Another uneventful morning. Tom’s dad had already left, still looking for work. His mom had been awake for a while, helping around the house, making breakfast, and doing her best to keep everyone’s spirits up.
Thirty minutes after school started, Tom left his house, using one hand to sling his backpack over his shoulder and his other to hold onto his now half-eaten bagel. He toyed briefly with the idea of hurrying his pace, but decided against it. He was going to be late anyway, who would care whether he missed the bell by forty minutes or by an hour? In fact, he figured he had another hour or two before the school marked him as absent for the day. Best of all, it was a Tuesday. The arcade was already open. Tom chuckled quietly to himself, and headed through an alley, towards the big green sign that read “Game Corner.” That was when he heard the footsteps.
They weren’t particularly loud, like someone was stomping; it was just hard to walk with any kind of stealth or grace in the clunky dress shoes that came recommended with Tom’s school’s uniform. The steps approached slowly, without haste, but there was a definite purpose in the way they walked. Tom turned around slowly.
“What the hell are you laughing at, asshole?” demanded the newcomer. He had dark hair and a sadistic look in his gray, beady eyes.
“Just now?” asked Tom, a sly smile crossing his face. “Actually, Brad, I was just remembering the look on your face, when my foot introduced it to the sidewalk the other day. I hope you two are getting along, by the way. How’s everything working out?”
An enraged “You’re gonna pay for that, you little bitch!” was the response, but Tom didn’t hear it.
Every one of his nerves was concentrated on one of Brad’s hands. His right had found its way into his pants pocket, and balled itself into a fist. As Brad lunged forward, his arm tensed up. Tom took one step with his left foot, and kicked Brad’s pocketed hand as hard as he could with his right. He made solid contact, and something made of metal glinted in the sun’s early light as it arced away from the confrontation.
As Brad’s look of insane anger was replaced by one of disbelief, Tom spoke. “Damn, a knife? You jerks must really be getting desperate, huh?” Tom took another step, this time with his right foot, and punched his opponent as hard as he knew how, a stiff right hook to the jaw. Brad went down, and didn’t look like he was getting back up.
Tom laughed out loud. “Ha! Sonuvabitch didn’t know what hit him!” Cocky from his win, he didn’t even notice the two interlopers that had appeared behind him. By the time he heard the baseball bat whooshing through the air, it was already too late. Damn…looks like I’m gonna miss the arcade… was his last thought before the bat cracked into his skull.