The next day Gary wore the beret. It was more to do with wanting to have Old Black Maggie see him with it than defiance against parental control. It had taken on a symbolic meaning. I signified his bravery and freedom from Old Black Maggie. If for no one but himself it made him feel better.
Donnie and Whipper were sworn to secrecy, yet they treated him with respect and honor. Without them saying why others noticed and he appeared a notch ahead of others. There was nothing Gary excelled in and this gave him a cause for pride in himself – he was an individual, a brave individual.
He rode his bike toward the drugstore through the park, a familiar pathway. He tucked his beret in his shirt after it had blown off his head. He turned in a bend in the pathway, ahead of him five boys on bikes were near the path. There was a sixth without a bike. From a distance, they looked familiar. They were boys from another neighborhood, from closer to downtown. He didn’t know their names, only their reputations, tough guys – a gang.
Gary did not want to appear cowardly and turn around. He peddled forward. As he approached them they converged on the pathway and blocked him in.
Gary stood straddling his bike. “What do you guys want?”
The boy without the bike walked around Gary’s bike inspecting it like he was buying a used car. “That looks like it,” he said, “that looks like my bike. Where did you get this bike?”
“My parents bought it for me,” Gary said.
“You got your name on it or a receipt to show it was paid for?” the boy said.
“Nobody keeps those things,” Gary said.
“You should,” the boy said, “You never know when you’ll need it.”
“I think if I had one right now it still wouldn’t do me any good,” Gary said.
The boy looked at Gary scornfully. He did not like Gary’s tone. He shoved Gary violently in the chest. He fell to the ground. Gary stood and the boy grabbed the bike.
“This is my bike,” the boy said.
Gary looked at the other five boys on bikes. He heard of them. They were a gang. The called themselves The Gravediggers. It was rumored they would kill.
“Sure,” Gary said. “You’re right. If I can’t prove it’s mine that’s my problem. It’s a good bike. I hope you enjoy it. That front tire may have a slow leak in it so I’d keep an eye on it if I were you.”
The boy smiled gleefully. He swung his leg over the bike and they rode away.
With his pride shattered Gary watched them ride away laughing. He was sick in his heart. He invented ways in which to tell others his bike was ‘stolen.’
He walked along the pathway and came to a park bench. He pulled the beret from inside his shirt and fitted it tightly on his head. He was happy not to be wearing it. That would have only fueled the flames further. “They will not get away with this,” Gary vowed.