Artwork: ghost

Thumb War

Author: NGH '23
As seen in: Upside Up #

First rule of being the new kid is to look out for bullies. I see a bully in the bathroom threatening to beat up a nerd, so I hand him mittens to make sure he doesn’t gash his knuckles too badly. He says thank you. He also says he wants to murder me, but I know he’s just saying that so he doesn’t seem too soft for wearing mittens. The bully then takes a knife out of his backpack and thrusts it at me, pinning a piece of paper onto the wall above my head. The paper reads: 


I want to chop you into pieces, punk, but I can’t because mom said 

it’s bad for my anxiety. Meet me outside after class because I’m 

going to mess you up the old-fashioned way: a thumb war.


The bully shoves me to the ground before exiting. I’m scared because I have small thumbs, which bruise easily when I get knocked over.

It’s the middle of a last period exam when the panic really sets in. There are 5 minutes left, and I haven’t answered half the questions on my exam. It’s first grade, and the exam is just blocks. 

Class ends. I head out to the playground to seal my fate, and I’m delighted to find the whole school is out there cheering. They’re watching Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime performance, and they’re all really excited to cheer on a mature woman confident in her own sexuality. As I walk up to the crowd, a group of the popular boys comes up to pants me-- a universal gesture of good luck among elementary school students.  

I keep walking and see the bully standing by the monkey bars. As soon as I get close, he pulls out the switchblade and lunges at my throat. He swiftly cuts the itchy tag off my scarf and throws it to the ground. I’m intimidated by how considerate that was, but I hide it by crying uncontrollably.

We lock fists and thumbs-- the moment everyone’s been waiting for-- but no one is watching. I attack with a cheeky thumb lunge. He attacks back, hitting me across the head with a folding chair. He must’ve forgotten about the thumb war. I’m pretty sure this is what a concussion feels like. I reach into his jacket and steal his anxiety medication.

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