the first significant snowfall of the year had blanketed the school playground with the raw material for sledding, building forts and sculpting snow figures. It also meant the opening day of snowball season. Therefore, the Commissioner of Snowballs called the obligatory annual press conference. He addressed the press corps from behind his official podium.
“Good morning. After I read a brief statement, I’ll answer questions,” said the Commish, speaking into the microphone.
“This school has a snowball rule. It is as follows: ‘No one is allowed to throw snowballs at school or during school.’ Thank you. Any questions?”
The first reporter hand was in the air before the Commish even began his prepared statement.
“Clarification, sir: Does this mean that you also can’t throw snowballs on the Town Common?”
“—Or how about on the playground after school?” chimed in The American’s education correspondent.
“Let me amplify my statement,” said the Commish. “Snowballs are not allowed during school time, nor at any time on school property. That should take care of just about every foreseeable situation.”
Nonetheless, a sports reporter’s hand shot up. “Does that mean no snowballs during basketball practice at the town gym? And for clarification, is the Town Common owned by the school or a separate legal entity?”
The Commish considered this for a second, then replied tersely, “Any school-sponsored activity is considered school time; no, the school does not own the Common.”
“Can I throw snowballs with my big brother?” asked the AP stringer.
“The ‘time’ and ‘location’ clauses apply to that one,” said the Commish, “regardless of your brother’s age or school.”
“Commissioner, how about when the older kids leave campus for lunch and are on Main Street,” probed the legal affairs correspondent for the Bagaduce Bar Picayune. “Can they toss a little snow?”
“Let me tell you a true story, my friend,” intoned the Commish, leaning forward over his podium, dangling his glasses above his seal.
“Last year we had a little incident. A few snowballs were flying between students en route to the variety store. As soon as the first ball was airborne, I had text messages from the neighbors—faster than you can say Slush Puppy. They informed me that a few of our ‘franchise players’ were wreaking havoc. You could probably just contemplate the letters S-N-O-W-B-A-L-L and I would be notified. Let’s keep peace in the community.”
The audience murmured. Everyone could think of their own cautionary tale of snowball felonies. It seemed the older students in the corps were flush with examples to share. No one dared test the long arm of citizen’s arrest. Nonetheless, the questions persisted. The press corps would leave no stone unturned.
“Let’s say you and a friend agree that it’s OK to throw snow at one another?” probed the court reporter for “Entertainment Tonight.”
“Automatic third felony strike,” said the Commish. “You’re toast. I’d have no choice but to follow the mandatory sentencing guidelines.”
“What if we’re in our snow pants and jackets?” asked the style editor for Grade School Snow Wear Daily.
“Irrelevant,” said the Commish. “French toast.”
“Could you be more specific about the mandatory consequences for throwing a snowball?” asked the crime stringer for The Patriot.
The Commish rattled off the customary sanctions: “Seven-game suspension; a fine; media shame; mandatory ineligibility for Winter Four Square Hall of Fame.”
The scrum of reporters was hard-pressed to find a scenario that might crack the commissioner’s steely legal resolve. The arguments, however, had not yet been exhausted.
“Could a science class make a snowball and put it on the teeter-totter to launch it like a catapult over the neighbor’s fence—as a science experiment only?” asked a reporter in a lab coat.
“See: ‘During’; ‘at.’ Moot,” replied the Commish.
“What if the P.E. Department decided to hold a winter Olympics in the field and snowball shot put was an official event?” asked another.
“See you in court,” replied the Commish. “Only the lawyers will profit.”
“What if Mrs. Pratt wanted to test the theory of gravity and velocity with a snowball drop from her classroom window upstairs?” asked another wily correspondent.
“This is settled law,” replied the Commish, his eyes glazing over.
There was a last, lone hand still raised.
“Can I throw snowballs at my house?” said the cub reporter.
“Sure, kid,” said the Commish. “Not my jurisdiction. However, it will probably depend on your parents’ definition of ‘at.’ And that’s a non-league venue. You’re on your own. Have a ball. We all done here?”
“One more, sir: What do you think of the dodgeball salary cap?”
But no one waited for the answer. The press corps bolted out the door, eager to file their stories before deadline: recess.
. . .
Todd R. Nelson is the former Snowball Commissioner of Adams School in Castine, Maine.
. . .
First on your list of 2021 resolutions?
My favorite thing right now is filling the freezer with focaccia. The dough is incredible: yeasty, soft, pillowy. I bake a huge double sheet, then slice in sandwich size squares, freeze, and withdraw squares. Defrost, toast (bagel setting), sandwich…impeccable, to use my favorite French word.
My only 2021 resolution is to bake my way through the new pizza recipe book I received as a gift. My vicarious pizza pilgrimage will start with Naples v. Rome and end at Papa Brioche’s pizzeria in Penobscot, Maine—my house.