TIME FOR SOME STORIES (davesecretary)

Davesecretary is the pseudonym of a Canadian guy in his mid-20s who grew up in the small town of Aylmer, Quebec. He shared hundreds of highly entertaining true stories about his life on several blogs and websites (all of which are now inactive).There are backups of a couple of his original posts here and here.

THE ORIGINAL STORIES WERE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS.

“The caps make me feel like I’m running really fast with dave and he is yelling to me because you have to yell when you run and when you do it always sounds super important.” – lazy shell

A spelling and grammar corrected, lowercase version of these stories can be found HERE.

***

AWESOME

EVERY CHRISTMAS MY DAD AND MY UNCLE RON GET INTO IMPORTANT ARGUMENTS ABOUT POLITICS AND THE BEST AIRPORTS IN ZURICH AND WHICH PRESIDENTS ARE ASSHOLES IN PERSON AND THAT SORT OF THING. MY OTHER UNCLE D. IS KIND OF THE BLACK SHEEP IN THE FAMILY AND WE DON’T PAY MUCH ATTENTION TO HIM.

ANYWAY THIS ONE CHRISTMAS MY DAD & RON ARE REALLY GOING AT IT, SOMETHING ABOUT AFRICA, WHEN UNCLE D. WALKS INTO THE MIDDLE OF THINGS GINGERLY CARRYING THIS TAPE LIKE IT WAS A DYING CHILD AND LOOKS COYLY AT MY DAD AND RON AND SAYS “SO, I BET YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT SONG IS THIS!!”

AND MY DAD AND RON COULDN’T CARE LESS AND SOMEONE SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT HOW THERE’S NO TIME BUT UNCLE D. IS ALREADY BREAKING THE TAPE DECK AND JAMMING IN HIS PRECIOUS TAPE. HE FLASHES US A SLY LOOK AND SAYS “I BET NOBODY HERE WILL GET THIS” AND PRESSES PLAY

IT’S FUCKING ‘HEY JUDE’. 19 PEOPLE IN THE LIVING ROOM ALL SAY “IT’S ‘HEY JUDE’” AT THE SAME TIME AND LOOK AGGRAVATED.

UNCLE D. LOOKS AT US ALL IMPISHLY AND SAYS ‘NO’.

***

ALSO A PRETTY SWEET STORY AT SCHOOL INVOLVING THE WORD ‘CARROT’

WE’RE LEARNING ABOUT WEBER AND MY RUSSIAN TEACHER HAS AN ACCENT AS THICK AS MY CLASSMATES AND IS GOING ON ABOUT HOW SCIENCE CAN ACTUALLY PROVE SOMETHING WHEREAS ENGLISH OR ARCHITECTURE CANNOT.

SOME INBRED URCHIN IN THE FRONT ROW SLAMS HIS BIG HAMMY FIST ON THE DESK AND DEMANDS CLARITY.

MY RUSSIAN TEACHER GIVES HIM A STERN LOOK AND SAYS “SCIENCE CAN PROVE ZINGS ZEE GREEN GROZER CANNOT!”

IDIOT BRIGADE IN THE FRONT STILL DOESN’T GET IT. “GREEN GROZAY?”

“GREEN GROZER! GREEN GROZER!” MY TEACHER EXCLAIMS EXCITEDLY

“GREEN GROZAY? WHAT’S GREEN GROZAY?!”

“GREEN GROZER! GREEN GROZER!! HE SELLS THE GREEN GROZERIES!!” TEACHER RETORTS

“OH!!” A SMALL LIGHT GOES ON SOMEWHERE WITHIN THAT MISERABLE CAITIFF. “THE GREEN GROWER!” HE SMILES BROADLY.

THEN, THEN, AS IF THAT WASN’T BAD ENOUGH, SOME WRETCH OF A GIRL DOWN THE ROW JUMPS UP FROM HER SEAT LIKE SHE WAS BITTEN AND SAYS IN THIS POSITIVELY AGHAST VOICE “BUT CARROTS ARE RED!!!”

***

SO THIS ONE TIME I’M OUT IN MY NEIGHBOR’S DRIVEWAY WITH MY BEST FRIEND KYLE AND HE’S TEACHING ME HOW TO RAISE A PUCK. WE’RE USING A REAL PUCK AND HE’S STANDING ABOUT 15 FEET DOWN FROM ME. I KEEP HITTING THE PUCK AS HARD AS I CAN BUT I CAN’T RAISE IT. KYLE IS JUST STANDING THERE ACTING ALL SUPERIOR AND GIVING ME INANE ADVICE AND PASSING THE PUCK BACK TO ME EACH TIME IT SLIDES OVER TO HIM.

