Dan set his bag on his desk and sighed, looking over the pristine yellow and black decorated classroom, a happy looking penguin on the door for the kids who didn't care too much about numbers and names. It would be the last time this year it would be this neat and the decorations so perfect, but instead of lamenting it, he took a piece of chalk and wrote "Mr. B" in the corner of the board under the date.
Before long, he went out to the playground to find his class, a nearly unanimously adorable group of boys, loud and laughing and tugging on oversized and underfilled backpacks. There was a small, dark haired boy who almost immediately walked to the back of the line, clutching his tiny toy hockey stick and frowning when a taller boy smiled easily and stood behind him.
"Is okay?" the boy asked, waving a Wolverine action figure as a hello.
The smaller boy shrugged and nodded, still glancing around to see if anyone else realized that this boy was behind him when he was ALWAYS at the end of the line. Dan shook his head, smiling at the boy's mother as he led the Penguins past them and toward their room. She had mentioned that Sidney was serious and quiet but he wasn't slow. He was bright and sweet. Dan had to remind her there wasn't a child at the school who'd ever failed kindergarten and Sidney certainly wouldn't be the first, he could tell.
"Welcome to Room 4, little Penguins!" Dan said once everyone was settled in and sitting on the rug, Sidney a safe distance from everyone. "We're going to go around the room and say our names and something we like so everyone knows who everyone is. Ok? I'll go first. My name is Mr. B and I like dogs. Now... You can start." He pointed at a boy who was shaking his black hair out of his eyes. "Stand up, buddy. What's your name?"
"Um. My name is Kristopher an' I like building stuff with my dad!"
"I'm Jordan. I like hiding my little brother from my mommy."
"My name is Evgeni, but I rather be Geno better. I like make food."
"I'm Sidney. I like hockey." Sidney plopped back down before the chorus of "Hi Sidney!" could happen.
"I'm Marc-Andre. I like flowers a lot. Mom says I'm good at growin' 'em."
Every little boy in the room was bubbling with excitement, since this was their first "real" classroom. Dan had them all settle down before he pulled a book off the shelf and read them a story, smiling as he watched the boys all light up when he changed his voice to create the different characters.
Geno scooted closer to Sidney. "Hi Sidney." he whispered, ignoring the way the other boy pulled his lower lip between his teeth like Geno was bothering him. "I like hockey too. Where I from, hockey best thing in world."
Sidney smiled at him and nodded, scooting closer and leaning his head on Geno's shoulder. "Hockey's the best ever," he agreed, watching Dan read and show everyone the pictures, and just like that, Sidney made his first best friend.
"I'm Jon. Jon Quick." A serious looking boy with a straight line of a mouth told another who was smiling widely at recess.
"Quick, huh? Are you fast? I'm Johnny Bernier." The other boy replied. "Wanna go play on the swings? I'll race ya!"
Jon cracked a smile and nodded, turning and bolting, making Johnny chase after him.
Trevor and Drew sat together under a tree and giggled, Trevor's wrestling action figures all muddy and getting crusty with drying dirt. "Flip him!" Drew yelled, sticking one hand into his lunch bag and pulling out a cookie. He offered the blonde boy half and smiled as his wrestler tackled the other boy's. They shared Drew's cookie and when grouchy old Mr. Shannahan told them they couldn't eat on the playground, Drew waited until he'd turned around to stick out his tongue at the man and pull a candy bar from his pocket to split with his new friend.
Mr. Sutter was happy with his class this year, watching Justin and Dustin find Anze and lift him up to help him swing across the jungle gym. Two of the bigger boys in the class were staring down one of Mr. Quenneville's boys who had a curly haired blonde crying and clutching a Superman cape behind him, but that situation was well under control. He knew Kevin and Kyle were good boys. He could tell in the way they eventually went to hug the crying boy and play with the pair from Room 9.
Mikey sat alone on the slide, frowning at nothing and wishing with all his might he hadn't had to come to a new school this year. He cried. He said sorry. He promised to be good. Everything. His dad still took that new job and made him leave his best friend. Mikey hated grown ups but promised his mom he'd try to make friends. So far he had met a boy called Slava who didn't like talking very much and had funny little eyebrows and one red haired boy named Matt who looked like he liked getting into trouble.
"Hey Mikey." someone said from above him. "Mikey, I want you to meet Jeff. He was a little late this morning and I was hoping you could show him around some."
"Yes Mr. Sutter." Mikey muttered, standing up and seeing a familiar smiling face. "JEFF!!!" he yelled, throwing himself at his much bigger friend and hugging him tight. "Come on. There's some kickballs over there! We can play now!"
