Rites of Passage

Rites of Passage

A Story by Tracie Skarbo

Michelle, my best friend, and I decided it would be a good day for a swim.  Checking the schedule of the local public pool, we found a public swim at three pm.  My father said he would drive us if my brother and a friend of his could go too.  I agreed.  It wasn’t a sacrifice to take my brother along. 


Dad dropped us off at the pool, and said he would be back later to pick us up.  We shouted our thanks and ran off to the huge cement building, the scent of chlorine getting stronger with every step closer we came to the pool. 


The worst thing about going swimming for most people is when you are first getting into the water.  Some, like Michelle, would go to the steps provided and slowly make their way inch by inch descending into the cold water, skin screaming with raised goose bumps.  Not me, I didn’t have that kind of strength.  I would have to get it over all at once, either by diving into the deep end or by jumping into it; like ripping a band-aid off fast.


Once we were in the water, all was well, and we enjoyed all the pool had to offer.  A hot tub, two saunas, a warm pool, the shallow end and then diving in the deep end; there was even a rope that would open up at different times for us to swing up and out over the pool, dropping us off into the water at the other side when it was our turn.  We would climb that rope over and over again, never tiring of the silliness of it all.


Before long, it was time to get changed and get ready to go.  I found my brother and gave him the signal that it was time for him to get out of the pool, and headed for the change rooms.  It didn’t take much time for us to be finished and out the door into the sunlight and the August heat once more.  My brother and his friend had given me their towels, flippers and masks.  I put them in my duffle bag and Michelle and I took a seat out on one of the concrete benches that lined the sidewalk to wait for my dad.  There weren’t many people around, just those who had finished swimming like we had.


I don’t know how long we were there before the group of kids came up to us.  There had to be at least twelve of them, all punked out and dressed in black.  Lips and eyes black as night.  They surrounded us, and the girl who looked to be the leader of the group came forward.  The others formed a loose semi-circle around us with smiles on their faces.  The girl in front did not look happy with Michelle.  She was huge.  Not so much tall as she was stocky, she reminded me of a bull, all muscle under her clothes.  It was the first time I had seen a girl with a Mohawk, and by the way she was staring at Michelle I was sure this wasn’t going to end well for either of us.


“What the hell are you staring at?”  She asked Michelle


“I am not staring at anything.”  Michelle replied.


“I think you are.  I think you’re staring at my hair.”  She gave Michelle a push on the shoulder.


Michelle didn’t say anything, just looked back at her, she could see there was no arguing with this girl, and even if she did there was nothing she could say that would alleviate the situation.  Michelle was a tall girl even for thirteen which is how old we were that summer.  She was strong too, and athletic, but I knew she would not raise a fist to this girl.  That wouldn’t stop me from coming to Michelle’s rescue though.


“So what if she was?”  I surprised myself in saying.


“I wasn’t talking to you.  It’s her I have a beef with.” 


I almost laughed at the beef comment, because I had just thought of her as a bull only moments before.


“She’s not going to fight you.  She’s a PK kid.” I went on, my courage growing with every spoken word.


“What the hell is a PK kid?” 


“A ‘Pastors Kid’ and she won’t fight you.  Michelle sometimes just stares out into space; I’m sure she wasn’t staring at your hair.”  I thought a clear concise explanation would do the trick and everything would blow over.  What I didn’t know then was that in these kinds of situations you have to leave some wiggle room for the other party not to lose face.  The punked out girl was not amused with the way things were going.  From what I could see it didn’t look as though she was going to back down.  Where the heck was my father?  I looked over the parking lot thinking perhaps he had come in when we weren’t looking.  No such luck. 


“Well then, I guess you are going to have to do.”  She leaned closer to me, so close that I could smell her breath.  Her friends started to cheer her on. 


Up until this time I had never been in a fight, the thought of being in one had never even crossed my mind.  Now faced with the possibility my heart pounded in my ears, and adrenaline coursed through my veins.  What was I going to do now?  This girl towered over me and would beat me to a pulp in no time.  I was dead for sure.  With her friends penning us in there was no easy escape either.  I didn’t see any other option, I took the duffel bag I had, which contained my brother’s and his friend’s flippers and masks, and threw it at her head. 


I thought this would give me enough time for some sort of escape.  I was right.  When I threw the bag, the semi circle of friends gasped at my audacity and they were caught off guard.  I ran and broke through her circle of friends at one end.  I could hear the pounding of their footsteps chasing after me. 


I soon realized that I had made a crucial error in judgment when I took off.  Instead of going towards the pool and the adults inside I had run out into an empty parking lot.  There was no one to help me out here, only Michelle yelling for help.  I had a good lead on them being as quick as I am, but suddenly something in me snapped, and I no longer wanted to run.  It was as though I was no longer afraid.  I knew I was going to get the tar beat out of me, but even if I did, it wasn’t going to be that bad.  I felt that if I didn’t stop running right now in this situation I would always be running in my life from here on out and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that.    


She was like an advancing tank, her face a storm of rage.  I was out of luck and options.  It didn’t matter; I had to make a stand.  I mustered all the courage I could and faced her.  Everything around me slowed as she came forward, her arm and hand drawn back; the look of her thick fingers and projecting knuckles.  Bam, her mammoth fist hit me square in the nose and mouth.  It’s true what they depict in cartoons; I did see stars when my head snapped back.  My hands went to my mouth to comfort the sudden pain there.  I watched as she drew back again as she prepared to hit me again.  Suddenly I heard honking; it was my dad coming to the rescue.  The girl and her friends scattered to the wind, knowing the different directions would protect their majority.  He came to me, asking if I was alright, and tilting my head this way and that, trying to see through the blood.  I told him I was and then Michelle ran up and offered her towel to clean up my face.


I learnt a lot that day; mostly to stand up to my fears and meet problems head on instead of running, I vowed to myself that I would always try to be true to how I wanted to live.  I felt strong and brave, and capable of anything. 


Time went on and the years marched by as I left the body I had and grew into another.  I was into my second year of junior high when I saw the poster saying peer counselors were needed, so I applied.  I grew with the position, listening to kids and their problems and helping where I could, until one day when I was paired with an unexpected visitor.  It was her; the same girl from all those years ago.  She no longer wore the Mohawk, and the black makeup was gone, but it was her all the same, there could be no mistake about it.  I was shocked.  I almost didn’t know what to say.  I waited for her to recognize me from the fight we had, but she never did. 


I listened to her problems like I did all the others, and to my amazement I actually could feel compassion for her and her situation even after what she had done.  After all, despite the pain, she had given me a gift.  A chance to take what life offered, learn from it and mold it into what I needed. 





© 2010 Tracie Skarbo

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Featured Review

Very nicely done. The main character is a wonderful role model for younger people, and the ending is very nicely done (not something I would have thought of).
The only problem I saw was the words change room. I've always heard it called a changing room before, but maybe that's just because of the area I live in.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Very nicely done. The main character is a wonderful role model for younger people, and the ending is very nicely done (not something I would have thought of).
The only problem I saw was the words change room. I've always heard it called a changing room before, but maybe that's just because of the area I live in.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What a story .. and told in your own very special way, Tracie .. how I've missed your writing!

Fears, reserves can near kill a spirit .. there comes a time when we all have to stand up to them; you know when I did the same, bless your kind heart.

This writing is an example not only of your skill as a writer but even more so your ability to be who you truly are, strength wrapped in subtlety and sweet logic.

Love to your gorgeous young sprig.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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It is only when we see our lessons as valuable and useful do we grow in life. Everyday there's a lesson to be had for to improve by. I really wonderful story. I hope many see the message in this and learn, thereby making the world a little bit better to live in. Thanks for sharing this, Tracie. Outstanding.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

great story...great ending...great lesson...great person, you

Posted 12 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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4 Reviews
Added on October 6, 2010
Last Updated on October 6, 2010


Tracie Skarbo
Tracie Skarbo


Learning consists of daily accumulating. The practice of the Tao consists of daily diminishing; decreasing and decreasing, until doing nothing. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True.. more..


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