By Kevin Bailey

[Catch up on previous chapters: A Time of Dying]

 

I got beat up yesterday.

I wouldn’t mind so much if it was somebody tough. But no, it had to be Matt Baker. He’s the boy I scared off when I cut Big Al’s hair. Matt’s older than me, but I’m much tougher than him.

At least I thought I was.

I should start at the beginning.

I was grumpy that morning. I’ve figured out how to keep from having accidents, but it’s not easy. I set my watch alarm for 11:00, then 1:00, then 3:00, and last at 5:00. I had tried to wait three hours, but some slipped out. Every two hours always works. But it’s hard to not be grumpy when you’re only sleeping two hours at a time, which also seems to be making my headaches worse.

When Mama woke me at 6:30 for breakfast, I didn’t want to get up, but she made me. Some of my other home-schooling friends get to sleep late, but Mama won’t have that. We start school at 8:00.

I glared at Emily, yelled at Kayleigh, and fought with Garrett (which I don’t do much) all in one meal!

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

It’s like two girls live in me.

Good Micki reads to Kayleigh, likes her big sisters, and is best friends with Garrett. She likes to run and play and ride bikes and all that.

Bad Micki has nightmares about trees outside the window (I’ll write more about that later), grumps at her family all the time, only likes to write in this little book, and doesn’t feel like going outside to play. Oh yeah, and she gets headaches a lot and pees her bed like a baby. I wonder if all ten year olds whose brothers die have stuff like this happen?

Anyway, after my grumpy breakfast, I studied all morning real hard. I like history, reading, and English a lot—math not so much. When lunch is over, Mama lets us be done for the day. We learn as much (or maybe more!) in those four hours than most kids learn in the 7 or 8 they spend in regular school.

She’s a good teacher.

After lunch, Mama wouldn’t let me write in my book. It was a nice day for the middle of November, so she made me put on a sweater and go outside. And she made me leave my little book inside.

That’s when the trouble started.

I went to see if Nicollette—that’s what Nikki makes us call her now that she’s eleven and has crushes on boys and stuff—wanted to ride bikes. She wasn’t home so I decided to ride to the park. I told Mama first, so she wouldn’t worry.

When I got there, Nicollette was playing with some boys. Now there are two things boys are good for: beating up and playing ball. Lots of them are good at sports, which is fun. And none of them—until today—had been able to beat me up. At least not the ones close to my age.

The problem today wasn’t that she was playing with them, but what she was playing. She was playing “Kissing Tag”! It was her and two other girls named Cassie and Sheri. (Cassandra and Sheridan now, I guess!)

I’d forgotten the school kids were out today. Cassie and Sheri went to regular school, and the three boys playing—Matt, Jimmy, and a boy I haven’t told you about named Ted—did too. All the boys were older. Matt’s only 11 or 12, but I know that Jimmy’s thirteen or so, and I think Ted’s his age.

For some reason, Nikki was letting them catch her—especially Matt, who, she‘s had a crush on since birth. I tried to put a stop to this junk right away. I watched for awhile before I figured out what was going on. When Nikki slowed down so that Matt could catch her (she’s real fast—she can almost beat me!) I knew something was up. He kissed her, and even put his hands on her chest while he did it, so I ran over as fast as I could.

Neither one saw me coming.

They were on a little bridge-thingy that was part of the playground.

Well, Matt wasn’t on it for long!

I got him a good one, just as he turned around when he felt the bridge jiggle. Got him right in the mouth!

“What the hell?!?”

I heard him cuss as he fell off the bridge.

“Micki, what are you doing?!?”

Nikki didn’t look happy.

“I was just trying to get him to stop kissing you—and touching you even!”

“That’s none of your business!”

“Does your mama know you’re doing all that?”

“You wouldn’t!”

She was right. I’m not a snitch. But what she said next maybe ruined our friendship.

“At least I don’t wet the bed!”

