"Magic is real." This wasn't what I expected when the older boys invited me to join them under the bleachers after school. I thought they'd offer me a smoke or a drink, to see if I was cool, or it'd all be a trick and they'd beat me up and put my underwear in a girl's locker or something.
"What?" I said.
"It's real," Joe said again. "But you have to earn it. Do you want to earn it, Sam?" I looked around the boys' faces. Joe was intent on my decision. Allen and Dan watched me. Dennis looked from me to Joe and back. Ben looked disinterestedly off to the side.
"Told you letting him in was a mistake," said Ben.
"No, no, I'll do it. Earn it, I mean." I looked at everyone. Most of them smiled. Ben rolled his eyes.
"Okay," said Joe. "What you gotta do, the first trial, is to hold your breath as long as you can. You'll know it's long enough when you start to float. Try it."
I held my breath as long as I could, then gasped for air. Ben snorted. Joe said, "You'll have to do better than that if you want to earn it, Sam."
"Told you he couldn't," Ben said. "Let's get out of here."
"No," I said, "I can do it." Before they could speak, I took a deep breath and held it. I stared into Joe's eyes as I did. Every time I thought I had to gasp, I exhaled a little instead. The world became fuzzy around the edges. I thought I heard someone say, "Shit, he's going to..." That's right, I thought, I'm going to do it. I felt myself start to float.
I woke up with my underwear missing.