The night sky was brilliant with twinkling stars, bright enough to light the path even underneath a black new moon.
Not that Fred or any of the other boys needed any sort of guide — they’d walked the route from old man Harper’s lake back to their houses a thousand times over the years.
“I can’t believe you messed up our fishing again, Dead,” Tommy Benton said as they trundled along the road. Fred hated that nickname … Dead.
“No I didn’t,” Fred said quietly. It was the same argument they always had when Tommy didn’t catch as many fish as he thought he should have. He had to blame someone.
“Sure, you did. All that whining you always do.” Tommy kicked a rock and angled in close to Fred. “Like a girl.”
Tommy had been a bully since he was born, and Fred tried to stay away from him, but their two little brothers — Pete and James — were best friends.
Fred’s mother said they all had to play together, or none of them could.
“A shooting star!” Pete pointed in front of them, where a fireball streaked across the sky.
“Quick! The first person to make a wish will get what he asks for,” Fred said.
“Where’d you hear that nonsense?” Tommy asked.
Fred bit his tongue, sorry he ever said anything.
“I read it in a book.”
Tommy laughed. “Ha! Everyone knows you can’t read, Dead!”
Fred felt his face flush, and he was glad it was nighttime.
“My ma read it to me,” he conceded.
“Mama’s boy, mama’s boy, mama’s boy …” Tommy’s taunts echoed in the night, then faded … then stopped.
The three boys walked in silence, none of them looking at each other. None of them looking for Tommy.
Fred wondered which one of them had wished first.