There’s this weird kid called Ali on the playground. I’ve never liked the looks of him, and Benji told me this kid doesn’t have any friends. I think he has a different religion from the other weird kids, who sometimes cluster around him on the playground and call him names and don’t seem to like him either. There was this other kid earlier in the year, Hussy, who would play right next to Ali and they would yell insults at each other, but one day some kid I’ve never seen before punched me in the hallway and I thought he was friends with Hussy so I beat Hussy up real bad and Hussy left school and I never saw him again. Ever since then Ali just plays by himself, but now he seems to have more of an attitude, and he glowers at the other weird kids who surround him on the playground, and sometimes he gives Benji and me nasty looks.
I heard a rumor that Ali is going to bring a baseball bat to school. I have a bat and Benji has a bat, but none of the other weird kids have bats. I sometimes use my bat to play baseball, but I have to admit that one time I used it to beat a kid up. That was years ago. Benji says he has his bat for self-defense only, but he’s interested in playing baseball too. I heard that Ali said he wants to play baseball, but Benji and I know he’s lying. I mean, you just have to look at the kid to know he’s not gonna play baseball with that bat. He’s gonna go after Benji. Why would he hit Benji with the bat? He thinks Benji doesn’t have a right to be in this school. That’s what I heard. He thinks Benji only got in because his parents are wealthy and made a special spot for him. I’ve even heard that Ali said that the school had to kick another kid out in order to let Benji in! I know Benji’s feelings get hurt when he hears stuff like that. Benji is my best friend but I have to say he’s sometimes really insecure. I guess that’s what happens when you transfer in midway through school and don’t have any friends. Other than me, I mean.
Benji and I have been meeting after school to talk about what to do about Ali. He’s just standing there in his spot on the playground waving his arms around in circles and pretending to swing an invisible bat. I heard that the other weird kids don’t really care if Benji gets a bat because they don’t think he’s going to attack them with it. Some of them even believe that Ali wants to play baseball. Benji thinks otherwise. Benji said the first thing Ali is going to do if he brings a bat to school is chase after him and bash his head in. If anyone ever hurt Benji I would be so mad. I knew Benji from camp before he went to school here and he was always beaten up and picked on by everybody. I just ignored him at camp and stood by and watched him get beaten up and I still feel terrible about it. Maybe I could have helped him, or at least let him hide in my room. But I didn’t. And now I’ve made a commitment to help him no matter what. I won’t let anything bad happen to my best friend.
Benji and I are making a plan. Benji is going to tell Ali that we are watching him and that if we even see a bulge in his backpack that suggests a baseball bat we’re gonna beat him up so bad that he’ll never come to the playground again. Benji wants me to threaten Ali too but I feel a little uncomfortable about it. I’ve gotten into so many fights in the last year that I have to say I’m a little tired. Still, the idea of beating up Ali gets me excited, so I’m torn. Benji even said to me that he would consider using his bat to beat up Ali! At first I was shocked -- I mean, no one’s hit another kid with a bat since I did it all those years ago -- but I understand that Benji is freaked out and willing to do whatever it takes to protect himself. Personally, I don’t want to use my bat for anything other than baseball ever again, but you never know what’s going to happen. All I know is that I’m gonna tell Ali that I have Benji’s back no matter what, and that if he messes with Benji he’s messing with me.
And I’m gonna bring my bat to school tomorrow, just in case.
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