“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.”




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