ANYWAY I REMEMBER I GOT ALL FRUSTRATED AND DECIDED THAT THIS WOULD BE IT – I WAS GOING TO RAISE THAT FUCKING PUCK. SO I WIND BACK AND TAKE MAYBE THE HARDEST SLAPSHOT OF MY LIFE. THE PUCK RAISES MAGICALLY. UP UNTIL THIS VERY SECOND NEITHER KYLE NOR I REALIZE THAT IF I EVER DID GET THE PUCK IN THE AIR, KYLE WOULD BE IN SOME TROUBLE.

TIME PRETTY MUCH SLOWED DOWN FOR ME. THE PUCK IS A GOOD TWO FEET IN THE AIR AND IS MAKING A BEE LINE FOR KYLE’S DICK. I REMEMBER SEEING KYLE’S EYES OPEN UP VERY WIDE, AND I SEEM TO RECALL MYSELF SHOUTING OUT SOME OBVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS ABOUT HOW HE NEEDS TO STEP ASIDE RIGHT NOW.

KYLE ISN’T VERY BRIGHT, AND IS NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO MY INSTRUCTIONS. I CAN SEE THE GEARS TURNING IN HIS LITTLE BRAIN, AS HE TRIES TO COME UP WITH SOME SORT OF SOLUTION TO THE IMMINENT DANGER HE IS IN. “STEP ASIDE, KYLE, STEP ASIDE!!” I AM YELLING EARNESTLY.

KYLE EYES THE PUCK ONE LAST TIME AS IT FLIES A BILLION MILES AN HOUR TOWARDS HIS BALLS, AND AT THE LAST MINUTE DROPS TO HIS KNEES AND TAKES THE FUCKING THING IN THE FOREHEAD. KNOCKS HIM RIGHT THE FUCK OUT.

***

SO I’M ON THE BUS FOR SOME GODDAMNED REASON AND I AM LISTENING CAREFULLY TO THE CONVERSATION IN FRONT OF ME, HELD BETWEEN THIS BLOWSY SULKY GIRL WHO IS CLEARLY DOMINATING THE SITUATION AND HER ‘BOYFRIEND’, A SCRAWNY LOOKING MESS NEAR TEARS. THE FOLLOWING IS ALMOST VERBATIM.

SCRAWNY MESS: WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’VE CHEATED ON ME?!

BLOWSY GIRL: I CHEATED ON YOU.

SCRAWNY MESS: (SNIFFLING MISERABLY) BUT.. BUT.. YOU CHEATED ON ME?

BLOWSY GIRL: (ALMOST INDIGNANTLY) YES.

SCRAWNY MESS: (TEARS FORMING) FOR HOW LONG?

BLOWSY GIRL: (WITH A HINT OF SATISFACTION) ABOUT A YEAR.

SCRAWNY MESS: (TEARS WELLING UP) OHHHHH NOOOO.

SCRAWNY MESS PAUSES TO REFLECT. THE BOY IS A VERITABLE DISTILLERY AT THIS POINT AND YOU CAN JUST TELL SOME SORT OF ULTIMATUM IS COMING. HE MASTERS HIS EMOTIONS AND BECOMES VERY STILL. I AM EXPECTING HIM TO GET ALL KUNG FU ON THIS GIRL. INSTEAD HE TURNS TO HER, WIPES THE TEARS FROM HIS EYES AND SAYS “STRIKE ONE, NANCY… STRIKE ONE.”

***

SO IT’S CHRISTMAS AND MY FAMILY IS PLAYING ‘SCATTERGORIES’ AND EVERYONE IS DRUNK, ESPECIALLY MY STEP-UNCLE RICK. HE’S JUST RAVING DRUNK. IT’S CRAZY. SOMEONE ROLLS THE LETTER ‘F’ AND WE ALL SPEND 2 MINUTES TRYING TO FILL OUT THE BLANKS. THE TIMER DINGS AND WE GO AROUND TELLING EACH OTHER OUR ANSWERS.

