Kissing the Frog: Chapters 7-9


Inside, Lake was wattling along with his diaper drooping.  “Barf, barf, barf,” he said while smiling at me.

I looked at Wheat as she came in the door behind me. “You teach him that?” I asked.

“No, you did,” she said. “I just told him the word that described what you were doing.”

I playfully threw a punch at her and stopped it two inches from her nose. She, in turn, started a kick that came about that close to my privates. “Too bad those kind of moves can’t be used in wrestling,” she said as she picked up Lake to see if he had any leakage.

“When you grow up, you’ll probably be an ultimate fighter with a name like Scorch and you can kick and bite to your heart’s content,” I said.

“Scorch? I was thinking a little more mythological like Circe or Electra,” she said.

“Stay out of our room for a while, Medusa. I need a little privacy for my big call.”

“Oooh, you stink,” she said.

I immediately smelled my right armpit until I realized that she was talking about Lake. For some reason, I was thinking I better be at my best before my call, but then Laurie wasn’t going to be able to see me, let alone smell me. I guess I was just a little jittery.

So I headed up to our room to use the cell phone that Wheat and I share. We mainly have it for emergencies and it usually stays in Wheat’s backpack. I know, I know, kids our age are supposed to be on their phones all the time. We just mainly talk to each other face to face. That usually seems good enough. I guess we’re mavericks that way. Or nerds.

Yeah, I was nervous. My hands were already sweating even though I had just come inside. Hey, Laurie Middlebrook wanted me to call her. Who knows, maybe she had come to her senses and was going to cancel our date.

Mom had written down her number on a piece of paper and her 7s and 9s always look a lot alike. Were there two 9s in Laurie’s number or two 7s or one of each? I tried the 7s first, considering them lucky, and Laurie did indeed answer — on the second ring.

“Hello,” she said in a way that her one word could never be spoken any sweeter.

Nothing came out of my mouth for a few seconds. Then I sounded like (wouldn’t you know it?) like another frog croaking when I finally could say, “Hi Laurie, this is Billy Ray … or Spanky … or anything else you want to call me — like Mr. Doofus with the way I probably sound right now.”

“I know all of you,” she said. “But I really like Spanky.”

“You do?” I said before I realized she was just talking about my nickname and not me, myself and I.

She laughed. “I like your name and you’re pretty likable, too. But what do I hear about you and Sally Guffie? The rumor is that you and her were putting on a pretty good show out in the parking lot a couple of days ago.”

“I was not responsible for any of that,” I said, horror in my voice. ”An innocent victim. I ride to school with her brother and she’s the other passenger with me and my sister. She frightens me. And it was only one kiss forced upon me and I quickly wiped it off.”

I waited for a reaction. Laurie chuckled. “You’re a funny guy, Spank.”

“Only if you want me to be,” I said.

“I only want you to be yourself,” she said in a more serious tone. “Actually, I would like to get to know you a little better before the prom since that’s supposed to be one of those big deals in our lives as teen-agers. I wondered if you would meet me for a coke. Because I’m on the court, there’s a few extra things we have to do. Are you free tomorrow evening? We could meet at Mug and Munchies.”

“I could do that,” I said, smacking my head with my free hand to keep myself from fainting.

“And why don’t you bring your sister Tanda if she would like to come. I’ve really never met her before and would like to.”

Hmmm, I didn’t see that coming. “Sort of like a chaperone,” I said with a little disappointment probably coming through in my voice.

“No, no,” she said. “I figure I’ll learn more about you from her than I will from you. I also figure she could cut down on any awkwardness or lapses in the conversation. That can happen on first dates. Or maybe I should call it a pre-date. By the way, why didn’t you FaceTime me?”

I had to tell her the truth. “I don’t know how,” I said. “Wheat usually has the phone. I think she might know how.”

“Well, maybe I could show you how sometime.  And Spank? Sally Guffie? You’ll have to work a lot harder for a kiss from me, OK?”

“OK,” I answered and then she hung up with a quick “Bye.”

That “Bye” was even better than her “Hello,” if you can believe that. When I watch movies, people rarely say “Goodbye” or “Bye” or “Drop Dead, Fred” at the end of their calls. They just hang up. I don ’t like that. I think it tells you a lot about a person by the way he or she ends a conversation. I was thinking about writing somebody like Steven Spielberg or Tom Hanks about that in Hollywood. I think I have a good point here.

