Champion of the Monkey Bars
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“Champion of the Monkey Bars,” Friend, Apr. 1983, 14

Champion of the Monkey Bars

Tommy was smaller than the other boys. When he played football at school, he was often mowed down. When he played basketball, he got more elbows in his face than chances at the ball. But when it came to chicken wrestling on the monkey bars, Tommy was the greatest!

One day when Tommy was changing his clothes after school, his mother asked, “Tommy, where did you get all those bruises?”

“Oh, those,” said Tommy, and he grinned as he looked down at his black and blue legs. “Those are from chicken wrestling.”

“Chicken wrestling!” repeated his mother. “What on earth is that?”

“It’s when two kids swing out to the middle of the monkey bars from opposite sides,” answered Tommy. “Then they wrap their legs around each other and tug and pull. The toughest kid hangs on, and the other kid lets go and falls to the ground.”

“Tommy, you’re too little to play something like that with all those big boys,” said his mother. “No wonder your legs are bruised.”

Tommy grinned. “Well, I’m not very good at a lot of things,” he admitted, “but these skinny arms and hands can sure hang on to those monkey bars. I’ve beaten every kid in school so far except Bruiser Boswell, and I’m going to beat him today!”

“Bruiser Boswell? Who’s he?”

“Oh, he’s a big bully,” said Tommy. “He thinks he’s the toughest kid in school.”

“And you think you’re tougher than he is?” asked his mother.

“Not really,” replied Tommy. “He could beat me up in a hurry. I just think these skinny arms and hands can hang on to the monkey bars longer than his fat ones.”

When it was time for Tommy to meet Bruiser Boswell, a bunch of kids gathered around the monkey bars.

“Hey, you little runt,” Bruiser jeered as he swaggered up, “I’m going to stretch your arms five feet today. And if I don’t beat you at chicken wrestling, I’m going to beat you up anyway.”

“Listen, Bruiser,” said Tommy, “I know you’re the toughest kid in class, but these skinny arms and hands can hang on awfully tight to monkey bars.”

“Well, let’s just see how tight they can hang on,” said Bruiser. He began to climb up one side of the monkey bars, and Tommy started up the other.

When Tommy and Bruiser met in the middle of the bars, their legs were already flying and pulling and tugging. All the other kids were yelling and cheering them on. For a long time neither one could gain an advantage. Then Bruiser jerked Tommy’s leg really hard and Tommy’s right hand lost its grip. Tommy quickly regained his hold, then he twisted his legs tightly around Bruiser’s waist and pulled. As Bruiser gasped in surprise, his hands slipped from the bars.

“Wow! What a match!” someone said as Bruiser fell to the ground. “That’s got to be the longest match ever!”

Tommy, who was still hanging on to the monkey bars, looked at Bruiser lying on the ground. He thought it best not to let go for a while.

“That was the best chicken fight ever,” said Tommy.

Bruiser glared up at Tommy. “For you, maybe,” he said.

“You’re not mad at me, are you, Bruiser?” asked Tommy.

“I haven’t decided,” grunted Bruiser.

“Come on, Bruiser. You’ve got to have skinny little arms like mine to win at chicken wrestling. I can’t imagine the toughest guy in the class having skinny little arms instead of big strong ones like yours.”

“Nobody had better call my arms skinny!” threatened Bruiser as he looked at Tommy’s arms and then at his own.

“Well, they would have wondered if you’d won, ’cause everyone knows you have to have skinny arms to win at chicken wrestling.”

Tommy let go of the monkey bars and dropped down beside Bruiser. “I’d like to shake hands with the toughest kid in class, if it’s all right with you.”

“Sure, kid. Why not? I wouldn’t mind being friends with the best chicken wrestler in the class, even if you are sort of scrawny.”

When Tommy got home, his mother met him at the door. “How did it go with Bruiser Boswell today?” she asked.

“Oh, great!” he answered. “I may not be good at some things, but I am good at two things: One is chicken wrestling on the monkey bars, and the other is talking big guys out of fighting.”

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney