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Serendipitous Karma This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

In the early evenings we always played hockey in the street. I was one of the youngest as well the only girl, but I would put on my skates and play just as well as the 15-year-old boys: Jeff, Tyler, Derek, Justin, Hamilton, Nick, Ryan (who was in college), and Little Ryan. We played on my street with two nets facing each other. One was set in front of my neighbor Mr. Kyle's house and the other was 50 or so yards away. They had to be moved occasionally to allow the sporadic flow of cars through. We would play for hours and often did. It became part of my day, and I never thought that it would end. But now that it has, I find myself looking out the window subconsciously expecting to find them there, but never do. It leaves a weird form of disappointment that is hard to describe.

Mr. Kyle was a big player in our games, even though he never picked up a stick. He lived with his wife and four kids in that house. He had a very short temper and was extraordinarily bureaucratic. Every day, Mr. Kyle drove up the street in his huge black SUV and stopped in the middle of our game, rolled down the window, stuck his head out, and expressed his contempt for us. Then he would pull into his driveway and strut back down to retrieve his mail, grumbling at us the whole time.

Mr. Kyle also had a strange fondness for his garden. I do not hold any grudges against people who love their gardens, but this was different. It wouldn't be fair to call Mr. Kyle a gardener or refer to what was on the his property as a garden. It consisted of dead flowers, leafless bushes, and the lawn, which was brown. If our hockey ball were ever to roll onto his property, we would drop our stick and remove our skates to retrieve it, returning with dirty socks, which were jammed right back into the skates. If anybody had walked on his lawn wearing skates, he probably would have called the cops, he claimed; and if a hockey stick were used to reach within a bush for the ball, the same misfortune would befall us. If this method of retrieval failed, the ball would be lost forever, and I know it sounds like a clichéd story, but it was true.

In the spring of 2008 we went on a search for new players because the teams were a bit thin. This day was different, however. Whether it was the power of fate or just luck, I really don't know, but Mr. Kyle's gas-guzzling monstrosity was nowhere in sight. Today's peculiarities continued with the presence of a kid who only came to play once in a while. Steve was not big or aggressive; in fact, he was one of the clumsiest people I have ever met.

We had been playing for about an hour when everything snowballed and began to go downhill. Steve and I were on the same team, and I was carrying the ball while he set up for a pass in front of the net. “Here, here, pass here.” He smacked his stick on the ground to indicate where he wanted the ball.

I flicked the ball to the blade of Steve's stick,
but not in time. Nick, the goalie, extended his leg and deflected the ball toward the other net, which at this point had no goalie. There was a mad rush like girls at a Justin Bieber concert, half the players ­desperately trying to stop the ball from crossing into the net and the other half hoping for the goal. No one ever knew for sure if Steve was pushed, like he claimed, or fell, as we had all seen him do before.

CRASH! Time slowed. Every kid, no matter which team, turned their heads at the same moment, like a pack of bloodhounds on the trail. A simultaneous intake of breath; I thought mine might have been my last. Steve lay on the ground, and a mailbox was crushed beneath him. The same green mailbox Mr. Kyle reached into every day for his advertisements and bills. No one said a word. Then another scramble occurred, but this time everyone grabbed his or her belongings and within seconds were gone. The street, which had just held 12 people, emptied and became as deserted as the Dust Bowl. Not a shred of evidence remained except the gloomy-looking mailbox resting on the sidewalk.

The mere thought of what was going to happen to Steve sent shivers down the spines of each unfortunate enough to know Mr. Kyle. I have to admit, though, it also felt invigorating and almost inspiring. I think I must have been jealous of Steve for finally taking revenge, even though it was a fluke. Maybe everybody felt this way because no one ever snitched on him. We were asked about it several times, and it even felt like we were being interrogated and should tell the truth, but nobody ever gave in. It was like an unspoken pact. And on the that Steve returned, we gave him the privilege of picking the teams.

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




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