He says, “Charles-sensei, I want you to spin me.”

He’s hanging on the side of one of those spinning contraptions you see in playgrounds. In Japan, they’re called chikyuugi, and are large, spherical. His face is very, very serious. For a seven-year-old.

“I want you to spin me. I want you to spin, spin like you want to send me flying.”

I’ve got my arms folded vaguely on the bars of the chikyuugi. I unfold my arms, lean back on the bars, hang, stretch my shoulders. My hips stick way out.

He does a little bounce of impatience. When he’s not talking he’s making little noises like the starts of words, as if his mouth is moving faster than his brain. “I want you to spin me like you’re trying to throw me. Like you want to throw me onto the grass,” he says. “I want to fly off the chikyuugi because you’re spinning me so fast.”

He’s getting riled. His bouncing accelerates. I pull myself up out of my stretch.
“I want you to spin me as if you’re trying to hurt me. So fast that I go flying and I would break my arm.”

Other kids are listening now. This is going to be a world class spin. They have lain their hands on the bars of the chikyuugi. They are now a part of the ritual.

He is talking to everyone around him. The spin is slowly becoming an it-takes-a-village kind of affair. We are all going to put our hands on this chikyuugi and spin this seven-year-old child into orbit. He’s fully jumping up and down on the bars of the chikyuugi.

“I want you to spin me so fast that I throw up and when I fly off I break my arm. Be like, ‘Let’s break his arm!’ Spin me that fast.”

One of the kids starts the chikyuugi spinning. Spinning slowly.

He’s still going. “Be like, ‘Let’s make him throw up!’ Spin me so fast. Spin me like you want to break my legs when I fall off.”

Then he says, “Spin me like you want to kill me.”

The spin picks up speed. His feet come off the bars and his body contorts and twists and for a moment it looks like he’s going to come off–but his hands hold fast. His legs corkscrew and then his body rights itself, almost perfectly horizontal. His feet swing by and knock another kid, spectating, off his feet. The other kid looks dazed and awed. He’s still shouting. “Faster! Be like, ‘Let’s kill him!’ Faster!”

He lets go. It’s a decision. He’s not pulled off. He spins like helicopter blades and lands on the grass.

The rest of the kids run over. He’s playing dead, arm across his face, tongue out. One of the kids starts pumping at his chest, mock-CPR style. He finally wakes up and says, “That wasn’t that fast.”


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