King of the Jungle Gym and Number One Ghost Catcher · 31 October 2008

To look at Scott, a person would think, “What a nerd he must be.” He had the thick glasses with black plastic frames. He looked like he would grow up to be Anthony Edwards in Revenge of the Nerds. Then again, everybody who had glasses at that time had the same kind. Scott was smart but he was not truly a nerd. He was social. He was well liked. He was fun to be with. Scott’s notoriety came not from his apparent nerdiness but from other things, namely, the jungle gym and the ghost.

Scott was the king of jungle gym freeze tag. I remember him tagging everybody before we had a chance to unfreeze anybody. And if he was not IT, he never got tagged. He practically flew through the jungle gym. Scott had this uncanny ability to move both hands at one time when scooting through the bars. While the rest of us used the traditional one hand after the other to move not so slowly but relatively carefully through the bars, Scott was moving so fast it seemed there were times when no part of his body touched the jungle gym. None of us could emulate Scott (although I was probably trying to when I got my concussion from falling one day). Watching Scott was like watching a ballet dancer or professional athlete. We were all in awe of his prowess. I guess that is why we dared to play jungle gym freeze tag with the king. We knew we would lose but we loved to see the master in action.

As we moved into the upper grades of elementary school, we played tag less and less. Scott was still fearless at red rover but did not quite have the foot speed to be Ruler of Red Rover. In sixth grade though, Scott made his other claim to notoriety – he caught a ghost.

Scott had never talked about weird things before we all moved into Miss Donahue’s sixth grade class. He was just a normal kid like the rest of us. But sometime after school started that year, Scott began talking about The Ghost. He said that strange things happened in the room for which the only explanation could be a ghost. The projector screen would go up on its own. Pencils would move off of desks. Things would be in different places when nobody moved them. Scott even told of tests he had made like placing a certain object where nobody would find it and it would be moved the next day. Strange things were happening and Scott did not like it one little bit. So he decided to catch the ghost.

I did not know why Scott believed he could catch the ghost but he knew he could. For weeks, he fashioned a pencil into the perfect place to put a ghost. He wiggled the eraser metal from the wood and made sure there was a tiny spot for the ghost between the wood and the eraser. He could take the eraser and metal off the stub of a pencil at a moment’s notice and stuff the ghost in the chamber forever. At least, that was the plan. Catching the ghost was Scott’s obsession and he carried his trap with him always.

I do not remember how long it took, but one day Scott announced that the ghost was gone for good. He had trapped it the day before, took it home, and buried it in his back yard. He was the original Ghost Buster and none of us even realized it.

Looking back, I think that all of us believed Scott to be somewhat bonkers. But we also believed him. I do not doubt that he believed there was a ghost. And all of us who were there know that the strange things did stop happening after Scott said that he got rid of the ghost. I guess it was a fitting end to elementary school. The King of the Jungle Gym became the number one ghost catcher.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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From Long Walks Home or Pee on Poo, Potty on the Shoe, unpublished.



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