THE FIRST CATEGORY IS ‘VEGETABLE’. WE ALL GO AROUND AND WE GET TO DRUNK STEP-UNCLE RICK WHO LOOKS AT US ALL SMUGLY, DIGS UP THIS WIDE GRIN, AND THEN SAYS “FUCKING CARROTS!! BAHAHAHA HAHAH BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” AND LAUGHS LIKE A GODDAMNED DEMON KING FOR NEARLY A FULL MINUTE. ONCE HE’S SETTLED DOWN WE MOVE ON. THE NEXT CATEGORY IS ‘THINGS YOU FIND ON THE BEACH’ OR SOMETHING, AND WHEN WE GET TO RICK AGAIN WE ARE GIVEN THIS CONSPIRATORIAL WINK AND NOD, AND THEN HE SCREAMS OUT “FUCKING TOWELS, MAN!!! BBAHAHAHAHHAHA UAHDIUAHIUHAIUH AHAHAHAHAHA” AND AGAIN WE ARE UNNERVED BY HIS CRAZED LUNATIC LAUGHTER.

THIS GOES ON FOR SEVERAL ROUNDS! IT GETS TIRED REALLY QUICKLY! FINALLY, AROUND ROUND 7 OR 8 WE GET TO THE CATEGORY ‘OCCUPATION’. WE GO AROUND AND GIVE EACH OTHER LOOKS OF DREAD AS DRUNK RICK’S TURN APPROACHES. FINALLY IT’S HIS TURN. WE BRACE OURSELVES FOR THE INEVITABLE ‘FUCKING DOCTOR, MAN!!’ OR ‘FUCKING BUS DRIVER SHIT YEAH!!’. THE TENSION IS TERRIFIC. DRUNK STEP-UNCLE RICK CLEARS HIS THROAT, SHOOTS US A MANIACLE LOOK, AND THEN SAYS QUIETLY AND CALMY ‘forensic scientist’ AND THEN GIVES A CALM NOD TO THE PERSON ON HIS LEFT.

HE THEN GETS UP, WALKS INTO THE KITCHEN, AND FALLS DOWN ALL THE STAIRS INTO THE BASEMENT AND PASSES OUT.

***

SO I’M HANGING OUT IN THE BASEMENT READING AND MY DAD COMES DOWNSTAIRS AND HE LOOKS AT ME AND HE SAYS “DANGER POINT!! YOU LEFT THE OVEN ON!” AND I’M ALL LIKE “DANGER POINT?”

***

RIGHT SO IT’S KINDERGARTEN AND IT’S SPRING AND EVERYTHING IS THAWING AND MUDDY. AND ALL THE KIDS HAVE THOSE RUBBER BOOTS THAT GO UP TO OUR WAISTS. THE THING TO DO IN THE MORNING BEFORE CLASS STARTS IS TO FIND A BUDDY, GO FIND A NICE SOFT MUDDY SPOT IN THE PLAYGROUND SOMEWHERE, FACE YOUR FRIEND AND START SQUISHING YOUR WAY DOWN IN THE MUD UNTIL IT’S ALMOST UP TO YOUR WAIST.

WE DID THIS BECAUSE IT WAS FUN. SO KYLE AND I ARE FACING EACH OTHER AND BOGGING OUR WAY DOWN IN THIS MUD PUDDLE. WE GET IT ALMOST TO THE POINT WHERE THE MUD WILL START TO SEEP INTO OUR RUBBER BOOTS. I LOOK AT KYLE AND SAY “HEY KYLE, CAN YOU DO THIS?!” AND I TAKE MY FOOT OUT OF THE BOOT, WIGGLE MY LITTLE SOCKED TOES IN THE SPRING AIR FOR A FEW SECONDS, AND PUT MY LEG BACK IN MY BOOT, WHICH IS FIRMLY LODGED IN MUD.

“YES I CAN!!” KYLE SHOUTS BACK AT ME DESPITE ME BEING ONLY A FOOT AWAY FROM HIM. KYLE TAKES HIS FOOT OUT OF HIS BOOT AND IMMEDIATLY FALLS BACKWARDS INTO THE MUD. BECAUSE ONE LEG IS STILL IN THE BOOT HE IS KIND OF PINNED. THE SUCTION FROM THE MUD IS TOO MUCH FOR HIM TO SIT UP, AND HE CAN’T TURN OVER BECAUSE HIS LEG IS STUCK IN THE BOOT.

THE BELL RINGS AND I LEAVE HIM THERE FOR SOME REASON. IT’S MONDAY MORNING SO WE HAVE ASSEMBLY. THE WHOLE SCHOOL SITS IN THE GYM AND WE SING ‘OH CANADA’. OUR PRINCIPAL, WHOSE NAME IS HONEST TO GOD ‘MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM’ SAYS ‘GOOD MORNING STUDENTS’ AND THEN WE ALL SAY ‘GOOD MORNING MRS. HEGGINBOTTOMBOTTOMBOTTOMBOTTOM’ BECAUSE NOBODY CAN GET IT IN SYNC AND SOME KIDS SAY IT FASTER THAN OTHERS.

