oh, that's okay,” said Emma. “Go on!” I said. “Come and play, Emma!” called Thai, catching on to my plan. So for once, Emma actually got in the game. While they played, Thai talked to her, and when he took my place as guard, I talked. She was too shy to say much, but she seemed happy. Thai and I went through that routine for about a week. Finally, Emma stood up to Courtney. One morning when Courtney told her to play guard, Emma just told her, “Somebody else can do it.” “Yeah, Courtney,” said Thai. “Like you!” “When was the last time you took a turn, Courtney?” I said. Everybody laughed! Courtney shrugged like she didn't care and went over to stand guard. Emma put her hand over her mouth, but she couldn't hide her big grin! At lunch that day, Thai and I waved Emma over to our table. When she sat down, she said, “Corina, you were so right about Courtney. I'm sorry I got mad at you.” “No problem,” I said. “And thanks,” she said, blushing. “Both of you! For…for everything.” “No problem,” said Thai. Emma sighed. “Well, actually there is a problem. I…I don't know how to say this. Do we have to keep playing dodgeball? I really hate that game!” Thai and I looked at each other. “No problem!” we shouted. If you enjoyed this story, you will love getting your own copy of My Friend–The Catholic Magazine for Kids each month, filled with stories, comics, puzzles, and lots more! Click here for information on subscribing.

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