XX - The Wrath of Five Thunders
ON MONDaY MORNING I FOUND THE DEMON HaD SPURNED ME. She had eyes now only for Ladd Devine, and her fickle fingers left the back of my neck alone. It was the birthday card that had done it, and Ladd's unknowing declaration that he had sent it. Ladd was going to be a really good football player when he got to high school; between then and now, he would be getting plenty of practice running and dodging.
There was one last incident in the tale of the Demon's birthday. I asked her at recess, as she watched Ladd passing a football to Barney Gallaway, how her party had been. She looked at me as if I were one shade short of invisible. "Oh, we had fun," she said, her stare going back to the young football star. "My relatives came and ate ice cream and cake."
"Did you get any presentsi"
"Uh-huh." She began to chew on a dirty fingernail, her hair stringy and oily and hanging in her face. "My momma and daddy gave me a nurse kit, my aunt Gretna gave me a pair of gloves she knitted, and my cousin Chile gave me a dried flower wreath to hang over my door for good luck."
"That's good," I said. "That's real-"
I had been about to move away. Now I stopped in my tracks.
"Chilei" I said. "What's her last namei"
"Purcell. Used to be, I mean. She got married to a fella and the stork brought 'em a little bitty baby." The Demon sighed. "Oh, ain't Ladd just the handsomest thingi"
God has a sense of humor that gets my goat sometimes.
September dwindled away, and one morning it was October. The hills were streaked with red and gold, as if some magician had painted the trees almost overnight. It was still hot in the afternoons, but the mornings began to whisper about sweaters. This was Indian summer, when you saw those purple-and-red-grained ears of corn in baskets in the grocery store and an occasional dead leaf chuckled along the sidewalk.
We had Show-and-Tell Day at our grade in school, which meant that everybody got to bring something important and tell why it was. I brought an issue of Famous Monsters to class, the sight of which would probably set Leatherlungs off like a Roman candle but would make me a hero of the oppressed. Davy Ray brought his "I Get around" record, and the picture of an electric guitar he hoped to learn to play when his parents could afford lessons. Ben brought a Confederate dollar. Johnny brought his collection of arrowheads, all kept in separate drawers in a metal fishing-tackle box and protected by individual cotton balls.
They were a wonder to behold. Small and large, rough and smooth, light and dark: they beckoned the imagination on a journey into the time when the forest was unbroken, the only light was cast from tribal fires, and Zephyr existed only in a medicine man's fever. Johnny had been gathering the arrowheads ever since I'd known him, in the second grade. While the rest of us were running and playing without a moment's interest in that dusty crevice known as history, Johnny was searching the wooded trails and creekbeds for a sharp little sign of his heritage. He had collected over a hundred, lovingly cleaned them-but no shellac, that would be an insult to the hand that carved the flint-and tucked them away in the tackle box. I imagined he took them out at night, in his room, and over them he dreamed of what life was like in adams Valley two hundred years ago. I wondered if he imagined there were four Indian buddies who had four dogs and four swift ponies, and that they lived in tepees in the same village and talked about life and school and stuff. I never asked him, but I think he probably did.
Before school began that morning of show-and-tell-which I had been dreading for several days because of what the Demon would offer up for appraisal-the guys and I met where we usually did, near the monkey bars on the dusty playground, our bikes chained to the fence along with dozens of others. We sat in the sun because the morning was cool and the sky was clear. "Open it," Ben said to Johnny. "Come on, let's see."
It didn't take much urging for Johnny to flip up the latch. He may have kept them protected like rare jewels, but he wasn't stingy about sharing their magic. "Found this one last Saturday," he said as he opened a wad of cotton and brought a pale gray arrowhead to the light. "You can tell whoever did this was in a hurry. See how the cuts are so rough and uneveni He wasn't takin' his time about it. He just wanted to make an arrowhead so he could go shoot somethin' to eat."
"Yeah, and from the size of it I'll bet all he got was a gopher," Davy Ray commented.
"Maybe he was a sorry shot," Ben said. "Maybe he knew he'd probably lose it."
"Could be," Johnny agreed. "Maybe he was a boy, and this was his first one."
"If I'd had to depend on makin' arrowheads to eat," I said, "I would've dried up and blown away mighty fast."
"You sure have got a lot of them." Ben's fingers might have been itching to explore in the tackle box, but he was respectful of Johnny's property. "Have you got a favorite onei"
"Yeah, I do. This is it." Johnny picked up a wad of cotton, opened it, and showed us which one.
