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Secret Sidewalk


One Hundred Thirty Seven
They reached the corner at Riverside and stood, face to face, on the very first square of the
sidewalk. The night should have been dark, but the reflected light of the downtown sky kept
the stars at bay and the moon soft and pale.
"I'm thinking of a number," Marcus began, "between one and one hundred thirty seven," and
Ben began to squint and squirm.
"Twenty!" he shouted and Marcus had to remind him to be quiet with a shake of his head and
a finger to his lips.
"Sorry," Ben whispered. "Thirty two?"
Marcus smiled and said "How did you know?" as Ben shrugged and laughed without making
any noise.
"Thirty two" Ben repeated, and began to walk off the steps. He knew from various
experiments that there were exactly one hundred and thirty seven Marcus-steps from one end
of the sidewalk to the other. With Ben trotting along beside him, Marcus marked off thirty two
steps, and stopped at an oil spot rainbow on the path. Marcus nodded for a moment, and then
began.
"The Dark Rider came through here not long ago," he said. "You can tell by the blackness of
this spot." He knelt down and put his nose to the ground, waving at Ben to do the same. After
they'd both sniffed around the area, Marcus asked Ben what he smelled.
"Gas," said Ben.
"What else?" Marcus prompted.
"I don't know," said Ben. "I only smell gas."
"There's cinnamon in there too," Marcus replied. "There's also a scent of root beer, root beer
candy ..."
"I love root beer candy," Ben interjected.
" ... and sawdust. and also licorice," Marcus continued, "that's how I could tell about The
Rider. He was in a hurry, too."
"Why?" asked Ben.
"Oh," said Marcus, "The Rider is always in a hurry. Ever since that day," and Marcus paused
again. Ben stood up and stretched his legs. Marc us also stood and turned to face the building
wall behind them.
"What day?" Ben pleaded. "What happened that day?"
"The day he became The Dark Rider, of course. Before that he was just a kid named Phil."
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