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Stick Swords

I've always had a way of sticking up for the underdog.

Not long after the Great Tupperware Fire, Matthew came over one day as I was jumping in the sprinklers. My finger had finally healed mostly, and though a large chunk was still missing from both my index finger and the tip of my thumb, I could climb trees with the best of them. I was always a tough kid. Eventually I popped out seven stitches by climbing a tree at 14 years old without giving it a second thought.

"Hows your hand," he asked me, obviously still feeling guilty over what had happened.

"Fine. Yours?"

Matthew showed me his fingernail. The surface of the nail looked normal except where the Tupperware had landed. He had a bright red and purple spot just below the surface. I could tell it must have hurt a lot more than I had given him credit for the day of the fire.

"Did your parents ask what happened," I asked Matthew.

"No, I don't think they saw it. Did yours?"

"Yeah," I admitted. "I didn't tell them what happened though."

"Have you gone back over there?"

"No," I confessed. I was afraid to go back, even to pick up the evidence that would surely lead back to me.

Matthew's parents were calling him, so he had to go. Rona and Rachel came outside just after he left. The three of them never got along.

"Hi Lynn," they said to me, referring to my twin sister. "Can we come play with you?"

"Sure," I answered, glad of the company. I thought for a moment and tried to figure out why they had thought I was Lynn instead of Amanda and could only conclude it had something to do with the ponytail holding my wet hair out of my face. The two girls raced back inside to put on their bathing suits. I ran to grab my toys. Back then, my most favorite toy was My Little Pony. I could hardly be seen anywhere without one except at school. I grabbed six total, two for each of us.

The three of us played for a long time in peace, jumping through the sprinklers, pretending to be ponies or wild horses, building forts for the toys out of small rocks around the edges of the garden and giggling like the little girls we were. By the time Matthew came out, we were so involved in our game that I didn't pay any attention to him. I think it made him angry.

Matthew never liked Rona or Rachel. He called them names on a regular basis, but usually knew better than to do it when I was around, because I would always defend them. They were picked on far too often, I wouldn't let it happen anytime they were with me.

"Hey, Stinky and Smelly, why don't you go crying home to Mommy?"

I felt the hair on the back of my neck bristle like a pit bull. Rachel and Rona looked down at their feet, their shoulders slumping like they had been crowned with a seaweed garland. They stopped playing, and Rona took Rachel's hand. The sisters turned to walk away.

"Matthew, you better shut up," I barked at him. "And you BETTER say you're sorry."

"Why should I? They do stink when they're not running through the sprinklers. They need a bath."

"Take it back," I yelled again. Rachel and Rona walked faster towards their house. About then, their older brother Richard came outside to see what was going on. He was around 16 years old, very handsome and very large. Matthew paid no attention. Richard had already gone to Juvenile detention for beating up a younger kid over his sisters being teased. Matthew knew Richard wouldn't do a thing. He was right.

"I wont," he said to me and picked up a rock. He launched it through the air and I watched as it soared straight between Rachel's feet. She screamed and the girls started to run.

Instinctively I picked up the longest stick I could find. If he threw another rock, I would just have to play baseball with it and hope to bean him in the forehead. Instead of picking up another rock though, he picked up a stick.

In my mind we fought like Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, no longer was I wearing a child's bikini. We fenced and fought, up hill and down hill, our stick swords whipping through the air and clashing with such force the tip of mine arced above us and landed in the low hanging limbs of the tree it had originally come from. I thrust forward, stabbing wildly at him, he swung his at me. He threw his fist forward trying to catch me off guard and succeeded in punching me square in the shoulder. I swiped my stick sword at him, forcing him to take a step backward and with open palms I shoved him hard. He landed squarely on his bottom with an open mouth and wide eyes. He didn't stay down long.

We swiped and swatted. I yelled out in words not known to the human language. Rachel and Rona stopped over near their front door and turned to watch. Slowly, the two of them began to inch closer, watching intently. They even cheered for me as I backed Matthew into the solid trunk of a tree and pointed the end of my stick directly at his face. He froze.

"Say you're sorry," I said to Matthew.

"NO!" he screamed at me, shoving me back and swiping directly at my exposed stomach.

A long, thin line along my rib cage began to ooze blood. Enraged, I dropped my stick, jumped directly on top of him, threw him to the ground and punched him only once directly in the face. Matthew began to cry.

Rachel and Rona stopped cheering. Afraid of getting in trouble, they ran inside with Richard. Matthew balled up on the ground under me. I stood up, looked down at him and sneered.

"That's what you get," I said. "You just got beat up by a girl." With that, I walked away.

That was the end of the feud between Matthew and the girls. He never picked on them again - but that could possibly be because he moved away the following week. His first day of school, he still had a black eye I'm sure.

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