Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega
by Marc Alexander Valle
“If you step on the line,” Terry said, “it’s a laser, and it’ll cut your legs off.”
“Yeah?” Eddie said.
“So we gotta jump them.”
“Are we fighting evil knights?”
“No, just lasers.”
They never used lasers before, but Eddie had seen them in a movie, and he thought they were the most dangerous weapon. He liked the idea. So the boys walked over one sidewalk line to the next.
Terry’s movement was fluid. He’d step over the line, then he’d have to hop the next one or two. Eddie took his time, hopping over one, then stepping forward a bit until he’d hop the next line.
Last week, they dodged arrows, and Eddie got shot in the knee, so Terry claimed.
“The most painful place in the world to get shot in,” Terry said. “We’re out of commission. The queen is dead.” Eddie decided to practice his jumps every summer day since that event. He felt that he was prepared this time.
Terry pulled ahead.
“Wait up,” Eddie said.
“Come on,” Terry said.
Eddie continued to hop and step just a bit faster, but not too fast.
“Eddie, come on. There’s gators.”
“Alligators behind you.”
Eddie hopped and stepped faster. He’d seen alligators on television, and he feared what they called “the death roll”. Concrete block by concrete block, he began to find a flow and a groove. He could sense the gap between the gators and himself widening behind him. He caught up to Terry. “Where are we going?” he said.
“Around the corner,” Terry said. “To the store.”
“I want a 5-Nougats.”
“I can’t do this that far.”
“You want a Swill Stick?”
And they continued, hopping and stepping. Eddie fell behind. Terry stopped and waited, then started again. They continued around the corner and approached Stephanie and the jump rope girls. He knew Stephanie from class and liked her and thought she’d be impressed with his new jumping skills. He once gave her a valentine with a knight drawn on it. His caption read, “I’ll save you, princess.” Eddie jumped as far as he could and nearly touched dog poop. He checked to see if Stephanie saw, but she continued to count the girl’s jumps.
Eddie continued. Neither boy stepped on a line.
Eddie caught up to Terry. Terry looked ahead. He could see the sign for the corner store up the block.
“Alright,” Terry said. “No more lasers.”
“No. See that house? That’s a sniper’s nest. It’s got Nazis in it.”
“What are Nazis?”
“You remember Uncle Jimmy?”
“He used to kill them. Now they want to kill us. So we can step on the lines now cause they don’t need lasers anymore, but we gotta run. Real fast. On three.”
“But you said lasers.”
“Yeah, but Nazis now.”
“What about the alligators?”
“No, just Nazis. So here we go. Three..two…one.”
But Eddie stood still, looking at the sidewalk.
“I said let’s go,” Terry said, looking back.
Eddie shook his head.
“Come on. They’ll blow your head open.”
Eddie shook his head again.
“You want to get blown up?”
Eddie shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s just for now,” Terry said, touching Eddie’s arm.
“I thought you said lasers.”
“Yeah but for now.”
“Yeah but lasers.”
This wasn’t the first time Terry changed the rules. But it was the first time Eddie insisted on following the previous instructions.
“I’ll get you a soda,” Terry said.
Eddie put his head down.
“And a mystery bag of candy.”
Eddie looked up.
“Or a bag of gummies.”
Eddie’s eyes opened wide, “Okay.”
They ran. They ducked. Terry yelled commentary on the sniper’s fire. Eddie lagged just a little behind. But not too far.
They made it to the store.
“Alright, just a regular size bag of gummies,” Terry said.
“And a small soda.”
“And don’t tell mom about the soda. Finish it before you get there.”
Eddie nodded again. Terry turned to the steps of the store.
“I win,” Eddie said.
“What?” Terry said.
“You got no legs!”
An ice cream truck turned corner down the street. Eddie could see Stephanie and the jump rope girls stop, then run toward their row home. The sidewalk was clear now, and Eddie estimated that there must be one-thousand lines and cracks on the ground. This was the most he’d ever jumped. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He turned to Terry whose eye brows were crunched down, waiting for a reply.