The kids were grouped in the small gangs that defined my middle school playground: the youngest stood by the trash cans and the older bunch gossiped by the fence that surrounded the grounds.

I was perched on a tamarind branch, trying to keep the pink dress I got for my thirteenth birthday from showing the world that my panties didn’t match. I was watching everything below, but focusing on nothing.

A roar of laughter made me search for Victor Cuevas’ voice.

“Can I use the big bowl on your forehead as a chamber pot, Isi?” he said. 

His friends laughed.

Victor was at it again. He was teasing Isidro Manzanares, a kid whose forehead had been smashed in by a horse kick when he was a toddler. Isidro was trying to run away and hide behind the trash, but Victor would not let him go.

I squeezed my branch until my hands hurt. I wanted to climb down and get in Victor’s face, but I didn’t know Isidro that well. It would be weird to intervene on his behalf; most boys hated when a girl tried to help them out of a bind.

Then Victor looked up, flashed me one of his too-much-candy-blackened smiles, and said, “Hey Monkey-Lynn, wanna pee in Isi’s chamber pot face?”

I swung off the tamarind tree, breaking my fall with a punch on Victor’s mouth. The impact, or maybe the surprise, threw him on his back. Then my left knee was on his chest and my right fist on his face. I pounded and pounded. It felt good. I closed my eyes when his blood, tears and spittle made my stomach twist and bubble. I continued hitting him and shouting “My name is Maelynn, say it, Maelynn!”

“A teacher’s coming!”

I didn’t know who yelled the warning, but I listened. I rushed to my feet, kicked Victor on his side one last time, jumped the fence, and ran out of school grounds.

I ran towards my safe place at the beach. I was not a fast swimmer, so it took me some time to reach the rock that poked out of the waves about a quarter of a mile from shore. I climbed up belly first and stayed in that position for a while, crying and cursing between recovery breaths.

I sat up after the sun started to feel too hot on the back of my neck. I thought about Victor’s face all bloodied up; rage and regret boiled my insides. Kicking the water, I promised myself that the next time I made Victor Cuevas bleed, I would also stuff a fistful of dirt in his rotten mouth. 

Girl Climbing Tree, by Alida Bothma


  1. heart was racing while reading reminded me of the time when I pulled a vicious bully off his bike by his hair as tried to run the littler children down. I was seven and felt hot and horrified and ashamed, yet at the same time victorious...

  2. You are a writer too, so I'm sure I'm all smiles reading that my words brought up emotions and memories ;-)

  3. Dang, those people piss me off too!
    I think it's best to put as much distance as possible
    between me and people that make me feel that way.
    Good post.

  4. The woman keeping the dogs inside on a hot day actually annoyed me more than the schoolyard bully. Kids are vicious and mean, but an adult show know better!

  5. @Life 101, indeed, but sometimes the world is just not big enough, so one must deal with their ignorant behind.

    @Icy, not to mention that he probably became such a waste of human flesh and soul because of the way she brought him up.

  6. Love this story - it bounces along well, at pace, and doesn't have too much info in it to confuse the reader. Clear and punchy. :o)

  7. So happy you liked it! Um... "loved" it ;-) and thanks for the concise critique; you've made my day!

  8. The incident with the dogs really got to me, I actually felt angry. It takes quite a bit for written work to stir emotions of anger.

    The second scene with the children in the playground wasn't as powerful as the one with the dogs, but it is still good. I'd have liked the story to link back to the dogs at then end. You missed the opportunity to balance Mrs Cuevas's bad appalling treatment of the dogs (you can probably tell I'm a dog lover)with her getting lock in the shed.

    Great story, loved it!

  9. Thanks so much Lindsey! You are absolutely right and I didn't even think about it. I'm planning to edit each story after they have been up for a little while (to get as many suggestions as possible) and I'm following your point. I think it will enrich the story and make the ending more satisfactory.

    Gracias again ;-)