Rick Ramsey sat on his bedroom floor on the last day before middle school, spinning quarters. He had just cleaned his room, on his parents' insistence that he start the school year fresh, so the floor was bare except for the rug that looked like a baseball. The whole room was baseball themed, from the time that Mom and Dad had decided to redecorate just as he signed up for baseball in third grade. Baseball had only lasted eight weeks, but the wallpaper remained.

He chose an especially shiny coin, balanced it between his left thumb and his right middle finger, and set it spinning. He picked up a second and then a third, getting them going as the first tipped from a round-and-round spin to an up-and-down wobble that led to a lie-down flat with a final buzz.

His all-time record was seven quarters moving at once, and that was cutting it close. Most of the time, he could do five. It was harder than it looked. If you didn't give them just the right flick, the coins fell down after a turn or two, or spun under the bed. You had to move fast once the first one was going.

Rick kept spinning until the quarters were scattered around him. Then he scooped them up and began again. This time he put a shiny coin into each hand and spun them both at the same time. The quarter on the right set to dancing on end, while the one on the left started wobbling right away. At least it didn't fall down immediately. When he started practising simultaneous spins, his right hand produced nothing but wobblers, and his left hand would have got more movement by dropping the coin on the table with a plop.

He jumped up when Dad honked the car horn. The car was packed, and Dad was ready to drive Rick's sister, Diane, to her first year of college. Rick dumped the pile of quarters back into their jar and bounded down the stairs and out to the driveway to say goodbye.

"I hope you don't mind that I'm not joining you," Mom said, putting her arm around Diane's shoulder.

"I told you, it's fine! Dad's just going to drop off me and my stuff and then turn right around to go home."

"There's no room for you anyway." Rick was right. The back seat and trunk were filled with crates and bags.

"But we took Thomas out for dinner when he started college."

"I'm not Thomas. Besides, I'm only going an hour away. I'll visit all the time."

"I'll still miss you," said Mom.

"I'll miss you too," said Diane, as though it were a challenge. They entangled in a mess of long straight black hair and pale pink limbs. Dad joined in with his thicker, hairier arms and wavy light brown hair, and called Rick into the family huddle. Rick had Dad's hair and Mom's skin tone, but sometimes, like most kids, he wondered where he had come from.

Rick and Diane exchanged a series of high fives and high tens before Diane enveloped him in her arms "Promise you won't grow up on me while I'm gone."

"Uh ..." Rick had no plans on growing up before her first visit home in three weeks, but it seemed like a weird thing to promise.

"Promise me!"

"Diane." Dad put a heavy hand on Rick's shoulder. "Rick's about to start middle school. Whole new worlds are opening up for him. Girls ...”

"Or boys," added Mom.

"Point is, the two of you are on new journeys and we're proud of you both."

Rick, Alex Gino