The kids cheered as Justin grabbed my backpack and flung it. It landed in a pile of … well, let’s just say I’d rather not think about it because somebody didn’t clean up after his dog. And then when I got home my mom said, “Tyler, I’ve decided to marry Frank. He’ll be moving in, along with his son, Spike.”
And who in their right mind names a kid “Spike?” I pictured a bulldog wearing a leather collar with knives sticking out.
When they showed up, I knew my hunch was right-except for the collar. Spike’s muscles rippled beneath his shirt. I’m not joking; the kid had hair on his chest. He was three years older than me and looked like he shaved. Who shaves in the fifth grade?
Spike gave me a look that would’ve split an oak tree, had there been one in my hometown of Spring City, Iowa. Right then I decided I really liked the attic bedroom-the one without windows and a curtain for a door. The more distance between us, the better.
He took my room and I moved to the attic.
A week later, I walked outside to find my skateboard covered in shaving cream. My eyes narrowed as I looked at Spike. “Did you do this?”
“Nope.” He scratched his hairy-as-a gorilla armpit and walked away.
The next night he walked into my room holding a dripping pillowcase filled with frogs. “Did you put this in my bed?”
I gave a long, loud burp and said, “Nope.”
Mom kept lecturing us on how we should get along and act like brothers. When she was looking at us, Spike would smile at me and I’d smile back. Most of the time, though, Spike ignored me. And I spent my time hoping he’d fall into a volcano of hot lava.
A few months later, as I was being pounded again by Justin, Spike passed by. “Aaackkkthth,” I croaked, as Justin squeezed tighter on the headlock he’d put on me. It was hard to even spit, much less call for help.
Spike just stood there, staring at Justin.
My eyeballs bulged and everything looked double. “Spike, get him off,” I pleaded. My lungs had ten seconds of air left, and after that, I’d be hearing voices in heaven.
Suddenly, Justin flew through the air, squealing like a girl. He landed on his backside in a patch of thistles, which was fitting because now instead of being a pain in the butt, Justin had a pain in the butt.
Looking up, I saw what seemed to be two Spikes. I figured I’d died, shot past heaven, and gone to the hot place instead.
After a couple of deep breaths, my eyeballs cleared and I was back to seeing one of everything. I noticed all the kids were gone but Spike. “Did you pull Justin off me?” I asked, wobbling to my feet.
“Why?” I said.
“I hate bullies. And I felt sorry for you. But mostly because Mom said she’d pay me $10 a week if I’d watch out for you. You know … act like brothers.”
“Yeah. More or less.”
I rubbed my bruised elbow and wondered if I was supposed to shake hands or hug him now that he was going to be my guardian angel as well as my step brother. Mom would’ve wanted us to hug but I decided against it. First of all, we were guys, and second of all, I only had about one hug in me and I sure wasn’t wasting it on Spike. I was saving it for Katie, the cutest girl in class.
Spike kicked a rock, it skittered down the sidewalk, and then he looked at me. “Brothers or not, I’m still keeping your room.” Then he sorta smiled. At least I thought it was a smile, but maybe he was just making faces because his underpants were giving him a wedgie.
I nodded at him. “That’s all right. I really don’t want my room back-because this morning I stuffed a half-rotten mouse into your shoes, in the closet.”
Spike laughed so hard that he choked on spit and couldn’t breathe. I had to thump him on the back, but I was glad to do it. It felt good to pound on him without getting pounded back. And besides … I sorta owed him, since he did save me from winging my way to heaven.
For an interesting article on the importance and value of stories for children, click here.