Ronnie and me was out playing in the muddy creek bed, only it was dry the way things are in the fall, and it was hot. It was one of those Indian summers, one of those times when everything is yellow and wrinkly like that butt-hard corn my mom throws on the table for a centerpiece at Thanksgiving. She even wears a few feathers in her hair, those colored kind hanging from leather strings she buys at the State Fair. Hers are usually pink or purple, colors that you know didn't come from no real bird. Anyway, she usually prances around in her leather slippers and says, "How." "How what, Ma?" I usually say. "Shut up, Bart. Go tell your father it's time to eat," she usually says, even if the bird is still sitting on the counter, naked as the moon, its frozen rump just a hole big enough for a fistful of gunk.
Anyway, Ronnie and me was out playing, sort of. We was stirring sticks in the dirt, sometimes chucking rocks at trees or spitting. It had been a long day at school in Principal White's office, copying the dictionary. I was already on the C's; Ronnie was still on the A's. We had gotten into trouble for throwing rocks at girl; they was just little rocks and the girls seemed to like it, I thought. They screamed and ran behind a tree but soon snuck out again, looking stupid, like most girls do when they want to play with boys. They yelled at us and said they was going to tell but pretty soon they was in our throwing range so Ronnie and I figured they was just kidding and they must have liked it.
Since school let out for the day, neither of us had much to say. Throwing rocks now wasn't much fun, but we was doing it anyway when we could find a good one. I was working out a knobby one, which was just sticking its nose out of the ground, with a stick. I thought it would make a good rock and how good I would feel if I could throw it just right and the knobby nose would hit square on a tree. With my bare toe, I nudged it. My toe didn't hurt anymore because my mom had clipped the ingrown nail. The rock looked tiny but it wouldn't budge. I scraped around it with my stick, hoping it was only pounded in the dirt.
"Whachyadoin'?" Ronnie asked.
"I'm diggin' at this rock," I said, pushing down on my stick.
"I wanna throw it."
He shoved me aside. "That's not how you dig at rocks. It'll take you all day with a stick. You have to use your hands."
He scratched at the dirt around the rock with both hands. The dirt spit out, sometimes in little dried clods that hit my legs, rolled down my ankles, and nested between my toes. The rock was bigger than my dead dog Skipp.
"This is too big to throw," he said.
I could already hear the flat tink the rock would make hitting a tree. I had to hear it hit something. "We can drop it off the shed if my mom's not home."
"Ow!" he yelled, sitting back on his feet. "What's this?"
He held his left hand up for me to see, something black glinting in the corn-yellow light. I stepped forward, losing all the baby clods between my toes. "Shoot," I said, "you're bleedin'."
"Well, pull it out!" He was almost screaming like a girl.
"You do it." I hated blood.
A few drops fell on the ground. They instantly recoiled and sat in blobs. They didn't mix with the dirt, though the dirt slightly dusted
He shouted, "It's your stupid rock!"
"I thought you was the Chief Rock Digger!"
"Bart, just do it!"
He stood up and handed me his palm. I reached out and made my thumb and pointer finger like my mom's tweezers. "Hold still," I said. She always said that when I had a sliver. I pinched the hard, black tiny thing and jerked.
"Ow!" he screamed, then he slapped me on the arm. I didn't care because I was wiping the thing off on my shorts.
"Holy cow," I said. I held the baby arrowhead out for him to see but his back was turned toward me a little. It must of been made from coal — that's the only black rock I know of. I could see he was trying to squeeze more blood out of his hand. It must have been carved with an ice cream scoop because its edges were rounded and going in, not straight like the arrowheads I seen in my comic books.
I said, "Look." He looked over his shoulder at me like I do when I'm moping, head kind of lowered and eyes all small. The light passed right through the edge of one of his eyes, like it was crystal. That eye almost looked yellow. "It's just a little arrowhead," I said.
Him and his yellow eye didn't say anything for a minute. "Lemme see it," he said. I handed it over to him. He studied it a minute, forgetting it had stabbed his hand and he was still bleeding. "It's mine," he muttered.
"No, it's not. It was my rock."
He faced me, smearing his bloody hand on his jeans. "You can't own a rock, retard."
"You can, too."
"You can't and I'm the one who dug it up."
"By my rock. I would've found it if you hadn't butted in and thought you was some big king rock-digger."
With his face looking right at me, his eyes looked normal but his mouth didn't. His lips pushed out to their corners in a bratty smile. "Finder's keeper's…" he whispered. His good hand grabbed the arrowhead. I stepped forward and pushed him and at the same time, he smeared his bloody hand across my face and over my mouth. I reached for his other hand but he held it away from me so I slugged him. When he bunched over I snatched the arrowhead and scrambled up the creek bed. I ran through the stiff weeds, stickers poking my legs and feet, my big toe pounding. I knew he'd get me. He could always run faster, but I couldn't stop because I'd be clobbered anyway. The baby arrowhead's tip was sharp and slitted into my hands. I held it tight because I was running fast. I saw the shed and my house. My mother's minivan was there and she was packing in groceries.
Like I knew it would, my shirt yanked back and I was suddenly choked to a stop. Before I could catch my breath, he had me on the ground, sitting on my stomach and pinning my wrists under his knees like my older brother does. The more his left knee pressed into my right wrist the less my hand squeezed the arrowhead. His shaggy white hair fell over his face as he leaned forward, forcing my hand to open. I wiggled my legs, wishing for a second that this was a movie so I could swing my legs up behind him and hold his throat between my ankles — then squeeze until he fell off me. He began to bounce, tears dripped from my eyes. Finally my hand opened. Ronnie slowly and delicately plucked the arrowhead from my bloody palm then sat back on my stomach, his mouth pulled back into gloating. "It's mine," he said and stood up. He looked at it a moment, holding it up to the light so all I could see was a white shine.
"It's mine." He wiped snot on the back of his hand then walked off, the arrowhead safe in his pocket.
I rolled myself up onto my feet but still squatted, not wanting to stand up until the tears had dried and left my cheeks starchy. I found small dirt clods on the ground and pinched them into dust while I waited.