Jeff followed the other boy, yelling at a few other boys to join them as they raced toward the kickball diamond, Mikey and Jeff in perfect step with each other.
Mr. Sutter shook his head and grinned to himself, turning away to grab some coffee with Mr. Quenneville before recess was over.
"So wait. You're Alexander. And YOU'RE Alexander too?" little Brooks Laich asked, looking between two boys who had a conversation entirely with their eyes.
"No, no. I am Alex. This Sasha!" The taller, blue eyed boy said cheerfully. "Alexander is what mama calls us!"
"And you are not my mama. Or his." Sasha added calmly, blinking at Alex as he began to bounce around from foot to foot.
"Right." Brooks frowned and rubbed the bridge of his nose like he'd seen his daddy do when he was confused. He turned to tug on Mr. Hunter's sleeve. "Mr. Hunter? Can we make name tags?"
Dale laughed and ruffled the boy's hair. "I think that's a great idea, Brooks. Class! Boys, settle down. Brooks had a great idea to make name badges for yourselves. You can pick any color to draw your last name and put it in your cubby. Then you boys will write what you want to be called on stickers for today." Mr. Hunter sat the boys at tables and passed out cards for them to scribble on, eventually prying all the green crayons from Mikey who thought that since his name was Green, he should get to use all of them.
"Broo-ksy?" Nicky asked, chewing on a red crayon and contemplating putting the dots on the ö like his daddy and mommy taught him to.
"Yeah. My dad calls me that. He says it's a good name for a boy who likes sports." Brooks smiled and looked over at Alex who was currently holding court with his new friends, waving the eagle shaped hall pass at a bored looking Sasha like it was a pirate sword.
Nicky nodded and peeled his own sticker off the backing, putting it on his little blue shirt upside down. Brooks sighed and stuck it on right, become turning to watch Alex go from pirate to superhero. He felt like it would be a long year, but he was happy he got to be near Alex and his funny laugh that made everyone else laugh too.
"Now Johnny I know you're a good boy. See that little guy over there? That's Pat Kane. He's a little shy, so I want you to go talk to him, ok?" Mr. Quenneville said softly to the tall, thin boy in front of him. Johnny nodded gravely, licking his lips and then nodding again as if he'd made the decision himself. Mr. Q was always amazed when six year olds were as focused as Johnny was, and for a second, felt bad he'd sent Johnny over once Patrick looked up at him and began to cry.
Johnny, for his part, panicked a moment then sat on the floor next to the other boy and wrapped him in a hug. "It's ok Patrick. I'm Johnny. I'll be your friend if you want."
"Best friend?" Patrick asked, sniffling and wiping his nose with his hand. He held the hand out to Johnny to shake like his mom did when she met new people.
Johnny made a face at the dirty hand and nodded, just hugging Patrick tighter. "That's gross. You should wash your hands."
"You're my best friend now so you have to deal with it!" Patrick shot back, wiping his hand on his jeans and grinning.
Johnny rolled his eyes and got up, frowning at Patrick. "Well? Are you coming? Mr. Q is gonna take us out to recess now."
Patrick scampered after Johnny, Superman cape in hand, and even beamed at the other Patrick, a smart looking boy with perfectly combed hair and a nice shirt. Patrick Sharp smiled back, preparing a trick to play on his new friend Andy. He'd never even see the fake spider on his chair, Patrick knew it!
Out on the playground, Duncan and Brent ran after Mikey and Jeff from room 12, ready to go play kickball after being inside all morning. Their pounding steps matched up perfectly and before long they were picking teams to play with Mr. Sutter's class. Brent picked Duncan first, then filled in the team with the rest of his classmates, only looking for Patrick and Johnny when he realized they weren't there.
Patrick was standing way too close to a boy much bigger than he was. This time his tears came from his anger, annoyance that the other boy asked if he was a preschooler because he was short. Johnny got between Kyle and Patrick, holding one hand up and telling him and the boy with his missing tooth that Patrick really was in class with him and they should just stop being mean to his best friend. Kevin looked at Patrick and said he was sorry, then offered a hug before the four boys scampered off to join up with their kickball teams.
"Good groups we got this year, huh Joel?" Darryl asked once they had their coffee and were overlooking the playground from the teacher's lounge.
"Definitely." Joel replied, watching Mr. Shannahan as he scolded one of Dale's Alexes for running with too many jump ropes in his arms. "These boys are gonna do great things one day. Just wait."
"I'm sure they will." Dan agreed, shaking his head when he finally found Sid and Geno sitting in the grass, drawing hockey sticks in the dirt.
"They're made for it." Dale added, groaning as Alex scattered every last ball in the ball box across the playground. "One day, these boys will have all they could ever dream of."