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   The flight of the seagull

    Greet Beukenkamp

          Cover design: Marianne Beukenkamp

MICHAEL heard Bullinga blowing the whistle for everyone to gather. He wasn’t in any hurry. He tied the laces of his sneakers in slow motion. Koen was already gone, most likely waiting at the net. He was crazy about volleyball, a natural, lithe and fast. It was Bullinga’s favorite sport too. Michael hated it intensely, but lately they played it almost every gym class, and, as if fate conspired against him, on arrival at the camp site he saw a volleyball net. It was pretty saggy, but the two teachers got straight to work tensioning the lines and fixing it up on the first day.

It was hot in the tent. There wasn’t any shade and the sun burned unmercifully on the nylon roof. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He imagined sleeping would be a disaster tonight. Reluctantly he crawled out from under the low tent canopy. Most of the class had gathered, standing together in little groups. Michael wondered who would get to pick the teams, probably Daniel and Dennis again. Bullinga always chose them. If he didn’t, Michael surmised, the gym class could go very wrong. He scouted the different groups. As he expected Koen, Aaron and Jeffrey were sitting together. Gesturing wildly, Aaron was telling something to the others that seemed to be very funny, because Jeffrey and Koen were having a blast. Aaron’s big body did not seem to hinder him.

“What’s so funny?” Michael asked as he sat down with them.

Aaron leaned over to him and whispered: “Don’t look now, but it seems that Natasha’s mother is bursting out of her shorts.”

Michael could not help turning his head.

 Aaron poked him in the ribs. “I told you, don’t look,” he hissed. “She’ll notice and I want to enjoy the view for a while.”

Jeffrey burst out in uncontrollable laughter. “Enjoy he says. Aaron is getting a kick out of knitted pink underwear.”

Aaron threw a handful of grass at Jeffrey’s head. “Shut up, you idiot,” he hissed. “Now she’s heard us.”

The four of them were now openly chuckling, looking at Annie Vandervoort’s floral shorts with her bright pink panties bulging out of a split seam.

Michael saw Natasha’s mother hesitantly grope the backside of her shorts. Nervously she looked around. When she saw the four laughing faces, she smiled apologetically and walked backwards to her mobile home.

She almost tripped over a guy line but managed to stay upright. She turned around and disappeared behind some shrubs. They heard her slamming the mobile home door behind her.

Aaron grabbed his crotch, rolled backwards and burst out laughing. “Hell’s bells, I’m laughing so hard I’m pissing myself.”

Crazy Aaron, he always had an eye for the absurd, and you couldn’t help laughing with him. Michael usually sat behind him in class and sometimes, when he heard Aaron’s whispered comments about the teachers, his jaws ached from suppressing his laughter.

Suddenly Bullinga blew the whistle for the second time. “I believe we’re all here,” he said looking around. “The match will be played in two rounds with four teams. That works out all well because we have twenty four players. First, team one and two will play against each other, then team three and four. In the second round the winners will play the final.” Bullinga looked around to see if everyone understood what he had said. “I need two boys and two girls to choose the teams.”

Michael lifted his hand and so did a few others, but Bullinga pretended not to see them.

 “Isabel and Simone will you please come forward and stand here on my left,” he said, “and Dennis and Daniel here on my right.”

I knew it, Michael thought resentfully, always the same old song. Isabel and Simone are his darlings and when you get right down to it, he is afraid of Daniel and Dennis.

Daniel’s eyes surveyed the groups that were sitting scattered over the playing field, lingering on with some of them. Michael got an uneasy feeling as if they were being judged like slaves in a market.

“Isabel will choose first, then Simone followed by Dennis and Daniel is last.” Bullinga stepped aside and gestured for Isabel to start.

“Why do the girls always get to go first?” Dennis muttered under his breath.

“Because I say so,” Bullinga answered curtly. “Go ahead, Isabel.”

“Bridget,” Isabel said.

Michael heard Simone choose Nicole.

“Ron,” called Dennis.

“Flora,” said Daniel.

Flora went to Dennis. “I don’t want to be on Dan’s team,” she protested, pouting. “Why didn’t you choose me?”

“Because Ron plays better than you,” he answered imperturbable.

“OK, fine!” Swinging her hips she walked to Daniel. “Then I’ll play on your team. We’re gonna win anyway.”

Bullinga gestured again to Isabel. The names rang out more quickly.

Marjorie. Koen. Patrick. Chris. Natasha. Tom…

Michael did not listen any more. Nobody wanted him. He was always one of the last to be chosen. He hoped he would end up with either Isabel or Simone, anything was better than with Daniel or Dennis. The last four players. Rachida. Charlotte. Mike. He ended up on Dennis’ team. It couldn’t have been worse. He stood up slowly. At the end of one of the guy lines, tensioning the net, he saw Ivan. “Weren’t you chosen?” Michael asked surprised.

Ivan shrugged.

Michael saw Daniel and his team sitting at the edge of the field in the sun. “You belong to them.” He pointed at Daniel’s team. “They only have five players.”

“Then he should have asked me,” Ivan answered, defiantly. “Otherwise I’ll just stay here.”

“Well, that’s up to you.” Michael went to the other side of the field and joined Jeffrey who was sitting behind Dennis.

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