It was black, smooth, and almost perfectly formed.
I recognized it.
It was the arrowhead Davy Ray had found in the deep woods on our camping trip.
"That's a beauty," Ben agreed. "Looks like it's been oiled, doesn't iti"
"I just cleaned it, that's all. It does shine, though." He rubbed the arrowhead between his brown fingers, and he placed it in Ben's pudgy hand. "Feel it," Johnny said. "You can hardly feel any cuts on it."
Ben passed it to Davy Ray, who passed it to me. The arrowhead had one small chip in it, but it seemed to melt into your hand. Rubbing it in your palm, it was hard to tell where arrowhead stopped and flesh began. "I wonder who made this one," I said.
"Yeah, I'd like to know, too. Whoever did it wasn't in any hurry. Whoever did it wanted to have a good arrowhead, one that would fly true, even if he lost it. arrowheads were more than just the tips of arrows to Indians; they were like money, and they showed how much care you put into things. They showed how good of a hunter you were, whether you needed a lot of cheap old arrowheads to do the job, or if you had the time to make a few you could count on. I sure would like to know who made it."
This seemed important to Johnny. "I'll bet it was a chief," I offered.
"a chiefi Reallyi" Ben's eyes got wide.
"He's fixin' to make up a story," Davy Ray told him. "Can't believe a thing he says from here on out."
"Sure it was a chief!" I said adamantly. "Yes, he was a chief and he was the youngest chief the tribe ever had! He was twenty years old and his father was a chief before him!"
"Oh, brother!" Davy Ray pulled his knees up to his chest, a knowing smile on his face. "Cory, if there's ever a biggest-liar-in-town contest, you'll win first prize for sure!"
Johnny smiled, too, but his eyes were keen with interest. "Go on, Cory. Let's hear about him. What was his namei"
"I don't know. It was... Runnin' Deer, I-"
"That's no good!" Ben said. "That's a girl Indian's name! Make his name... oh... a warrior's name. Like Heap Big Thundercloud!"
"Big Heap Do-Do!" Davy Ray cackled. "That's you, Ben!"
"His name was Chief Thunder," Johnny said, looking directly at me and ignoring the squabbling duo. "No. Chief Five Thunders. Because he was tall and dark and-"
"Cross-eyed," Davy Ray said.
"Had a clubfoot," Johnny finished, and Davy Ray shut up his giggling.
I paused, the arrowhead gleaming on my palm.
"Go ahead, Cory," Johnny urged in a quiet voice. "Tell us a story about him."
"Chief Five Thunders." I was thinking, weaving the story together, as my fingers squeezed and relaxed around the warm flint. "He was a Cherokee."
"Creek," Johnny corrected me.
"Creek, like I said. He was a Creek Indian, and his father was a chief but his father got killed when he was out huntin'. He went out huntin' for deer, and they found him where he'd fallen off a rock. He was dyin', but he told his son he'd seen Snowdown. Yes, he had. He'd seen Snowdown up close, close enough to see that white skin and those antlers that were as big as trees. He said as long as Snowdown lived in the woods, the world would keep goin'. But if anybody ever killed Snowdown, the world would end. Then he died, and Five Thunders was the new chief."
"I thought a chief had to fight to get to be chief," Davy Ray said.
"Well, sure he did!" I answered. "Everybody knows that. He had to fight a whole bunch of braves who thought they ought to be chief. But he liked peace better than he liked fightin'. It wasn't that he couldn't fight when he had to, it was just that he knew when to fight and when not to fight. But he had a temper, too. That's why they didn't call him just 'One Thunder' or 'Two Thunders.' He didn't get mad very much, but when he did-look out! It was like five thunders boomin' out all at the same time."
"The bell's about to ring," Johnny said. "What happened to himi"
"He... uh... he was the chief for a long, long time. Until he got to be sixty years old. Then he passed bein' chief to his son, Wise Fox." I glanced toward the entrance; kids were starting to go into the school. "But Five Thunders was the chief they remembered best, because he kept peace between his tribe and the other tribes, and when he died they took his best arrowheads and scattered them around the woods for people to find a hundred years later. Then they carved his name in a rock and they buried his body in the secret Indian burial ground."
"Oh, yeahi" Davy Ray grinned. "Where's thati"
"I don't know," I said. "It's a secret."
They groaned. The bell rang, summoning the kids in. I returned the arrowhead of Five Thunders to Johnny, who wrapped it in cotton and returned it to the tackle box. We stood up and started walking across the playground, puffs of dust rising behind our heels. "Maybe there really was somebody like Chief Five Thunders," Johnny said as we neared the door.
