Nothing Scares the Fighter (Except Fred’s Mom)
The Story of Tony
Written by Monty Wheeler
The man came out of the thick darkness, brandishing a shiny blade. “I need money,” he said in a voice that rumbled like rolling thunder. “And it won’t bother me to kill you rich kids.”
Fred and I wore blue collars, but even that could look rich to some, I guessed. I turned to face him, and years of informal training in martial arts kicked in. My hand shot up quick as a snake’s strike and caught the knife wielder’s wrist. I twisted. He screamed. Music to my ears.
The downtown area of Flint, Michigan, had not been a safe place at night for as long as I could remember. But Fred and I loved to hang out with our 10-gallon keg of beer under the bridge on Saginaw Street that spanned the dirty waters of the Flint River. A simple handrail along a concrete pathway kept people from falling 15 feet into the black water.
I could have disarmed him, sent his knife clattering to the concrete walk and sent him packing. Instead, with my temper fueled by just enough beer to burn hot, I pulled his arm hard toward me, twisting the knife away from my torso. His momentum carried him past me and into the waist-high railing. He tipped, then toppled. I let him go, and he disappeared
headfirst into the abyss.
“One thousand one,” I counted slowly to myself, “one thou —”
The Story of Bethany
Written by Holly DeHerrera
Even the lamps looked sad. Dull, as if they got covered by a thin, brown cloth. I wonder why they don’t put new bulbs in them so the color doesn’t make people want to cry more. I scanned the room full of family and strangers, all holding hankies and dabbing swollen eyes.
A group of relatives surrounded us, and I couldn’t get a good look at Devin. Everyone whisper-talked, as if he might wake up and climb out of the big box in the back corner and say, Tada! It was just a joke!
But the sad feeling told me that couldn’t happen, and the room smelled like overly sweet flowers. It didn’t feel like a live place. I swallowed at the glob in my throat that kept making me think I’d be sick.
“Such a shame,” someone said, shaking a gray head.
“No one could have guessed. Don’t blame yourself.”
The Story of Tabitha
Written by Stacey Trombley
“I told you — leave me alone.” My voice shook, fear and anger filling my veins. My cellphone grew hot against my ear.
The streetlights flickered in the night as the words of the note left on my windshield seared my brain.
It was a threat written in sloppily scribbled letters.
Hands trembling, I called the one who’d left the note.
“I have my ways,” he said, his voice low and serious. “You’re going to let me see her again, or I’ll take her from you.”
I shivered and slammed the car door shut.
The Story of Victoria
Written by Ruth Ford
“I love you like a daughter.”
I wanted to believe her. After all, my sister Manuela had provided me a home. The third relative to take me in after my mother’s death, she fed and clothed me. She gave me more than I ever had before.
And then one afternoon, when I arrived home from school, she met me in the living room. Her keys dangled from her fingers, and her purse rested on her shoulder. “Go ahead and start your homework. We’re going out to get family photos taken. We’ll be back in a while.”
Before I could answer, she whisked her family out the door. I heard the engine roar and then fade as they drove away.
Manuela did not know I headed to the shower and turned on the water. She did not know I stood under the prickly stream and sobbed. I don’t fit in. I will never find my place. I. Will. Never. Belong.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words.” I learned that phrase after I came to the United States. Photos often record a person’s history, freeze-framing a moment for future reference. And sometimes the images communicate more strongly than language because of what they include or because of what they omit.
Powder into Rock, for a Belly Full of Pizza
The Story of Samuel
Written by Alexandria Asmus
I heard the jingling of keys. Tap. Tap. Small hits to the door, jabbing, trying to fit the key into the lock. Click. It opened. The windows were black behind the tattered blinds. The smell of polluted air and car oil drifted in as he clumsily pushed open the door. Thomp. Thomp. Thomp. His feet were heavy on the floor. He let his bag crash to the ground. Leaning over to take off his boots, he fell sideways into the wall. Thud! He smelled of foul sweat and liquor.
A Monkey with a Bottle Opener
The Story of Freddie
Written by Monty Wheeler
It took six of us to get the heavy Impala station wagon rolling, but once onto the street, we pushed it down the hill away from our house. By the time I’d turned 15 years old, I’d worked the borrowing of Mom’s car in the middle of the night into a form of art.
“Hey!” I shouted to the guys pushing. “Don’t put a scratch in it.”
“You just steer,” someone shouted back.
Out of Mom’s hearing range, I started the big engine, and all the guys piled into the baby-blue battle tank. It was Friday night and time to party.
I’d been driving and operating Dad’s construction equipment since I was 10. He’d laughed when he had caught me running his backhoe then. Something told me he wouldn’t laugh if he knew I’d taken Mom’s car.
47 Million More
The Story of Ned
Written by Marty Minchin
My daddy was hardly around when I was a kid, but one image of him stuck in my mind.
He was walking along that dirt road leading downhill from our house, and I knew it was him, even though his back was to me. Years earlier, a limb had fallen out of a tree and had broken his arm, and he never could bend it up and down right after that. You could see it in his walk. That bad arm made him a little bent.
Daddy took that walk for the last time when I was about 12. After school one day, I found Mama sitting in the house, shelling a bowl of peas in her lap. Her head hung down, and she was sobbing like a baby.
“Mama, what’s wrong?” Mama was a strong woman, and she worked hard on the farm. I wasn’t used to seeing her all torn up like that. “Why’re you crying?”