Stepping Into Traffic  
K.J. Rankin

2016

NOVEL 146 pages / paper / Ages: 13+

NOVEL
146 pages / paper /
Ages: 13+

After being bounced from one foster home to another, sixteen-year-old Sebastian Till is losing his sense of self. When his latest foster family gives him the boot for shop-lifting, Seb knows that he’s in real trouble. If his next family – one old woman – doesn’t work out, he’ll be dumped into a group home. Seb wants to behave, but when he hooks up with a childhood acquaintance, his choices in life only get more difficult as drugs and violence threaten to swamp his good intentions. 
Published by Thistledown Press

 

Buy Stepping Into Traffic at Chapters, Indigo, Mabel's Fables Bookstore (on Mt. Pleasant, Toronto), A Novel Spot Bookstore (Etobicoke), Second Story Bookstore (Roncesvalles, Toronto). 

Excerpt:

I’m staring blindly at a pile of fan belts, trying to ignore the acid drip in my stomach, and wishing my head didn’t stretch above the store shelves like a beacon.

Chris and Alex saunter single file down the auto parts aisle. Chris has on his poker face, meaning he thinks he’s pretty cool. He slips his hand inside the trench-style coat he found at Goodwill. As they pass, he whispers, “Got ’em. Let’s go.” I feel the wire cutters drop into my knapsack, tugging it farther down my back. Now we’re ready for the big stuff.

Turning to follow, I step on Alex’s heel. “Sorry, man. Didn’t see you down there.”

Alex doesn’t look around. “Watch yourself, asshole.”His voice is muffled by the hoodie pulled up from under his leather jacket. He pushes past Chris. “Why’d you have to bring the fuckin’ radio tower?”

Chris looks back at me. “Be cool, Sebastian.”

“Sure.” As if he’s ever done anything like this. Has he?

I follow Chris who’s following Alex toward the front of the store. No one is supposed to figure out we know each other. Which is funny because I really don’t know Alex. I never met him before Chris hooked us up this evening. “Guy’s a mastermind at making easy money,” he whispered, eyes shining.

I stare down each aisle, afraid I’ll catch someone spying on us. Then I spot a security guard — tanker in a blue suit — parked to the right of the doors. I trip over my own toe as Chris and Alex exit. Hands jammed in my pants pockets, I slouch past the checkout and study my soggy runners.

Four more steps. I look up and get caught in an intense eye-lock with the Blue Tanker. Two steps. Eye-lock’s over and the automatic doors slide open. One step . . . I’m out!

I stride away from the exit, filling my lungs with the cold January air. That wasn’t too bad. Easy, really. As long as you keep your cool. Just like at the electronics ‘stuper’ store, where Alex scored. Practically filled his knapsack, jacking stuff behind the back of a stunned salesman. Wish I’d gone for it there. It’s true — people who work in these giant places couldn’t care less. After all, it isn’t their stuff. Does anyone really own all that stuff?

I breathe out a cloud of steam. Looking through it, I see Chris and Alex moving past parked cars on their way to the far end of the building.

Goosebumps prickle across my shoulders. Time to bust open the trailer. The headlights of cars streak by, blurring against the black night.

Why the hell am I here? I just want to go home, sit on the sofa and watch cartoons with little Maggie.

But I told Chris I’m in. I’m not quitting now.

I stuff my hands into the pockets of my lame pleather jacket. Heading away from my best b, I stroll through the busy parking lot then, at the end of the building, jump over a snow bank. A spotlight attached high to the side wall comes on as I slip past. Motion detector.

I check over my shoulder and dodge behind the building.

Chris, Alex, and I meet in front of a long trailer parked against the store’s rear wall. Packed snow spreads from there to the back fence. Except for the hum from Lawrence, it’s so quiet, we could be in a cemetery. In the dingy light coming from past the fence, I see a chain padlocked through the handles of the trailer’s double doors.

Chris slaps my back. “Seb, you the Ice Man! See? Told you it was easy.”

I nod, picture a crack in the ice.

Alex says, “Time to pop the motherlode.”

Chris’ eyes bug out. “Bet this puppy’s full of loot that can’t wait to be liberated!”

“Puppy?” Alex squints at Chris. “You’re a goof.”

Chris laughs.

I shuffle my feet, glance around. Wish these guys would whisper. Wish I could see better through the dark.

Alex says, “So, Ice-Cube, you fuckin’ frozen or what?”

Little prick. “Yeah. My toes are numb.”

He sighs. “Just give me the fuckin’ cutters, ya dozer!”

Chris says, “Ouch!”

I fumble with my pack, fish the wire cutters out, and hand them over. “You sure they don’t have cameras back here?”

Alex grabs them. “Yeah, I’m sure. Besides, it’s dark, duh!”

A muscle in my jaw twitches. “Chris, your mastermind of making easy money is seriously starting to bug me.”

Chris shrugs, pulls a flashlight from one of his pockets, holds it under his chin, then says, “Mug shot!” It lights up his ghoulish, grinning face. His curls look like horns.

A shiver runs down my spine. “Quit it.”

He shines the beam at the chain. “You quit being a girl.”

Alex holds the cutters to a link. As he squeezes the blades together, the chain slips out from between them.

“Hey, Ice,” he says. “Hold the chain.”

I look back and forth across the empty yard, strain to hear any sounds besides the cars. It’s too quiet.

Chris nudges me. “Come on!”

I grab the chain. My hands are shaking. “Hurry up. I’m freezing.” This time, the cutters slice through. The chain sticks to my palms for an instant before falling loose and clattering against the trailer.

“Yeah!” Chris shoves me out of the way. He grabs one door handle, Alex grabs the other, and they pull. The doors fly open.

Chris shines his light into the empty trailer.

Empty.

A man calls, “Stay right where you are!”