Excerpt

NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal

The school day went quickly, but by his last period, Eddie couldn’t wait for the bell to ring. As minutes ticked toward dismissal, he tapped his Nike sneaker anxiously against the hardwood floor.
    “What is taking so long?” he thought and leaned his cheek against his fist. Eddie wanted to hit the court.
    He could still remember how it felt when he made the winning basket a few weeks before in the opening game of the season. The pats from the team. The cheers from his classmates. The pride on his dad’s face. He could get used to that.
    Eddie watched Mrs. Smith sort through a stack of envelopes. She stood up, walked down the rows of desks and handed an envelope to each student. When Eddie got his, he knew just what it was: mid-semester progress reports. Ugh! Eddie peeled the envelope open and scanned the grades for each of his classes. Whew, he thought, leaning back in his seat and cheesing as he took in his marks. Not bad. Then, he saw it. The one thing that could wreck his day—make that his life. An ugly, digitized D in language arts. D for disaster. He sat forward with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. He just kept staring at the D in shock.
    “Eddie, Eddie,” Liz called from the next row. “How did you do?”
    “Alright,” he said and stuffed the sheet in his Lakers backpack without looking her way. Just then the bell rang and let him off the hook. “I gotta go.”
    As Eddie rushed into the crowd of classmates, Liz followed him with her eyes.
    “What’s up with Eddie?” Liz asked Naimah as she walked out the door.
    Naimah shrugged. “He’s probably just trying to get to practice,” she said. “You know how much that boy loves basketball.”
    On the way to the locker room, Eddie kept thinking about what his dad would say. A D was bad news with most parents. But for Floyd Delaney, civil rights attorney and community activist, it was inexcusable. He could already hear the lecture and his dad’s frustrated tone: “Eddie, I expected more from you.” To lay on the guilt, he might even call Eddie by his full name, Martin Edward, invoking his famous namesake Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Eddie’s head ached already.