Excerpt, Scaredy, Chapter 1
“Eat dirt and die, stupid, weirdo, freak!”
Crushed in between the two class bullies, Rudy gasped, “Back up, I can’t breathe.” Sweat, running like a water faucet, flooded his green eyes and rolled off his freckled nose. Rudy grabbed the railing tight and wrapped his arms around it like a popsicle on a stick. “You’re not going to push me off.”
The weasel-eyed kid, Otis, grabbed Rudy’s arm. “You’re nothing but a chicken.”
“Yeah,” said Tank, who was built like a gorilla and twice the size of kids in his class. “We’re not going to toss you over. All you have to do is walk over a teeny-weeny bridge.” Before Rudy knew it, Tank had his other arm in a stranglehold.
Rudy shouted, “I’m not afraid! We’re on a railroad trestle, not a bridge, and we are 50 feet above the river.”
Jeers and laughter rang in his ears as he looked at the worn rusty rails blackened with age. Below him the creek moved quietly along in a slow rhythmic pace, but Rudy knew that it was just waiting to suck him under.
Why can’t they understand? It’d be just my luck to get in the middle and a train would run me over and I’d have to jump in the water and drown. I’m not afraid. I have more sense than these bozos.
The weasel-eyed kid put his mouth to Rudy’s ear and bellowed, “Chicken crap—fraidy flap! It’s not fifty feet above that little creek. We could jump down and not even break a leg.”
Rudy knew it was ridiculous to be afraid, but he could feel himself shrink smaller and smaller, as his insides quivered like Jell-O. Where is Billy when I need him?
Unexpectedly, the two lessened their grip on Rudy. Billy was coming toward them like a bull rushing a red cape. Pushing up the sleeves of his sweatshirt which was sweat-soaked from practicing Tae Kwon Do, he easily pushed the boys away from Rudy. He knew how to handle
the troublemakers in their class. More than once, Billy had come to Rudy’s rescue. “Back off,” Billy snarled. “Come on, Rudy. Let’s go.”
Rudy’s legs wobbled toward Billy as the bullies parted a way for him to leave. “Whew, just in time! I won’t have to die today,” he whispered
Billy’s brown skin rippled as he flexed his muscles when he motioned for the two to back off. His arms were as thick as his wide neck, and he could throw the two of them around like rag dolls. Not as tall or big as Tank, Billy had a reputation of being able to hold his own in a fight. He never went out of his way to start one, but if it came his way, he gave as good as he got. Everyone knew that he broke a 7th graders’ nose when the guy tried to use Billy as a punching bag. That made him a hero in the eyes of his 5th grade class. They walked right through the boys and headed down the dusty road as hoots and hollering followed them.
Rudy winced, feeling the insults hurled toward him. He kicked the dirt and sent a spray of sand in the air. “Why don’t they understand that trestle is dangerous?”
“They’re not going to leave you alone until you walk that bridge,” Billy answered. “You know it’s not dangerous. If it can hold a train, it can hold you.”
“Yeah, well. What if my foot got stuck on the rail and I couldn’t get it unstuck?” Rudy yelled.
“You know that wouldn’t happen.”
He knew his friend was right, but the words stuck in his throat. He kept on walking. The dusty path led to a side road that took them into town where a road sign read: Welcome to Calumet, Michigan.
The cool wind felt good on Rudy’s sweaty face. “Why do I have to prove myself now that I’m 10 years old?”