"No," said Bean. "You can't. He's family now."
She lowered the cinderblock to her waist. Slowly she turned to look at Bean. "You get the hell out of here," she said. "You no part of my crew. You get nothing here."
"No," said Achilles. "You better go ahead and kill me, you plan to treat him that way."
Oh, that sounded brave. But Bean knew Achilles wasn't brave. Just smart. He had already won. It meant nothing that he was lying there on the ground and Poke still had the cinderblock. It was his crew now. Poke was finished. It would be a while before anybody but Bean and Achilles understood that, but the test of authority was here and now, and Achilles was going to win it.
"This little kid," said Achilles, "he may not be part of your crew, but he's part of my family. You don't go telling my brother to get lost."
Poke hesitated. A moment. A moment longer.
Achilles sat up. He rubbed his bruises, he checked out his contusions. He looked in joking admiration to the little kids who had bricked him. "Damn, you bad!" They laughed -- nervously, at first. Would he hurt them because they hurt him? "Don't worry," he said. "You showed me what you can do. We have to do this to more than a couple of bullies, you'll see. I had to know you could do it right. Good job. What's your name?"
One by one he learned their names. Learned them and remembered them, or when he missed one he'd make a big deal about it, apologize, visibly work at remembering. Fifteen minutes later, they loved him.
If he could do this, thought Bean, if he's this good at making people love him, why didn't he do it before?
Because these fools always look up for power. People above you, they never want to share power with you. Why you look to them? They give you nothing. People below you, you give them hope, you give them respect, they give you power, cause they don't think they have any, so they don't mind giving it up.
Achilles got to his feet, a little shaky, his bad leg more sore than usual. Everybody stood back, gave him some space. He could leave now, if he wanted. Get away, never come back. Or go get some more bullies, come back and punish the crew. But he stood there, then smiled, reached into his pocket, took out the most incredible thing. A bunch of raisins. A whole handful of them. They looked at his hand as if it bore the mark of a nail in the palm.
"Little brothers and sisters first," he said. "Littlest first." He looked at Bean. "You."
"Not him!" said the next littlest. "We don't even know him."
"Bean was the one wanted us to kill you," said another.
"Bean," said Achilles. "Bean, you were just looking out for my family, weren't you?"
"Yes," said Bean.
"You want a raisin?"
"You first. You the one brought us all together, OK?"
Either Achilles would kill him or he wouldn't. At this moment, all that mattered was the raisin. Bean took it. Put it in his mouth. Did not even bite down on it. Just let his saliva soak it, bringing out the flavor of it.
"You know," said Achilles, "no matter how long you hold it in your mouth, it never turns back into a grape."
"What's a grape?"
Achilles laughed at him, still not chewing. Then he gave out raisins to the other kids. Poke had never shared out so many raisins, because she had never had so many to share. But the little kids wouldn't understand that. They'd think, Poke gave us garbage, and Achilles gave us raisins. That's because they were stupid.
Copyright © 1999 Orson Scott Card. From Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card. Used by permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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