Part of riding a bike is respecting those who ride beside you.
By normal standards, Jake hadn't known Peter very long. But by childhood standards, they'd been friends forever. So Jake didn't mind if Peter's little brother, Joshua, sometimes came along to ride bikes. Their street was pretty safe and they never went too far.
Peter was a bit more daring, and he'd sometimes ride along the boundary street, but he never teased Jake about not following. The one time Jake's Mom had caught them trying, she'd yelled so much, and the boys didn't EVER want to go through that again. So Peter blamed Joshua, saying Joshua's MerchSource TreeHaus Balance Bike wasn't as good as Peter's bright red dirt bike. Of course, Joshua could have kick-pushed that little wooden two-wheeler anywhere, but it wasn't about the truth. It was about having an excuse.
Across that boundary street lived Robbie, a tough kid with big eyebrows. He was a grade above Jake and Peter, and he did not like them one bit. When the two boys could just avoid Robbie, they did. And usually, it wasn't hard.
But today Robbie was out in front of his house, jumping his bike off a poorly-built plywood ramp. Jake and Peter saw him and went silent. They looked at each other, agreeing without a word to turn back. Except Joshua didn't notice. And Joshua was having too much fun to be quiet.
"Vrrrrooom!" Joshua yelled as he kick-pushed himself forward. The MerchSource TreeHaus Balance Bike made it ridiculously easy for him to roll himself along. Then he noticed: he was over the boundary line. "Oh, no, Peter!" Joshua yelled back. "I went too far! Don't tell Mom!"
Robbie heard Joshua's yell. Robbie turned his head and saw the other boys. Robbie jumped his bike off the ramp and started to pedal up the street.
Jake was ashamed that his first thought was to ride away, leave his friend and his friend's little brother and that nice MerchSource TreeHaus Balance Bike just lying in the street. But Jake also knew a hero didn't abandon their friends. Not Iron Man, not Batman, not Peter with his little brother, and not Jake.
Peter was in the street helping Joshua roll back as Robbie tried to cut them off with a slide. "That your brother, Peter? He looks like a butt."
"I am not!" Joshua yelled, jumping off his MerchSource TreeHaus Balance Bike. "You say you didn't mean that!"
Robbie laughed. "You talk like a butt too."
"BUTTS DON'T TALK!" Joshua pushed Robbie in the leg. Jake and Peter felt their hearts drop. Robbie let his bike fall to the ground. No one moved... until Robbie started to make a fist.
Of course Michelle went crazy. Jake came in with a torn shirt and a busted lip, she couldn't possibly stand for that. She called Peter's mom and the two of them made noises into the phone about lawyers and police and finding Robbie's parents. Jake felt just awful, like he'd let everyone down. He went to sit on the porch. Tim was already waiting.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Jake said. Tim nodded.
"What happened, Jake? You normally wouldn't hurt a fly."
"He was gonna hit Joshua, Dad! Joshua's just a little kid! Peter and me had to do something! Right?"
Across the street, Peter was also sitting on his stairs, alone. His shirt was also torn, and his eye was bruised. But Joshua was unharmed, still kick-pushing that MerchSource TreeHaus Balance Bike down the driveway, and looking at his brother like his brother was a god.
Tim nodded again. "Let's tell this story to your mother, Jake. I'm pretty sure that once she knows your side of things, she won't be so mad."