In this segment of my junior high school WIP, Jacob, the really smart kid, tells Theo he is setting up a betting scheme for a wall crawl contest between Theo and Bobby Danforth. Also, the story has a new name: SCALING THE WALL. As the story has progressed that idea that all the kids are trying to overcome something is the central theme.
“What are you plotting?” Theo asked, as he approached the grinning Jacob.
“That, my sporting friend, is the exact word,” Jacob replied. “How would you like to make a few dollars and get back at Bobby Danforth?”
Before Theo could speak up, a kid tapped Jacob on the shoulder, handed him two dollars and said, “On… ” the kid nodded to Theo. “What’s your name?”
“Right. Two bucks on Theo.”
“You have kids betting on me? What the heck, Jacob. I mean, Bobby is a jerk but I’m not gonna fight him. Jeez, Jacob!”
“Oh, no, Theo. I’d never ask you to do that, but your triumph over Bobby Danforth on the wall has gone viral on Tik Tok. Take a look.”
Jacob handed Theo his phone where student after student cheered Theo’s “victory.”
Theo passed the phone back. “He bet me a buck, and I didn’t have one. I had to beat him.” He stared into the playground, then shrugged. “Don’t get the fuss. Wasn’t that hard.” He cast a side glance at Jacob. “What are you getting me into?”
“Ah, my friend, don’t tell anyone it wasn’t that hard. It would change the odds.”
Theo leaned his head to one side, closed his eyes and tried to form a sentence. “Wha…I..Jac…wall, Mr.Younger…” And gave up. A sigh. “You’re taking bets that I can, what, crawl along the wall farther than Bobby Danforth.”
Jacob grinned. “Not just crawl farther, but traverse the fire escape, then conquer the rear door gap, which if you have looked at it, has a ledge but no footholds, and then of course, make it across the long playground side of the wall, which it high off the ground and the foot ledge is narrow and has a shaper tilt. Very difficult.”
“That’s right, I’m setting up betting line of all aspects of the crawl. The over all distance, of course, but a separate wagers on the fire escape, rear door and the playground wall. I am pondering a bet on the fastest run, but since no one has ever measured the time it took someone to complete the full crawl, I have no data upon which to create a reasonable odds.”
Theo, fully suckered and agreeing, laughed. “What do I get out of it, besides all the glory?”
“A cut of the profits.”
“Ha! Awright, ya got me.”
Jacob stood, then Theo as Jacob began to walk away.
“I have piano practice,” Jacob said. “But, thank you. This silly wall crawl has importance beyond what you know. You must realize how many students before you tried and never made the first turn. To them it is more than a game. It’s a challenge, a measurement of themselves. They want to say when they leave this school they conquered the wall.”
Theo glanced at the long wall facing the playground. Some big deal, huh? “Yeah, okay. I get that. In Lakeside after school we boys used to run to my parent’s coffee shop and the last one in had to buy the sodas. We had swimming races in the summer and then see who would dare jump from the top of the hay pile in Anson’s barn to the floor.” He nodded and grinned at Jacob. “Yeah, so, everything was a challenge.”
“There’s more,” Jacob said. “Bobby Danforth and his friends have bullied more than a dozen kids just because they can.” They began to walk toward Jacob’s house. “No one will stand up to him. His family protects him.” Jacob smiled and patted Theo on the back. “Besides they are all tired of Bobby Danforth’s bragging. He’s telling his friends that he gave you that dollar out of pity.”
Theo smiled. “Actually, Jacob, I tricked him. I made it look harder than it was.”
“Oh, my, don’t tell anyone else that, either. I’d have no way to set the odds if students felt there was no contest.”
“Man, I don’t get you. The smartest kid in class, the piano whiz and a bookie.”
“Precisely. A plump-fingered, bespeckled piano player like me,” Jacob laughed as stared at his phone as a string of texts with bets arrived.
“Because it’s numbers, math, my friend, and math is easy. Besides it’s a family skill. My uncle ran numbers on horse races and one day I asked how he did it, so he took me to the track and showed me. I got it right away. No one guessed because he was an attorney.” Jacob turned. “See you soon.”
Theo watched as Jacob bobbed his short-stepped walk across Cherry Street, his feet and shoulders syncopated as if he was marching to a musical beat.
That little hustler.
He turned back to the school, and stared at the long side of the building that faced the playground when the whole stinking mess dawned on him. If he’s the hustler, then I’m his sucker. There’s something else even worse between Jacob and Bobby Danforth, and now it’s my problem.