WRITTEN BY SHAWN GOODMAN
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013
2016-2017 Nominee - Young Adult
In an environment where kindness equals weakness, how do those who care survive?
Shawn Goodman will capture your heart with this gritty, honest, and moving story about a boy struggling to learn about friendship, brotherhood, and manhood in a society where violence is the answer to every problem.
"Chapter 5" from KINDNESS FOR WEAKNESS by Shawn Goodman, copyright © 2013 by Shawn Goodman. Used by permission of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
After a few hours of walking, I met Louis in the parking lot of Taco Bell on Bennett Road. He’s waiting in his blue and white Bronco, eating a bag of burritos. The Bronco is his ride and joy. He’s spent years restoring it, and it is absolutely perfect, with metallic paint, three-piece rims, and a lift kit. Not that I know anything about trucks, but Louis tells me, and I try to listen because he’s smart, and tough, and good-looking, a guy who is going places. Someday I am going to look in the mirror and see someone more like him than me. Someone with cool clothes and muscles instead of ratty sweatshirts and a bony fifteen-year-old frame. Someone with confidence, and that hard look in the eyes that commands respect, maybe even a little bit of fear.
“You’re late,” Louis says, stuffing his mouth with the last bite, which makes me sad, because I half hoped he had bought me something. He crumples the bag and turns over the small-block eight-cylinder engine. The sound is a deep rumble that runs through my body. It makes me feel tough and invincible, which is funny, since I think of myself as being mostly weak and breakable (because I’m no good at sports, I bruise at the slightest touch, and I can’t fight or stand up for myself). But it’s good to drive around with my big brother, pretending to be different.
“It’s five o’clock,” I say, but Louis points to the digital display outside the bank, which says 5:32.
“My watch must have stopped,” I say.
Louis laughs and taps the side of his head. “You don’t have a watch, genius.”
Louis shakes his head, like he can already tell this isn’t going to work out, like he’s making a mistake in asking me to help him.
He points at the remains of my black eye.
“Did Ron do that?” He clenches his fists, no doubt considering a detour to give my mother’s boyfriend another ass kicking.
“I’m dealing with it.” Which is a total lie, but as much as I’d like Ron to get what’s coming to him, Louis’s probation officer said one more assault charge against Ron and Louis’ll get real prison time.
“Tell me,” Louis says, scratching his square stubbly jaw.
“I have a plan.”
Louis shakes his head. “No, you don’t, James.”
“I do!” But he’s right; I have no plan. The truth is I’m terrified of Ron, which is partly why I’m never at home. And it’s why I wander around so much. Even when it’s cold and I’m hungry, walking is better than getting my ass beat.
“You’re not going to do shit, and you know it. You’re just a kid.”
“I’m fifteen.” I know how stupid this sounds, but I don’t feel like a kid, at least not like the kind of fifteen-year-old kid who should be hanging out with friends and getting busy with girls. For one thing, I don’t have friends. And there have never been any girls. But the main reason I don’t feel like a regular kid is because I have to worry about so many things. I worry about Louis staying under the cops’ radar. I worry about my mother paying the rent on time so we won’t get evicted again. I worry about what I’m going to eat next, and if I’ll ever have enough money to take a girl out on a date (assuming that there will someday be a girl who would go on a date with me). But my biggest fear is that the world has made up its mind about me: I’m not wanted. I’m out. This is what fills my head when I walk the trestle that cuts through the backyards of other peoples’ lives, people who are wanted. Those who fit in.
“Exactly,” my brother says, like it’s settled. “We’ll talk about this later.”