Cody waited until he was sure they couldn’t see him before ducking around the far corner of the school, finding some bushes, and puking his guts out behind them. ‡ Cody snuck out through his bedroom window and made it to the baseball “That’s mine,” Cody said, hoping he sounded tough — if he did, maybe he wouldn’t have to fight them. “Give it back.” “Newbie wants his little cap back,” Rich, a senior and the biggest of the two kids said, sneering. He held the cap higher than Cody could reach. “Give it back to me now.” “Or what?” said Joey, the other kid. He was smaller than Rich, but not by much, which still made him bigger than Cody. “You gonna fight Rich for it? Be a big mistake, cap-boy. Maybe the last one you’d get to make. Ain’t that right, Rich?” Rich nodded. Cody’s stomach tightened and he hoped h puke. He felt tears trying to rise too. All he w was his cap back. His dad’s cap. It had the Atlanta Braves A on it, but they never called it the Braves cap. It was the Chemo Cap. Cody helped him pick it out not long after his dad started losing his hair. For a while, they’d thought about something with a funny or positive saying on it, or a stupid drawing. “Y’know, Code, my man,” his dad had said, “let’s go with Atlanta. Once we’ve got this thing beat, I’ll treat you to the Braves in the World Series next year. All four games. They’re going to sweep it. I’v got a feeling.” The Braves didn’t even make it to the post the next year, but they still did better than Codys dad. He didn’t make it even close to the start of the season. Last thing he did was put that cap on Cody’s head. Cody never took it off, except he had to today — first day of school in a new town, and no caps allowed in class. But the minute the bell rang and he got outside, he put it on. He didn’t even have time to get it settled just right — his dad wore it tilted a little to the left, and so did Cody — before Rich grabbed it. “Well?” Joey said, his voice cruel. “You gonna fight Rich for it or not?” “No need to fight,” Rich said, still holding the cap like a pennant in a game of capture the flag. “Let’s all just settle down a little while I explain to– ” Cody waited a moment before spitting out his name. “Cody.” “Right. To Cody here that he doesn’t have to fight for his cap. Not that fighting would do him any good, but there’s no need. We’re going to give him a chance to earn his cap back. Got a little job that he ought to be able to handle.” “What kind of job?” Cody said. Rich leaned close, his nose almost touching Cody’s. “Be at the baseball field tonight at midnight. Not one minute later.” Rich made a show of putting the cap on his own head. “If you’re too scared to show up, don’t sweat it. I sorta like the way this feels.” “Looks good on you, too,” Joey said. “Midnight,” Rich said again as he and Joey walked off, laughing. field with a couple of minutes to spare before midnight. Rich and Joey were already there, leaning against Rich’s red Mustang at the edge of the outfield. Rich was wearing the Chemo Cap. Cody hated the way it looked on him, but he kept his anger hidden and walked right up to the two assholes. “What’s the job?” “You’re gonna set the night on fire,” Rich said, lifting a gasoline can and shaking it. Cody heard the gas sloshing inside the can. When he stepped closer, he smelled it. He looked at the cap on Rich’s fat head. He thought he would do anything to get it back. Now, watching Rich put the gas can in the trunk, he wasn’t so sure. “Get in,” Rich said. “Front seat — between us.” t in. Rich started the car while Joey climbed he passenger side, digging Cody in the ribs h a hard elbow as he did. Cody gave him one ack, more to see what would happen than to do any damage, and was surprised when Joey didn’t do anything. Rich put the car in gear and peeled across the outfield, the tires kicking up divots. Cody hoped there weren’t any cops around. It was bad enough that his mom moved them to the sticks — farm country — to be near her sister, and bad enough was already made worse by Rich and Joey, and would undoubtedly take another downward turn or two whenever hey got to wherever it was they were going. e sure as hell didn’t need a cop busting them dalism or something. ut tee weren’t any cops, or even a school night watchman nearby to hear Rich peel off. They got away clean. Rich drove fast and had them outside the town limits in a few minutes, picking up speed as they headed out into farmland. “You know about the Corn Witch?” Rich said. Joey let out a nervous laugh. “Gives me the sheebie jeevies just hearing that name.” “Heebie jeebies, you dumb shit,” Rich said, no nervousness at all in his laugh. Only contempt. “Yeah, heebie jeebies. Gave me them, too.” “What’s a Corn Witch?” Cody asked. Rich lifted his eyebrows and grinned, the Chemo Cap rising as he did. His face looked eerie in the dim light from the dashboard instruments. Cody hated seeing the cap on him. “Not what,” Rich said. “Who.” “All right, whatever,” Cody said. “Who’s the Corn Witch?” He turned to Joey. “Stupid name, Corn Witch.” He was sure Joey flinched when he said it. “You won’t think it’s stupid if she ever gets ahold of you,” Joey said. “Will he, Rich?” “No. He sure won’t.” “Why’s that?” “Because she hasn’t fed for a while. A long while.”

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