Conflict Avoidance

The first day of school. My family had returned from our cabin by the lake and I had no choice but to ride my bike over and begin my sophomore year.

I figured Spike would be lying in wait, so I made a big circle and came up to school from the far side, thus avoiding him.

Spike swore on the last day of classes back in May that he would catch me on the way home and pound me. That afternoon, I took the great-circle route and he didn’t. Then we left for the lake, so I didn’t have to worry about Spike all summer.

Inside, I found him waiting at my locker, along with a couple of his friends.

“I’m still going to pound you,” he said. “I would have pounded you this morning but I didn’t see you come.”

“Remind me why you’re going to pound me.”

“You laughed at me when I was at the board trying to multiply.”

“I wasn’t laughing at you,” I said. It was the truth. “I was kidding around with Iggy.”

“You’re lying. After school, buddy. After school.”

Spike and I were in three classes together: Remedial English, because I was lazy and he was stupid; Spanish, because everybody had to take a foreign language and Spanish was a Mickey-Mouse course; and P. E., because everybody took P. E. unless they took band.

In English, Spike sat up front and I sat in back. Halfway through class, during a preliminary discussion of “The Ox-Bow Incident,” Mr. Crane asked Spike a question. There was a pause while Spike thought about his answer.

“I’m not laughing,” I said.

Crane looked at me. Spike froze.

“Did you say something?” Crane said.

“I was telling Spike that I’m not laughing at whatever he’s about to say.”

There were snickers and chuckles. Everyone in class knew that Spike planned to pound me. The back of Spike’s neck turned red. He was steamed.

Crane stared at me, puzzled.

“Don’t interrupt us again,” he said.

When the bell rang, Spike got up and stepped back to me.

“You don’t want to wait, do you?” he said.

“Nope.”

In Spanish, I sat in front and he sat in back. Mr. Vega was going around the class with assorted simple questions. He asked Spike something and before Spike could respond, I said “No laughing over here!”

Spike started to stand, but controlled himself. Vega warned me. After class, Spike faced off with me, breathing heavily. Then he walked away.

In P.E. I waited until he was at the top of the rope.

“Hey, Spiker! You look like a monkey but I’m not laughing.”

He came down the rope . By then I was on the other side of the gym. He charged across like a rhino. He got in a couple of good licks before they pulled him off me, led him away, and suspended him for two weeks. I had a black eye, but now, I was laughing.

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