Anyway, I went up and took a cold shower after Laurie’s hello, bye and everything in between. I never quite understood why people said they needed to take a cold shower in the movies and in books. Now I think I know. I eventually let the water warm up so I could stay in there a little longer. I didn’t’ think I was ready to talk to Wheat about all this.

Finally, Ric knocked on the bathroom door and told me I didn’t need to use up all the water. 

When I walked into our room with a towel on, Wheat said, “Hey, Mr. Prune.”

I decided to get it over with. “OK. The call went well, I think. I’m meeting Laurie for a coke tomorrow night at Mug and Munchies. And she wants you to come, too. Got a problem with that?”

“Wow,” she said. “Is that a half a double-date or something?

“Nope, a pre-date. You’re there because she would like to meet you and fill in the conversation gaps.”

“Yeah, yeah, I can do that,” she said, sounding almost excited.

But neither of us had much conversation between ourselves the rest of the night. I did some biology homework, fought a little in “Clash of the Clans” on my computer (that’s a rarity during wrestling season) and watched a half hour of “Young Sheldon” on TV. He’s a nerd like me but apparently too smart to know it.


Thank goodness the next day — Thursday — was back to normal. Sally Guffie pretty much ignored me in her brother’s car, Kelly Carson gave me a “thumbs down” sign when I sort of skated by him while he was talking up some girl at her locker and Laurie Middlebrook gave me a nice smile and sweet hello in English class and little else. Oh, yeah, and Wheat kicked my butt at practice, although I do believe she is right — I’m getting a little better.

I did have to practice some with Dion Borden, our 126-pound varsity guy  and one of our senior captains. He’s good and takes wrestling just as seriously as Wheat. He can handle her because of the size difference but she can sometimes give him a pretty good battle when they square off at practice. He probably makes Wheat a better wrestler, which I probably do not.

“You wearing perfume, too?” he asked me before we worked on our escape moves.

I don’t usually get too riled up, but that did bug me a little. I’m not totally sure why. I busted out of a chicken-wing hold he had on me and danced around a little like Muhammed Ali for a couple of seconds. We went at it pretty good the rest of the session. Yeah, he kicked my butt but I did better than I would have expected. Later, I pretty much held my own against Doug Littlejohn, Dion’s understudy.

“Pretty good, Spank,” Dion said later on when we worked on our reverse moves. “Not sure why you didn’t move up to 119 in the first place. You’ve always been better than Benny.”

I just nodded but, boy, did that make my chest puff out a little. OK, I’m not sure if my chest really puffed out but I like that expression. Dion is one of our leaders, after all, and a guy who is probably going places. I like that expression, too.

When Big Jim dropped us off at home, I was ready to do a lot of eating. Heck, if I was going to be wrestling 119 pounds, I might as well try to weigh 119 pounds. Mom was serving spaghetti and meatballs and that’s one of my favorite meals. I filled my plate twice and Ric and Mom just looked at me.

“Settle down, bro,” Wheat said as she stuck a couple of meatballs on a small salad and then weighed it. “You’re wrestling 119, not 134. Besides, you don’t want to be burping the whole time you’re sitting beside Laurie Middlebrook tonight.”

“You’re sitting beside her,” I said. “I’m scooting in across from her.”

“Whoa,” Ric said. “You’re going tonight, too, Wheat?”

“Whoa,” Lake mimicked.

“Yep, the chaperone. Can I borrow your taser, Dad, just in case Spank acts inappropriately?”

“For goodness sakes,” Mom chimed in. “Is anything going to happen that should concern me?”

“Noooo,” I said.

“Whoa,” Lake added.


We ended up walking the half mile to Mug and Munchies. Wheat wanted to jog but I nixed that. I didn’t want Laurie to see us looking like we couldn’t wait to get there.

Mug and Munchies is on the corner of Elm and Barton streets and is made to look like one of those old-time soda shops, according to Mom. Laurie Middlebrook was in her dad’s car outside the hangout.

Mr. Middlebrook rolled down his window and started to get out of his big black Lincoln with Laurie but she quickly vetoed that. “That’s Spanky and Tanda, Dad. You can talk them up another time. Just do your wave. They’re too young to vote for you anyway.”

He smiled at us out his window and said, “I’ll be back in an hour, sweetie. Have fun.”

