Flip of a Coin

I’m walking home from school today because my parents refuse to pick me up from afterschool detention. I got in trouble for “ruining” a science experiment. It wasn’t even my fault. Well, maybe. Half. Two thirds. Three quarters...

“Oof!” Great. Now I’ve tripped over an uneven mound of cement on the sidewalk. I scraped my elbow pretty bad when I fell and reopened a whole in my jeans. Just my luck.

I brush off the dirt and gravel and begin to examine my nasty scrape, but a glinting flash of silver catches my eye. I pick it up and roll it around in my fingers. After scrutinizing it, I realize it’s one of those new edition quarters. I put it in my pocket, thinking maybe I’ll give it to my friend Jojo. She’s into collecting coins and stuff.

But then, a voice from the alley speaks.


Uh oh.

In the dim light of the setting sun, all I can see is his menacing silhouette and the stick of a lollipop casually hanging out of his mouth. But I don’t need to see him to know who he is.

Lance emerges from the shadows. “You know this is my street,” he says. Lance is fourteen, two years older than I am, and he towers over me like a massive volcano just waiting to erupt.

I raise my hands in surrender. “Sorry, Lance,” I say quickly. “You know me. I never woulda picked it up if I had seen you –”

“You shoulda seen me.” Lance interjects. He’s got a short fuse, and stalks towards me, advancing on his prey.

I gulp.

“I’ll put it back. I’ll put the quarter back, I swear! I know you don’t like people takin’ things off your turf.”

“See, that’s the problem,” Lance says a little too calmly. “You know the rules. You’re not some new kid who just gets off with a warning.” He spits out his lollipop – definitely not a good sign – and shakes his head pitifully while he cracks his knuckles. Like he’s gonna regret pummeling me.

“You don’t have that privilege.”

Oh, crap.

“You know,” he continues. “I like you, Miles.” Lance is gonna kill me. And my parents are gonna kill me, too, for getting detention again. I’ll be dead. Double dead.

“You don’t annoy me like other kids do.” I have to think of a way out.

“But I’m afraid I’m gonna hafta to teach you a lesso – HEY!”

I sprint down the block. My sneakers pound hard on the pavement. Lance, at first surprised by my sudden escape attempt, is now close behind me. I hear him growling, can feel all his anger and focus directed at me. His long legs propel him forward while mine race like a motor engine strapped to my waist. I know there’s no outrunning him, but maybe there is outsmarting him.

I turn onto the busiest street I can think of. Grocer’s Lane is filled with people, as always, and I dodge and weave through the crowd while Lance shoves people out of his way. The shoving is really slowing him down.

I rush ahead, brushing past an immense mass of a guy coming out of the supermarket. He’s slow and blubbery, and you can tell by the look on his face he’s stubborn. But he is also my saving grace.

As he passes, he blocks Lance’s way for a good five seconds. That’s all the time I need. I’m turning a corner by the time Blubber Man passes, and I can hear Lance bellow: “I’m comin’ for ya, Miles! I AM COMING!”

I laugh. No, he’s not.

I don’t stop running, though, until I get to Berry Grove – not my neighborhood – and turn onto Crescent Drive – not my street. Third house on the left – not my house – with the red shutters, bright pink flamingoes in the lawn, and Spanish music flowing from the kitchen window.

It’s dark now. The sky is indigo blue and I notice flocks of birds nesting in the trees, singing their good-night music.
I ring the doorbell and wait, exhausted.

And there she is – brown hair tied back in a braid, chestnut eyes curious and skeptical, little gold earrings that swing back and forth when she talks.

My lungs feel like cement blocks and my legs are like Jell-O, but I flip her the coin that started this whole mess.

“Hey, Jojo... brought you a quarter.”