All the kids took the same shortcut through a stretch of unfenced backyards sloping down to a creek where, in the spring, grape hyacinth grew in fragrant clusters. But it was winter and snow blanketed all life. I stood in coat and boots, questioning my decision to take the shortcut. It had become obvious to me that there were boys lined up behind every tree stump and lawn chair, snowballs clutched in their gloves. I could still turn around and take the long way home, going down Jackson.
No. Nobody likes a coward.
Starting at the top of the hill, I lifted my chin and began the trek. Wham! I stopped only a moment to adjust my scarf. Wham! Wham! I'd just ignore them. If I could make it past the creek, I'd be halfway through and . . . Wham! I lowered my head and picked up the pace, trudging through a barrage of white grenades. Wham! Wham! Wham!
"Hahahahaha! Do you give in, female species?"
Ignore them. Just some stupid old boys. I recognized Trey Walker and Jack Deforest, hiding like mice behind an old rusted wheelbarrow. Just ignore them and keep walking.
Wham! Wham! I was close to the creek and everything would be just fine. A trio of snowballs hit me at the same time and I fell over into a drift. Granules seared into my skin and snow packed inside my boots, flash-freezing ankles left bare by slouchy socks. I sat there and felt anger begin a slow rise through my chest and up through to my ears. Son-of-a-bitch! I was gonna get those boys.
I reached to grab a handful of snow and attempted to stand up for a throw. Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! On wobbly legs I scanned the area and began to approach through the fire. Wham! Wham!
"Do you give up, girl?" Their voices sounded distant now. Perhaps a little frightened even.
Hello no. I was going to kill, that's what I was going to do. Kill with snow. I drew back my arm and hurled my weapon. Flat flakes fell, the air whirled; it lifted my scarf, threw up the hem of my coat. Time slowed like it was molasses.
I hit him. Oh sweet Jesus. I hit him! A deafening silence stunned all humanity. I watched as Jack Deforest stood up slow, wiping his face.
Our eyes met and I swallowed hard behind the knot of my scarf, watching as he took a step forward. What would he do to me, out there in the field? He looked to kill, he really did. Strangle me with a scarf? Drag me down the creek? He wouldn't do that . . . would he?
Out of nowhere, a stream of snowballs began to pelt his back, his head, his legs. We both looked at each other in disbelief: his comrades—the whole field—had turned on him! He looked around with cheeks going from white to blotchy red in half a second's time.
"You jerks!" He scooped snow into both his hands and ran toward anyone he could find. Yells, cusses, grunts and wails—I had been forgotten. With a big smile on my face, I watched as the air blurred with an arsenal of white. I ran up the hill and made my way home.