We pretty much did. Yeah, it was a little awkward at first, especially when it came to the seating arrangements. I had predicted that. Wheat scooted in on one side of the booth and I started to follow her when she stuck her foot out. Laurie had already sat down on the other side and I took the hint from Wheat and moved in beside Laurie. That had been Wheat’s plan all along.

I was glad Wheat was there. She actually said nice things about me, at least most of the time, and made Laurie laugh a lot. I liked her laugh. We found out that she had recently got fed up with her little clique of girlfriends who she thought put too much emphasis on clothes and other material things. She said she was hoping to expand her social circle, which made me wonder why she was hanging out with a square like me. Get it — square, circle. I kept that to myself.

She seemed really curious about our wrestling, especially about Wheat’s. But then Wheat mentioned that we took ball room dancing lessons on Monday nights. I guess I haven’t said anything about that yet, have I?

Laurie almost coughed part of her coke out her nose when Wheat told her how I had accidentally put my hand on Jessica Lercher’s bottom when she was showing me the foxtrot last winter. Jessica was a senior at Clay then and the reigning homecoming queen. She’s still an assistant teacher at our dance classes. She is big-time beautiful, probably in Sally Guffie’s weight class and about three inches taller than I am. So my hand came about level with her bottom and I was so nervous that I didn’t even know it was there.

Jessica gave me a little open-handed tap on my cheek — more out of ballroom formality than anger, I think — as she jerked my hand away with her other hand. I later got her a glass of punch and she said, “Thanks, young man.” Not sure I liked being called young man by an 18-year-old but bottom line — ha, ha — I figured that made us somewhat even.

“So Spank, am I going to have a hard time staying up with you on the dance floor at the prom?” Laurie asked.

“Only if I bruise your toes too much by stepping on them,” I answered. “I am not all that thrilled about the lessons. Don’t like them very much. In fact, Wheat owes me big time for her even being in this year’s class.”

Which was true. We both took ball room dancing the previous year because Ric had this idea that it might help our coordination and fluid motion. Mom was all in because she thought it might bring up our sophistication level. They both might have been right — a little — but not enough for me to take it a second year even though I was pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

So my parents gave me a pass even though Wheat was all excited about doing another year. The trouble was that Mom forgot to sign up Wheat by the deadline and they had more girls than boys in the class. So the instructor, Mrs. Gray, said if I would go again and bring a friend, Wheat could attend. I think I was one of Mrs. Gray’s favorites since I did pick up the moves pretty quickly, smiled like I was having a good time and didn’t act like an idiot around the punch bowl.

It was not a great deal for me, even though I was going to get five bucks a session for being some sort of junior assistant instructor. It took my parents a lot longer into talking me into this compromise than it took me to convince Bobby Taylor to go for another year. He won’t admit it, but I know he is a little sweet on Wheat and he liked the fact that we would be car-pooling again.

Laurie obviously liked hearing all of this and so I started liking her even more. “Do you guys ever worry about cauliflower ears in wrestling?” she asked out of the blue.

“Sure,” Wheat said. “I worry about giving them to Spank.”

We all laughed — the girls a little louder than me.

Wheat did say that we wore headgear, which wasn’t all that great for making her hair look nice.

“Do you ever worry about beating boys and hurting their feelings,” she asked Wheat. “And do you mind if I call you Tanda? I think that’s too pretty of a name to waste it.”

“Sure,” Wheat or Tanda said. “I’m getting a little tired of Wheat anyway.”

I did not know that. But then I found something else that surprised me even more.

“Yeah, it does bother me a little how the boys feel after I beat them,” Wheat continued. “I know I shouldn’t. And when I’m out on the mat, I’m certainly not thinking that way. I want to win. I want to get a pin. But afterwards, I’ll sometimes watch a guy who I just beat and see how he’s taking it. I hate to see it if his parents — or worse yet, a girl friend — have to console him. I feel a little bad for him.”

“Are you like that with Spank, too?” Laurie asked, while looking right at me.

“Naaaa,” she said. “He won’t admit it, especially to himself, but he’s getting better and better. But he needs to be reminded now and then how hard it is to be really good at wrestling and I’m there to remind him. Besides, he needs a little humbling now that you asked him to the prom.”

I know I turned beet red at that point. I could have killed Wheat, who was looking very pleased with herself. Then I felt Laurie put her hand in mine and say, “Show me some of your foxtrot moves, Spank, so I can see if I need to be practicing. Just don’t grab me like you did Jessica Lercher.”