"Sure there was!" Ben spoke up. "Cory said so, didn't hei"
Davy Ray made a noise like the breaking of wind, but I knew he didn't mean it. He had a part to play in our group-the part of scoffer and agitator-and this he played very well. I knew what Davy Ray was inside; after all, it was he who had brought Five Thunders to life.
I heard Ladd Devine hollering, "Get away from me with those squirrel heads!" Some girl screamed and somebody shouted, "Oh, gross!" The Demon was in her element.
as I had predicted, the sight of cinematic monsters in her classroom enraged Leatherlungs. She threw a tantrum that made one of Five Thunders' outbreaks seem more like Half-a-Pipsqueak. Leatherlungs demanded to know if my parents knew what kind of garbage I was stuffing my mind with. Then she went into a tirade about how all decency and thoughtfulness in this world was going to ruin, just going to ruin, and why wasn't I interested in good reading instead of this monster trashi I just sat there and took it on the chin, like I was supposed to. Then the Demon opened up the shoebox she'd brought and stuck it in Leatherlungs' face and the sight of those four squirrel heads crawling with ants and their eyes poked out with a toothpick made Leatherlungs beat a hasty retreat to the teachers' lounge.
at last the three o'clock bell rang, and school was behind us for another day. We left Leatherlungs reduced to a raspy whisper. Out on the playground under the hot afternoon sun, clouds of dust stormed through the air as kids ran for freedom. as usual, Davy Ray was ragging Ben about something or other. Johnny put his tackle box on the ground as he unlocked his bike chain, and I knelt down to work the combination lock that secured Rocket.
It happened very fast. Such things always do.
They came out of the dust. I felt them before I saw them. The skin at the back of my neck drew tight.
"Four little pussies, all in a row," came the first taunt.
My head whipped around, because I knew that voice. Davy Ray and Ben ceased their wrangling. Johnny looked up, his eyes darkening with dread.
"There they are," Gotha Branlin said, with Gordo at his side. They wore their grins like open razors, their black bikes crouched behind them. "ain't they sweet, Gordoi"
"Yeah, ain't theyi"
"What's thisi" With one quick movement, Gotha tore from my hand the magazine I'd brought for show-and-tell. It ripped along the staples, and on the cover Christopher Lee's Count Dracula hissed with impotent rage. "Look at this shit!" Gotha told his brother, and Gordo laughed at a picture of the sleek female robot from Metropolis. "I can see her fuckin' titties!" Gordo said. "Gimme it!" He grabbed the page, Gotha grabbed for it, and between their hands the picture dissolved as if consumed by acid. Gotha got most of it, though-the part showing a glimpse of metallic breasts-and it went down crumpled and dirty in his jeans pocket. Gordo squalled, "You shithole, give it here!" and he wrenched at the rest of the magazine while Gotha pulled at it, too. In another second the rest of the staples surrendered and pages of dark and glittering dreams, heroes and villains and fantastic visions, fluttered through the dust like bats in daylight. "You ruined it!" Gotha shrieked, and he shoved his brother so hard Gordo slammed to the ground on his back and a geyser of saliva shot from his mouth. Gordo sat up, his face swollen with rage and his eyes unspeakable, but Gotha cocked a fist back and stood over him like Godzilla over Ghidrah. "Come on and try it!" Gotha said. "Just come on!"
Gordo stayed where he was. His elbow was crushing a picture of King Kong fighting a wet-fleshed giant serpent. Even monsters had their collisions and death battles. Gordo's face was hard and bitter. any other kid who'd taken so hard a blow would've sobbed at least once. I imagine a tear in the Branlin household was as rare as a dragon's tooth, and all those unshed tears and simmering rages had twisted Gotha and Gordo into what they were: two animals who could not escape their cages, no matter how hard they fought or how far away they roamed on those vulture bikes.
I might have felt sorry for them if they'd given you room to. But then Gotha said, "What's in herei" and he scooped the tackle box off the ground before Johnny could think to grab for it. Johnny made a choking sound as Gotha flipped the latch up and lifted the lid. The big rude hand went in and started plucking the wads of cotton open. "Hey, man!" he said to Gordo. "Look what squawboy's got! arrowheads!"
"Why don't you leave us alonei" Davy Ray asked. "We're not botherin'-"
"Shut your hole, dickhead!" Gotha shouted at him, and Gordo got up grinning, their brotherly hate forgotten for the moment. Both of them started going through the collection of arrowheads, their fingers grasping and gripping; I would've hated to see what dinnertime at the Branlin household was like.
