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With the Boys
I smiled, and put down the rag I’d been using to clean Dad’s truck.
“Hey, Alec. What’s up?” I asked, giving him the greeting fist-bump.
“Me and some other guys are going down to the courts. You coming?” Alec was a big guy, and his crooked nose, broken in three places, told of his history on the streets. But really he was just a big teddy bear, if you didn’t make him mad.
“Yeah, sure. I’m almost done with this. Be down in five. Are the Johnson kids coming?”
Alec cracked his knuckles.
“Well, if they are, they aren’t staying long.”
I grinned. “See you soon, then.”
“Counting on you, TT!” And with that, Alec slouched down the sidewalk.
I ditched the rag and ran back to the house. I let myself in and poked my head in the living room. Typical Dad was sitting on the stained couch, watching infomercials and drinking a beer at two on a summer afternoon. I rolled my eyes.
“Hey Dad, I’m going down to the courts with the boys. I’ll probably be back by five.”
“Fine, but it’s your turn to make dinner. Don’t be late.”
“I’ll be back by five, Dad. I’m going upstairs to change first.”
He grunted, and I took that as my cue to leave.
I ran upstairs and into my lovely mess of a room. I grabbed my favorite ripped basketball shorts, my black sleeveless t-shirt, and old sneakers off the floor and changed. As an afterthought, I grabbed my studded bracelet and spiked hair bands off my dresser, just in case.
When I got to the court, I found my boys and our leader, Jake, in a line, facing the Johnson boys. The Johnson boys are a bunch of rich-a** kids from Johnson College Prep, the private school over on Elm and Fourth. They think they’re so cool just because they formed a gang. Me and my boys have had to teach them a lot of lessons in street manners.
Like now. The Johnson boys were all up in Jake’s face about how this was their playground. And Jake, being the hotheaded idiot he is, was all ready to fight them.
I stepped up.
“Yo, Jake. These kids bothering you?”
Jake didn’t even look at me. “Stay out of this, TT.”
“Jake, this is my problem, too. I’m already a part of this.” I walked up to Jake’s right hand, which was balled into a fist. I gave the Johnson leader, a new guy, my best glare.
“You know what, Jake?” I said, still glaring at the leader. “I think we should play them for it. Five on five, leader picks the best players, first one to ten wins it. What do you think, scumbag?” I said to the leader.
The guy looked at me. “I don’t take suggestions from girls.”
I smirked. Oh, you will, buddy, I thought. By the end of this, you will.
Jake had calmed down. “I think that’s a great idea. We’ll play you. Or are you too scared?”
The leader bristled. “Fine, we’ll play you. But you better not put the girl in.” He glanced at me and smirked. “She might get hurt.”
The corner of Jake’s mouth twitched. “Fine. No refs. Street ball. And the rest goes as to what TT said. You have five minutes to pick your players. No subs. If someone on your team gets hurt, well, that’s just too bad for you.”
We all broke away and huddled. Jake looked at me. “You know what to do,” he said.
I smiled. “Okay. I need Shock, Alec, Tony, and Ice. Ice, you’re point. Alec, Tony, post. Knock them down. Shock, get it to me. I’m driving.”
I opened my bag. “Sharp or dull?” I asked Jake, holding up my hair ties.
“Dull,” he said. “Don’t want to leave any open cuts. Bruises will do.”
I strapped the spikes into my long brown ponytail.
“All set?” Jake asked us.
Alec and Tony grunted yes, both grinning like two huge apes. Little Ice nodded and stretched out his bad shoulder. Shock flicked his white-blonde hair out of his eyes and slapped me on the back.
Jake looked around at all of us and nodded. “Listen to TT. She’s the best with vision. She’s also our smartest, and pretty damn fast, even if she isn’t as fast as you, Ice. Remember, we protect our own. These weak-a** schoolboys got nothing on us, and they’ve insulted our TT. We gotta show them.”
He turned to me, completely serious. “You can hurt them, TT, but please don’t kill them. It’s bad for your rep.” And he waved us onto the court.
We let the Johnsons have the ball first. Their point guard was a blonde guy with big hands. He leered at me, daring me with his eyes to get the ball from him. He was so focused on me, he didn’t see where the ball was until Ice was halfway to the basket.
The guy was smarter next possession, passing it early. They swung it around for a bit, until a smallish guy with a chipped front tooth decided to drive it in.
Unfortunately for the guy, he’d never seen the likes of Tony. Tony simply moved one foot to the right, and jumped high in the air. The little guy backed up quick, and I had the ball out of his hands faster than a flash.
So the game continued. We were teasing them, prolonging the torture. We scored very little, stalling, mocking them with very swipe they missed and every fake they fell for. These boys had obviously never played real street ball before. They didn’t get that we could foul unashamedly until we were six points up. Then they decided to get dirty. They started pushing, scratching, and holding. They didn’t do very well, though, because nothing ever fazed Alec or Tony, Ice was too fast, and no one touched me after the point guard grabbed my ponytail. Shock was our fouling master, enough said.
Finally, it was 8-0. One more shot, and we’d be done. It was our possession. Ice passed it to me right off the bat. Everything felt like it was in slow mo. I faked a pass to Alec at the post. He kicked out to my right. I drove.
I could feel the point guard on the other team coming up behind me. I knew what he was going to do. So I hit the player in front of me, one of their posts, and bounced off, pulling back. The point guard barreled into his own player, knocking both of them down. I neatly dribbled around them for a sweet layup.
I walked up to the Johnson leader, who was sitting on the bench, biting his lip and trying to hide it.
“You just got beat, scumbag. Too bad it wasn’t by a boy.”
I turned my back on him and walked over to Jake.
“I’ll see you tonight, ten o’clock at your place, like we agreed?” I whispered into his ear, feeling a little shy.
He nodded. “See you then.” He kissed me lightly on the cheek. I smiled.
As I walked home, I could still feel his sweet breath on my face. And, for the first time in several years, I felt proud to be a girl on the streets.