“Hey, you guys wanna go to that small iron structure behind the playground?”, asked Sourav cheerfully, just when the bell rang for recess.
“Iron structure? Where all the misplaced water bottles and are stored? You wanna steal them? But we don’t have the keys!”, Soumya responded. Rick and Ary were confused too. They hardly went there before.
“No, idiots, we can use the structure to play ‘Hell in A Cell’!”, exclaimed Sourav. Sourav was the biggest of the four, and the adventures and games he envisaged were naturally in the physical domain. Ary, on the other hand, preferred games more in the intellectual domain owing to his skinny build and his thoughtful nature. But he knew that on that day the wrestling fever was running wild and there was no escape from a brawl, or a simulation of a brawl, with his larger and stronger counterparts.
The playground used to be really crowded during the recess. The small kids ran around playing games like “lock and key”, “police and thief”, etc. The older ones walked around briskly showing off their new watch or their new belt or their new hairstyle. Some of the guys had their eyes on girls from other years, whom they found pretty. The short hour of the recess provided the opportunity for the senior students from different years to interact and plan out after-school romantic liaisons. Ary and his friends lay somewhere in between. They had gone past the stage of playing childish games but hormonal activity hadn’t filled up their minds with imaginations of amorous exploits yet.
Reaching the end of the playground, they eyed the iron structure which housed the “lost and found” items in school.
“This is way too small!”, exclaimed Soumya.
“It’s ok. Scaling it will be easy”, said Sourav, reminiscing the brawl between the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels on the top of the cage from last night, “Alright, let’s start, I am Undertaker.” It made sense. Sourav was the tallest and largest of them all.
Rick was tall and slender. With Sourav being Undertaker, he had to be his brother, Kane. He pulled out a red handkerchief from somewhere and tied it around his head to symbolize that he was the big red monster. Soumya, short and fat, was the natural Paul Bearer. That left short and skinny Ary with no option but being Shawn Michaels.
“Oh my god! I have to receive most of the beating!”, exclaimed Ary in panic.
Ary compared the current situation with the scenario he had imagined this morning in the bathroom. There he was as Penta X taking down freaks and monsters with ease. But here in real life he was this skinny little Ary, who would get beat up by his friends, that too with his consent. Even though Sourav and Rick used to claim that their fights were fake unlike the actual WWF fights, Ary knew pretty well that the fight would soon become pretty real.
With no way to back off, Ary reluctantly scaled the cage following Sourav. It was barely a few fight high, but they acted like they were climbing something twenty feet high. At the top, Sourav and Ary started trading fake blows. Sourav lay flat on the steel, and acted like he got hurt. Then he suddenly got up straight, mimicking the Undertaker. Soumya and Rick cheered from the bottom.
“Try the tombstone”, screamed Rick in excitement.
Sourav picked up Ary with ease. Ary was frightened to the core at this point and started screaming in panic. Sourav whispered into his ears, “nothing is gonna happen, don’t worry, I am holding you”. Sourav turned Ary upside down. Just as Sourav was falling on his knees as the next step in the maneuver, his hands slipped and Ary fell head first on the steel. Ary got up , dazed. He didn’t feel pain anywhere, but he felt extremely wet in the back of his neck. He touched the back of his skull with his fingers and saw that they had all turned red. He found Sourav staring at him in disbelief. There was panic all over his face, as if he had been caught red handed during an act of theft. Below, Soumya and Rick stood flabbergasted. Ary’s cream white shirt had turned red already and now he was the big red monster.
“Go call uncle, quick.”, screamed Sourav. Soumya and Rick ran frantically towards the school building to find one of the caretakers.
As the caretakers were putting a bandage around Ary’s head in the first-aid room, Rajashree madam, who was the teacher in charge of Ary’s class, rushed in.
“Aranyak, do you have phone in your house?”, she said.
“No, sister.” Landline telephone hadn’t entered most households yet. Mobile phones were mostly unseen, apart from the toy ones with which kids played.
“Can you guide Sudhin uncle to your house?”, she asked, touching his forehead. She was struggling to keep her voice still. She had just obtained her M.A. degree and taken up this temporary job of teaching History in middle school. Ary was one of her favorite students- studious, intelligent, inquisitive and naughty- a rare combination.
Ary nodded, unable to speak much…..