The only reason I hadn’t stepped into the path of the pickup was because a white object on the ground caught my eye. Afterward, it took a moment to register what had just happened, and even longer to remember that I needed to breathe. I tasted some sweet, dust-covered air and returned my attention to the thing at my feet.
Well, I was indebted to whatever it was, so I might as well investigate. I ducked into a crouch just in time for a sixteen-ounce soft drink to sail through the air where my head had just been and splatter at a safe distance beside me. A fifteen-year-old, primer-enhanced sports car zipped by. In its wake, I could hear someone shouting from inside, “How could you miss that perfect shot, you idiot?“
I frowned at the fractured paper cup, at the tire tracks in the road, and at the thing on the ground. At the age of eight, I wasn’t old enough to believe that coincidences were real, so I brushed the dirt off the thing as quickly as I could.
It was a bone–too short to belong to a chicken, but too thick to belong to a smaller bird. A cat maybe? A fox? “Ugh,” I concluded. Still, it saved my life, and it saved me a bath, so it was worth holding onto.
“Maximilliano Alejandro Fuentes, you get home right now!” my mother shouted from well over a block away. She used my middle name, which meant this thing in my hand couldn’t be that powerful. But to be fair, nothing on Earth was more powerful than Mama.
I dropped the morbid trinket in my pocket and jogged home, where my parents waited outside. This was bad.
Papa spoke. “Your mother and I are going out for dinner. We ordered you and your sister a pizza.”
“She’s going to be keeping an eye on you, Max, so behave.” The way she said behave rattled me, as it always did. Not that it made a difference.
“Don’t make me regret this,” Papa demanded.
The instant our minivan rolled out of sight, my sister emerged, purse in hand. “I’m going to Alison’s to hang out. You tell Mama or Papa, you are dead!”
I strutted inside, sat down in front of the TV, picked the remote, patted my pocket, and said with a grin, “Wow.”
Eighteen minutes later, someone tapped lightly on the door. I bounced to my feet and opened it, only to face a witch.
She wasn’t carrying a broom or wearing a black hat or anything like that. She wasn’t even old or pale green. She was actually young and pretty, with dark skin, a plaid cowboy shirt, tight jeans, and a lot of turquoise jewelry.
The witch said nothing; she just extended a four-fingered hand, palm up.
“No way!” I told her. “It’s mine now!”
She didn’t reply.
“If it was really that important to you,” I added, “you shouldn’t have dropped it in the first place!” And with that, I slammed the door in her face.
It took only two steps before I paused, fished the bone out of my pocket, held it against my pinkie, and vividly recalled the image of her reaching for it. I turned and tore open the door to find her still there, in the exact same pose.
Without a word, I dropped the lucky charm in her hand. She made a fist and smirked.
“So much for that,” I muttered as I watched her go.