by Baniester Taylor
Quietly, BJ left his house without telling his sister where he was going. He hopped on his bike and road aimlessly down the street, thinking about the trouble he was in and the whipping he was going to get. He tried not to cry during the last whipping he got for misbehaving in the classroom. He tried to take his punishment like a man, but the sting of the ironing cord across his butt brought tears to his eyes. He stood there motionlessly holding his breath so he wouldn't cry out in pain, but his mother wanted more than tears so she started hitting him on his legs as well as his butt.
As he remembered how the mounting pain filled his slim frame, forcing his body to squirm and his mouth to scream for forgiveness, he wipe the fog from his eyes. He recalled his mother's menacing voice saying, "Stop yelling and moving or I'll hit you again," and how once satisfied with his compliance, she stopped hitting him, but the sting of the ironing cord continued to cause his body to quiver. "I won't let her whip me again," he told himself.
BJ rode his bike for several blocks. When he reached Mike's house he decided to stop. He did not tell his best friend the trouble he was in or what he planned to do about it. He wanted to forget his dilemma, but as they played checkers on Mike's back porch his mind kept going over the events of that morning. It started out as a typical summer day with nothing for BJ to do while his older sister watched the soaps on TV, so he asked if he could go around the corner to David's house to play. With her eyes glued to the TV, she flicked her hand in the air and said, "Go."
With those words BJ grabbed his hat and out the front door he ran to David's house. BJ and David played Old Maid but soon grew bored and decided to go outside and play soccer. After a few minutes of kicking a deflated soccer ball David suggested going to BJ's house to pay baseball. BJ recalled shaking his head from side to side indicating no, and telling David, "the last time we played ball at my house we broke my neighbor's window and my parents told me not to play baseball in the backyard anymore."
"Okay," David said, "this time we won't bat the ball, just play catch, so we can control where the ball is goes. We'll be careful."
Hesitantly, BJ agreed.
"It's all David's fault," BJ thought to himself as he and Mike plaid checkers, but BJ knew that wasn't true. While playing catch BJ forgot about his promise to his parents and about being careful. He became more reckless with each throw until he threw the ball high over David's head and into the kitchen window.
"Holy-moly Davie, I got to go," yelled BJ as he ran into the house hoping no one was hurt.
"You broke another window; you're going to get it," his sister yelled as he entered the house to view the damage. The ball and pieces of broken windowpane landed in the kitchen sink, breaking a cup that was already there.
"You better clean that up," she shouted, as she resumed watching TV in the family room. Without stopping to explain or argue back, BJ quietly removed the ball, broken glass, and cup from the kitchen sink. He also cleaned the kitchen counter and swapped the floor to make sure no broken pieces remained. Finally, he taped newspaper over the hole, to keep flying bugs from coming into the house. Then he quietly left the house thinking to himself, "David should have caught that ball."
BJ and Mike played until Mike's father came home and Mike had to go inside to eat dinner. Reluctantly, BJ hoped on his bike and road away. As BJ continued his journey, he noticed a cool breeze had replaced the warm summer air. When BJ reached Telegraph Avenue he began riding his bike on the sidewalk like his father told him to do during heavy street traffic.
"People must be heading home from work," BJ told himself, "my father should be home now." Then he thought about the last time his father gave him a whipping for punching his sister. BJ did not think he deserve that whipping because she won the game they were playing by cheating, so he ran from his father. BJ's father chased him outside then inside the house. His father chased him around the kitchen table, then the dining room table, and the living couch. BJ thought he could tire his father out by going back outside but before he could make it out the front door his father grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar stopping him dead in his tracks. BJ cried and yelled that he was sorry and wouldn't do it again but his father did not stop hitting him with a belt until BJ's mother implored him to stop.
BJ didn't care which parent was planning on whipping him when he got home because he wasn't going home. He was running away. As he rode his bike under a freeway over-path he passed a homeless man sleeping in a tattered sleeping bag next to a cart full on old cloths and bags of bottles and cans. As he peddled by a drive through restaurant he saw kids sitting with their parents enjoying burgers and fries. BJ rode his bike until he had to stop to catch his breath. As he looked around he noticed that street lamps were on, stores along Telegraph Avenue were closing, and traffic was slowing down. His stomach felt empty and he was starting to get goose bumps on his arms from the cold evening air. Realizing he was not prepared for this adventure, BJ decided to face his parents; he turned his bike around and headed home.
"I will not cry until I get at least 5 lashes with the belt or 3 with the ironing cord," he confidently told himself, "then I will cry and beg for forgiveness. Even though David should have caught the ball, I was wrong too and will take my punishment like a man." He repeated those words to himself all the way home.
After he put his bike in his backyard, BJ slowly walked up the steps and opened the backdoor. The warmth of the house and the aroma of cooked food on the stove filled his heart with joy, but seeing his family sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner without him created a sinking feeling in his stomach. As soon as they looked at him he began to cry and earnestly plead for forgiveness. His sister started laughing at him but stopped after their father put his hand on her arm. His mother got up from the table, walked over to BJ, and put her arm around him.
"BJ, it's going to be all right," she decreed. "No spanking this time, but you will have to pay for the window with your allowance, and no TV for a week."
"Yes mama," he said sniffling.
Then she whispered in his ear, "go wash your face and come get your dinner." As BJ walked to the bathroom the tension in his body melted as love for his parents filled his heart.