“This movie is lit.” Dan aims his TV remote to start Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
. “Chad hated
it. I played it for him here. All he said was ‘Trash. They shoulda kept Spider-Man white.’”
“What?!” I shake my head. “He’s wack. How you both even cousins?”
He lowers the remote. “He’s not wack.”
My parents’ voices in my head say, Blood is thicker than water.
Family picks family over friends.
I ease up and stare at the window.
Chad is Dan’s cousin, and he just moved to our neighborhood. He’s a sixth grader like us. So far, I’m not feeling him. Anything I say, he contradicts. Anytime I’m around, he puts me down.
I hate how Dan doesn’t notice and now even defends him.
Me and Dan live in connecting buildings and we’re over at each other’s so much, we practically live in the same apartment. And we’re both into superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi, and similar stuff. Basically, we’re twins, except we look opposite. He’s white-white. I’m not. People sometimes call me Stephen Curry from basketball because of our names, skin color, and features. We even fade our fros similar.
“So, Stephen, not only is this new Spider-Man almost our age, it gets better. He’s from Brooklyn too. His full name is Miles Morales, he’s fourteen, and—”
I’m amped again. “Skip explaining. Show
“Just so you know, the movie is kinda violent, so don’t get scared.”
“Dan, you funny. You know all movies are my lane.”
“Nah! You run if people get hurt or bloody.”
He sits next to me and poses like me watching TV. “This wasn’t you? When we saw Stranger Things
?” His leg gets jumpy and he changes his voice into mine: “I’ma get ice cream. You want?”
“What?! I didn’t do that.”
“Yeah. You. Did.”
I stare from him to my wrist, at the only bracelet I rock. It’s black with bright white glow-in-the-dark letters that say WHAT LANE?
Last year, I got it on a school trip to a Barclays Center basketball game. There, this player Marshall Carter, nicknamed MC, was on that next
next level. He kept scoring—any
way he wanted. Everyone else had a lane. They had sick passes or swished in half-court shots. Marshall was wavy in every
lane. He bagged three-pointers, passed like whoa
, and did crossovers that made guys fall on their butts. And almost every time he scored, he’d yell, “What lane?!” and WHAT LANE? flashed on the JumboTron. He had no
That day, I bought MC’s bracelet after the game. I wanted his saying on my arm. What lane?!
I want to be that: in every lane, have no lane.
Now I thumb my bracelet. “Dan, this movie is my lane too. Press Play.”
Dan aims his remote at the screen, and when it starts, we point. “Times Square!”
Then we shout again: “Empire State Building!”
New York City spots at night keep flashing. This. Is. So. Tight! I love when my city gets to shine.
At one point, he elbows me. “How wild is it that Miles can pass for you or your brother, if you had one?”
“Facts.” Miles Morales could be me
. He’s half African American too, and even though his other side is Puerto Rican and mine is white, most people say we Black.
I can’t believe Chad called this movie trash. Me and Dan are into it
Most movies have superheroes who match Dan and Chad: Captain America, Superman, Thor, the Flash, and more.
It’s wavy that this
Spider-Man looks like half of my family.
We’re all the way into a scene when we hear Dan’s dad shout, “Dan!”
Dan rolls his eyes. “Try to ignore him. This movie is whoa, right?”
“Yeah. It stays this good?”
“Whaaaaat?! It gets way
“DANIEL!” his dad yells now. “Didn’t you hear me? It’s time for Stephen to go. And time for you to take out the trash. Now.
“Ugh!” Dan shuts off the TV and we bounce. Chapter 2
The trash dumpster is in front of an alley in between me and Dan’s buildings. Sometimes, shady guys who don’t live here dip in and out of the alley. The only time me and Dan ever went past the dumpster was when our old super, who took care of our buildings, let us check out the Halloween decorations he kept in the basement. He was cool. This new super? Nah. He’s not. He eyes me funny.
Dan spots something. “You see the top of the ramp?”
I check the ramp attached to his building. “The mask?”
“Yeah. Scary eyes, right?”
I kinda wish I wasn’t seeing this scary werewolf mask. Its lips growl back real angry, showing long bloody fangs, and its cheek is torn open, half-eaten. But it’s more than that—it’s how the mask sits on top of a mop that leans against the wall that makes it scarier. It reminds me of a vampire movie trailer that showed these human heads stuck on poles like trophies.
Sometimes horror trailers pop up on the screen with no warning and I see things I wish I could forget. Then I end up with nightmares.
Dan says, “I wonder if the new super is getting out Halloween decorations for our lobbies.”
That makes sense. It’s almost Halloween.
Dan squints. “Hold up.”
The metal door at the bottom is propped open with a brick. Usually it’s locked.
Dan’s curious. “You think he’s down there?”
“C’mon,” he says. “Let’s check. Maybe he’ll let us mess with Halloween stuff like the last super.”
“Nah, this super’s not that way,” I say. “And what if we run into a shady head who . . . ?”
Dan ignores me, flops his trash into the dumpster, and turns and tiptoes into the alley.
I watch him. I can’t let him go solo—he’s my boy. I follow.
Dan nods at me. “You ready, Miles?”
Him calling me Spider-Man amps me up. Miles’d go down this alley, easy. Yeah, I got this. From the top of the ramp, the door is an open mouth—grinning us in, or waiting to swallow us.
“What you think?” he asks. “Anyone down there?”
I grab his forearm. “Hold up.”
In this sci-fi show I saw, a girl did something smart. She stood at a doorway and threw something into a room to see if the monster hiding would jump out.
I grab a baseball-size rock off the floor and pitch it. CLANG!
My rock clanks off the metal door.
Dan’s confused. “Why you throw that fo—?”
“If someone’s in there, we’ll know. They’ll come out.”
He watches the door. “Oh. Smart.”
No one comes out.
I smile. “We good.”
We slowly creep down the ramp and don’t even get halfway when a guy pedaling fast-fast on a mountain bike flies past us.
Top speed, me and Dan sprint up the ramp and back outside, where Junior, our new super, shouts from where he’s fixing a window up on the fire escape. He’s mad, waving his fist at the biker. “Come back here! Thief!”
Then he yells at us. No. At me.
“That boy your friend?”
Dan is SOS—Stuck On Stupid. So am I.
Huh? Junior’s asking if he’s my
Dan yells up at the fire escape, “No! We don’t know him. What happened?”
“Ay! That’s my bike! I keep it down there. He took it!” Junior waves Dan off and points at me. “YOU! You
know that boy!”
He’s not asking. He’s saying.
“Wha—?!” I’m shocked. “No! Why would I know h—?”
Junior interrupts me. “You told your friend to take it?”
Just then, three things hit me. First, Junior is for real and swears I know that bike thief. Second, he automatically feels Dan is innocent. Then, as I realize the third thing, it comes out my mouth. “Because we’re Black.”
Dan hears me. “What?”
“Dude. Junior thinks me and that bike thief are tight since we both Black.”
“Nah. I don’t think so.”
Junior’s eyes now laser in on me and he starts cursing in Spanish.
Dan yells up at Junior, “Don’t be mad at us. Be mad at you! This is your fault! If you locked up your bike, you’d have one!”
“C’mon.” I tap Dan. “Forget him.”
As we pass the trash dumpster, he fist-bumps me so we can split into our separate buildings.
But before he leaves, Dan says, “Stephen. Junior was foul. Like we did something bad.”
In my head, I think, No, not
we. He was foul like
I did something bad.
Copyright © 2020 by Torrey Maldonado. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.