Effective April 3, 2021: All branches are closed to the public, except for contactless and hold pickup services by appointment only for Library Takeout, Grab and Go and OPL Picks for You. Computer and printing services are also available, by appointment only. More details


By Caitlyn Giles Bonekamp

The aroma of Italian food was like a thick fog consuming the restaurant. Soft buzzes of conversation washed through the dining room. As the swinging doors between the kitchen and dining room were thrown open, the dining room's fray seeped into the kitchen.

A boy in a striped uniform and apron leaned against the sink in the kitchen, glancing down at his watch briefly. Standing up straight, he untied his apron and tossed it down on the counter, leaving his nametag hanging half in half out of the sink. Rusted and silvered from being dropped into the dish water, the occasional glint of Damon would still appear on the nametag in the right light.

Damon drifted toward the back door and shoved it open. The crisp fall air blew hesitantly, slowly shuffling leaves down the alleyway to his right. To Damon's left was a courtyard with a small apple orchard, beautifully painted with the golden orange and red of the leaves. One branch hung over the doorway with a sole apple dangling from it, as if tempting Damon to take it. Damon reached forward and plucked it from its place.

As he stepped farther into the alleyway his eyes slid over to a light blue motorcycle that sat against the wall. Damon drew himself beside it in a few paces. He leaned against the wall, crossed his ankles and tossed his apple into the air casually. As he looked down at the motorcycle, the edges of Damon's lips pulled upwards.

The back door swung open suddenly, a blonde figure emerging. The figure carried a bag of garbage over his shoulder. Upon seeing Damon, his eyes widened.

“Michael,” Damon nodded, greeting him. Michael nodded back in acknowledgment, passing Damon hastily. Michael disappeared around the corner, reappearing through the rusted iron gates within a few moments. Damon eyed him in consideration.

As Michael approached, Damon cleared his throat. “Do you want a bite?” he asked, holding up his uneaten apple.

“No, thanks,” said Michael. Damon and Michael stood parallel to each other in silence. Damon glanced from the motorcycle to Michael.

“It's nice, don't you think?” Damon asked, gesturing to the motorcycle. “Have you ever thought about jacking it?” Michael raised his gaze to meet Damon's, giving him an amused look.

”No, never have,” he answered slowly.

”Do you want to?” inquired Damon curiously.

”Um…,” breathed Michael, caught off guard. Michael quickly looked from Damon to the motorcycle, cautiously biting his lip.

”Don't you want some excitement in your life? Take a chance, Michael!”

”How could I take it even if I wanted to?” Michael replied, his voice low.

Damon's expression broke into a grin. He reached his hand into his pocket, fished something out and held it in a fist. Slowly, Damon released the fist to show a set of keys dangling from his index finger. He twirled the keys around his finger.

After a large gap of silence, Michael collected himself. ”Where did you get that?”

”They were on the front desk when I came in for my shift,” Damon explained with no hesitation.

”So…so you took them?” Michael asked in disbelief.

”Sure,” Damon said, shrugging his shoulders. ”Why not?” Michael lapsed into silence. Damon raised his eyebrows, seeking a response.

“We…you could get caught,” Michael stuttered finally. Damon threw his apple back and forth between his hands, seemingly thoughtful.

“Then we don't steal it.” Michael shot Damon a perplexed look. “We take it, and return it. So not stealing,” Damon explained.

“I don't know,” replied Michael.

Damon sighed deeply, putting his thumb and index finger against his temples and closing his eyes. “It isn't stealing, it's borrowing. If we leave now and return it by the end of my break no one will ever have known it was gone.”

“I don't know,” Michael whispered again.

“It isn't stealing, Michael! We won't get caught, I promise you.”

Michael bit his nails, closing his eyes. “We could lose our jobs.”

Damon groaned loudly. “Who cares? Paradiso's just a stupid restaurant.”

“I know it is, but I need the job,” Michael said.

“Michael, c'mon! It's one little joy ride. It's not like it's going on your record. Imagine how cool it would be, riding in the streets on one of these things. The wind in your hair and all that. You could see everything! You've got to admit, it sounds tempting.”

Michael bit his lip harder. Damon tossed his apple up in the air.

“You pass this bike almost everyday. It's begging to be taken! We'll bring it back, it'll all be fine. Simple as that!” Damon exclaimed.

“What if we dent it?” Michael asked worriedly.

Damon sighed. “Then it's dented. Big whoop.”

“But it's not ours,” Michael insisted.

Shaking his head, Damon chuckled. “No duh, it's not ours! We wouldn't be having this conversation if it was, would we? Now what'll it be? Are we doing this?” Michael's eyebrows knit together. Staring downwards, he let the idea of riding through the streets, actually being on the motorcycle, turn over in his mind. After another long moment Michael spoke.

“But the person who owns it trusts us not to take it,” he said simply. There was something adamant in Michael's voice, as if he'd already made some kind of decision. “A stupid mistake on his part, really,” Damon replied. “He has to expect people would take it.”

“He shouldn't have to expect people would take it. It's not right.”

Damon rolled his eyes dramatically. “Well what's it gonna be, then? Is this happening or not?” he asked, his expression expectant.

Michael closed his eyes, inhaling. “No,” he said clearly, enunciating the syllable carefully. Damon banged his fist against the wall, making an aggravated sound.

“ Do you really think–”

“I don't care what you say,” Michael interrupted calmly.

Damon fell silent at that, and so did Michael. They stared at each other for a moment before Michael turned and headed back toward the door.

“But Michael, it just sits there,” breathed Damon, who was staring at the ground. Michael stared at Damon for another moment. “And you know you aren't stopping me,” he added. “I'll still take it, even without you.”

Michael smiled. “Sure, you do that,” he said. Michael pulled the door open and half stepped into the light filled restaurant. The light wandered down the alleyway, shining across Damon, briefly flickering across his face. “Give into temptation, as you call it. Go right ahead.”

“ I will!” Damon hissed.

“Go get yourself kicked out of Paradiso!” Michael replied as he whipped the door closed, the light of the restaurant following him, closing on Damon.

Damon glanced at the motorcycle. He raised his hand and stroked it from the handlebars down to the seat, circling around to get on. Sitting on the motorcycle, Damon put the keys in the ignition and heard the gentle hum of the engine. The darkness of the streets beckoned him, invited him to come forward. Revving it up, Damon smiled.

Before riding down into the streets, Damon did one final thing: he bit into his apple.

Did You Know

TumbleBookCloud is an online collection of read-along chapter books for students in late elementary to high school. In addition to the same content previously found in TumbleReadables, TumbleBookCloud includes videos from National Geographic, new Audio Books, and 44 additional chapter book titles. TumbleBookCloud?