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Authors: Marion Dane Bauer

On My Honor

BOOK: On My Honor
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Table of Contents

Chapter Eleven

Clarion Books
a Houghton Mifflin Company imprint
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
Copyright © 1986 by Marion Dane Bauer.
All rights reserved.
For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to Permissions,
Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.
Printed in the USA

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Bauer, Marion Dane.
On my honor.
Summary: When his best friend drowns while they are
both swimming in a treacherous river that they had
promised never to go near, Joel is devastated and
terrified at having to tell both sets of parents the
terrible consequences of their disobedience,
[1. Obedience—Fiction. 2. Accidents—Fiction]
I. Title.
3262On 1986 [Fic] 86-2679

MV 30 29 28 27 26

For the Mason family,
whose lives formed
part of the fabric of my childhood

Chapter One


? Y
gotta be kidding!" Joel's spine tingled at the mere thought of trying to scale the sheer river bluffs in the state park. He looked Tony square in the eye. "Somebody got killed last year trying to do that! Don't you remember?"

Tony shrugged, popped a wheelie on his battered BMX, spun in place. "Nobody knows if that guy was really trying to climb the bluffs. He might have fallen off the top ... or even jumped."

Joel bent over his Schwinn ten-speed and brushed imaginary dust off the fender. "Well, I'm not going to ride out there with you if that's what you're going to do. It's dumb." He tried to sound tough, sure of himself. Maybe, for once, he would be able to talk Tony out of one of his crazy ideas.

"You don't have to climb if you're scared, Bates," Tony said.

"Who's scared?" Joel licked his lips, which seemed to have gone dry. "I'd just rather go swimming, that's all. It's going to be a scorcher today. Or we could work on our tree house. My dad got us some more wood."

"We can do the tree house later," Tony said, "after we get back. And I don't feel like swimming."

"You never feel like swimming," Joel muttered, seeing in his mind the shining blue water of the municipal pool. The truth was, Tony rarely felt like doing anything that Joel wanted to do. Joel wondered, sometimes, why they stayed friends. There had to be something more than their having been born across the street from each other twelve years ago, their birthdays less than a week apart.

Mrs. Zabrinsky, Tony's mother, started babysitting Joel after his mother went back to work when he was six months old, so he and Tony had spent their baby years drooling on the same toys. Now Joel just checked in with her during the day, let her know where he was going, things like that. But he didn't know what kept him and Tony together except that, after Tony, other kids seemed boring.

"Come on, Joel," Tony said. "Ride out to the park with me today, and tomorrow I'll go swimming with you."

Joel thought of the long, curving, watery slide at the pool. He sighed. Tomorrow it would probably rain. Or Tony would have some other plan ... as crazy as this one. He would pretend he had forgotten he promised to go to the pool. Joel resettled his lunch in the saddlebag behind his bicycle seat. It wasn't much fun to go swimming alone, but still it would be better than getting killed on the park bluffs. There were signs all over warning people to stay on the paths, and Tony wanted to climb from the river side, no less.

The front door of Joel's house opened and his father came out with Bobby, Joel's four-year-old brother. Mrs. Zabrinsky was Bobby's baby-sitter now, and their father was always the one to give Bobby his breakfast and take him to the Zabrinskys' house because their mother had to leave for work earlier than he.

Seeing his father and the firm grip he maintained on Bobby's hand gave Joel an idea. He would ask for permission to ride his bike out to Starved Rock. He wouldn't mention about the bluffs, of course. He wouldn't have to. His father was sure to say that the ride to the park was too far, too dangerous. His dad always worried about things like that. Tony would be mad that he had asked, but they were
to ask, after all. At least Tony wouldn't be able to say that Joel had stayed home because he was chicken.

"Hi, Dad," Joel called. This was going to be easy. "Can I bike out to Starved Rock with Tony?" He turned his back slightly to Tony to avoid seeing what he knew would be a dirty look.

His father stopped and squinted against the morning sun that had just risen above the houses across the street. "All the way out to the state park?" he repeated, as though there were some other Starved Rock in Illinois.

"Yeah," Joel said. "It's not so far. Probably only ten or twelve miles."

"More like eight or nine, I think," his father said, approaching with Bobby in tow, "but it's still a long ride."

"I wanna go, too," Bobby announced. "I wanna go to the park. Can I, Daddy? Can I, Joel?" His voice reminded Joel of the hovering whine of a mosquito. Their mother said whining was a stage all four-year-olds went through. Joel thought a year was a long stage.

"It's a hot day," his father continued, ignoring Bobby's plea, "and that road is awfully narrow ... hilly and winding, too."

"Can I, Daddy?" Bobby's voice rose in volume and pitch. "Can I go with Joel?"

"No." Their father shook his head. "I'm not even sure these two are going anywhere. Now, you run across to the Zabrinskys. But be careful, Bobby! Watch for cars!"

