I don't see Keith Fink coming because I'm looking the other way and thinking about a writing assignment for Mrs. Moll: what-it-means-to-be-an-American. So Fink and I collide, to the max. First, I hear the air go out of him, and then I hear an oomph as he hits the ground. I try not to smile, thinking that Keith's teeth must still be jiggling. All right! I pump my fist, but I don't say anything. That's got to hurt him, although it barely fazes me. I'm solid, unlike so many other skinny and out-of-shape ninth-graders. Some kids call me the fire hydrant.
Anytime I can play
pickup soccer and take out a Fink, it's a good day. Only thing better would be
if I'd taken out his dad, George Fink, co-founder of Grassroots Boots. But I'd settle
right now for a good idea for that writing assignment. And it'd help to be an
I pass the ball off
and turn to see if Fink's still lying there. He's all pissed off like the
weenie he is, squinting as if he's hurting and it's all my fault he ran into
me. The red rises in his white face. Big baby. A little blood trickles out his
nose. He swipes it with the back of his wrist.
beaner," he says as he pushes himself up. "Idiotic spic." He
faces me and spit flies from his mouth. "You're a stupid greased pig;
that's what you are."
He comes at me,
but I stand my ground. I keep my mouth shut and stay cool. I have to.
His body runs into
me again, but it just bounces off. Another impressive oomph escapes from Fink.
He doesn't fall this time; I'll give him that.
I look toward the
backyard of Maggie's house that borders the grassy field. Maggie's my girl,
although if you asked me, I'd deny it. I'm not sure if she realizes it yet either.
My family knows hers from the Cathedral, and Maggie goes to school with me. Often,
she sits on her deck to watch who's playing on the field behind her house, maybe
checking out the guys. I see her smiling at me now. She waves. I smile back and
signal. Her family is one of a couple outside the ring of undocumented
immigrants like us that my parents trust. Yeah, my family, we're what a lot of people
As I play, I make
use of my solid body as well as I can, especially with sissy-prissies like Fink.
He's used to "team play" in fancy-shmancy uniforms with referees and
a coach to protect and baby him. Even in organized games, he's a wuss, shooting
off his mouth when he doesn't get his way. I've watched from the sidelines lots
of times. For years I've been watching him and the others. I think I know what
it means to be an American; I wish I was one. If I was, maybe I'd tell him to
stick it where it stinks and there's no sunlight.
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