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Snow stops play Well if the truth be told the ...

Hold on. Hold on. They’ll stop in a minute. They’re only having a laugh.

Smile. Laugh with them. They’re being ironic. Just like we’re all being ironic coming here to this kids playground. Playing on this merry-go-round even though we’re sixteen.

It’s a joke. They’re satirising bullying or something like that. And my smile’s part of it.

They’re not being serious. It’s just play, though – God – that’s fast. Get to the middle. That’ll be better. I can pull myself along this bar.

Hold on. Was it meant to go this speed? Is it prepared for this? But, no, that’s all part of the joke, the effect, exaggeration. And they’ll respect me if I stay on. They’ll see how strong I am. They’ll like me more. I’ll be in the in crowd. One of them. Hold on. Hold on.

God, I feel sick. This spinning – worse than being drunk. Why are they doing this? What did I do? It must be some sort of initiation ritual, but couldn’t they have thought of something easier? I can’t see anything. My eyes hurt. My legs. Are they going to stop? No. Not now. They’ll take it to its logical conclusion. Whatever that is.

Jesus, look at my hands. Shit – my knuckles. I’ve never seen them that white. And the metal of the bar – so hard. Why me? Why now? It’s not as if I asked for it. I just came along with everyone else. Where’s this come from? They won’t stop now – not until they’re exhausted or bored. And their jokes. They go on forever, endlessly repeated to the point where they’re not even funny anymore. And then they become ironic.

Right, look at the sky. Stay calm. Hold on. Don’t cry. Try not to look worried. Focus on one point. I’m not spinning. I’m not spinning. No – I can feel my face going. Smile. Smile. Show them it’s not affecting me. Don’t close your eyes. Don’t go tense. Show them I’m not about to be sick, though – God, I am.

Swallow. Keep it down. Focus. It’s not hurting. It’s not hurting at all. I’m fine. My head’s fine.

What are they doing now? Twigs? Really? No, they can’t, but – yes, it’s part of the joke. Laugh. Dodge. Keep your eyes open. Do an ironic roar or something like that. Show you’re hard. Turn it into a joke. A game. Who can survive the longest? I’ll be the best. I’ll set the standard.

But, shit, that hurts. Is that blood? How long can they keep this going for? God, my leg. They better not hit my knuckles. I can’t let go.

How many sticks? Where are they getting them from? What is this? Why me? This can’t be a joke. Not now. No. It is. It’s a joke. Beyond a joke. They’re laughing. I should laugh too. They’ll quit soon enough. Very funny, guys. Well done.

No, Mike, don’t cry. Tears? No. That’s the wind. The spinning. It’s only a merry-go-round. They’re only kidding. It’s only sticks. It’s nothing. That’s it. Pull yourself up. Be proud. Boast. Let’s see if they can do it.

That’s it. I held on. They’re slowing. Thank God. They’re slowing. Hope I’m not cut. But don’t look hurt. Don’t act concerned. Don’t act worried. I’m not shaking. My legs are fine. I’m fine. I’m not dizzy. Stand up slow. Take your time. I’ve got double history this afternoon with Mrs Horowitz. I’m ready to learn about the spinning jenny.

Right, stand up. Brush your trousers like there are some crumbs there. Don’t vomit. Say: who’s next? Really, who’s next?

No one? No one?

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