She didn’t say it all whispery either. She said it so everyone heard her. I never should have told her about it. I just wanted to be best friends again so much I wasn’t thinking straight.

The other four had come to see what was going on, and Matt was frozen, listening to our argument from where he stood. Hearing what she said unfroze him.

“Micki wets the bed?”

Nikki didn’t say anything to me. It looked like she wished she could take it back.

Matt saw his chance. Kids can be real mean.

“Micki wets the be-hed!”

He said it all sing-songy, and his four friends laughed about it. I had heard enough.

“Come up here and say that.”

He looked scared then. He knew I had kicked his squirrelly butt at least three times. Four if you count the July Fourth, the summer before last. Daddy pulled me off him before I could really whip him.

But he also knew that his two buddies—both older than him—were watching. I guess that mattered more than remembering I’d beat him up a few times. Matt jumped up on the bridge, and stood nose-to-nose with me. He was trying to look tough, but I could see in his eyes, he was scared even though he was bigger than me. (I’m actually pretty small for being so tough!)

“You’re… a… bed… wetter.”

He said it slow, so his buddies would hear.

Then he put his finger right in the middle of my chest. It wasn’t like he was doing with Nikki, but it was the thought of it: I spit in his face.

I needed him to swing first, so I could tell Daddy the truth when I said I didn’t take the first swing. Matt’s a “slow-puncher” so I didn’t worry about getting hit. I always dodged his punches.

Not this time.

I felt his fist hit my cheek, and saw woodchips coming up real fast as I fell off the bridge.

I don’t remember anything else.

I’ll tell you the rest of the story, just from what Garrett and Nikki said happened. (She felt real bad about all of it. She even let me call her “Nikki” again.)

Garrett was playing baseball at the field in the park. The boys in the outfield saw the fight starting. Garrett got there just as I hit the ground.

“I kicked his scrawny butt for you, Micki!” is how he said it. Matt’s his age, but Garrett’s much tougher than him. Nikki told me that Ted and some of the boys playing baseball had to pull Garrett off Matt to keep him from hurting him real bad. As it was, he was in bad shape after Garrett got through with him!

Now do you see why Garrett’s my best friend?

Everyone was so busy watching Garrett whip Matt that they didn’t realize I wasn’t getting up. Garrett’s friend Kyle (he’s real nice) noticed first.

“Garrett, something’s wrong with Mick.”

Garrett was still trying to get at Matt, so he didn’t hear. Kyle had to yell before Garrett finally realized what he was saying. When he saw I wasn’t moving, he got real scared.

He ran to where I was, and couldn’t feel breath coming out, or any pulse. (I had both; he just wasn’t good at finding my pulse, and my breathing was bad.) He picked me up and ran toward our house, carrying me like you carry a baby. As he ran, he yelled over his shoulder at Matt.

“If you killed her, I’ll kill you! I swear it!”

I think he would too. He loves me that much. And I love him too.

I didn’t wake up until we got to the hospital. Mama said she rode with me in the ambulance, and that I even opened my eyes. I kind of remember seeing the ceiling of somewhere I didn’t know (it must have been the ambulance), and feeling someone holding my hand. I didn’t know anything about anything at that point though, so I almost forgot about waking up. Mama said Garrett begged to ride with us, but the paramedics wouldn’t let him.

When we got to the hospital, they did all kinds of tests on me. They x-rayed me, and did some other thing called a “Cat Scan.” I don’t know why they had to do something called a “Cat Scan” on me, who’s just a regular kid, and not a cat!

I tried to make that joke with Daddy, but he didn’t laugh. He tried to smile, but only his mouth smiled, not his eyes, if you know what I mean.

When they did the Cat Scan-thingy, everyone got worried. They whispered outside my door (I’ve got my own room now!) so I only heard a few words like, “further tests” and “we’re just not sure, right now” and “keep her for observation.” I heard enough the last day or so to know one thing for sure, though:

Something’s real bad wrong with me.

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