We pedaled down the road along the river, past the shallow flats where the herons hunted dinner, past the black-hulled whaling ships docked across the water, their white spars stabbing into the sky. A stiff, salty breeze blew into our faces off Long Island Sound.
We parked our bikes and walked down Main Street, passing the window of the ice cream shop. Wait! Was that a freckled face squinting in the window? I did a double take, but the face was gone.
Nah, I thought. Eddy wouldn't.
Down by the drawbridge, we watched the catboats on the river until the drawbridge whistle blew. As the bridge went up, a crowd of tourists gathered to snap pictures. Wait! In the crowd, I thought I caught a glimpse of a Non-Stick Kitchen Utensils T-shirt. Only one person in this world would wear that.
"Hey, listen," I said nervously. "This is pretty boring. Let's do something else."
"Sure," Minerva said. "How 'bout you show me the fish museum?"
"The fish museum. I'd like to see that."
"Oh, the aquarium. It's on the other side of the river. We have to wait for the bridge to go down."
We were walking back to get our bikes, when a voice behind me said, "Hey, Wumpster, who you hangin' with?" I nearly jumped out of my pants. It was David Smallweed, flexing like a stubby fireplug in a muscle shirt.
And here was his friend, Sam Butts, who was as tall and quiet as Smallweed was short and loud. Butts and Smallweed were tag-team bullies. They beat up other kids for sport.
But the minute Minerva turned to look at him, Smallweed took a swallow and stepped back. "Oh, it's you. What happened to your hair?"
"What business is that of yours?" Minerva asked, narrowing her eyes.
Then Smallweed did something I'd never seen him do before: He backed down. "Just askin'," he said, putting his palms up in the air. "Didn't mean anything by it. Don't get hot, OK?"
"OK, David," said Minerva, and she gave him half a smile.
Smallweed smiled back. "So how you doin', Minerva? You keepin' out of trouble?"
"Tryin'." She grinned.
"Cool. Hey, Wump, I heard about you and Miss Stiletto. Please allow me to shake your hand."
He gripped my hand and gave it one good shake.
"Next time you do something like that, I want an invitation, OK?"
"Uh, yeah, sure," I said. This was all too much for me to grasp.
We said goodbye to Butts and Smallweed and got on our bikes.
"Man," said Minerva, as we pedaled to the aquarium. "What is this? Gomer Town? I've never seen so many goons in one place."
"I dunno," I said. "You seemed to be pretty good friends with Smallweed there."
"Nah, he just respects me."
"Yeah, I pounded him and Butts one day."