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Mira Monte, the tiny town right next to Ojai. David must have been about fourteen. Around 1997. He was hanging out with his best friend Kurt, a blue collar kid from Oak View, and two of Kurt’s buddies. He knew the other guys. One was John, Kurt’s friend Scott’s older brother. John was tall, thin, but had bristling, taught muscles. He had a shaved head and that broken look in his blue eyes. That look that said: Daddy beat my ass for years.
They’d been into BMXing. Mira Monte had this half-acre lot shadowed by dozens of Eucalyptus trees with BMX jumps. Local kids came there all the time throughout the year. It was a Sunday, late afternoon, early fall. David could still smell the rich soft earth, the Eucalyptus leaves, the kids’ body odor, could hear the yelling and shit-talking, the “faggot” this and “bitch” that and “motherfucker” this.
Two kids had already been there when they showed up. Both kids were on the bigger side, but sort of fat, and wore white shirts and mangy, loose jeans. From the start John and one of the kids seemed uncomfortable with each other. David couldn’t explain it. It was a sudden, quick glance.
It was when Scott—John’s little brother—was racing towards one of the big double-jumps that it started. One of the fat guys suddenly rode from out of nowhere and flew off the jump in front of Scott. This made Scott have to swerve violently off the jump. He landed ok but he nearly crashed; it could have been bad.
John waited until he saw the kid again and yelled, “Hey, faggot, don’t ever do that again.”
The kid gaped at John. The kid had mangled teeth. His skin was bronze. David sensed vaguely that he was Mexican. Wind rattled the Eucalyptus leaves above, making that distant, sorrowful rushing traffic sound.
The kid raised one knee as he rode slowly by their group. They’d all clumped together now: David; Kurt; John; Scott.
The kid jerked his head at John. “You gonna make me?”
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