|This Week’s Theme: Describe a first brush with danger.|
Even though this is "fiction" Friday, I decided to tell a true story from my youth.
By eleven a.m. the autumn sun had warmed an October chill from the Cambridge air. I grabbed my sweatshirt anyway and tied my sneakers, then checked my pocket to make sure I had fare for the T to go meet my brother in Boston. One dollar was all I had, crumpled up in my pocket. It was all I needed.
I liked visiting my brother at MIT, but the morning had been boring. He lived off campus in a cool townhouse with cooler roommates. I was barely fourteen, and spending a few days with college guys who drank beer and used bad words thrilled me. Except when they were at classes or work, like this morning, and I was bored stiff after already having read all my books and the newspaper.
I headed out, confident in my ability to navigate the Boston train system, transfer from the red line to the green line, and get to his stop at the lab. But getting to the T stop was new for me, and my brother had given me good directions. Go one block south, turn right, then turn left down this long alley to the main street, turn right, and there it would be. Easy.
Hands in my pockets, I trudged along between the buildings, trying to stick to the warmer, sunny side of the street. Half way down the long alley, though, I heard a shout.
"Hey! Hey, kid!"
I turned to see another kid, about my age and in jeans and a sweatshirt, a black kid, running toward me. Two others, one bigger and one smaller, followed close behind but not so quick.
I stopped and waited for him to arrive. He looked OK, but as I stood there I noticed how long this alley was, at least fifty yards in either direction, and no one else around. He was in front of me before I knew it.
"You from around here?"
I shrugged. "I'm staying with my brother, over that way." I kept my hands in my pockets but waived my elbow in the general direction back up the alley.
"Yeah? Got any money? Give my your money."
I was never confident in strange places, so my pulse already was racing. Now my heart was pounding, too. My whole body felt like shivering. The other two boys showed up, and I saw now that all three of them were slightly bigger than I was. One of them was pretty hefty, too. I didn't move. "I don't have any money."
"Don't lie, you got money. Where you going anyway?"
"I'm going to meet my brother."
"Your brother? How big is your brother?"
One of the other kids piped up now. "Get out your knife!" He looked at me. "He got a a knife. Get out your knife!"
I weighed my options. I could run--I was fast, probably faster than any of them, but the one that approached me first was wiry and maybe as fast as I was. I could fight--I had been taking Bando lessons (a Burmese martial art) for two years and was pretty good, though not very advanced and never field tested. And maybe they really had a knife.
"I got a knife. Give me your money, man."
"Check his pockets."
I didn't move, and the first kid shoved his hands in my pockets and found my dollar. "You got more?"
I shook my head. "No. Just T fare to go meet my brother."
The three of them backed off, eyeing me, and turned to run back up the alley the way I'd come in. I waited and watched them go, then followed when I thought they were going to leave me alone. I returned to my brother's townhouse and tried to slow my heartbeat and stop shaking. At fourteen, and I was embarrassed to cry about this, even alone. It was a dollar. A stinkin' dollar. Finally, I called my brother and explained what happened. I don't remember the rest of the day.
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