“So,” Clinton says, as we walk home. He always walks me home. I suspect his mother makes him do it. She knows my father often doesn’t consider these things. “What’d you think about lunch?”
“You have very interesting friends,” I reply. That sounded diplomatic. I think.
Clinton chuckles. Somebody across the road calls out. He waves back. He has a ton of friends. Knows everybody. “I think you did good. You should hang out more. We’ve known them all our lives, yet you are always hiding.”
I shake my head.
“Come on, Winile. People like you.”
“They think I’m weird. They call me a walking, talking Wikipedia.”
“It’s a nickname. People only give you a good nickname if they like you.”
I look up, trying to see if he is joking or serious. But Clinton’s never been mean. Then again, “If that is true, then why don’t you call me ‘Wiki’?”
“Because you don’t seem to like it.”
I stop walking, having no idea what to do with this information.
“Hold on, you okay?”
Baka strolls up, soccer kit slung over his shoulder. “What are you two doing standing here? Clinton, we’ve got practice.”
“I know,” he says. “My bag’s at home.”
“Okay, we’ll go get it,” I say.
I make my feet start moving, lengthening my stride, feeling guilty that Clinton is running late because of me.
“Hey, Wiki, hold the fire,” Baka says. “Training doesn’t start just yet.”
“Sorry,” I mumble.
“No need to be sorry,” Clinton says. “Baka here was just letting you know we’ve got time.”
“Exactly,” Baka says. “We move through life step by step, just like reciting the alphabet.”
“Bet you know a few facts about the alphabet,” Baka says.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Clinton giving Baka a pointed look.
“I was only making conversation,” Baka says. “You know so much. Like, has the letter ‘z’ always been the last letter?”
“Only if you are discussing the numerical order.”
“Right, right,” Baka says. “Tell me what you mean by that.”
“You don’t have to answer him,” Clinton says.
“It’s fine. I mean, if he is really interested.”
“I’m interested,” Baka says.
“Well, the last letter added to the English alphabet, which is actually known as the Latin or Roman alphabet, which was inspired by the Greek–”
“Whoa,” Baka says.
I stop and blink.
“No, no,” he says. “Let’s keep walking and you keep talking. I just need to get my mind around it all. You know?”
Not really. But I don’t say that because it would be rude. I try not to be rude. “My point is, that the last letter added to the alphabet was ‘j’.”
“Okay,” Baka says. “I did not know that. Anything else?”
I press my lips together, hard.
“I see there is something else,” Baka says.
“If she doesn’t want to tell you, she doesn’t have to,” Clinton says. Sounds a bit like a growl. In fact, growling is–
“It’s interesting,” Baka says.
“You want to know where the word ‘alphabet’ comes from?” I say.
“Absolutely,” Baka says.
“The word comes from the Phoenician alphabet.”
“That’s it?” Baka says.
I shake my head. “No. You see, the word is made from the first two letters in the Phoenician alphabet: Alep or Aleph and Bet or Beth.”
Baka cracks up. “And here I thought Beth was just a nickname for Elizabeth.”
“Oh, it is. You see–”
Baka howls. He’s making fun. I’m tired of being everyone’s joke.
Clinton punches him in the arm. “Shut your face. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
But I’m the one embarrassed.
Tell us: Should Winile be embarrassed? Or should Baka? Or are they simply misunderstanding one another?