“The Wild Kids” by B.F. McCune

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, we have a reminder that life in a big city can be dangerous, especially if you expect the worst.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “The Wild Kids” by B.F. McCune:


When they scream, I am astonished and recoil so I nearly trip over the crack in the flagstone sidewalk.  Then I tell myself they aren’t dangerous.  Their exclamations are only the exhilaration native to small children.  Even though each of them carries a stout leafless branch or a stick that resembles a broom handle, and they swing the staffs around their heads and shoulders like weapons.

I see these children when I walk down their block today.  They ignore me.  They sneak around corners of the house, hide behind trees, dart from overgrown bushes, brandishing their implements at one another.

They are wild kids.  Untamed, spontaneous, physical.  Perhaps one girl and two boys; perhaps two girls and one boy.  I can’t tell.  All three have frizzy long hair standing up around their heads and cascading over their shoulders.  Their bodies are thin but strong with no hint of gender under their dusty shorts and tee-shirts.  They scramble up trees and launch themselves off steps.  Use their sticks as swords, guns, canes, sighting aids.

I wonder if they have a mother.  A babysitter.  No adult appears outside, or yells through a window to come in, or warns them to stay close.  The wild kids are too young to remember without a grownup’s prompt to move their battered miniature bicycles and scooters from where they block the sidewalk.  Pedestrians could trip and fall and injure themselves on the toys.  A blind man might tap, tap, tap with his cane and recoil from the hazards, never to resume his journey.

I usually don’t walk this way in my inner city neighborhood, a diverse community of singles, families, poor, middle-class.  Houses capture the decades of urban growth in their architecture, and interspersed between them stand three-floor, cookie-cutter apartments.  Trees are solid, mature, and they shade flagstone sidewalks that have guided pedestrians for a hundred years or more.

Construction on my normal route has blocked access, so today my routine has changed.  I’m coming back from the local grocery, balancing several bags.  The tallest of the three children appears on the wooden porch, a navy blue bandanna wrapped around his/her head, a red bandanna tied around each upper arm.  Smears of chocolate—maybe ice cream, maybe chocolate milk, maybe candy—coat his face as if these are childhood’s war paint.  Then, with a whoop, his two compadres rush into the front yard, throw themselves on the ground, and roll down the weed-cloaked hill toward me.  My anxiety grows.

What will they do now?  The tallest one looks down and aims his pole directly at me.  He smiles, and his teeth flash with the unstained, wavy-edged appearance of new adult incisors.  I can’t tell if this smile is a friendly grin or a perfidious smirk.

Now the two wild kids at the bottom of the hill near me scramble to their bare feet.  Their small hands grip their sticks, their dirt-streaked fists bear knuckles scratched and scabbed over, matching the appearance of their bony knees.  Although they’re smaller than their companion, they have the intrepid excitation and cockiness of Jack Russell Terriers.  Their teeth are still the baby versions, but they bare them like snakes.

I sidestep the two.  My flip-flops scuff scrawls of chalk drawings on the flagstone—multi-hued rainbows, a hopscotch of successively smaller squares.  My bags wobble in my arms.  I grip them tighter and feel something soft—perhaps the bread, perhaps the tomatoes—yield to my touch.

“Hey, she’s on our drawings,” one wild kid blurts.

“Yea, she’s messing them up,” says the other and steps toward me.  He waves his branch back and forth over his head.

I jump back to avoid him.  The thought flashes through my mind of powering past this property to a block away where the houses shelter only adults.  My flip-flops tangle around my toes, and I sway to recover balance.

The tallest wild kid yelps.   His cohorts react by rushing me, arms and sticks outstretched.  I raise both bag-encumbered arms to drive them off.  A grapefruit bursts through the bottom of one sack, bounces on the ground, and rolls toward the street.  I teeter from side to side.  Should I brace myself for a backward fall?  Crush the bags together and plunge forward?

Wild kid #2 runs after the grapefruit.  Wild kid #3 reaches over his head to catch a can of peas threatening to fall.  Wild kid #1, aka tallest wild kid, barrels off the porch and skids to a stop to grasp my arm.

“Hey, granma, be careful.  Don fall.  I broke my leg once, and it’s no fun,” he says in a childish patois.  He takes the sacks one by one and sets them on the sidewalk.  “Joey, go get two strong bags.”

Wild kid #2 gallops off, soon to return with plastic grocery bags, the kind now being banned by stores and governments.  Wild kid #1 and wild kid #3 pull plastic over brown paper and hand me the parcels.

Wild kid #2 pins his wide-eyed stare on me.  “Our granma fell right there.  When it snowed.  On the ice.  Broke her leg.”  His jaw drops, as if waiting for another exciting outcome.

“Thank you for your help,” I say.  “May I give you a quarter for your trouble?”

“Naw,” says the tallest wild kid.  “We’re suppose ta help old ladies.”

He steps aside and I continue on my way.


B.F. McCune is a freelance writer in Denver, as well as mother of two and grandmother of three.  Her fiction credits include a novel, A Saint Comes Stumbling In,” Inspired Romance Novels.  She also has published “An Afternoon at the Louvre,” Infectiveink, February 2012; “Waiting,” Blue Cubicle Press/Writers Write chapbook series Overtime (March 2011); ”The Singer,” second prize, Women Who Write’s annual competition and anthology Calliope, December 2011; first prize and publication in On the Premises’ December 2009 contest, “Corazón de mi Vida”; and has won awards in a number of competitions.  Read more about her at her website.


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2 Comments

  1. Great – very atmospheric and the twist in the tail was wonderful. I suspect that, just as in “real life” too many readers were just waiting for Granny to be mugged or at the least have her grapefruit smashed. Thanks for this

  2. This could’ve been me! Only my unsupervised neighborhood kids are not so nice. A refreshing take on what CAN happen

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