A school playground was plunged into confusion yesterday when a 7-year old boy demanded that a game of 'It' be restarted because he was not ready.
David Metcalfe, a pupil at St Mary's School, Oxford, initially appeared happy with the game's legitimacy, but changed his mind after being caught almost immediately. The incident has sent shockwaves through Year 8 and caused widespread concern about who is now 'It'.
The popular game, also known as 'Tag', usually begins when the least-liked member of a group is designated 'It', and frequently becomes an exciting spectacle of running, dodging and shrieking.
Metcalfe, who collects stones and wants to be a builder when he grows up, appeared to be happy when the game was first announced. Fellow Year 8 pupil Mary Ambers observed him "clapping and smiling."
Onlookers recall Metcalfe running away giddily when Amy Manderfield, a pale girl who picks at her jumper, was pronounced 'It'. However, in a disastrous miscalculation thought to have been caused by over-excitement, the young boy immediately cornered himself between the slides and a fence.
"He forgot about the fence," confirmed best friend Ian Buckler, 7. "Amy got him on the leg. She's ginger."
Metcalfe accepts he was tagged by Manderfield, also 7, but claims he wasn't ready to play, and the game should therefore be treated as void and restarted.
"I wasn't ready," said Metcalfe via a crayoned statement read by his spokesman, Ian Buckler. "I'm the best runner and Ian's the second-best, and he almost didn't get away either which he would easily if anyone was ready. It's stupid and we should start again, starting now."
In a twist that has scandalised the school, Metcalfe added, "Also, Lamey Amy tried to kiss me because she's a sexist and that cancels out everything up to now anyway."
Metcalfe's account has been vigorously denied by Manderfield's supporters, but teachers have so far been unable to disprove his allegations.
"To be honest it was pandemonium," said Lucy Carragher, the playground supervisor. "Some of them were shouting that David was 'It' and running away from him, but others weren't. To David's credit, he didn't then tag one of the kids who believed him and dash off squealing that it was all a trick. I've seen him do that before."
The £2000-a-term school's headmaster, Ian Hubble, has now promised a full investigation.
"Rest assured we will be carrying out a comprehensive review into exactly what happened that fateful break-time," said Hubble. "None of us want a repeat of the uncertainty and panic that swept across a corner of the playground between 10.45am and 11am yesterday morning."
However there has been widespread concern amongst the scientific community over reports that Hubble has instructed pupils to treat both Metcalfe and Manderfield as 'It' until the investigation is completed.
"The school shouldn't be treating both pupils as 'It'," argues Dr Woolsey, a respected child psychologist and leading expert on prop-less games. "When you're made 'It', you're suddenly unwanted by even those closest to you and it can be very disturbing. I had a patient whose parents made him 'It' and who were then able to avoid being made 'It' themselves for several weeks, ostensibly because their son was wheelchair-bound. They kept themselves to the upper floors and now he has serious trust issues."
Dr Woolsey believes it was the fear of becoming a pariah which drove Metcalfe to abandon the game, and that his current 'It' status could be causing him serious psychological damage.
"I hear Manderfield is unusually pale, so she will be used to this kind of treatment. But for a normal boy like David, it must be hell."
However, he has praised the school for enforcing a variation of the rules of 'It' which he endorses.
"I'm pleased to say no-one is talking to them, and they are being refused food and places of shelter."
Local MP Richard Wright has called the incident "ridiculous," and asked for calm this morning.
"The whole affair has been blown out of proportion," he announced through a bullhorn to worried parents dropping their children off at school. "It is outrageous that the government has allowed a minor incident to escalate in this way."
"This could all have been avoided if they had entered into statute the simple rule I proposed fifty two years ago, which allows a player to restart a game of 'It' simply by shouting, 'Fiddlesticks and candle wax, one, two, three, let's start again and so says me.'"
"And that is a real rule, by the way," claimed Wright. "So Fatty Faulkner can jump off a cliff and take his stupid fat face with him."