As the blood pummelled his chest on the inside Daniel couldn’t help thinking of the Planet Earth documentary he’d watched the week before. The magnificent silverback gorilla had struck its shelf of pectoral muscle with a series of booming thuds that reached into Daniel’s own diaphragm. That was exactly what he felt now, except that the silverback was replaced by his schoolyard nemesis, Larry Peters, and the tightening of his diaphragm included difficulty breathing, light-headed tunnelling of his vision, and the strong possibility that he would soon pass out and crumple to the asphalt.
“Who gave you permission to walk on my court?” the boy sneered down at him. Larry was at least a foot taller and close to twice Daniel’s weight.
“I was just,” Daniel’s voice caught near the back of his throat. He swallowed down the tension. “I was just coming over to say hi to—”
“Oh, you were just, were you?” The larger boy spoke with a volume and authority that punctuated each hard syllable with a splatter of saliva. “How about I just put you flat on your pansy ass?”
Daniel tried to cement his feet to the ground. He clinched his fists and hoped the concentration would provide him a sense of balance. A crowd had already formed around the two of them. Most of the onlookers were Larry’s minions, long cowed by his violence and swagger. Daniel closed his eyes and thought of the only person in the crowd he cared about.
“You best look at me when I’m talking to you!” Larry hollered from so close that their noses nearly pressed together.
Daniel tensed his body in anticipation. He gritted his teeth and bent at the knees. He imagined the bared fangs and gnarled knuckles of the silverback. He felt the breath of the jungle on his face; the musk of the alpha spread over him like an infection. His breathing slowed. The blood, flaming hot, went still within his chest.
Daniel heard the grunt of exertion before the paws had landed on him. His eyes blinked open. He ducked and the arms sailed over his head. He flung himself forward, driving his skull like a battering ram into the soft sack of flesh that hung between Larry’s legs. There was a waxy crunch and then a scream that ranged higher than a tea kettle. The silverback was sprawled on his back, ass on the asphalt, clutching his privates with both hands.
The onlookers stood in shocked awe. The minions didn’t know if they should be helping their fallen leader or were expected to enact immediate revenge. The rest were trying to decide if what they had just seen was heroic or underhanded.
Daniel approached the writhing body of his erstwhile enemy. Enough of the musk was left on him that he planted his foot solidly on Larry’s chest and then stepped across. The minions dispersed after that.
She stood watching in the small crowd of girls that had lingered.
“Hi, Dawn,” he said and gave her a weak wave.
“Hi, Danny,” Dawn Peters replied. She had her brother’s height but that’s where the comparison ended.
“I was wondering…”
“Well, I was just thinking about the dance that was coming up this weekend.”
Her eyes were soft but shrewd. She cocked one eyebrow. “And did you figure anything out?”
He nodded and held out one hand, palm up. “Yeah, I figured you might want to go with me.”
By Joanne L. M. Williams
“Raised in a tiny Alaskan fishing village, educated at Yale University, Derek Ivan Webster is a writer that appreciates a good contrast. He’s also quite sure the freelance lifestyle would have driven him mad by now, if not for the balm of his sage wife and their precious/precocious co-conspirators. Read more at www.ivanhope.com/blog; @ivanhope77.” Illustration Mahsa Dehghani. All picture credits with many thanks to Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and University of Chicago Press
Our literary Editor Katy Darby also is part of Liars’ League, a monthly live fiction event where writers write, actors read, audiences listen and everybody wins. Videos and MP3s can be found at liarsleague.com.