Evening Kingdom This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     Courage can be found deep in the heart of the jungle where beasts lurk behind every tree, or on the frontlines of a desert battleground where danger outnumbers you like the grains of sand. However, the truest courage is found when crossing the lines of a playground basketball court. There, boundaries represent milestones, scraped knees are the truest battle scars, and growing up is the ultimate line to be crossed.
The evening kingdom is a concrete slab with worn lines. The cement is rough and uneven from years of weather. At each end are basketball hoops with bent rims. Shreds of what used to be the net hang by a single thread. In the widening cracks of cement, little heads of grass poke though. Surrounded by chain-link fence, this place could be mistaken for a prison, but rather it is a sacred place: an evening kingdom. Here, no adult governs.
A small herd of children plays a game with unspoken rules - throwing the ball back and forth with no apparent goal. There is no winning or losing - only laughter.
The shepherd of the little children observes from a safe distance. She is 10 or 11, too old to play, but she watches intently. Every now and then she must settle a dispute over whose turn it is, or dust somebody off after a fall. She is the guardian of the kingdom and the laughing children.
A gang of noisy boys interrupts the children’s laughter. They are older, 15 or 16, with baggy shorts and unkempt hair. One of them carries a basketball, and they begin playing, first shooting and dribbling, then, all-out jungle ball. The children know the unspoken rules and move to the other half of the court.
The boys’ game is intense; all are focused on the ball. Nothing exists except the ball and the hoop. Amidst the chaos of their shouting, the pounding of the ball, and feet shuffling to an uneven rhythm, nobody remembers the little ones. The shepherd is lost in the basketball game. She can’t take her eyes off the mesmerizing finesse with which the ball is thrown around the court and clangs into the hoop. In her daze, she does not see the littlest of her sheep chasing after a loose rubber ball. He is not aware that this has brought him across the forbidden line, the divide between childhood and growing up. He looks up from his search long enough to see the fate he has made for himself; a hand smashes into his face and sends him skidding across the concrete into the dirt.
The shepherd girl sees all this in slow motion. She sprints to him. Kneeling, she sees that his lip is cut and some blood runs from his mouth. His knees are skinned and the dirt stings his wounds. She holds him, soothes his crying. She feels anger well up inside her, seeking vengeance for the unjust act.
She looks at a crack in the cement. She could just go home, take her sheep, and leave the older boys to their game. But something, something new inside her stirs. A fire is lit in her fists, in her head, behind her eyes. Her jaw sets and she forgets how gravely outnumbered she is, how small she is in comparison to them. She only remembers the terror in the eyes of her precious little sheep. Without looking back, she steps across the painted line, across youth, across fear. With conviction she says, “He’s just a little kid. You didn’t have to push him.”
Within seconds she finds herself skidding into the dirt followed by howling laughter from the pack of boys.
“Stay off our court, kid,” says one of them.
The shepherd knows defeat. She takes the hand of her little sheep and signals the others to follow. The streetlights flicker on, dusk sets in, and mothers stand in doorways, calling their children to bed.
Tonight, the evening kingdom is lost and a line is crossed - a crack in the cement that divides self-preservation from courage.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 11 comments. Post your own now!

Zxarra said...
Nov. 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm
I like the piece but I think it would have been stronger without the first paragraph. You don't really need it and jumping right in to the second would be better, I think.
jackkk said...
Sept. 16, 2013 at 9:19 am
“Courage can be found deep in the heart of the jungle where beasts lurk behind every tree” I really like this piece in the story, it creates clear imagery. I like the word “lurk”, I find it very eerie and makes the piece more impressive, also makes you want to read on. Such a great piece
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:14 am
This was soo good! Nice job! Can you please read, rate, and comment some of my work? It means a lot to me if you do! Thank you :)
David E. said...
Mar. 4, 2011 at 10:35 am
This program is awesome! I really enjoyed it a lot. Highly recommended.
David E. said...
Mar. 4, 2011 at 10:33 am
This program is awesome!
David E. said...
Mar. 4, 2011 at 10:31 am
This is a great program
Mia13 said...
Sept. 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm
I love this article. It is amazing. It is written. I can just imagine it in perfect detail Wonderful writing
cedesgirl14 said...
Sept. 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm
wow.....i really liked it...it was unbelieveable. i love how you took such a simple subject and turned it into something totally different totally unpredictable. its like saying "tell a story about something that happened on this basketball court but get as far away from the subject as you can"....its a very good taletn to have with writing.
Fredwardness said...
Sept. 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm
that was really good, but kinda sad which made it better
sammiesami13 said...
Dec. 3, 2008 at 11:28 pm
wow..... amazing i could imagine all the emotions with her.... keep writing
you have a real knack for it! :D
Chazz Pratt said...
Oct. 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm
Keegan: You have a gift - on and off the court! This is one incredible piece that captures the essence of courage and the challenges faced by those who pursue the game at any age. You're a Scholar/Athlete that's true to form. Keep up the good work! You demonstrate a level of excellence now and I'm certain the best is yet to come.
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