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Chapter One of Rivers
I was mad ahead of time because I absolutely hated being called the second toughest kid in school. The way I was being treated that day just made matters worse.
It was the fourth quarter of the basketball game, the clock running down. I was down by the block, no one guarding me. A quick pass and I would have an open layup.
There he was. Up at the three point line dribbling the ball in between his legs like he was so cool. He had all day to pass the ball to me. I shouted his name until my throat got hoarse. I guess he thought he was too cool to pass the ball to the second toughest kid in school.
“Grayson,” I shouted. He looked up at me and smiled as he threw the ball to another player. He’d been doing this all game. I was open so many times, but I knew he would never pass to me. He was my sworn enemy, and he was the toughest kid in school.
As soon as the ball left his hands I was running full speed toward him, not even thinking about what I was going to do. He saw me coming and caught my fist in his pudgy hand before it could reach the side of his jaw. Turning on the ball of my foot, I kicked out my other leg, wrapped it around the back of his, and brought him to the floor with a thud. He started to get up, but I wrestled him back onto the ground and punched him square in the cheekbone. The force of the blow put a small gash under his eye, and I knew there would be a nice bruise.
I didn’t even have time to hit him again before I was being pulled up off of the floor by some other thugs on my team. Most of them were Grayson’s friends, and as soon as I turned around, the wind got knocked out of me by a punch to the stomach. I struggled to get free, but my arms were twisted behind my back and I was taking a lot of hits to the face and chest. I could have sworn they were trying to bust my ribs.
I crumpled to the ground and I could hear my blood pumping, surging. My adrenaline was on overdrive, and with a last burst of energy, I broke my arms free and belted the kid who had hit my stomach. He flew backwards, and by now I was being taken away by the referees.
They took me to some office place to cool down. I’m not exactly sure what it was because I had never been in the school before, but it was a comfy room with couches and all sorts of pillows.
Leaning back, I stared at the wall for a while. One of the referees had left and only one remained. The assistant coach of my basketball team came in, his face red. At first I thought he was mad at me, but I soon realized that his anger was towards something else, probably the rest of the team for, well, teaming up on me. He told the ref he could leave and sat down in a chair opposite the couch I was slumped on.
The assistant coach, Mr. Marlit, had always liked me. He was one of those coaches who realized that basketball wasn’t all about scoring. He recognized talent in kids who didn’t score all of the time. I really liked that about him because I wasn’t always making baskets like some kids were. I was the guy who no one talked about because I didn’t score, but without me, no one would score to begin with. In truth, I was the backbone of my team. A lot of the time, backbones don’t get credit.
Mr. Marlit had short brown hair and dark eyes, the darkest eyes I had ever seen. They were all black. He had a really deep voice too, and if you didn’t know him, you might be a little scared. He had a long scar that stretched across his forehead, and he had a real mysterious way of presenting himself. He had never told anyone where he got that scar. At least not anyone I hung around with.
“River, you have to stop with the fighting,” he said to me. I just stared down at my feet and my beat up basketball shoes. He sighed and I looked up to see him staring down too. He looked up at me, disappointed. “You’re suspended. For the rest of the season. Got it, kid?”
I rubbed my face and let out a small groan. I knew this was coming. Grayson’s father was the head coach of my basketball team, and I shouldn’t have expected to stay on the team much longer with him running the show. I looked up at Mr. Marlit and nodded. He didn’t want to do this. I know he didn’t. But he wasn’t in charge.
I got up and walked back out to the court, avoiding the eyes of my teammates. Grayson was sitting at the end of the bench, an icepack covering the mark I left on his face. Boy did he deserve it. He bullied me constantly at school, gave me the title of the second toughest kid in school, and he had it all. He got all of the newest stuff, all of the cool friends, all of the breaks in life. I wished I could’ve did him in right there, but I didn’t. I knew I would one day, but I didn’t do it right there.
Grabbing my bag, I walked home and left basketball behind. I was done with the sport, done with school, and done with Grayson Patrick.