I looked around the place and besides the one waitress, Doris, there were only a trio of middle school girls and Bobby Brayton and Ellie Robistelli, two seniors at our school who were studying in their booth. They both live over on Elm Street behind us and are supposed to be competing against each other for valedictorian honors in their class. They are always nice.

I guess we wouldn’t make too much of a scene, but the music was all wrong for foxtrotting since Katie Perry was on the juke box singing, “Swish, Swish.” It didn’t seem to matter to Laurie who was sort of scooting me out of the booth. 

“Hey, Spank, if you’re not interested, I bet Wheat would show me,” Laurie said.

I shook my head and stood up. I put my hand around Laurie’s back like I knew what I was doing, probably making all those stinking dancing sessions worthwhile. And off we went. After two years of this stuff, I can put on a pretty good imitation of that guy who’s always showing his bare chest in Dancing With the Stars. And even though my hands started getting sweaty, we probably looked pretty good. Bobby and Ellie even stopped studying and gave us a little clap.

I looked over at Wheat who flashed a smile back at us. And then she suddenly frowned. A second later, I felt a hard hand on my shoulder that turned me around. And there I was, looking at none other than Kelly Carson who was wearing his highly-decorated letter jacket along with a smile right out of a stack of jokers. Two of his buddies, Tom Chester and Boyd Eli, were behind him like they were his Heckle and Jeckle entourage — which is sort of what they are.

I didn’t move. But Laurie did. She moved in between us and said, “This is a private dance, buddy. Leave us alone. You don’t figure in my free time anymore.”

It all seemed to be becoming a little Karate Kiddish — you know that early scene on the beach.

Kelly responded by trying to kiss her. Yeah, I was still standing flat-footed, a little shocked by the whole scene. Laurie was finally able to pull away and tried to slap him but missed. That’s when my body seemed to wake up. I tried to shove him away only to have him push me across the room.

I fell on my butt and was a little slow getting up. And when I did, I saw the craziest of sights: Wheat was on top of Kelly and riding him like a cowboy trying to brand a steer. Bobby Brayton had gotten up from his booth and was standing between them and Heckle and Jeckle and saying that Ellie was on her cell phone calling his twin brother Billy, the toughest guy in the school.

Bobby is kind of a sissy but his brother scares the bejabbers out of everyone and that was good enough to keep this match between just Kelly and Wheat. He was trying his best to get out from under her but she had switched to what professional wrestlers would call a camel clutch, bending his head back.

Kelly started screaming bloody murder and Tony the Cook, who has a Marine insignia on his right forearm, finally came around the counter. “All over,” he said. “If I were you, buddy,” he said to Kelly, “I’d quit before you look even more like a laughing stock than you already do.”

Wheat let him go. But when Kelly started to get up, he swept his legs out and tripped Wheat. She went down on her bottom and Kelly stood up above her like he was some kind of conquering hero or something. Then Laurie jumped on his back but he bucked her off.

And that’s when it happened. Before I knew what I was doing, my right hand was suddenly in a fist. Have you ever seen the first “Back to the Future” movie when Marty McFly’s goofy dad sort of goes into a trance as a teen-ager and decks the bully Biff? I think I was having that same kind of out-of-body experience.

Honestly, I’ve never hit anybody with my fist in my life. And my record is still clean. I just couldn’t talk my arm into coming forward and throwing a punch. But I had momentum going toward Kelly and when I tripped on some mushy fries that had been knocked on the floor, I tumbled into him — hard. My noggin, in headbutt position, smashed into his jaw, a glass jaw evidently. That was not my plan but I’m going to say it: It felt pretty darn good. Kelly went down and one of his buddies then seemed to be on me.

By the time the dust settled, Billy Brayton and the mayor were coming in the door and Ric was pulling up in a squad car.  I’m not sure who called him. Maybe Ellie after she called Billy.

I think a few threats were tossed out but Billy and Bobby Brayton were standing like sentinels over Wheat and me while Tony the Cook and then Ric helped Kelly, his face a little ashen, and his buddies on their way.

The mayor put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder — harder than I did when we started our foxtrot but not as hard as Kelly had grabbed her — and escorted her out. But before they got out the door, she broke loose and came back and kissed me on the cheek.

Rivet! I wanted to pinch myself to see if I I had become a frog or a prince.

“I didn’t think you liked roughhousing,” I said, not liking it much myself.

