At ten years old, Crutchie appreciated when Jack and the others got him into kickball and games of tag, and they didn’t make too much of a fuss about his brace slowing him down, or him slowing them down. He did have to sit out sometimes, when the brace made his hipbone make that weird clicking sound and his leg got stiff. They all shrugged and promised him the next round. It wasn’t a big deal, and besides, there were some great things that came along with having to sit out during the games. His favorite bench in the shade called to him, the one with the really smooth wood that didn’t splinter, and he got to read really interesting books. The best part was he got to share them.
Crutchie was having a not-so-good-leg day two days after they got a new kid in Mr. Kloppman’s fifth grade class, which is how he ended up making his way (a little slowly, mind) to a different bench where the new kid was sitting by himself. He didn’t say anything at first, just sat down on the bench at a respectable distance away, propping his crutch up against the bench and trying not to make too much of a show of fussing with his brace. Most of the time he wasn’t worried about calling attention to it – it was as much a part of him as Dutchy’s glasses, and everyone had the good sense to not make fun of Dutchy for his glasses anymore – but every now and then he still got a little self-conscious about it. When he glanced over to the new kid, he realized that he didn’t really have to bother. He was engrossed in a book, and he couldn’t help but get a little bit excited when he saw the title on the cover. “Hey, wow! I have that same book in my backpack right now!” The new kid glanced up and gave a small smile and that was all Crutchie needed to go in full steam ahead. “My favorite part so far is the part where they turn the bratty kid into a ferret. I think I laughed so hard when I got to it that I busted something.” The kid tried to look annoyed but he snorted a little instead. Crutchie slowed down a bit when he realized. “Hey, you didn’t mind me telling you that did you? Have you got there yet? Oh! I’m Crutchie by the way. Well, my name’s actually Charlie but my friends call me Crutchie so you can too.”
The new kid closed his book gingerly, slipping a small scribbled-on bookmark in between the pages. “Um,” he blinked, not sure which part to address before he remembered his manners. “It’s nice to meet you, Crutchie. My name’s David.” Oh, that wouldn’t do. “I guess my friends call me… Davey? So you can, if you want.” Davey was a perfectly acceptable name, less stuffy and adult than “David.” Davey looked down at the worn cover of his book. It had probably been read about a hundred times before it got to Davey but that was ok. That just meant the book was well loved, like Crutchie’s copy. Davey frowned a bit, and then he went on. “I’ve actually read it twice, so I really don’t mind. I liked the part with the sphinx better, but the rest of the tournament was too creepy.” Crutchie thought about the rest of what happened in the book, and how he had to sleep with a nightlight on for about a week afterward, and nodded. They ended up talking about the books they’d read for the rest of recess, and before long the bell rang, calling them all to class. “You’re in Mr. Kloppman’s class too, right?” Davey asked over his shoulder as he put his backpack on, waiting for Crutchie.
Crutchie planted his crutch out in front of him to help with the whole business of standing up and double-checking that the brace locked right. Then he grabbed his backpack and nodded to Davey that he was ready to walk to class, and they walked back together. This was gonna be the best year ever.