AS THE CRADLE ROCKS

(A preschool soap opera)

They sat around the table, all 13 of them. A roll of thunder in the distance interrupted their pregnant silence. Eyes darted around the room suspiciously, and underneath the table 26 hands fidgeted nervously. Jordan looked across the table at Ashleighee, and lunged.

"NO!" cried the hapless Ashleighee, clutching her chest in fear. The others, unable to do anything, sat paralyzed.

Jordan reached...and reached...and reached...and plucked Ashleighee's ants-on-a-log from her plate. Everyone gasped.

"Jordan, how could you?" Cameron exclaimed, burying her face on Jaq's shoulder. Jaq gave Jordan a harsh glare.

Jil, who sat on the other side of Jaq, said nothing but gazed wistfully at Jaq. He was so strong...so brave...

"Snap out of it, Jil," whispered Buelah, Jil's best friend. "Jaq would rather play blocks with Cameron."

Jil glared at her. "Hush, Buelah. Jaq wants to play with ME, not Cameron."

Buelah rolled her eyes and turned away, to the culprit Jordan.

"I can't believe you, Jordan," whispered Buelah. Jordan didn't look the least bit sorry, and he bit into his celery and peanut butter snack with a satisfying crunch.

Ashleighee burst into tears, and everyone gazed open-mouthed at Jordan's actions. The kitchen door swung open.

"Whatsa goin' on in heah?" demanded Miss Edna, her arms up to her elbows in peanut butter. Everyone was silent. Ashleighee continued to weep.

"Now, Miss Edna does not tolerate cryin' at her school." The harsh gray eyes stared down on the children. "What happened here?"

The children remained silent. Ashleighee stopped her tears, and a dull silence fell over the room. Miss Edna took one final, sweeping glance at the table's occupants, and returned to the kitchen.

"C'mon, Ashleighee, "said Victor, rising from the table. "Lets go and play blocks."

Ashleighee nodded agreeably, and the two left. After a final glare at the criminal Jordan, brothers Syvon and Nickolaus left together, and Su Li with them. Soon, the whole table was cleared, leaving Jordan all alone with...ants-on-a-log.

????????

"It's not fair," complained Jil to Buelah, as she carefully placed a red feather boa around her shoulders and twirled in front of the full-length mirror. "Jaq and I used to be the best builders in the whole preschool...and now that Cameron's here, all he wants to do is play with her."

She glanced over at the oblivious couple, who was happily finger-painting in the corner. She felt Buelah walk up from behind her. "Get over it, Jil. Jaq has found a new block partner."

Jil turned to her with a mischievous gleam in her eye. "Not for long, Buelah."

Dropping the boa, Jil clomped over to the finger painting corner, with Buelah trailing and desperately trying not to trip over her long purple dress.

????????

Mattheaux set the last block atop his tower, then leaned back to admire his work.

"It looks great," remarked Martin, as his own tower toppled. His face fell.

"How could this have happened to me?" He let out a melodramatic sigh, and clutched at his midsection.

"Hey, its just a block tower," reassured Mattheaux. He picked up the fallen blocks and began rebuilding. Martin grabbed his wrist.

"NO!" he exclaimed forcibly. "Its not just ANY block tower...its MY block tower!"

He turned away in visible pain.

Mattheaux shrugged, and continued to work on his own block tower.

????????

Syvon and Nickolaus sat at their activity table, a lump of Radical Red Play-Doh separating them.

"But Syvon," Nickolaus protested. "I want Radical Red more than you!"

"It clearly needs me," Syvon said, taking the red lump in his hands.

"I can give Radical Red everything it needs!" claimed Nickolaus.

"Radical Red and I were made for each other," countered Syvon. He looked at the forlorn dough in his hands and placed it on the table. "Okay, Radical Red...you HAVE to choose between us."

????????

"Hi Jaq," giggled Jil. She adjusted the floppy white hat on her head over her light brown hair. Ha, she thought to herself, Cameron has nothing to offer Jaq. I have a Lovely Lady outfit.

"Hi, Jil," Jaq said casually, as he swirled a forefinger through the purple paint.

"Hi, Jil," echoed Cameron beside him, dragging a thumb through the yellow.

Jil ignored her. "So, Jaq...you wanna play blocks?

"Naw," said Jaq. He looked at Cameron with a smile. "We're working on our very lovely artwork."

"Oh," Jil said, trying to sound disinterested, while the wheels in her brain turned furiously. "Too bad...I was going to share my peanut-butter sandwich with you..."

Jaq's ears perked up noticibly. "Did you just say 'peanut butter sandwich'?"

Jil nodded. She knew Jaq had never said no to a peanut butter sandwich. "The crunchy kind, too..."

Jaq's face fell. He looked back at Cameron, then to Jil. How could he ever choose?

????????

Jordan sat alone at the activity table, 11 uneaten ants-on-a-log before him.

"Yum," he said, and began to pluck the raisins out of the peanut butter.

"Can I seet here?" asked Izabellee. She was from Foreign Country.

Jordan glared at her. "No."

She pouted but only for a moment. "That's not very nice, Jordan."

Jordan shrugged and put the treat to his lips. Suddenly, before he bit down, a hand reached out and grabbed it.

"I believe that belongs to me," said a voice. Jordan look up. Izabellee stood behind the meanest kid in school, Su Li, hands on hips. Su Li passed the snack to Izabellee, who mumbled her thanks and scampered off to join Ashleighee and Victor, who were happily playing in the sandbox.

"What is with you, Jordan?" asked Su Li, who began to bite down on her own snack. She chewed for a moment, and then spit it out. "Ughh. I hate celery."

"What do you mean?" Jordan asked innocently.

"You know," Su Li said warningly. She held a clenched fist up to Jordan's chin. "And you better tell me."

Jordan considered this for a moment, then shot nervous glances around the room. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Yeah, sure."

He leaned forward and whispered his life-altering secret in her ear:

"I'M POTTY-TRAINED."

????????

WHAT WILL JORDAN DO NOW? WILL JAQ BUILD BLOCKS WITH JIL OR FINGER-PAINT WITH CAMERON? WILL MARTIN EVER BUILD ANOTHER BLOCK TOWER? WHO WILL RADICAL RED CHOOSE? AND WHY IS MISS EDNA UP TO HER ELBOWS IN PEANUT BUTTER? FIND OUT NEXT TIME ON:

AS THE CRADLE ROCKS