It was a hot, bright day. Everything was burning – the roofs, the shrubs, the asphalt, our bike seats, our skin, our hair. Allison’s father waswatering the lawn, and Allison and I rode our bikes over the soggy grass and through the whirling water that jetted out of the sprinkler.
I lived on Prospect Street then. I was eight and Allison wasten. We were the only kids on the block, so we were best friend by default.
I was the first to see the younger girl standing in the middle of Prospect Street, straddling her bike, watching us. Iheard someone laughing when I almost collided with Allison. I looked up, and there she was. I smiled. She smiled back.
Prospect Street was in a white, lower-middle-class neighbourhood. Most of thehouses were about seventy years old, of simple, sturdy design. The girl dressed in Kelly-green shorts and a T-shirt, looked small against the plainness of the road, but her smile was expansive. The houseacross the Street from Allison’s had been sold the week before, and I guessed the girl must have moved in there with her family.
As Allison came out from under the arc of water, she looked at me.Then she stopped her bike and turned to see what I was grinning at. As I said hi to the girl, I heard Allison say “Get out of here, nigger,” with such contempt that I froze, my smile still glued on myface.
The girl kept smiling too. Allison swung one leg over her bike seat and faced the girl. Holding her bike with one hand, Allison pointed to the house across the street with the other. “I saidget out of here, nigger, or I’ll beat you up”.
The girl’s smile disappeared. I also stopped smiling and I looked at Allison. Her eyes were drawn into slits, and her long hair was dripping with thewater that shot against the small of her back every time the sprinkler swung in our direction.
I turned back to the girl and twisted my mouth into a sneer, trying to imitate the hatred I had seen...