“Great job out there today,” Kenny said as he patted my back.
“Thanks,” I said, shutting my locker. I swung my duffle bag over my shoulder.
“You got a whole lot better since freshman year, Flash,” he went on. “I never thought you could get any faster.”
“But too bad he didn’t get any bigger,” said Duke, the tight end. He came by and bumped me as he did.
Big Ben, the linebacker, laughed along with him. “Or stronger.” He bumped me too as he walked past.
“Leave me alone,” I told them. They always picked on me.
Duke turned back around and looked down at me. “What you gonna do, little man?”
I looked up at him, which was basically like looking up at the ceiling since I was down to his stomach. Nothing. That’s what I was gonna do. Nothing. Just like every other day.
“Leave him alone, Duke,” Kenny said, stepping in between us. “You just mad cuz you ain’t as fast as him.”
Duke sucked his teeth. “Who needs to be fast when you as big as me?” He flexed his arms and kissed his biceps. Then he looked me up and down. “Besides, you can’t keep runnin’ forever, little man. And when you stop, I’ll be right there waiting for you.”
He walked past and shoved me again as he did.
“Don’t worry about them,” Kenny told me. “They’re just jealous.”
“Sure,” I said, turning to leave. “Whatever you say.” The truth was that this was the only bad part about being a guy so far—being so stinking small. It was fine being so little when I was a girl—that was cute. But being so little as a guy wasn’t as cute—it made me a target for everyone to pick on. And it always left me feeling like I wasn’t big enough, strong enough, tall enough, or enough at anything at all.
I checked my phone and saw that I had a missed text from Jamar. Jamar! He was waiting for me!
“Gotta go!” I sprinted out the locker room and ran to the front of the school building where we normally met up to walk home together. But he wasn’t there. It was dark out and the street lamps had already turned on. He had already started walking home.
I started running, still sore from practice, and followed the streets we would normally take, hoping to catch up to him. And five minutes into the run, I heard a scream. My body went cold when the sound hit my ears. That was him. He was in trouble.
I dropped my duffle bag and followed where I’d heard the scream and found a guy lying on top of Jamar in the middle of the sidewalk. When I saw them, something in me snapped. I’d heard stories about people seeing red and going berserk on people. I don’t know what colors I saw. But all I knew was that one second I was on one end of the street and the next I was sprinting towards the guy, ready to punch his lights out.
“Get off my brother!” I screamed as I ran.
The guy stood up and laughed as I came. “What you gonna do, little man?”
I jumped on him, but he grabbed me like I was a little kid. Then he hit me in my stomach until I was coughing up blood and tossed me to the ground. I landed on my back and heard him walk back to Jamar.
I tried to sit back up, but my whole body was aching and screaming in pain. Jamar was in trouble. This guy was gonna…this guy…but I could barely breathe. I was ten feet away and there was nothing I could do.
But then a group of guys ran out of a house and scared the guy away.
And all I could do was lay there on my back, completely useless.