Stephen walked along the cracked sidewalk, lost in thought, kicking at
the loose chips as he wandered slowly towards Will’s housing unit.
“Stephen, hey,” he heard Rick shout from across the street. “Come
“Hey, Rick.” Stephen looked over. Rick was seated on an old bike,
one foot propped on a pedal, the butt of his BB gun planted on the seat,
the muzzle pointed toward the sky.
“Come here.” It was a command.
“Can’t." Stephen shook his head. "I gotta get over to Will’s.”
Rick leveled the muzzle and sighted down the barrel toward Stephen.
“Hey, don’t.” Stephen raised his hands as if under arrest as Rick
popped off a couple of rounds. “Don’t.” He winced as the shots
smacked his shirt and bounced off. Ha, he'd short pumped the rifle.
Stephen smiled uneasily. What was all this about?
“Get over here.” Rick bared his teeth in a cold smile and began to
pump the charging handle on his rifle again. He pumped and pumped,
overcharging it to get more velocity in the BB’s.
Crap, they were going to sting. “You jerk.” Stephen backed away.
“Jerk? I’m a jerk?”
Stephen bolted as Rick leveled the BB gun in his direction. He heard the
pop, pop of the gun and quickly changed direction. He can’t run me
down on the grass. He veered right and raced between the housing units.
“Oh, crap.” As he emerged from between the houses, he caught a
glimpse of Rick rounding the corner, his head down and butt in the air,
pumping the pedals as hard as he could.
“I’m coming, Stevey,” Rick shouted as Stephen charged ahead,
crossing the street as Rick buzzed past his heels and slammed on the
brakes, wrenched the bike around in a tight, sliding arc and raised the
rifle to fire a couple rounds that ricocheted off the side of the house.
Stephen kept running, darting between the two housing units. “You’re
a jerk, Rick," he yelled over his shoulder, but finally stopped, out of
breath, and waited.Was he coming on foot? He'd never beat him to
Will’s. He walked slowly back to the corner of the house and peeked
around it. No Rick. He looked left, then right, and waited for his
breathing to return to normal. He could double back and lose him. He
darted across the street and between the houses and stopped again. It
looked as if he was gone.
Stephen poked his head around the corner. No one. He glanced back to his
right just in time to see Rick barreling down the street toward him.
“You’re mine,” Stephen heard Rick yell.
"Jerk!" Stephen broke into a run. Stephen ran, his arms pumping, his
breath ripping at his lungs as he turned down the sidewalk toward home.
He glanced over his shoulder to see Rick, his bike leaning low into the
turn. Go for the woods. He can’t catch you in the woods.
“In the woods,” he heard someone shout as he burst from between the
two housing units and up the steep cutaway behind the homes. He lunged
his way up the slope, grabbing large handfuls of grass to gain purchase.
Stephen looked left to see Rick riding fast toward the slope. Oh, crap.
He was gonna try to ride it?
Rick hit the slope fast, coasting halfway up and stopped, braking hard
to hold his position.
Stephen scrambled to the top and bolted into the woods, gasping for air.
He ran a short distance and stopped, leaning heavily against a tree.
“This ain’t over, Stevey. You hear me?”
“Oh, snap,” Stephen said out loud as he headed toward home at a jog.
For whatever reason, he sure was in Rick's sites right now. He heard
Rick still shouting and shook his head as he dropped into the creek bed.
“Jerk.” Probably shouldn’t have said that, huh Stevey?
Excerpted from "Life on Base: Quantico Cave" by Thomas P. Wise. Copyright © 2015 by Thomas P. Wise. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.