It’s the one hundred and twenty second day of 4th grade, Chad Warren mentally notes. It is the sixth time this year that he’s worn his checkered button-down with his favorite pair of jeans. Not that he actively keeps track of it. It just . . . sticks out for him.
He’s on the swing set, pumping his feet half-heartedly. Right now he’s too busy observing Gretta Feinson screaming hysterically because Bobby Tidwell is dangling a bug in front of her face. She’s almost crying now. Two of her girlfriends, Tracy Martin and Tanya Shepherd, throw a few rocks at Bobby, who howls and starts chasing them. They run inside, and Bobby doesn’t follow them.
The ten-year old boy shakes his head and starts pumping in earnest, going higher and higher, until it feels as though he’s almost flying. He goes up, up, up—and then falls back down rapidly and it all starts over again. Swings are radical, he thinks. Whoever came up with them deserves an Academy Award. Except, aren’t those for movies?
Bobby is now tormenting Eddie Rogers, a kid in Chad’s class. The bully’s taken away Eddie’s glasses. Eddie can hardly see without them and is groping around. Bobby laughs.
Chad scowls. Bobby’s almost twelve, but he’s still in fourth grade because he had to repeat a year. He’s a pain, and Chad’s had enough of it. But what can he do?
Eddie’s starting to sob now. Bobby’s laughing harder and starts making fun of Eddie. Chad’s about to get off the swing and go give Bobby a piece of his mind when—
“Psst.” It comes from behind him. Chad tries to twist around to see who it is, but he’s still going too fast. He jumps off and lands on his feet, wincing. Then he turns around. “Hey, kid,” the voice says.
Chad frowns. The voice belongs to a kid with honest-to-God red hair. It’s reddish brown, but still. The boy looks a bit younger than Chad, maybe nine. He’s standing there with his arms crossed, a serious expression on his face. He has freckles, and his shirt is covered in dirt. He stares at Chad.
“Who you calling ‘kid’?” Chad says, suppressing the urge to look down at the shorter kid.
“You. Who else? What’s your name?” The kid scratches his red hair and waits patiently.
“Chad Warren. You?”
“Dayne Williams. That’s D-a-y-n-e. Want to help me?”
“With what?”
The kid—Dayne—rolls his eyes. “With Bobby Barton, what else?”
“Will we get in trouble?”
“Yup. But Bobby needs to learn a lesson. Wanna help?”
“Uh—”
“I’ve got a plan. You can run if you don’t want to get in trouble.”
Chad turns and looks at Eddie, who’s still crying. In his mind, Bobby’s the antagonist—though Chad doesn’t know that word; Bobby’s just the bad dude. Therefore, the bad guy must be stopped. And to make it better, he now has a sidekick—a red-haired third-grader named Dayne. What could be better?
Finally, Chad says, “Sure. I’ll help.”
Dayne grins. “Cool beans. Now help push me.”
“What?”
Dayne gets on one of the swings and starts pumping. Chad pushes him as hard as he can. Dayne has a wild grin on his face, and Chad can’t help but grin back.
“Ready?” Dayne asks.
“Ready,” Chad replies. He has no idea what the frick Dayne is going to do, but he’s not going to back out now.
“HEY FACEPASTE!” Dayne bellows to Bobby Barton at the top of his lungs. Everybody in the playground turns to look at him. “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own IQ, jerk?”
Bobby turns red in the face, and then throws Eddie’s glasses onto the ground. He comes running towards the swing set, and Chad wonders what’s going to happen.
And when it does happen, he can’t quite believe it.
As he swings out towards Bobby and Eddie and all the others, Dayne launches himself off of the swing, screaming as loudly as he possibly can, “GERONIMO!” Arms and legs flailing, he’s heading straight for Bobby, who’s now frozen and can’t quite believe what’s going on.
Then they collide.
Dayne smashes into Bobby at full force, and they go to the ground hard, both of them screaming for a moment. Then there’s a stunned silence. Nobody can quite move, not even Chad.
He snaps out of it, and goes running towards the two boys. Bobby’s got a huge bump on the back of his head, and he’s cut and scraped all over. Dayne, who’s rolled off of Bobby, has some cuts and bruises as well, but his left arm is twisted at an angle. Chad cautiously touches the younger kid, who opens his eyes and grimaces.
“My new partner-against-crime,” he says, panting for air, “I think I just broke my arm.”
With that, Chad Warren’s new–and first–best friend Dayne Williams passes out.
And Chad knows they’ll be in for what could quite possibly become the adventure of a lifetime.

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