When Kids Read

“Dude, what if –”

“Relax, relax, relax,”

“But what if a cop comes?”

“We tell the truth.” Jacob looked at Tommy like he was a lunatic. Tommy sighed. “Let’s examine the situation, shall we? Who are we? We’re just a couple of teenagers. What are we doing? We’re spending our Friday night in a park reading a newspaper.” He ruffled the printed pages he held in his hands as proof. “Simple. What’s there not to believe?”  

Jacob rolled his eyes. “Only everything. Who sits in a park at night reading newspapers?”

“We do,” Tommy stated. “Now shut up and keep watch.”

With a huff the boys quieted. Jacob leaned back against the bench they sat on and sulked while Tommy turned a page and raised the paper till only his eyes and widow’s peak could be seen. A few minutes passed. “Tommy, why –” Jacob whined.

“Hey!” Jacob’s girlish squeal was drowned out (thankfully) only by the immense crumpling of Tommy’s sudden death-grip on his newspaper. They looked towards the street to see a police cruiser stopped directly before them. A flashlight blinded the two within the next moment. “What are you kids doing?” A gruff voice called.

Neither breathed. “… Reading a newspaper?” Tommy suggested as answer. The flashlight flicked off and a face peered at them from the window. An eternity hung in the air as the cop stared beneath the early street-lights.

Eventually, he nodded in acceptance. “Heard any rumors about a fight happening tonight? Round about here? Supposed to be pretty big.” He looked around the street for evidence.

“Nope.” Answered two innocent voices.

The cop nodded again. “Carry on,” he said as he slowly rolled away.

“Tommy – ”

“Shut up.” He said out of the corner of his mouth, watching with an eagle’s eye as the cruiser’s taillights disappeared around the corner.

“But how did he know?” Jacob whispered.

“Doesn’t matter,” Tommy settled the matter. The boys waited the universal amount of safe time, known as “A Good Five”, to call the troops.

Minutes later the park encountered a minor flood of hormones, mostly adrenaline. Fact was Tommy and Jacob lied to the law; they did know about a fight taking place in the park. What’s more, they were part of it.

A gladiator-type brawl was scheduled between thirty some-odd students of a nearby high-school. Not because they hated each other (they were more like one giant group of mutual interests to be honest) but because they felt inspired by a movie they’d watched recently in psychology class that promoted the idea of stress-relief via having your lights punched out. Surely not what their teacher had wanted them to take away from the film but, alas, beggars can’t be choosers.

At the heart of the park the players, both boys and girls, lined up opposite each other and grew serious (one boy even took his shirt off). Three, two, one. As the two masses met and formed one therapeutic brawl laughter and cheers rose. To sum up, it was the most exciting thing to happen since the baby pig corpse debacle in biology last semester. 

The fight lasted about ten minutes. The kids, soft from video games and school lunches, were not quite the warrior Spartans they imagined themselves to be. Still, each body that collapsed held a sincere smile.

“Freeze!” Shouted an authoritative voice. Everyone did. From a cluster of shrubs a few yards away several uniforms appeared and began circling. The main officer of the stickup, coincidentally the same officer Tommy had lied to, spotted and walked right up to him, who by now had a bloody nose and black eye.

“Sucks to be you kid,” he said as he hauled the skinny youth to his feet. “Maybe if you read less you could actually be somebody. Until then, looks like it’s just going to be me for saving our town’s youth from themselves.”

“Actually,” Tommy began. “We got this idea from a movie.”

“Yeah, whatever,” the cop said sarcastically, leading the first of many away to await their parents’ harassment.    

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