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Zoe never turns down a dare—even a really dangerous one

My name is Zoe. I am ten years old. I will tell you what I remember.

I met with my friend Taylor outside my house after school. Taylor is my goofy friend who likes wearing Baby Yoda T-shirts and doing weird T-Rex dances where she holds her arms up as if she has tiny T-Rex arms. We kicked a soccer ball back and forth in the street. We are both good ball handlers and never let the ball fly into anyone’s car. We continued this for about thirty minutes, until we got bored. We sat on the curb, trying to think of what to do next while taking turns braiding each other’s hair. Taylor has long blonde hair. I have long black hair. Suddenly, Taylor stood up and said, “Let’s play Truth or Dare!”

I was about to answer with an enthusiastic “yes” when I remembered the family rule. The thing is, I never give up and I never lose a game without giving it all I got. But this can be a problem in Truth or Dare, because my parents say sometimes the responsible or safest thing to do is to refuse the challenge. But there are no pass turns in Truth or Dare; the first person to decline a challenge loses.

My parents had said that I was never ever allowed to play Truth or Dare again after the Bowl Incident. I was playing the game with friends at a sleepover at my house, and the dare was that I had to balance six glass bowls from our kitchen cabinet on my head for three seconds. I did it, but then they all came crashing down, and that’s how the family rule became No Truth or Dare for Zoe, Ever. But, then again, I do not always follow the rules. I considered it all for a minute and then agreed to play.

My friend Taylor said, “Great. Do you want to go first, or can I?”

I volunteered to go first.

“Sounds good,” Taylor answered.

I smiled and said, “Truth or dare?”

I was secretly hoping she would pick dare so I could get her to put her whole hand into our smelly compost pile. But luck was not on my side today.

“Truth,” she answered.

I sighed and then blurted out, “Have you ever had a crush?”

“Yes,” Taylor answered.

Maybe luck was on my side today after all. Maybe I would finally get to know who Taylor’s secret crush was.

“Who was your crush?” I asked.

Taylor smiled slyly and replied, “I answered the question. I don’t have to answer another one.”

I did my best Baby-Yoda-eyes impression and begged, “Please?” My Baby Yoda eyes unfortunately did not work this time.

Taylor smiled and said, “My turn!”

I nodded.

“Truth or dare?” she asked.

“Dare,” I answered.

She laughed and exclaimed, “I dare you to climb the tallest tree in our neighborhood.”

I gasped. She didn’t mean the monster tree, did she? All the kids in our neighborhood called it the monster tree. For a bunch of kids aged ten and younger, the monster tree was basically the tallest tree in the world. It felt like it was as tall as my Uncle Nick times ten, and my Uncle Nick is six foot two inches.

“You don’t mean the monster tree?” I stammered.

She smiled and said, “Of course I do. Do you give up?”

“Never,” I answered.

Taylor knows as well as I do that I never give up on a challenge, which, I acknowledged to myself in that moment, can be something of a disadvantage.

She stood up and I did too, and we began to walk to the monster tree. We talked as we walked.

“Please tell me who your secret crush is,” I begged her.

“Never,” she answered.

I moaned in exasperation. As we got closer to the monster tree, I began fidgeting with my hair, which I only do when I am nervous. But I was not going to give up.

When we got to the monster tree, I reached for the first branch, grabbed it, and pulled myself up. After that, climbing from one branch to the next was easy. I quickly scampered up the branches until I was about a third of the way up the tree. I stopped to catch my breath and looked down. Taylor’s eyes were wide, and her jaw dropped.

“You don’t have to do this, Zoe. I didn’t think you would actually climb it. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Come down!”

Feeling energized and reckless, I yelled back in a loud, fake British accent, “I will emerge victorious!”

The next branch was slightly skinnier. But I continued the climb.

Don’t look down, don’t look down, I thought to myself as I got even higher. But even as I was feeling nervous, I was also curious what everything around me would look like from this grand height. I stopped again to look around. I could see the chimney on my house and the tops of smaller trees. Taylor seemed tiny, way down there on the ground. I looked up, and I could see the top of the tree!

I reached for the next branch and CRACK! The branch broke. I was able to slow my fall a bit by grabbing onto a few branches on the way down, but I couldn’t get a good handhold and the green grass hit me in an instant. In my imagination, I always thought a big fall would feel slow, like the epic slow motion catastrophes in movies. Boy, was I wrong.

And now I sit here telling, you, my doctor, how I broke my arm playing Truth or Dare.

Zoe Kijak
Zoe Kijak, 11
Laguna Hills, CA