EIGHT BALL • by F.C. Shultz

“Should I keep being nice to Brandon, even though he keeps messing with me?” Nick said as he began to shake the ball. He forgot to breathe. The bubbles began to clear.

SIGNS POINT TO YES

“Fine. I’ll be nice at school tomorrow. But I’m going to ask again after dinner.”

He placed the ball on the table next to his bed and ran downstairs. A talking superhero action figure had been in this spot previously. And before that it was a basketball night light. The crib was replaced by a bed that looked like a sports car. Only now the sports car was too short and needed more than just a tune-up. He had no memories of the crib. And he only remembered the race car being too small.

Nick knew all the kids in the neighborhood. If someone had a birthday party, Nick was invited. If he wanted fruit snacks after school, he knew he could go to Joey’s house and they would be there. He could run home from the park just in time for dinner. He owned this neighborhood; in a peaceful way. Then Brandon happened.

Brandon moved into Mike Pearson’s house. This was not a good trade according to Nick. He’d rather have two sisters than one Brandon. The other kids said that Brandon was held back a grade. He also wore adult shoes and most of the teachers had to look up when talking to him.

“Brandon smashed my cheeseburger at lunch today. And then ate some of my fries. I told the teacher, but she didn’t see it and Brandon said he didn’t do it so nothing happened. Are you sure that I have to keep being nice to him?”

The magic eight ball tried to jump out of his hands. But he would not let that happen. He spread his fingers wider to get a better grip.

YES, DEFINITELY

Nick threw the magic black ball onto his bed and left the room. Being nice was difficult. It wasn’t fair. But he always did what the magic ball said, although he did not always like the answers. It got him in trouble once when he cut his sister’s hair.

The next morning he made sure to say hi to Brandon and not say anything mean about Brandon only having one eyebrow. This was impossible once Nick found out that Brandon had taken a picture of him picking his nose on the bus.

“I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been nice to Brandon every day. I have never put a fish in his book bag or a toothpick in his straw or anything. I just don’t get it. One more day. I don’t think I can do more than that. Should I be nice to him for one more day?”

WITHOUT A DOUBT

Meanwhile, down the street at Mike Pearson’s old house, there was another magic eight ball shaking back and forth. Holding that magic ball was a new student sitting on the closet floor saying, “I want people to like me and think I’m funny. I don’t know what else to do. Should I keep being mean to Nick to get people to like me?”

AS I SEE IT, YES


F.C. Shultz is an author from the American Midwest — “I did not begin writing fiction until my early twenties when the stories of Ray Bradbury grabbed hold of me and never let go.”


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