“I want to help you.”
“Because running away is a stupid plan,” he said. “I think you know that. I think you know if you run away from this fight, you will just have to run away from the next one, too.”
I looked at the ground: I remembered my promise to Mary, but I also remembered that she never understood that boys sometimes have to fight.
“You don’t have to run,” Mr. King explained.
I shrugged. “I don’t know what else to do. I didn’t even plan to run. It just sort of happened.”
“Will you let me help you?”
“Why do you want to help me?”
“I owe you, Johnny. Like I said, you did me a favor.”
“Right. I remember that now.” I looked past Mr. King at the darkening sky.
“Try something,” the man said. “Look at your fingernails.”
I held my hand up flat in front of my face.
“No!” Mr. King scolded. “Never like that. A man curls his fingers to inspect his nails, which he always keeps well-trimmed.” He showed me.
“OK.” I said and did my best to imitate him. My own fingernails looked long and dirty.
“Now,” Mr. King instructed. “Look down at your shoes.”
I glanced over my shoulder and lifted my heel up to better see my worn tennis shoe.
I straightened. “No?”
“Never glance. Move boldly or not at all.”
“Boldly or not at all,” I repeated.
“Now attack me.”