"Those are mine," Johnny said.
Words had never stopped the Branlins before, and they didn't now. "They belong to me," Johnny said, sweat glistening on his cheeks.
This time, something in Johnny's voice made Gotha look up. "What'd you say, niggernutsi"
"They're my arrowheads. I... I want 'em back."
"He wants 'em back!" Gordo crowed.
"You little pussies tried to get us in trouble, didn't youi" Gotha's right hand was full of arrowheads. "Went cryin' to the sheriff and tried to get our dad mad at us, too. Didn't youi"
This tactic did not sway Johnny's attention. "Give 'em to me," he said.
"Hey, Gotha! I think squawboy wants his fuckin' arrowheads!"
"Why don't you guys-" I began, but just that quick Gordo was in my face and he grabbed a handful of my shirtfront and pressed me up against the fence.
"Little pussy." Gordo made smacking noises. "Little pussy queer."
I saw Rocket's golden eye in the headlamp, there for just an instant, taking in the situation, then gone.
"Here're your arrowheads, squawboy," Gotha said, and he threw the ones he held across the dusty playground. Johnny trembled, as if he'd been hit by a crosscurrent of winds. He watched Gotha's hand winnow into the box, come up again, and throw arrowheads away as if they were worthless chips of stone.
"Pussy, pussy, pussy!" Gordo chanted, and he laid his wiry forearm across my neck. His nose was running, and he smelled like engine oil and burnt barbecue.
"Quit it," I gasped. His breath was no perfume from France, either.
"Woo-woo, woo-woo!" Gotha started giving Indian whoops as he tossed Johnny's collection away. "Woo-woo, woo-woo!"
"Cut it out!" Davy Ray shouted.
and then Gotha's fingers came up gripping an arrowhead that was smooth and black and almost perfectly formed. Even Gotha could tell that this one was special, because he paused in his pride of meanness and looked closely at it.
"Don't," Johnny said with a note of pleading.
Whatever Gotha might be seeing in the black arrowhead of Chief Five Thunders, it was a passing vision. He reared his arm back, his fingers opened, and the arrowhead took flight. It spun up and up and fell into the grass and weeds near the trash dumpster, and I heard Johnny grunt as if he'd been punched.
"What do you think about that, squaw-" Gotha began; he didn't finish it, because in the next second Johnny had made one limp and a leap between them and Johnny's fist came up in a blur and smacked dead solid into Gotha Branlin's chin.
Gotha staggered, blinked, and a wave of pain passed over his face. Then his tongue flicked out, and there was blood on it. He threw aside the tackle box and said, "You're dead, niggernuts!"
"Get him, Gotha!" Gordo shouted.
Johnny shouldn't be fighting. I knew this, and I knew he did, too. The Branlin fists had put him in the hospital once. He still suffered an occasional dizzy spell, and he wasn't nearly equal to Gotha Branlin's size. "Run, Johnny!" I shouted.
Johnny was through running.
Gotha came at him swinging. a fist caught Johnny's shoulder and knocked him back, and Johnny dodged a fist to his face and slammed his own punch into Gotha's ribs.
"Fight! Fight!" somebody among the few kids who were left on the field started hollering.
I shoved Gordo back with all my strength. Gordo put out a hand to steady himself, and his fingers gripped Rocket's handlebars. "Shit!" he screamed suddenly, and he wrung his hand and stared at his fingers. Blood was showing on the pad of flesh between his thumb and index digit. " Bastard bit me!" I imagine he had been cut by a screw, or an edge of metal, though I would later search Rocket and find no protruding screw or metal edge. Gordo twisted around and kicked Rocket, and that's when Five Thunders spoke to me.
He said, as he'd said to Johnny: Enough.
I was no puncher. If Gordo wanted to kick, that was fine with me. I stepped forward, my blood bubbling, and I gave him a kick in the shin that made him holler and dance a one-legged jig. Johnny and Gotha were grappling on the ground, the dust swirling around them. Fists rose and fell, and Davy Ray and Ben were ready to jump in if it looked as if Gotha was going to get on top of Johnny and start pummeling him. Johnny, though, was holding his own. He scrambled and twisted and fought, his sweating face paled with dust. Gotha's hand gripped Johnny's hair, but Johnny shook loose. a fist hit Johnny's chin, but Johnny showed no pain. Then Johnny was flailing away at Gotha like a boy with nothing to lose but his dignity, and when those blows connected, they made Gotha grunt with pain and try to curl up like a writhing worm. "Fight! Fight!" the merry call went up, and a knot of onlookers closed around Johnny and Gotha as they battled on the ground.
