The school bell rang. There were five minutes until the next class period. Shutting his locker door and swinging on his backpack, Carlos started toward his last class of the day, economics. As he cut through the crowd of students who loitered in the hallway, he felt a hand tap his shoulder.
“No tag backs,” a voice said behind him.
Carlos spun around to see his tagger, Beck, walking away and typing something on his phone. A moment later, Carlos heard a text notification sound from his pocket.
Everyone playing the game knew that he was it.
He glanced at the clock hanging from the hallway wall. Three minutes ‘til class started. Carlos dashed for the door that led outside, hoping that he’d find someone to tag. He threw open the double doors that connected the academic hall to the schoolyard. He looked for any identifiers of the other tag players as he scanned all the people hurrying to their classes.
About a hundred feet to the right, near the cafeteria and library, Carlos spotted the white backpack of Haru. The schoolyard was less crowded than the academic hall. Carlos used the extra space to sprint as fast as he could toward his target.
His heavy steps alerted Haru to the danger, and a chase ensued. Haru’s agility allowed him to weave in between, always keeping someone else between Carlos and himself. But Carlos was persistent in his pursuit.
Haru ducked into the empty alley between the cafeteria and library, but then he stopped in his tracks.
It was a dead end. A brick wall about ten feet high cut off the alley’s path. The only way out of the alley was to turn around and run back out.
With an outstretched arm, he jumped after his target. But before his hand made contact, Haru resumed his running. Not out of the alley, but further into it. And then upward. In the blink of an eye, he was atop the brick wall, safely out of Carlos’s reach.
Haru waved goodbye before jumping down to the other side of the wall.
The next day all seven of the tag players gathered for lunch, each drinking a can of soda which Carlos had paid for.
“How’d you do that parkour thing, Haru?” Carlos asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. It just happens,” Haru replied. The group laughed.
“You wanna show me how to make it ‘just happen’?”
“I like keeping secrets.”
“I happen to be in the information trade.” Carlos slipped a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet.
“Maybe a little more.”
The two met at the alley again. From his backpack Haru pulled out an orange box with a white swoosh on its top. He opened the box to reveal a pair of shoes and slipped off his current pair to don the new pair. He walked around and jumped in place to break them in. Carlos’s wallet felt thinner.
“Okay,” Haru started, “just watch me and copy what I do.”
Easier said than done.
Haru ran up to the wall, placing his left foot on its vertical surface, and pushed himself upward. His hands gripped the ledge as his feet stabilized his body against the wall. From there he pulled himself up.
Carlos attempted to copy the movements. But his approach wasn’t as fast. Before he stepped onto the wall, he hesitated. The bricks before him grew taller, and the incline increased its angle into an overhang.
He exhaled and rubbed his eyes. The wall reverted to its original state.
“The more you think,” Haru started, “the more difficult it becomes.”
“I have to think about it, though,” Carlos replied. “I’ve never done it before."
Haru shrugged. “Try just the first step.”
Carlos did as asked, repeating the first step onto the wall. Taking things slowly by using only a one-step run up, he eventually was able to push himself upward after getting used to pressing his foot down on the vertical surface. Then he practiced the climb that followed. By the end of the day, Carlos could perform each individual step but wasn’t able to scale the wall.
“Try one more time,” Haru said. “With more speed. You carry the momentum up.”
Adding more distance to the run up, Carlos tried again. Mentally, he ran through the steps he’d practiced.
Just do the same thing, but faster, he repeated in his head. He neared the wall.
Haru dropped down from the wall. “It’s dark. Try again tomorrow.”
“No, I think I’ll keep trying.”
“You need to rest. And when you try it again tomorrow, don’t hesitate.”
Haru was hot on Carlos’s heels. The two zoomed across the schoolyard, speeding past any student or faculty member who stood in their way. Haru was gaining ground, and Carlos was losing breath. He needed an escape. Fast.
The chase neared the cafeteria and library. Carlos darted into the alley, keeping the speed he’d been running at. Haru lunged forward to tag but missed by mere millimeters. He stumbled for a few steps afterward.
Carlos sprinted further into the alley. The wall approached. Its ten feet of solid brick growing larger with each step closer. Don’t hesitate. Carlos imagined himself at the top. He kept that image in his head as he placed his foot on the wall.
He pushed upward with his foot.
And pulled the rest of his weight over to the top.
Carlos turned around atop the wall to see Haru standing below with a smile on his face. He turned away to find a new target as Carlos waved goodbye and slipped off to the other side of the wall.