There were almost no cars to watch for on their quiet street, but their father always said things like that anyway. Bobby went, his lower lip sticking out like a shelf.

"We'll be careful, Dad." Joel could hear the whine in his own voice. He sounded almost as bad as Bobby. He sounded as if he really wanted to go.

"We will, Mr. Bates. Honest!" Tony pleaded. "The park's not that far ... and there's not much traffic during the week."

Joel's father ran his fingers through his hair, leaving it standing on end. "I know the traffic is sparse, but with all those hills ... it'll seem like a lot farther."

"If we get tired, we'll just turn back," Tony said.

Joel didn't say anything more. To win this argument would be to lose. He was sure, though, that his father wasn't going to give permission.

His father surveyed their bikes, frowning slightly. Joel wondered if he was going to ask why Tony was carrying a rope looped over his handlebars.
To tie ourselves together when we climb,
Tony had announced. But Joel's father merely said, "You have lunches packed already?"

"Sure," Tony answered, patting the lunch he had tied to his handlebars with the rope.

Joel's father turned back to him. "You know you have your paper route to do this afternoon, Joel."

Joel nodded. He knew. Maybe
would be an excuse.

"What if you boys get too tired to ride back? Tony's mother doesn't have a car, and I don't want anybody to have to leave work to come after you."

Tony was looking at Joel, obviously waiting for him to play out his side of the argument.

"We won't get tired," Joel said automatically.

His father's eyes seemed to know better, but he turned to Tony and asked, "Does your mother know what you're planning to do?"

"Sure," Tony answered cheerfully, and Joel knew, without even checking Tony's face, that he was lying. He never told his mother anything if he could help it, and she was so busy with the littler kids that she didn't ask many questions.

His father merely accepted Tony's word with a nod—grown-ups could be really dense sometimes—but then he almost redeemed himself by suggesting, "How about trying the county road that goes out of town the other way? It's flat and would be easier riding."

"It doesn't go anywhere," Tony complained. "Besides, it's boring. Nothing but cornfields on every side."

No bluffs to climb,
Joel added silently.

Joel's father sighed, buttoned his suit jacket, and then unbuttoned it again. The sigh gave Joel's stomach a small twist. His father wasn't actually considering giving permission, was he? Tony's father would have answered in a second. He would have said, "No!"

"What do you think, son?" his father asked. "Do you really think you can make it all the way to the park and back without any trouble?"

Joel could feel Tony watching him, waiting. "Sure," he said, though his throat seemed to tighten around the word. "It'll be a cinch."

Joel's father shook his head. "I doubt that, but I guess it won't hurt you boys to be good and tired tonight."

Joel's knees went watery. His father was going to say they could go!

"We'll build up the muscles in our legs," Tony announced, jubilant.

Joel's father didn't take his eyes off Joel's face. "On your honor?" he said. "You'll watch for traffic, and you won't go anywhere except the park? You'll be careful the whole way?"

"On my honor," Joel repeated, and he crossed his heart, solemnly, then raised his right hand. To himself, he added,
The only thing Til do is get killed on the bluffi, and it'll serve you right.

His father looked at him for a long moment; then he nodded his head. "Okay," he said. "I guess you're old enough now for a jaunt like this."

"Put her there, man," Tony exclaimed, holding a grubby palm toward Joel, and then he added, "I get dibs on the Schwinn!"

Joel gave Tony five, taking in his friend's face as he did. Tony's dark eyes were bright with laughter, with fun, and he was grinning like a circus clown. Joel shook his head. "How can you get dibs on
bike?" he asked, though he knew how. When you were Tony, the outrageous seemed natural.

His father was still watching him, so Joel added, automatically, "Thanks, Dad." He tried to sound as though he were really glad. He even forced a smile, though his mouth felt stiff. "Thanks a lot."

His father nodded again, his face remaining serious. "Remember, son," he said one last time, "you're on your honor."

"Sure," Joel replied. The least his father could have done was to remind them about staying off the bluffs. "I know."

Chapter Two


. H
felt betrayed, trapped. How could he explain to Tony that he had been kidding, that he had never had any intention of going with him to the park once the idea of climbing the bluffs had come up?

"Can I ride your bike, Joel?" Tony begged. "Can I, huh?"

Joel sighed. Tony was like a kid expecting Christmas, not someone about to risk his life. "Just for the ride out," he said. When they came back—
they came back—he knew he would be glad for the gears on the Schwinn to make the ride easier.

Tony's bike was a hand-me-down that had belonged to three older brothers before it had come to be his. There were no fenders, no handlegrips, and only a few flecks left of the original red paint. It was perfect for wheelies, though, and for going off ramps. Joel's silver ten-speed could be ridden fast or it could be ridden slowly, but it wasn't good for anything else.

BOOK: On My Honor
9.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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