Storm Water Drain
I knew this scenario too well. I'd faced it
plenty of times in the schoolyard. A gang of guys looking for a fight. A fight
that they can't lose - three against one.
"What's in that bag?" demanded the
sneerer, making a lunge for my backpack. I jumped back quickly, out of
"And what's in the folder? Give it here!"
I knew this game, too. If I didn't give
them what they wanted, they'd jump me and grab it anyway. If I did
give them what they wanted, they'd jump me just the same. You can't
always talk sense to bullies, Dad once told me.
"Give me that!" barked Scarface.
"No way," I said, taking a step back,
putting more distance between me and them, so I'd have more room to
"You'd better," said the guy with the
shaved head, taking a step towards me.
"Why don't you come here and get it?!" I
said, playing for time, my mind working furiously for a strategy. I
needed to deal with the leader first. If I could get him down fast, the
other two wouldn't be too hard to take care of. I heard Dad's voice in
my head: Watch their hands, and you'll see the punch coming before it
"Come on," I taunted, "if you want it so
bad, come and get it!"
I glared hard at Scarface, keeping his
hands in my peripheral vision. I wasn't feeling anywhere near as tough
as I sounded, but there was no way I was giving my backpack to these
The threesome looked surprised at my
attitude, and Scarface's neck and face blushed red, his hands moving
fast into furious fists. I braced myself, muscles surging with
He swung at me, and before he knew what
hit him, I'd doubled over and charged my head into his gut like a
battering ram. I heard him grunt as he went flying backwards, hitting
the deck hard.
I kept going, avoiding his flailing arms
and legs as he scrambled to recover his balance and his wind. But I was
already gone, leaving them all behind me, racing away towards the
I threw myself into the left-hand branch.
Scarface's swearing and the shouted
threats of the others thundered down the drains.
This drain was smaller and more sloped
than the main one. As my feet pounded along, the enraged footsteps of
the three in pursuit pounded even louder.
"C'mon! Dogs! Freddy! Get the little
scumbag!" Scarface yelled to the other two.
I had no idea where I was heading. They
were gaining, but I could hear something else - a sound I couldn't
identify. It wasn't the distant rumble of trains. It was something else.
I kept running. I was passing dark
entrances to other, much smaller drains on my left and right, but they
were too small to climb into. Water was starting to trickle from these
small drains onto the floor of the one I was running through. I knew
that a city the size of mine would have miles of drains beneath it, but
I hadn't realized just how extensive this underworld was.
Soon I was splashing through ankle-deep
water. But still the footsteps behind me persisted.
The rumbling was getting louder, and I
suddenly understood what it was. It was the accumulating sound of dozens
of drains rattling under the surge of the water that was pouring down
from the city's gutters!