At first, Ebony and I don’t want to but then her mom, Ms. Giles, says she’ll pay us, and we say okay because Ebony’s twin sisters’ day care isn’t that far, plus it’s across the street from McDonald’s.

We wait in the playground’s tire swings, sipping Cokes and dipping nuggets in hot sauce, and I’m wishing I’d asked for sweet and sour, when I see him. I’m guessing he’s younger than us, but he’s way bigger, and he’s real dark, and he doesn’t look around or anything. His eyes are set straight ahead, and he walks right by and up to the front door stoop and just stands there, waiting.

“We’re fine, thank you. And what’s up to you, too?” Ebony goes, loud, so he’ll hear. Only he acts like he’s deaf or something.

Ebony sucks her teeth for a minute and then she tells me, “He’d be fine if he was dressed half decent.” It’s hard to know if she truly cares about stuff like that or if she’s just trying to get me aggravated for fun.

So I tell her, “You’d be fine if you weren’t a bitch.”

“Shut up.”

“You know it’s true.”

Ebony fakes a sulk, and I check him out again.

“He wouldn’t be fine anyway,” I go. “He’s scary.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look.”

She sticks her foot way out and leans way over to pretend-tie her shoe.

“You’re right,” she says. “He’s mad scary.”

A bell rings, and the doors open. A bunch of little kids shoot through, and me and Ebony hop up out of the swings. A couple of day care ladies laze out behind the kids, and that boy crosses his arms and leans his back to the brick.

Ebony’s twin sisters, Mattie and Elaine, bounce outside holding some kind of Popsicle stick craziness.

“What’s that?” Ebony asks them.

“A dollhouse,” Mattie says.

“It’s not done,” Elaine says. “We have to make the roof.”

“Hi China,” Mattie says.

“Hi, baby,” I go.

“Hi China,” Elaine says.

“Hey, baby,” I tell her.

They’re six but they like it when I call them baby. Ebony’s not allowed. They get mad at her when she does it. They let me because I don’t have any little sisters, and I talk to them when Ebony just thinks they’re around to get on her last nerve. They would let our other best friend, Grace, because she’s white and she’s prettier than anything, only Grace would never say baby anyway.

“China, look,” Ebony goes, poking me.

One of the day care ladies is staring, pole up her butt, at that boy. “Can I help you?” she asks, nasty.

The boy stares back at her. He doesn’t say a mad word.

“Do you need something?” the lady goes, like he better not.

He keeps his face shut tight, and the lady opens up her mouth again, but then this real small kid-way younger than the twins-zooms out with this Popsicle stick thing and goes to the scary boy, “Mama sick?”

The scary boy gives the lady a big old cold eye and then scoops up the real small kid and flips him over his shoulder and takes off. The kid giggles like crazy.

“Eric!” he squawks. “Eric! Let me go!”

“Bye, Micky,” Mattie yells a the small kid’s upside-down giggly head.

“Bye, Mickey!” Elaine yells.

“Bye, y’all!” he calls back.

But that boy, Eric, he doesn’t smile or slow down or anything.