the writing disorder


david atkinson

New Fiction


by David S. Atkinson

       I zip up my coat. It's dumb. It isn't even that cold out today, but my mom makes me wear it anyway. I can't go out to play without it. It's too bulky to be able to run around in good. All thick and stiff and blue. It isn't even one I got to pick out. My grandma got it for my birthday when I turned six. At least I don't have to wear my mittens today.
      I see Jeff over with Steven as I come out my porch. It looks like they're playing football out in the street. Jeff's standing over Steven like he's blocking and Steven is all crouched down hiding a ball. Like he's trying to keep it away from Jeff. It doesn't look so hard. All Steven's got to do is run around. Jeff is tall, but he's skinny. That's no good for playing football. Steven can run either way and win.
      I start to hurry. Maybe Jeff and PJ came over to play. They live a couple blocks over so they only come to play once in a while. It's fun when they do. We get to do different stuff because it isn't just me and Steven or me and Nicky. I don't see PJ, though. Nicky's there, but he isn't over by Jeff and Steven. He's standing off all by himself, just looking.
      "Cut it out! It's mine," Steven yells at Jeff.
      Jeff pushes Steven and knocks him down. Nicky is just looking at them.
      I grab a log from the pile next to my porch. It's from that big branch that fell in the backyard. I couldn't play back there for a week because it was all over and my dad said I'd get hurt. Then he chopped it up and said we were really going to have fire in the fireplace this year. It all just sat there, though, next to the porch.
      I run at them and hold the log above my head with both hands. I yell really loud. I go right for Jeff.
      He looks up at me suddenly when he hears me yell. I don't think he even knew I came outside. He sees I did quick enough, though. He turns and runs fast down the block before I can get to him. He's all the way to the alley and disappears behind Nicky's house before I stop running.
      I drop the log. My dad will get mad if he sees me. I'm not supposed to play with sticks.
      "Run, you chicken," Steven shouts after Jeff. He gets up from where Jeff knocked him down. Nicky walks over.
      "What happened?" I ask.
      Steven clutches a football. "He tried to say this was his. It's mine. He was just trying to take it."
      I frown. I like PJ and Jeff. They just came walking up one day while we were playing freeze tag and asked if they could play too. They looked kind of funny together. PJ was really short and had a buzz cut. Jeff was really tall and had dark brown hair. We thought they were really cool, even if they did look funny together. They even said they had a junkyard at their house.
      But they aren't cool. I can't see why Jeff did something like this. We're their friends and Jeff tried to take Steven's stuff. Friends don't do that. Friends share. Steven didn't do anything to him.
      "He said it was his." Nicky wipes his nose on his sleeve and sniffs.
      "He lied! He just said that so he could take it," Steven yells at Nicky. "Why're you even here? I'm not playing with you! You're always hanging around and nobody wants you. Go home!"
      Nicky doesn't say anything back.
      Steven rolls the football around in his hands. "I told him if it was his then where did he leave it. He said he left it up on the hill by the graveyard but I found it over on the sidewalk by Nicky's all the way across the alley. I found it fair and square and he wanted to steal it by lying and saying he just left it and was hoping he'd guess right and I'd believe him."
      "You didn't fall for it, though."
      "Nope," he smiles. "That's why I made him tell me where he left it first. He asked me where I found it but I wasn't going to tell him until he told me. He was going to say he left it where I said I found it. I'm not stupid."
      Nicky looks over at his yard. "Maybe it rolled down the hill."
      "Don't be a dummy!" Steven throws the football at Nicky.
      Nicky flinches, but it hits him anyway. He shrinks away a little. Then he bends down to grab the football and hands it back to Steven. Steven catches it and smacks it a couple of times.
      "He's a jerk," I say and look where Jeff ran off. "He should get his own toys. Not lie and try to take yours."
      "Yeah." Steven smacks the ball again, like he's getting ready to throw it. "Well, they're in for it now."
      "In for what?" I look at him.
      "We're at war." Steven grins. He looks mean like that. I look at Nicky. "Their block and our block. It's us against them." He throws the football in the air and catches it.


      "It's over here," Nicky says as he runs. "I found it this morning but I bet it's still there."
      I run after him. "Why'd she throw it out?"
      "I dunno. She could get fifty or sixty cents by turning them in but she just threw them away. Maybe she doesn't know you can get money for empties."
      We run up by the trashcans and there's a white cardboard box sitting next to the cans. It isn't big, like a couple things of soda stuck together. It's got BEER written in big black letters on the side.
      "See," Nicky says, pulling open the box. The top lifts open like somebody cut all the way around and just left one side hanging on. Like a trapdoor. Inside is a bunch of crisscrossing cardboard pieces. Like honeycomb cereal. A bunch of little boxes inside the big box. There's a brown glass bottle in each of the little boxes.
      "We can throw them," I suggest. "We'll need weapons for the war."
      "Yeah. Maybe Steven will even let me throw one since I found them for you guys. PJ and Jeff got the junkyard so we need something, too."
      "The junkyard's not much," I shrug. I'd seen it. I snuck over one time even though I wasn't supposed to leave the block. I followed them past the block over and cut through a space behind a garage to their block. The junkyard was just an old garden on the side of PJ's house with nothing growing in it. There was just some pipes and sticks in it. Not worth getting grounded.
      I even had to find my own way home. I tried to go the long way around because they said the guy with the garage got mad if you walked through there more than once. The street didn't look right, though, and I couldn't find my way back. I just ran through the space behind the garage so the guy couldn't catch me.
      "There's no beer in them, is there? We'll get in trouble if we have beer."
      "No," Nicky looks around. "Nobody's looking. They won't know if we take them."
      I grab the box and we both run off toward the alley. We stop just around the corner from his house and look to see if anybody's following us. The block is quiet, though.
      "We got to figure out what to do with them."
      "My mom might let me keep them in the garage," Nicky offers.
      I shake my head. "That won't work. PJ and Jeff would get us before we got the bottles. We got to have them ready to throw."
      I look around. Maybe we could keep them on the side of Nicky's house. They'd be right there. Then I remember Nicky's dad keeps their trash there. He'd just throw them out. I shift the box. It's getting heavy, even though the bottles are all empty.
      "I got it! Hide them in the hole in that tree up there," I point up at the hill to the graveyard. "PJ and Jeff won't find it and we can run there when they attack. They we can throw the bottles down so they can't follow."
      " Now we just got to get them to chase us."


