NEW Story: The Greek
Tzipora was good at cricket. That surprised everyone. Her teachers called her bookish; her classmates called her a dork. She didn’t look like a girl who played much sport. In America, at her old school, she was sick from gym class so regularly that they stopped asking about her absence.
In Vekllei, however, the sports were better. Instead of “gym class,” they had physical education — Phys Ed — that included a variety of weekly health classes, term carnivals, and daily callisthenics. They’d pile into the gymnasium, take off dark-soled shoes, and run through simple exercises before lessons. Sometimes they’d play games instead, if they had one of the cool teachers. That was a potent memory for Tzipora, actually — the jealousy of watching the homeroom next door play “crocodile” while her group were doing stretches for the second time that week.
It was her social environment, in the end, that got her into sports. When she didn’t know anyone, she’d read English books by the sports fields. Two weeks into watching the boys play lunchtime cricket, she took up the bat and scored six runs. It turned out Tzipora was very good at sports. She was fast and well-coordinated — an uncultivated natural gift. That year, at the athletics carnival, she scored best out of the girls in high jump and best out of anyone in long jump.
That made Tzipora very popular with her classmates, because she played “both sides” — she was a shy geek that was good at cricket and didn’t mind getting grass stains on her shirt. It was that duality, rather than her sportsmanship, that people liked. She was amusing enough as a character that the sports-playing boys had developed a fascination with her, and they shouted at her to join most lunchtimes. It was paternalistic, sure — they liked her in the same way they liked the retarded rough-n-ready rugby boy in their class — but it wasn’t mean-spirited.
Most days, she would. She’d pull off her armband, unclip her gi, and roll up her skirt and sleeves as she made her way down to the pitch. She’d come back with dirty knees right to her books, eight runs richer and radiating a casual self-confidence.