The rest of the day didn’t go as badly as the morning, but after school turned out worse. I missed the bus because I thought I might catch a ride from Cassie, but she’d already left.
I stood just inside the main entrance of the school, trying people on my phone. Mom’s went directly to voice mail. The battery was probably dead. Daniel had basketball. Their team had done well enough this year that they were going to finals. Cassie didn’t pick up.
I called Haley. She probably worked, but it was worth a shot.
She answered and I explained the situation.
“I might be able to borrow Mom’s car. She’ll be home in half an hour.”
Adding in the twenty minute drive from Haley’s house, I’d be able to walk home before that. I told her so.
“Are you sure you’d want to walk in the slush?”
“It doesn’t look that bad.”
“If you say so. Call me if you change your mind.”
I ended up walking.
The day turned out to be one of those mid-February thaws where the temperature pops up into the mid-forties and all the snow melts, turning the roads and sidewalks into a mixture of slush and ice.
According to my physics teacher, water on ice has a very low coefficient of friction, making it one of the slickest surfaces we were likely to encounter in normal life.
After five minutes of walking home, I felt inclined to believe her.
The sidewalk next to the school managed to combine the worst features of the winter and the thaw. Water puddled in the spots where tree roots caused the sidewalk to buckle, sometimes to a depth of two or three inches. Even the relatively water free sections were icy, crunching as I walked over them.
I crossed the street, hoping that the school parking lot’s sidewalks might be better.
I ended up watching my feet as I walked, carefully avoiding the wettest, most slippery, or submerged spots. That’s why I barely noticed the car slowing to the side of me.
Sean’s voice came through the open window. “Nick, you want a ride?”
I ignored him.
“If you don’t, I can think of someone who might, you know, just want to ride and ride and ride.”
I glared at him, catching his eye as he held both hands out, miming thrusting.
I bent down, grabbed some slushy snow, and threw it at the car. The slushball didn’t stay together like a snowball would have, breaking into pieces halfway there. Enough went in through the window to make my point — whatever that had been.
A couple pieces hit Sean in the face. Others looked like they went deeper into the car.
From the driver’s side, a deep voice shouted, “Fuck! He threw snow in my fucking car.”
The car stopped.
I didn’t see why he’d get that upset. The car was a two door, blue Geo Metro from the 1990’s, and pretty far into its descent into beaterdom. Rust surrounded the wheel wells and the bottoms of the doors.
The driver got out. Dayton stood almost as tall as Sean only with broader shoulders. A guy named Jody squeezed out of the back seat, following Sean through the passenger side door. Jody was about my height. All I knew about him was that he supposedly had a bad attitude. I could guess that being a guy named Jody might contribute to that.
So anyway, the moment when the car stopped would have been a great moment to start running if I’d had the sense to.
Three people. I could probably take three people if I were smart — provided they were really normal people.
The key point to successfully fighting multiple people, at least according to Lee, is not to fight multiple people. You want to arrange things so that you only fight one person at a time.
I started backing down the sidewalk, keeping them toward my front instead of surrounding me.
Dayton charged me.
I stepped just slightly to the side, grabbed one of his wrists with my right arm and his shoulder with my left, and turned, unbalancing him.
He fell face forward into an icy puddle.
Unfortunately, Sean managed to grab my shoulder from behind as I watched Dayton fall.
I elbowed him in the solar plexus and he gasped for breath, allowing me to pull away and begin to turn toward him.
Jody plowed into me, knocking me flat on my back, and landing on top of me.
My backpack made the fall worse, driving the sharp edges of the books inside into my back. It hurt.
Hands grabbed my right arm.
“Got him,” Dayton said. “Grab his other arm.”
I tried to keep my left arm out of Jody’s reach, but since he was on top of me already, he didn’t have much difficulty grabbing my arm.
They pulled both my arms straight and held them to the ground.
Instead of fighting, I decided to take advantage of the moment to rest. Let them assume I couldn’t do anything because they’d pinned my arms.
Sean stepped forward next to Dayton and said, “Like fighting? Try this.”
He kicked me in the right side. Pain erupted from the spot and lingered.
I hoped he hadn’t broken any ribs.
He took a step back.
I didn’t give him a chance to think about his next move. I rocked backwards onto my back and then drove my right foot as hard as I could into his knee.