I had good reason to be watching Jerry. Last year, as a first grader, he was the kid who tended to be on the wrong end of trouble whenever it erupted. Nothing really bad, just the kind of mischief that comes about as a result of making bad choices. That's why it was no surprise to find him trying to hide something behind his back, then in his pocket, when he saw me coming across the playground. "So, what've you got there, Jerry?"
A blank look. "What?"
"Whatever it is you're trying to hide behind your back."
"It's his juice," came the voice from behind me. It was Jerry's little sister, Danielle, now a first grader and always good for ratting out Jerry's schemes.
"Let's see it," I said, holding out my hand. This only caused Jerry to hold on more tightly to his juice. After a moment, he held it out to me, with both hands. He wasn't going to give it up easily. I could see glittery strawberries on the label and the word "gel" between his clutching fingers. "I don't think that's juice, Jerry."
"No! It is!" Jerry was adamant.
It was the second week of school, and so I decided to give Jerry a little break. "You know we can't have 'juice' out on the playground, right?"
"Yeah, Jerry," I had Danielle backing me up.
"Why don't you give the juice to Danielle, and you can have it after school." Jerry considered his options for a moment and started to hand the bottle over to his sister. "And while we're at it, I don't think that's juice. I'm pretty sure it's gel." Another blank look. "For your hair?"
Danielle took the Strawberry goo and I went back to watching for kids trying to kick balls on the roof. Later I saw Danielle still had the bottle, so I was pleased with my management of the incident. Please until I heard later that our school nurse had taken the bottle away from Danielle. Not because it wasn't the right thing to do, but because of how embarrassed I was to find out that the gel inside the bottle turned out not to be styling gel, but flavored personal lubricant. A closer look on my part would have saved at least two more people from having to be immersed in the chagrin that soon erupted. The relief was that the bottle was still mostly full, and the contents were advertised as "non-toxic." Nobody was going to die from poisoning. Embarrassment, maybe.