But Gordo was coming after me with a stick in his right hand.
I didn't care to get my brains knocked out, or have Rocket beaten into submission. I jumped on Rocket, knocked the kickstand up, and wheeled away, trying to put some distance between us. I thought Gordo would turn away from me and then I could try to dart in and knock that stick out of his hand. I was wrong. Gordo got on his black bike and started speeding after me, leaving Gotha to fight his own hateful little war.
I had no time to shout for Ben and Davy Ray. I doubted if they could hear me anyway, over the hollering of the blood-mad crowd. I turned Rocket away from Gordo and pedaled frantically across the playground, going out through the gate in the fence and onto the sidewalk. When I looked back, Gordo was gaining, his head slung forward over the handlebars and his legs pumping. I started to swerve Rocket toward the playground again, to get support from my buddies.
But Rocket wouldn't let me.
Rocket stiffened up. The handlebars wouldn't turn. I had no choice but to keep going along the warped sidewalk, and here a strange thing happened.
The pedals started turning faster, so fast I could hardly keep my feet on them. In fact, my sneakers slid off the grips more than once; the pedals, though, kept going. Rocket's chain rattled through the gears and built up to a high, powerful singing sound.
Rocket raced on, with me doing nothing more than clinging to its back as if on a wild horse. Our speed increased, the wind whipping through my hair. I looked over my shoulder; like doom and the end of time, Gordo was still at my heels.
He wanted my skin, and he wasn't going to stop until he had it.
Back at the playground, Gotha struggled to his feet. Before he could aim a punch, Johnny tackled him at the kneecaps and they went down again as the onlookers shouted their delight. Davy Ray and Ben started looking for me, and they saw Rocket gone and Gordo and one of the black bikes missing.
"Uh-oh!" Ben said.
Gordo's bike was fast. It might've beaten any other bike in Zephyr, but Rocket wasn't like any other bike. Rocket was going like a hellhound, and I dreaded what might happen if that chain jumped its sprocket. We passed a man out raking leaves from his driveway. We passed two women talking in a front yard. I wanted to stop, but whenever I tried to put on the brake there was a high, angry hissing and Rocket would have none of it. I tried to turn right at the next intersection, to try to get home. Rocket wanted to go left, and I yelped as the bike's handlebars took the corner and the rear wheel skidded on the edge of disaster. But Rocket held tight to the pavement, and we were off again with the wind in my teeth. "What're you doin'i" I shouted. "Where're you goini" There was only one answer to these questions: Rocket had gone insane.
another backward glance showed me that Gordo was still right on my tail, though he was puffing and his face was mottled with crimson. "Better stop!" he hollered. "I'm gonna get you anyway!"
Not if Rocket could help it. But every time I tried to urge Rocket toward my house, Rocket refused to be guided. The bike had its own destination, and I had no choice but to be swept along with it.
Through the swirling dust, the battlers at the school yard fought to their feet. Gotha, not used to having anybody fight back, was showing his weakness; he was throwing wild punches, and he was so tired he was stumbling like a drunkard. Johnny danced in and out, making Gotha strike air again and again. When Gotha roared with rage and rushed in, the smaller boy dodged aside and Gotha tripped over his own feet and fell headlong, scraping his bruised chin raw over the pebbly ground. He got up again, his arms heavy. again he attacked, and once more Johnny eluded him, using his clubfoot as Pan might twist and turn on a hoof. "Stand still!" Gotha gasped. "Stand still, you niggerblood!" His chest was heaving, his face as red as a beef chunk.
"all right," Johnny said, his nose bleeding and a gash across his cheekbone. "Come on, then."
Gotha charged him. Johnny feinted to the left. Davy Ray would say later that it was like watching Cassius Clay in action. When Gotha shifted to meet the feint, Johnny put everything he had into a haymaker that caught Gotha's jaw and snapped his head around. Ben said that was when he'd seen Gotha's eyes roll up and go white. But Johnny had one more thunder in him; he stepped forward and hit Gotha in the mouth so hard everybody heard two of Johnny's knuckles pop like gunshots.
Gotha made no noise. Not even a whimper.
He just fell like a big dumb tree.
He lay there, drooling blood. a front tooth slid from his lips, and then Gotha started shaking and he began to cry in hard, angry silence.
