Colin Jacoby did not hear the morning birds chirping.
He did not feel the black fly tickling his arm, or the cool morning breeze blowing through his wavy, bowl-cut hair.
More importantly, however, is what he did not hear approaching.
A fallen tree branch, just a few feet away, snapped under stalking footsteps.
Colin’s head jerked up. His book slipped from his hands, falling onto the muddy ground, as the color drained from his face.
There was no escape.
Toady number one blocked him from the right, while toady number two blocked the left, leaving the head bully blocking the pathway in front.
A sheer granite rock towered behind Colin.
“Hi –hi guys,” he stammered, putting on a fake smile. “I see you’re all camping here again this summer, too.”
“Lucky us,” snarled the head bully bitterly. “Only thing good about it, is gettin’ to pound on little kids like you.”
Colin could not decide if he should be more upset over the impending humiliation, or at being called a little kid.
“If you recall,” he began, hoping to distract them, “I believe I am actually older than the three of you.” He laughed nervously after he had said it.
The head bully was easily a foot taller and wider than Colin. The bullies face boiled with rage as he furiously strode toward Colin, pushing him to the muddy ground.
His two toadies pointed and shrieked with laughter.
Colin, defeated, prepared for whatever was to come next: a mouthful of mud, a wedgie, or maybe this time, a black eye.
Then he saw it!
The thing Colin Jacoby dreaded the most.
The silhouette of a girl dressed in black.
“Not her too!” he uttered, letting his face fall into the mud.
The girl’s voice rang out tauntingly.
“I thought I made it clear that only I get to bully my little brother?” She stood atop a nearby tree stump, her flame-red hair blowing in the breeze.
The head bully jumped back, startled, dropping his smug grin.
“Meghan Jacoby. H-hey. We weren’t doin’ notin’.” He backed up a few steps adding, “He fell on his own!” The bully then scurried off, his two toadies at his heels.
Meghan jumped off her perch with a satisfied smirk.
“I should have just given him two more black eyes,” she boasted. She held out her hand, offering to help her brother off the ground. “You can thank me any time, Little Bro.”
Colin stubbornly ignored the offer and dragged himself out of the mud. He collected his mud-ruined book and walked toward home. Meghan’s longer stride easily allowed her to catch up and she sauntered along side him.
“Okay. Fine. Don’t thank me.”
Colin still did not answer.
“Nice move by the way,” she continued, ignoring his brooding demeanor. Mockingly she repeated, “I think I am actually older than you… good way to get your head bit off, Little Bro.”
Colin stopped abruptly, clenching his teeth. “I tried to block you."
“Yeah, I sensed that. Why?”
“Maybe I am tired of having someone in my head all the time!”
“You think you’re tired of it! Your head is exhausting.”
“Then why don’t you stay out?”
“So you would rather have your face full of mud and your underwear pulled up over your head right now, then?”
Colin, now fuming, stormed away as fast as his short legs would allow him.
Could there be anything worse than his sister coming to his rescue? The fact that she was his younger sister (yes, by only two minutes, but still younger), would always make it worse!
“Ah! Will I ever grow?” he screamed silently, successfully blocking the thought from her.
As they neared the campsite, Meghan, sensing his irritation, attempted to smooth things over.
“Colin, we can’t help that we hear each other’s thoughts. Just try