Stick

Free Stick by Michael Harmon

Book: Stick by Michael Harmon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Harmon
down.”
    “You think I want to kill myself?”
    “Well, you’re standing on the railing of a bridge like you want to jump.”
    “If I wanted to kill myself, I wouldn’t be talking to you. I’d be jumping.”
    “Then why are you—” I began.
    He cut me off. “You never do anything dangerous, do you?”
    “If you mean like standing on the railing of a bridge, no, I don’t.”
    He looked down at his feet, then started walking, slowly placing one foot in front of the other like a tightrope walker. “Most people never do.”
    “You get a thrill from it, then?” I said, walking beside him.
    He ignored me. “I’m not talking about standing on the rail, Brett. I’m talking about life. Most people do the same thing every day, but they don’t do it because they like it. They do it because they’re afraid to do anything else. It’s dangerous.”
    “Maybe.”
    He stopped walking, then hopped down from the ledge. “You hungry?”
    “What?”
    “Food. Eat. Hungry. Are you?”
    Twenty minutes later, we were sitting in the parking lot of a Taco Bell, chowing down on burritos from the all-night drive-through. I took a swig of Mountain Dew. “Why were you up there?” I asked.
    He took a bite, chewed slowly, swallowed, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and folded it neatly on his lap. “I always thought fear was a good reason not to do something. It’s not, though. Usually it’s the opposite.”
    “Like being afraid of the dark?”
    He looked at me. “I’m not talking about irrational fear. I’m talking about real fear.”
    “What’s real fear, then?”
    I noticed a deep scratch above his eyebrow. His black eye had turned purple. He took a sip of his soda. “Why didn’t you do anything when your friends egged me?”
    “Because I’m an idiot.”
    He shook his head. “You were afraid. Of what would happen to you and your life and where you fit into it if you did something to stop what was wrong. We’re conditioned to be afraid to stand alone.” He smirked. “Contrary to what you might think about me and my pitiful and lonely life, Brett, I believe that most people are good. They’re just afraid to do what they know is right.”
    “Your dad must have been really cool, huh?”
    “Yeah. Why do you say that?”
    “Because he must have taught you that.”
    Silence followed, almost a full minute as we sat in the dark. His voice came soft and low. “Have you ever hated something so much that you’d do anything to get rid of it? That you’d kill it if you could?”
    I bit my lip, furrowing my brow. Tom, the boyfriend, came to mind, and I wondered if Preston was talking about him. “What are you saying, Preston?”
    “When my dad and I came out of the museum that night six months ago, a guy walked up to us and pulled a knife. I just stood there. I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. He told us to hand over our wallets, which my dad did, all the while begging the mugger not to hurt us. Then the guy told me to hand mine over. I couldn’t move, so the guy moved toward me. My dad stepped between us.”
    I saw them there. Saw Preston’s dad protect his son. Saw the knife flash, sinking into his chest. I saw a dead father on the sidewalk, his son kneeling over him, and I shuddered. “You hate the guy who killed him that much?”
    “No.”
    I looked over at him in the dim. “Who, then?”
    “I couldn’t move, Brett. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Just like always. I could never do anything.”
    “It’s not your fault, Preston.”
    “My dad died because I am what I am, Brett.”
    I looked at him. “No.”
    He stared at his hands, clenching them. “Most people get a chance to fix what they hate about themselves. Nobody gets killed.” He glanced at me. “They just quit the team or switch schools or find new friends or get grounded, and they try to change. Nobody dies. Nothing is taken away forever.”
    Tears welled in my eyes, and I felt like the biggest loser idiot in the world. I thought about

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