Nobody offered to help him. Somebody laughed. Somebody else sneered, "Gonna go cryin' home to his momma!"
Ben clapped Johnny on the back. Davy Ray grabbed his shoulder and said, "You showed him who's tough, didn't youi"
Johnny pulled loose. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, which Dr. Parrish would be splinting soon for the two broken knuckles. Johnny's parents would give him hell. They would finally understand why he'd spent so much time in his room alone, over the long hot summer, reading a book that had cost three dollars and fifty cents from a mail-order publisher and had the title Fundamentals of the Fight by Sugar Ray Robinson.
"I'm not so tough," Johnny replied, and he leaned down beside Gotha and said, "You want some helpi"
I, however, did not have the benefit of Sugar Ray's experience. I only had Rocket beneath me and Gordo a relentless pursuer, and when Rocket suddenly turned with a whip of the handlebars and started onto a trail into the woods, I feared I was fast approaching the last roundup.
Rocket refused the brake, refused my frantic tugging on the handgrips. If my bike had gone crazy, I had to get off. I tensed to jump for the underbrush.
But then Rocket burst out through the trees and there was a big ditch right in front of us full of weeds and garbage and with a burst of speed that made the hair stand up on my scalp Rocket took flight.
I think I screamed. I know I wet my pants, and that I hung on so tightly my hands ached for days afterward.
Rocket leaped the ditch and came down on the other side with an impact that cracked my teeth together and made my spine feel like a bowstring that had just been snapped. The jump was too much for even Rocket; the frame thrummed, the tires skidded on a mass of leaves and pine needles, and we went down all tangled up together. I saw Gordo tear along the path toward me, and his face contorted with terror when he saw the ditch yawning for him. He hit the brake, but he was going too fast to stop in time. His black bike slid on its side, and carried Gordo with it as it toppled over into the weeds and trash.
The ditch wasn't all that deep. It wasn't full of thorns, or sharp rocks. Gordo really had a soft landing amid thick green three-leafed vines and a hodgepodge of things: pillows with the stuffing spilling out, garbage can lids, empty tin cans, a few aluminum pie pans, socks and torn-up shirts, rags, and the like. Gordo thrashed around in the green vines for a minute, getting himself loose from the black bike. He was none the worse for wear. He said, "You wait right there, you little shithole. You just wait right-"
He screamed suddenly.
Because something was in the ditch with him.
He had landed right on top of it, as it had been eating the last of a coconut cream pie stolen from the sill of an open kitchen window less than ten minutes before.
and now Lucifer, who did not care to share his den of trash-can treasures, was very, very angry.
The monkey squirted up out of the vines and jumped Gordo, its teeth bared and its rear end spraying forth a nasty business.
Gordo fought for his life. The vicious monkey took plugs of flesh from his arms, his cheek, his ear, and almost gnawed off a finger before Gordo, screaming to high heaven and stinking like hell, was able to scramble out of the ditch and take off running. Lucifer raced after him, chattering, spitting, and shitting, and the last I saw of them Lucifer had leaped onto Gordo's head and had handfuls of peroxided blond hair, riding Gordo like an emperor on an elephant.
I pulled Rocket up and got on. Rocket was docile now, all the willful fight drained away. Before I pedaled off to find a path around the ditch, I thought of how Gordo would be feeling in a few days, his face and arms swollen with bites, when he'd realized all those green three-leafed vines down in Lucifer's domain were poison ivy pregnant with silent evil. He would be a walking fester. If he could walk, that is.
"You've got a mean streak," I said to Rocket.
The defeated black bike lay down at the bottom of the ditch. Whoever went in after it had better be stocked up on calamine lotion.
I rode back to school. The fight was over, but three guys were searching the playground. One of them had a tackle box under his arm.
We found most of the arrowheads. Not all. a dozen or so had been swallowed up by the earth. an offering, as it were. among the lost was the smooth black arrowhead of Chief Five Thunders.
Johnny didn't seem to mind that much. He said he'd look again for it. He said if he didn't find it, somebody else might, in ten years, or twenty years, or who knew how long. It hadn't been his to own anyway, he said. He'd just been keeping it for a while, until the chief needed it on the Happy Hunting Grounds.
I had always wondered what Reverend Lovoy meant when he talked about "grace." I understood it now. It was being able to give up something that it broke your heart to lose, and be happy about it.
By that definition, Johnny's grace was awesome.
I didn't know it yet, but I stood on the verge of my own test of grace.
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