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"You'll fight," Clark said leaning over the handlebars of his bike. "You'll fight now or you'll fight later but you'll fight. And we're not on school property so it may as well be now."

"I don't want to fight," I said. I didn't even know him and he was a nice-looking boy, small, not rowdy looking and all the girls seemed to like him.

Norman said nothing. He was Clark's friend. He had been asked by the principal to show me around the school on my first day. I liked him.

While we were standing there a black lab trotted by, stopped to sniff at a pole then peed all over it. We watched this distraction for a moment then I said, "Look, I just don't want to fight. What does it matter?"

"It matters to me," Clark said, wheeled his bike around and sped off in the direction they had come from. Norman lingered a moment, then followed. I went on to the store and bought the things my mom wanted.

The next day at recess Clark came up to me and said "After school" then scurried off to the playground where most of the other kids were. He meant what he said.

I had one friend already, dull but someone. We stood around not joining in with the games, trying not to talk about after school.

It came, for once too soon. I walked slowly with my friend and let Clark catch up with me. He roared up on his bike and said "We're off the school grounds."

"Okay," I said and Clark dropped his bike onto the tarmac.

"Leave him alone," my friend said but we both ignored him. Kids were gathering so we started in before a teacher or someone noticed. It was brief. And quite civilized. I punched him three to one because I was bigger and it wasn't the first time I had had to change schools. Clark said "Okay" when he tasted blood and we all dispersed.

The following morning one of the girls who hadn't even been at the fight called me a creep and said I should pick on someone my own size. I stammered trying to explain how things were but all I could do was grow red. Just then Clark came over and said "Hi" and sat on the top of the desk in front of me, his feet on the seat. "You're a fighter," he said with admiration and a lot of the kids gathered around to see his lip and hear him tell how I had taken him. I was in. The girl who called me a creep just sat back with her mouth open.

Clark and I never became really close friends but he usually picked me to be on his soccor team even though I wasn't that good. Norman and I did though. We went swimming in the creek and killed snakes together and even ate at each other's houses sometimes. We were really good friends until I moved again.





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