It’s recess time, and all the first graders are led out onto a playground, where they are turned loose by their handlers. As the shrieks of temporary merriment erupt from every eager child, five gather together underneath the little house that is connected to the slide. All sitting with their legs crossed, they stare at each other with their hands, cradled in their laps.
“Ok.” One little pig tailed girl speaks up. “What do we got?
“My baby brother started sneezing with snot coming out of his nose. So I rubbed my hands on his face, while mom was in the kitchen.” A brown boy with glasses says.
“My grandmother said she got the crud. Don’t know what that is, but we held hands and sang songs after she blew her nose.” A little red-head with freckles relays.
“My big sister’s been coughing and coughing. She got a sore throat. I just stood in her room while she was coughing and stared at her until she yelled for me to get out. She hates that.” A little blond boy says, as he sniffs and wipes his nose across his bare arm.
“Everyone is sniffling and wiping their noses on my bus. I just traded pencils with everybody.” A dark skinned girl with black braids adds. “What about you?”
“I touched the teacher’s grading pen.” The pig tail girl answers.
“Wow, she’s really sick today. You’re really going for it.” The red head remarks.
“Are we sure we wanna do this? I mean, we’re gonna get sick, too?” The brown kid with glasses asks.
“Did you lose your candy?” The pig tailed girl asks, with a frown.
“Yeah.” He answers.
“What about the rest of ya?” She asks the gathering. “Didn’t you lose your candy?”
“Yeah.” The blond kid says sadly, with his eyes cast downward.
“They threw away mine.” The girl with braids says.
“See! That’s what I’m talking about. Parent’s hiding our candy, throwing it away or even worse than that, eating it themselves. Just so we can’t have it. Just cuz we want to eat it all. It ain’t fair.” The pig tailed girl exclaims. “Didn’t you work hard for your candy?”
“Yeah.” The boy with glasses says. “We walked all over this big neighborhood for three hours. I was tired and my feet hurt, but I got two big bags full. But… I ain’t seen them bags in weeks.”
“I wore a furry cat costume. And it was hot and I sweated. But that didn’t make me stop trick or treating.” The girl with braids says. “But it’s gone in the trash now.”
“My mask was so itchy. I had to take it off and then no one knew what character I was.” The red head recounts. “I earned mine too.”
“Parents and teachers tell us if ya earn it, then that’s good, but they took it all away. So… This is what they get.” The pig tailed girl says with a nod.
“Yeah, but we’re gonna get sick too!” The brown kid with glasses reminds them.
“I’m already sick.” The blond kid says matter-of-factly.
“Listen up. We’ll get sick but we’ll be better in a week, maybe two weeks. Plenty of time until Christmas. They’ll start to be better by then and in the meantime, those of us who know our candy is still in the house, can slowly get some when they’re weak.” The pigtailed girl outlines.
“Yeah.” The red head adds. “Adults always get weak and don’t wanna be bothered when they’re sick. Long as you’re quiet, you can get whatcha want.”
“That’s right.” The blond says.
“But they threw my candy away.” The girl with braids chimes in.
“We’ll give you some ours. Or save some Christmas candy for you, so it’ll be fair. Everyone in?” The pig tailed girl asks.
Hearing the question and feeling the moment of truth, everyone nods their agreement to go forward with the plan. After that, each child pulls their hands from the nook formed by their crossed legs and holds them out to the side, exposing their scabby palms, their marker covered fingertips and their dirt-impacted fingernails. Next, they each interlock hands forming a circle of commitment, making sure to grind them together. Then, they start shaking each other’s hand across from each other, until every bacteria and virus covered paw has been grasped and shaken by another. Taking it one step further, the pig tailed girl takes her infested hands and rubs them up and down over her face, closing her eyes, but making sure to swipes them over her lips. Equally inspired, the rest of the children follow suit until they hear the shrill voice of one of their handlers call out to them from ten feet away.
“What’re you kids doing under there?!”
All the children reply in unison, as if compelled by some telepathic cognition. Immediately, all five children scramble from beneath the little house and begin playing with the other kids; and all of the adults are none the wiser.