Disclaimer: slight use of racist remarks. I apologize for any offence.
"Just this once, okay, Eddie? Let's try to get home without running into any trouble."
Eddie Varlhet laughed out loud next to him. "Jeez, Ken, I thought you liked trouble." He nudged his best friend with a playful elbow to the ribs. "You live for trouble."
Ken Shimada gave his partner-in-crime a shove back and readjusted his backpack on his shoulder. "Just this once I'd like to walk back home at a regular pace with nothing to worry about."
"Sure thing. Whatever suits you."
Walking side by side, the two fourteen-year-olds looked as physically different as night and day. Ken had the fair untarnished skin of a Japanese, deep blue eyes and a mop of dark hair he kept long in the back. He was still mostly long legs and slenderly built, having yet to fill out. Eddie, in contrast, had smooth dark skin and tight coffee-colored curls on his head, marking him of his African-American blood, bright brown eyes and he looked as though he had perhaps been stealing parts of Ken's share of food, given his firm build and good muscle. They had been best friends since they could remember, having been together at Shimada Guard for a good part of their lives. They rountinely walked to school and back together, not only out of habit, but also upon Kikei's insistence.
And just as routinely, walks home never could avoid trouble for long.
Ken stopped in his tracks. "Oh crap."
Ken nodded towards the kids ahead of them. Older, bigger, and with the all the brands of the Serpents gang. "Them."
Eddie looked in the direction and groaned. "Damn. We turn around?"
"They've seen us already," Ken whispered as the group of boys came towards them. "We turn and we'll be in a chase."
"What if we crossed the street?"
Both boys looked over at the busy street, cars moving non-stop beyond the city speed limit. They were blocks away from any cross-junction. Ken turned to his partner. "Not if we want to be roadkill."
Eddie clutched Ken's sleeve, slowly backing away with him. "They're closing in..."
"Play it cool, Eddie." This he'd said when his heart was about ready to explode.
"Guys, looks like little West Siders!" one greasy-haired boy called to his friends. He looked directly at Ken and grinned maliciously. "A nigger and a pretty-faced girly-boy!"
Ken felt his temper rise. He was known for his patience, his quiet calm, but now and again he had his own moments of fire. This time it was more the insult towards Eddie than the one towards himself that ired him. "Watch your language, bud," he said, his voice determined. "You just used a
very foul word."
A boy from the back poked his head in. "Yep. That's a girly-boy all right!"
He felt his fists clench. He hated his voice. It was still in the stages of cracking properly, which was why he didn't talk as much as he used to.
"C'mon, guys, let us pass," Eddie said.
The biggers kids seemed to loom over them now. "Sure. Pay up."
Ken rolled his eyes. "Great. You just *had* to ask, didn't you, Eddie?"
Ken reached into his pocket and brought out whatever small change he had left. And he dropped it all on the ground.
Eddie couldn't hide the grin on his face if his life depended on it.
The greasy-haired kid was about to bend down and pick up the money when Ken stopped him. "No, no, I wouldn't want you to to have to do that," he said in the most innocent tone he could pull off. "It would look pretty stupid for a Serpent like you to be bending in front of me, now wouldn't it?" He quickly went down to collect the coins scattered on the ground.
The Serpent beamed. "See, guys? This kind of authority, I like."
Ken raised his eyes a little, smiling. Once he got all his money back, he scooted back on his heels and ran. "Eddie, c'mon!" Eddie took off after him.
"Hey, get back here you little bastards!" But he couldn't move two paces before he stumbled and fell over his shoelaces that had been tied together.
Eddie managed a glance back, saw the melee that just happened. "Way cool! How'd you do that?"
"They don't call me 'Lightning Ken' for nothing, you know," Ken replied. He looked back and saw the other boys coming after them. "They're gaining on us, Ed."
Eddie looked back again. "Yep. That they are. Do we split up?"
"Next junction, we split."
They ran faster and faster, hoping to reach a breakaway point where they could split and perhaps even things up. Both boys had grown into their school's top athletes for a very good reason: going home was a strenuous physical workout for them.
"Where do we meet up again?" Eddie called as they neared a junction.
"The big park in the tree!" Ken caught himself. "I mean, I mean, the big tree in the park!" And he broke away from Eddie's side.
Eddie was laughing. "I love it when you're messed up, Ken!"
"Shut up and run!"
There were four kids chasing them before; now it was evenly split in half, two for Ken, two for Eddie. Eddie cut across the street and ducked into an alleyway, hiding behind a dumpster. He kept his ears open for the two thugs chasing him.
"I think he went this way!"
"We'll whup that little nigger!"
Eddie heard them running closer. He counted to ten before he kicked the dumpster out of the alley and onto the sidewalk. He heard two audible 'clunks' before there was silence. Walking over to the other side of the dumpster, he found the two boys semi-conscious after colliding with the dumpster that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
"Don't call me 'nigger', understand?" he said before taking off for the park.
Ken wasn't having it easy. He ran for blocks and blocks already but he still couldn't shake them off. He cut through the children's playground, and saw a group of girls playing double-dutch. And he knew two of them. "Keisha! Susie!"
They turned and waved. "Trouble again, Ken?"
"Like what else is new?" Ken darted right through their jump-ropes and signaled towards the two chasing him. "Gimme a hand?"
Keisha smiled. "Sure. We owe you, anyhow."
"You got our kite down for us the last time."
The two thugs tried to get past the jump-ropes, but Keisha and Susie pulled it taut, and they tripped. Then they took off before the boys could direct any attack at them.
"Domo arigato!" Ken yelled from far ahead. And he quickly made his way to the park.
Ken scrambled up the tree like a squirrel before settling down on a branch sheltered by thick foliage. He rested on the trunk, breathing hard. "Eddie?"
"Yo?" On the other side of the trunk, Eddie sat slumped, perspiring, trying to catch his breath. "And how did you do?"
"Didn't do a thing. Now I owe Susie and Keisha again."
"What else?" Ken choked on a breath for a moment before continuing. "You used a dumpster?"
Eddie sat up. "How'd you know?"
"You need a bath, man. I can smell you from here."
And both boys laughed.
to be continued...