by Eileen Elkinson
This is the week I know I will be killed.
Today, I’m taking the same dangerous walk home from junior high. I’m thirteen and in eighth grade. If I could just finish this year I would be out of school. This rotten school.
I hear an earthquake rocking underground. I turn around and see hundreds of kids blanketing the street like bees closing in on a hive. They’re all running in my direction swinging sticks and bats, screaming totally foreign sounding words.
Gang war! I think. They sound like they’re out for blood. Even though it’s not me they’re after, if they spot me, it might be my blood. My heart and stomach tighten into lumps. I hide in the dirty entrance of a downstairs garden apartment behind some garbage cans. I can see the kids flying by like lunatic warriors. I think I’m peeing in my pants.
Finally, the rumbling sound fades into the distance. The street returns to normal: empty. I stand on the sidewalk, and I can’t see them anywhere. They’ve vanished. I relax a little.
School is over for the day. I go over to the park close to my house and sit on a bench with some of my friends. In this park, there are metal railings around each section of grass to keep people from walking on it. Several grass patches away I spot two older girls. One of them bends down and picks something up. Whatever it is, she’s throwing it in our direction. I duck even though I don’t expect anything to reach us.
Bamm! My glasses fly off my face, and I’m hit right between the eyes. A small rock falls to the ground. I grab my glasses, and we all run toward my house with those two girls racing right behind us. I’m glad we know some tricky hiding places around here. We finally lose them.
I’m home and my parents are horrified by my eyes. I know they’re puffed because my glasses feel crooked, and I can’t see too well at all.
“We have to take Emily to emergency!” my mother screams. She looks at me. “Oh God, no,” she moans, “I can’t even stand to look at her.”
My mother keeps repeating to my father, “Sam, we are getting out of this damn neighborhood; it’s sickening what goes on here. We’ve got to get out.”
I’m sitting in my English class wearing a black patch over my left eye with lots of gauze under it, my glasses barely hanging onto my nose. Good news, because the rock didn’t hurt my actual eyes, just the area around them is swollen and black and blue.
My left eye took the worst of it. I look like an alien monster; I know it. I wonder if it’s because of the nasty way I look now that the little gangsters in my classes are showing me respect. If I appear tough and can take a beating, too, well, they seem to respect that.
Rosa Parks Junior High has a big cement play yard, enclosed by a twelve-foot high cross-link metal fence. I’ve also seen this setup in prison movies.
We’re out here on lunch break. Some of the boys are playing basketball, others tossing a football. I’m watching them, taking mental notes. An attack breaks out; a bunch of girls are spitting at a “slow” kid I know. Now they start punching her. She doesn’t understand why they’re picking on her. She never fights back. She stands there holding her arms around her head. This is disgusting. I have to try to do something.
“Leave her alone, she’s not bothering you,” I say in my toughest voice, adjusting my patch.
“You better get the hell out of here,” one of the gang yells.
“Take off your glasses, chicken-face,” another screams at me.
If I take my glasses off I’m fair game. I shout, “No, I’ll fight you just like this.”
A girl from the back of the pack gives the order, “Ah, forget it! Leave her alone, she’s as weird as that retard.”
“Come here Mercedes,” I say. “I’ll walk with you.” I always call her that, like the car. She tells me her name is something like Mersaqeez, and I don’t get that at all.
I meet the leader of the girl gang. Her name is Shawanda, and she’s in seventh grade. She probably admires my eye patch. I tell her I’m Emily Wilkes, and she gets all excited and says, “Hey, you that eighth-grade basketball Wilkes? Man, I wish I could play like you.”
I can’t resist this. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“OK, I been hearing about you for a year now, never saw you play, but I will.”
She keeps looking back at her girls who are pretty far away from us. They smile and wave at her. They probably think she’s giving me hell. In her eyes only, I’m a star. I have to let her believe it; I know that’s stupid, but Shawanda’s an idiot. The real star’s name is Susan Wilkinson.
Shawanda will murder me when she finds out the truth.
I know, bad prediction. I got through the week and I’m not dead. But next week, for sure, I know I am going to be killed. But who knows, maybe Shawanda will realize I was joking and want to be my friend. Now that’s a much better prediction.
Copyright © 2009 by Eileen Elkinson