Flipping the bird

Getting the finger from an 8 year. Is that funny or fucked up? When you work with kids you learn it can be both. Sometimes it has to be. Her tiny little hand shaking in rage. The flush of defiance on her face.

I can remember being about 12 years old riding in the back of a pickup truck and getting into a fierce argument over giving the finger. Did the fingers on the side of the middle finger go halfway up or were they bent all the way down?

There were at least three of us in the back of the truck, me Mikel and Zoe, but probably there were was an audience of younger kids, 8 and 9 years olds, because there usually was.   I was the new kid at our alternative school, and one of the older girls. The school had no schedule, no set class times and only 20 or so students. As soon as the weather got hot the staff took all of us down to the creek to swim. 3 or 4 in the front, the rest in the back. Sitting on the wheel was the privileged spot so Zoe would have been on one and probably Mikel on the other. Maybe I sat beside Zoe, or maybe on the truck bed with the little kids. Mikel was who I was arguing with. I was trying to win, and in order to do that Mikel had to lose: Zoe, the wheel seat, everything. I had to prove that despite being small and a little needy, I could be just persuasive and mean and smart as Mikel. Better. And I had logic on my side. How could Mikel possibly know the right way to do it when I had been to another country, lived in a big city, lived with dozens of adults?

That was a long time ago. The idea of children, loose and unbuckled, bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck without air bags or even proper seats, seems barbaric now.  I don’t even remember what I was arguing for. Was I a Courtney or a Lady Gaga? I’ve sat here for an hour now flipping the bird this way and that. They both feel about the same. All I can remember is shouting at Mikel above the noise of engines and wind and the absolute certainty I had as I waved my hand as close to her face as I dared. My quivering righteous rage.


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