The Threat is Real
Dylan drew up his sword and thrust it into the enemy’s chest. He slashed at the saber-toothed tiger’s neck and sliced it cross-wise until the beast let out its last gasp and lay still, defeated and left for dead.
All Dylan had really done was destroy an old tiger piñata left over from his last birthday party that he’d found in his bedroom closet. Until then, it probably could have been re-used but he’d torn it up pretty good with the poker he’d fetched from the living room. He doubted the shredded cardboard and tissue paper strewn about his floor were good for much now except as a liner for his pet bird Sunny’s cage.
At least he felt better about himself, having fought his imaginary battle and won.
His mom stood in the doorway to his bedroom. “What are you doing?” she asked. “Role-playing again?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“What’s the real evil you’re pretending to avenge this time?”
“Kirk. That bully at school.”
His mom leaned against the door frame and folded her arms. “That kid is still pestering you?” she asked. “Do you want me to call his parents or the school and complain about him?”
“No, that’s okay. The next time he bugs me, I’m going to try and be brave and stand up to him. But thanks for offering.”
“You are very brave.”
“The way you face obstacles head-on without giving up. Like the way you finished that relay race in the track meet with a good time even when the kid in the leg before you dropped the baton. Or the time you completed that piano recital even after you had to start your piece over. Both times you kept on and demonstrated courage.”
“Oh wow. I guess you’re right. I am brave. But this is different. Facing Kirk is going to be harder for me than those things were.”
“All right. Well, I’m sure you can take care of yourself. Promise me you’ll be careful, though.”
The very next afternoon, Kirk, scowling, was waiting for Dylan by the bus ramp. Normally they both walked home from school, though usually not together.
As Dylan hurried along the sidewalk, Kirk strode beside him and matched each of his steps. When they passed a frozen pond, Kirk leaned his head toward Dylan and taunted, “I dare you to walk across the ice. I bet you can’t do it, you little fraidy-cat.”
The hairs on the back of Dylan’s neck bristled. He’d known something like this was going to happen and still, he wasn’t prepared. Think fast, he told himself.
“I’m not scared. I know I can do it. But can you?” he asked. “You’re a lot bigger than me, so that ice will crack a lot easier underneath your weight than it will under mine.”
“Tell you what. You go first and then when the ice is melted and weak, I’ll go,” he bluffed.
“Then I’ll really be bound to fall in.”
Kirk, a look of pure astonishment on his face, stared at Dylan.
“Think I’ll pass. Thanks anyway. Maybe another time.”
Then the bully raced home ahead on his own.
And never bothered Dylan again.