“Your actions were pure chivalrous,” she said as she caught up with her dad, who was staring at me as if I were that greasy guy from the movie, “The Breakfast Club.” I made a note to look up chivalrous in the dictionary when I got home just to make sure I had it right.

I got the feeling that some of the onlookers thought I had decked Kelly, Laurie included, but I wasn’t going to worry about that. You do what you have to do, even if it’s by accident.

As Wheat and I climbed into the back of Ric’s car, he looked back at us and said, “You mind telling me what went on in there?”

“Mr. Big Man on Campus found out he isn’t so big after all,” Wheat said. “And Spank just got himself a reputation.”

“My, my, what are we going to do?” was all Ric said the rest of the way home.

I was thinking at the time that transferring schools, or maybe even states, might be a good idea.

Wheat, meanwhile, was feeling my bicep like it was some ripe avocado. She must have had not a good view of my “punch,” either.

So I humored her. “Watch it,” I whispered. “I might be on a roll.”

And then my Hummingbird Heart kicked in.


Maybe I should mention the Brayton twins now. Like I said, they live on the street behind us and their family is sort of legendary. Their granddad, who just died, played for the Chicago Cubs for a while as a backup catcher and their uncles were all good football players. Billy and Bobby have two older sisters who used to baby-sit us, a nice mom and their dad is the local newspaper’s sport columnist, although the only sport he might have played himself was tiddlywinks.

Like I said, Billy is the best athlete at our school, while Bobby is a big teddy bear. I like them both and they seem to like me. I used to take care of their paper route when their family would go on vacation and I will still walk and feed their basset hound Wrigley when they need me to.

Bobby always calls me “Spankaroo” when he sees me and Billy will sometimes give me a nod in the school hallway. He will probably play football for Notre Dame or someplace like that next year. Probably the only reason he isn’t a state champion wrestler is that he loves his basketball, too.

I’m sure Big Jim Guffie is happy about that — not having to face Billy for the heavyweight spot. Big Jim says everyone is a little scared of Billy and that includes Kelly Carson, who is a teammate of Billy’s on both the football and baseball teams.

Lucky me. I couldn’t think of anything better than having a 260-pound guardian angel. And the twins apparently put out the word that I’m not supposed to be touched by Kelly or any of his friends. I can live with being 1-0 in my short-lived boxing career, although I heard it through the grapevine that all bets are off when the Braytons go off to college.

Maybe by that time I’ll have eaten myself into a 178-pounder. More meatballs and less chicken choi mein would help. Hey, I’m OK as long as Kelly doesn’t decide to lose 50 or 60 pounds and join the wrestling team. Fat chance — but then I would have said the same thing a week ago about me being asked to the prom by Laurie Middlebrook.

Anyway, the next day — Friday — was pretty tame, thank goodness, except for mom all worked up over what happened at Mug and Munchies. She wanted the details and none of us was giving her enough. I think she was more concerned about whether my date with Laurie was in jeopardy.

I didn’t wash my cheek where Laurie had kissed me. At school, I even walked her to her next class after our English class.

About the previous night, the only thing Laurie said was, “Wow, Spank, what a first date!” I just nodded and then I said, “Was that a first date or pre-date?” Laurie answered: “I don’t know really what to call it but exhilarating.” I nodded again and I felt the hair on my deck stick up like a row of corn.

The hallway seemed to open up for us when normally people don’t seem to mind if they run me over or not. We got a lot of looks. But then I imagine that Laurie always did get a lot of looks during her pre-Spank days. I wondered what she was going to be doing on the weekend but I didn’t ask. But I figured she would be with me — at least in my dreams — for most of it.

I thought Wheat would kid me a little about everything but she didn’t. For whatever reason, I think she is pleased that I am going to the prom and that we both stood up to Kelly.


Since we didn’t have a Saturday invitational, I was looking forward to sleeping in. I had wrestled harder than ever the previous few days and I figured I deserved to get out of our morning running session. Hey, I didn’t have to worry about my weight and this was one of the few weekends we didn’t have some kind of competition.

But Wheat wouldn’t have any of that. She grabbed me by my feet a little harder than usual and started to pull me out of bed like she didn’t care if I hit the floor or not.

“You’re running, too, buster,” she said. “Misery loves company and I’m not going to listen to Dad’s singing by myself. I really think he’s got the idea that he sounds pretty good.”