      "Quick!" Steven runs up to me.
      "I just saw PJ and Jeff! We can get them! You got to come!"
      Then he turns and runs off toward the alley. I'd been rolling my dump truck on my sidewalk. There'd been snow everywhere for a while but it finally all melted so I hadn't been allowed to play outside for a while. I get up and run with Steven.
      We run through Nicky's yard. I guess they're down that way. I see a broom as we're running and I stop.
      "What're you doing? Hurry up!"
      "Getting a weapon," I say. I grab at the broom and I start running again. The broom part comes away and I'm just running with the pole. Good. A broom isn't as scary as a staff. Now I look like a ninja.
      We go running down the alley and out onto the next block. I run and don't think about it because we've got to catch them, but I'm not supposed to be off the block. I start worrying, but I don't seem to slow down. I'm running even faster than Steven. He's falling way behind.
      "You're going to get us?" PJ yells at Nicky. PJ and Jeff got him between them. PJ pushes Nicky at Jeff. Then Jeff pushes him back at PJ. "Come on and get us," PJ says, pushing Nicky back at Jeff again. "I dare you."
      "Aaaaaahh!" I run at them, swinging the broomstick above my head and yelling like a ninja. They move apart as I charge. PJ runs off and even Nicky gets out of the way. Jeff just stands there. He does back up a little, though.
      I'd been all ready. I was going to run in and just swing at somebody. It didn't really matter who. Just swing. Run in and hit. Smack!
      I pull back, though. I almost trip because I'm running up so fast swinging and I have to try to stop so I don't just run into Jeff. Steven almost runs into me, too.
      I hold the broomstick like a staff. Steven gets on one side of Jeff and Nicky gets on the other. Jeff holds up his fists like he's going to punch one of us. He looks back and forth at us all real quick, like he's trying to see us all at the same time. PJ ditched him. It's three against one now.
      "Hit him!" Steven points at Jeff.
      I whip an end of the broomstick at Jeff. I don't hit him. I just scare him. He flinches. Then I do it again.
      "Come on," Steven orders. "Get him!"
      "Yeah," Nicky says. "He can't get away."
      Jeff looks to each of them when they talk. He looks back at me when I swing at him again. I still don't hit.
      I'm going to hit him. I'm just getting ready. I got to get ready. I can't just hit him without getting ready. It's hard to swing the broomstick around with my coat all zipped up. Especially with the hood on. It's tough to move.
      "Do it!"
      I go to swing for real this time, but something hard hits my head. It makes a pop sound. It feels kind of like a whap, though.
      Jeff freezes and his mouth hangs open. Steven and Nicky are looking like that, too. Their eyes are all open wide. Nobody moves. They seem like they're waiting on something.
      I turn around. PJ's standing there. He must have been the one that snuck up and hit me. I don't see anything in his hands, though.
      There's stuff all over me. I shake and it started falling to the cement, tinkling. Pieces of brown glass.
      I look at the pieces as they fall. I sort of stare. Then I see PJ running away down the alley toward his block. Jeff's running the other way around. Steven and Nicky still look at me after PJ and Jeff run out of sight. I wonder if I got cut. I put my hand up to check.
      "Wow! That was awesome," Steven says when I start feeling my head to see if I'm okay. Nicky looks over at him. Steven looks back at him and then at me. "You just got a bottle broke over your head and you didn't get hurt or nothing!"
      I'm still checking my head. I don't think I got hurt. I can't think whether I want to cry or not.
      "Wasn't that awesome?" Steven asks Nicky after I don't say anything.
      "Yeah," Nicky agrees.
      "You must be invincible or something," Steven continues, "or have a super-strong head. Nobody else could get hit like that and not get hurt. Not me."
      "You think so?" I finally ask.
      "Yeah! Did you see how they ran off? We won! They won't be back after seeing something like that."
      Nicky nods.
      I look over where PJ ran off and then where Jeff ran off. I don't see them coming back. I guess we did win.

Note: This story is part of a collection that follows the same characters over time.

David S. Atkinson received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska. His writing appears or is forthcoming in "Grey Sparrow Journal," "Interrobang?! Magaine," "Split Quarterly," "Cannoli Pie," "C4: The Chamber Four Lit Mag," "The Lincoln Underground," "Brave Blue Mice," "Atticus Review," "The Zodiac Review," and others. His book reviews appear in "Gently Read Literature," "The Rumpus," and "[PANK]." His writing website is and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

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