by Jake Christie


a story.

The last tricycle on the list was bright pink, the color of strawberry ice cream, with white tassels on the handlebars. Jen passed the empty toilet paper tube to Billy so he could scope it out himself.

“There she is,” said Jen. “The last one.”

Billy lowered the cardboard spyglass and took a sip from his juice box. Ten tricycles before naptime. He didn't know what Carlton wanted the trikes for, and he didn't really care. The thrill of the steal was almost as much of a prize as the real reward: Carlton's two-pack of chewy chocolate chip cookies, one for him and one for Jen, every day for the rest of the year. But you couldn't eat thrills; adrenaline didn't have chips that stuck to your lips. Billy sipped his apple juice again. It tasted like victory.

He pushed himself off the ground and was on his grass-stained knees before Jen grabbed his arm and held him fast.

“Wait,” she said. “We need a plan.”

“I've got a plan,” said Billy. “I'm going to get on it and ride away.”

Jen shook her head, swiping her pigtails from side to side, and pointed to the left of the trike. The driver was right there, talking with one of the daycare grown-ups. They weren't facing the trike, not exactly, but they'd definitely notice if somebody tried to ride it away.

“Rats,” said Billy. He couldn't read the big clock on the side of the daycare building but he was getting tired. It would be naptime soon, and if they didn't get this trike the other nine would be for nothing.

Jen put her fists on either side of her chin and screwed up her face, which Billy knew meant she was thinking. She'd stolen half the trikes so far and he knew she wanted the cookies as badly as he did. For a girl she was actually pretty cool.

“I've got an idea,” she said. She pushed herself up onto her knees and smoothed her skirt over her legs. “Can you ride the trike away?”

Billy nodded vigorously. “Super fast,” he said.

“Okay,” she said. “I need your juice box.”

She held out her hand and Billy stared at her. If this plan of hers didn't work, he'd be down both a potential daily cookie and an actual juice box. Could he trust someone he'd only met this morning – a girl, no less?

“We're running out of time,” said Jen, bouncing on her knees.

Bully gulped, set his chin, and handed her the juice box. She promptly turned it upside down and sprayed the rest of the contents on her skirt.

“What are you doing?” cried Billy.

“Shh!” she said. She handed him the empty juice box. “Get ready,” she said. “I'll meet you at snacktime.” She stood up and looked at him gravely. “Get that trike,” she said.

Billy nodded.

Jen squeezed her eyes shut. Before Billy's eyes, a remarkable transformation began to take place. Jen's cheeks both flushed pink, the color of the tricycle. Her shoulders began to shake. The moment before she turned towards the daycare lady, Billy saw a tear roll from her eyes.

“Miss Katie!” Jen wailed, staggering away, “I had an ax-i-dent!” Her cry went up over the daycare. The grown-up and the trike driver both looked at Jen as she waddled past them dramatically, drawing their attention. “I had an ax-i-dent!” she repeated. They rushed to her side. The trike was out in the open.

Billy shook his head in amazement. She did it. She ruined her skirt, but she did it. He vowed then and there that his first cookie would go straight to her.

First, though, he had to do his part. He leaned forward on his hands and aimed for the trike, priming himself to dash. He took one last look in Jen's direction then ran, ready to ride like the wind.

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