His back ached. It had been a long day, and the sun was relaxing by the hills in the west.
Shadows lengthened on the dirt the children ran on. He was drawing in the sand with a little girl whose name he couldn’t quite pronounce. He drew a smiling face, and she echoed it back.
He adjusted his feet and felt the discomforting tingle of his right foot waking up. He cringed a little as his back made a slight ‘pop’. It was exactly then that he was landed on. A stocky little boy of about six had jumped squarely upon his shoulders, laughing, oblivious to the pain he was inflicting.
He stood warily, the boy still balancing on his shoulders, still feeling the rush of blood to his foot and the weight of his passenger. Two more boys tackled him from the front and he was quickly on the ground again, now part of a large pile of relentless, giggling kids.
“No-no-no!!!” he laughed as they continued their attack. Even his sweet little drawing partner was in on it now. Somewhere out of the chaos, he felt a blinding “whap” to his head.
“OW!” he laughed. It actually hurt much more than he showed, and he felt his eyes watering slightly. The stocky six-year-old stood there laughing, his weapon dangling incriminatingly from his hand. It’s remarkable how effective a small leather shoe can be.
He gave the kid a comedically dirty look. “What the heck is that thing made of??” he said as he rubbed his head.
Chubby eyes smiled with delighted guilt.
Two more children came running from their mother’s arms to continue the attack, and in a moment, he was on his back in the dirt, being beaten like that man in his story about the Samaritan.
Finally one of his friends spoke up, silencing the laughter with a tone of authority. “Alright! Alright. Kids, that’s enough. Moms, can you please take your children? The teacher is tired. Time to go.”
But the teacher protested. “No, no, no!” he said. “I’m fine! Don’t send them off. This is heaven, Peter. Really. They’re giving us heaven right here if you let yourself see it. Let them come! Bring ‘em on!”
Peter huffed a little, and smiled in spite of himself. “You’re the boss,” he said, and shook his head.
The teacher wiped his brow and looked into the eyes of his assailants. He rose from the dirt, raised his arms, and launched an offensive attack on the undersized army. He sent them screaming and laughing, and the late afternoon sun set their little faces aglow with glory.
His back ached even more than it did five minutes ago; his head pulsed with pain. And he was never more alive.
You can read more of Aaron's work at his website aaronalford.net