So after a lot of moaning on my part, the three of us were off. It had snowed about an inch the night before and Ric was occasionally doing a little sliding on my bike despite it having wide tires.

I’m not much of a night person — and I consider anything between sunset and sunrise nighttime — so I’m not usually at my best out in the dark. Wheat, meanwhile, must see like a cat. She doesn’t miss anything, including any little movement around the funeral home.

And she was the first of us to notice the two guys down the block after we rounded the corner onto Gable Street. They looked like they were trying to get into a parked car and then we heard the sound of breaking glass.

“Hey!” Ric yelled from behind us. “Police officer! Stop!”

I always wondered what he might yell when coming onto a crime scene. The two guys definitely stopped breaking into the car and took off like Olympic runners. Ric came sliding by us and Wheat and I started sprinting, too.

But then, my bike’s tires slid out on Ric and he wiped out on the slick street. Wheat stopped to help him but I kept running after the guys. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was still feeling my oats after my little business with Kelly Carson. And at least one of the guys running ahead of me didn’t look a whole lot bigger than me. I’ll tell you one thing, though: I had Hummingbird Heart like never before.

The little guy proved to be a speedster but his burly partner was starting to falter as we all ran right down the middle of Gable. Then I heard Ric from somewhere pretty far behind me yell for all of us to stop. I guess he had gotten untangled from the bike and was trying to get back in the race. That made me feel a little braver.

The guys made a turn and ran right through a yard where a picket fence suddenly confronted them. The smaller guy was up and over it but the big guy hesitated. Then he must have heard me coming and maybe thought I was the police. He got some steam going but I was now close enough to go for the tackle.

I hit him about calf high and slid down his leg only to have his boot come off in my hands. He stayed up, hobbled off and tried to vault the fence only to cry out a dirty word when he apparently gored himself on one of the picket’s top points. I don’t know why but he and the fence made me think of Tom Sawyer although I don’t remember Tom using that kind of language. Huckleberry Finn probably did, though.

He then sort of half-fell, half-dove over the fence — he was no gymnast — while I was getting to my feet. He turned around and looked at me. He was dressed in black with a ski hat pulled down to his eyes and up to his chin and he was still holding some kind of long tool in his hand.

“You the Keystone Cop?” he said with a gravely voice. “Well then come on over here and arrest me, you little runt. Or at least throw me back my boot.”

“No sir,” I said, glad to have a four-foot high fence in between us. “I’m keeping this as evidence.”

He looked like he was ready to come back after me — or the boot — when his friend yelled for him to get going. He patted the long rod in his free hand and said, “Maybe we’ll meet again, little man.”

Little man? Geez. I was starting to hate that term.

About that time, I heard Ric yelling for me and the guy hurried out of sight between the houses while about a hundred neighborhood dogs barked and porch lights came on all over the place.

Wheat came up to me first and then Ric hobbled up, favoring one leg. He apparently had gone down on his bad football knee pretty hard when he fell off the bike. He was talking on his cell phone to the police station. I just stood there with a big brown work boot in my hand.

“Did one of them throw that at you?” Wheat asked.

Before I could come up with a smart answer, Ric grabbed me and asked if I was OK. Then he yelled at me for doing something stupid. “You could have been seriously hurt,” he bellowed. “Somebody who breaks into cars can often do other bad things — and they often are armed.”

I told him that he had something long in his hand. That didn’t make him any happier. “Could you recognize him, you think?” he asked.

“All I know is that he was really big and probably really ugly. I just saw a little bit of his face. He did have a gravely voice, though. And …”

“What?” Ric said expectantly.

“He probably has one really cold foot.”

Ric gave me a little clip on the back of my head and couldn’t hold back a smile. “You guys head home and get ready for school. I’m staying here and waiting for the posse. And Spank, I wouldn’t go into all the details with your mom. Just say we scared away a couple of would-be burglars. And leave that boot with me.”

I nodded and didn’t feel it was necessary to tell Ric that there was no school on Saturday. I think he was a little rattled like all of us. He would remember soon enough what day it was. Wheat and I took off on the mile or so that we were away from home. After about 200 yards, I finally had to say something to my quiet sister. “What’s your opinion on all this?”

“I should have sprinted after them, too,” she said. “And I would have tackled more than a boot.”

Then she giggled and sprinted ahead of me before the snowball I quickly made missed her by about two feet to the right. That’s when I notice that my hands were sort of shaking.