He’s sitting on the curb, Mr. Bigshot Jimmy McLean, cleaning his fingernails, legs all stretched out so everyone can see he’s wearing Air Jordans. All Teeny and me want to do is play our hopscotch, but his big feet are sitting on the square marked “HOME.”
He’s got the whole street to sit, so why does he have to pick our hopscotch place? That’s like being at the movies, and the whole room is empty but some tall guy comes and sits right in front of you.
I am 13 now, and Teeny’s 12-and-a-half. My father says we're too old for hopscotch, but we like it. Teeny likes balancing on one foot while she bends down to pick up her stone. I like drawing with a different colored piece of chalk for every square: pink for 7, blue for 6, green for 4 and white for the rest. Mr. Bigshot Jimmy McLean has rubbed away the letter “E” in “HOME” with the heels of his fancy stolen shoes. I know they're stolen because two days ago he told Teeny’s brother’s girlfriend he was too broke to buy her a cherry Coke.
Teeny's standing arms akimbo now, giving Mr. Bigshot Jimmy McLean her eat-shit-and-die look, but he ain’t paying no mind. He just goes on cleaning his big ugly nails, sliding the index fingernail on his right hand under the left hand nails and flinging pieces of dirt down on the street. Down on our number 2 hopscotch square. Teeny steps in closer, in fingernail flicking range.
“Move off, you lesbo bitch,” says Mr. BJM.
“That would be your Momma you talkin’ about,” Teeny says.
The picking stops and I sense the edge of something dangerous is about to pop out of Teeny’s anger vault. I think Jimmy does, too. I think he doesn’t want to tangle with a female reform school reject.
“So how about a game?” he says, all casual and friendly now. He stands, moves to the HOME square of the hopscotch grid and looks at me.
I toss him the chalk and say, “Here. Think you can remember how to print the letter “E?”