THEN OUR PRINCIPAL IS ABOUT TO GET INTO THE ANNOUNCEMENTS WHEN THE BIG DOUBLE DOORS IN THE BACK OF THE GYM ARE THROWN OPEN AND SMACK AGAINST THE WALLS WITH A GIANT BANG. ENTER MRS. VAIL, SHORT, BUTCHY VICE PRINCIPAL WITH BICEPS LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN. SHE’S HOLDING KYLE, WHO APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN DRESSED FROM THE LOST AND FOUND. THERE ARE TEARS JUST STREAMING DOWN HIS FACE. WE ALL STARE AT KYLE AND MRS. VAIL LETS HIM GO. HE RUNS TOWARDS ME, SLIPS ON THE GROUND BECAUSE HE’S IN SOCKS FOR SOME REASON, PICKS HIMSELF UP, AND SITS DOWN NEXT TO ME. TOTALLY INCONSOLABLE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. WHEN WE GET HOME HE FINALLY OPENS UP TO ME AND TELLS ME THAT MRS. VAIL PICKED HIM UP OUT OF THE MUD LIKE A DYING SOLDIER AND WASTED NO TIME IN STRIPPING HIM NAKED AND DRESSING HIM UP IN SHORT-SHORTS AND A STRAWBERRY-SHORTCAKE TSHIRT EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS A NINJA TURTLE TSHIRT RIGHT THERE.

***

SO ALSO IN KINDERGARTEN I APPARENTLY THOUGHT THAT THE KIDS IN MY CLASS DIDN’T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT COUGARS FOR SOME REASON, BECAUSE I DEFINITELY MADE A SWEET COUGAR QUIZ WHICH I INSISTED ON GIVING OUT TO THE CLASS THE NEXT DAY.

WHAT COLOR IS THE COUGAR? GOLD? NO! BROWN? NO! RED? NO! THE ANSWER IS TAWNY.

***

AWESOME

THE FIRST TIME MY DAD TOOK MY SISTER AND I CAMPING I WAS ABOUT 8 OR 9. I REMEMBER WE PARKED THE CAR, I JUMPED OUT AND IMMEDIATELY STEPPED ON A NAIL. WE HAD TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL AND THEN WE WENT HOME BECAUSE I HAD TO GET A TETANUS SHOT OR SOME KIND OF SHOT. IT’S ALL KIND OF HAZY.

THE SECOND TIME MY DAD TOOK MY SISTER AND I CAMPING WAS A MONTH LATER, IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY. WE PARKED THE CAR, AND MY SISTER JUMPED OUT AND IMMEDIATELY TRIED TO LIFT UP SOME SORT OF BOULDER THAT WAS ON A HILL. I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHY SHE DID THIS. ANYWAY SHE ENDED UP BREAKING HER FINGER. WE HAD TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL, AND THEN WE HAD TO GO HOME BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO BE WITH MOM IN HER HOUR OF NEED.

AT THE END OF SUMMER, MY DAD, OUT OF COMPLETE DESPERATION TO GO CAMPING WITH THE KIDS, TOOK US OUT AGAIN. I REMEMBER HE SEEMED A BIT FIDGETY THE WHOLE WAY THERE, AND I REMEMBER HE WOULDN’T LET US OUT OF THE CAR UNTIL HE HAD SCOUTED AROUND A LITTLE BIT.

WHEN I GOT OUT OF THE CAR MY DAD WAS BUSY TAKING THE BUNGEE CORDS OFF THE ROOF. WE HAD ABOUT A BILLION THINGS UP ON THE CAR WHICH MY DAD HAD SECURED WITH AN UNNECESSARY AMOUNT OF BUNGEE CORDS. ANYWAY FOR SOME REASON I UNHOOKED ONE OF THE BUNGEE CORDS ON MY SIDE OF THE CAR. IT WHIZZED OVER THE CAR ROOF LIKE A METEOR AND CUT MY DAD DEEPLY IN HIS EYEBROW. WE HAD TO DRIVE TO THE HOSPITAL, THIS TIME WITH BLOOD STREAMING DOWN MY DAD’S FACE AND ME AND MY SISTER IN TEARS.

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AWESOME

ALSO ONCE AT THE COTTAGE MY DAD AND UNCLE RON ARE NOW ARGUING OVER WHO HAS THE NICEST WATCH. RON IS GOING ON ABOUT HIS IS ATOMIC OR SOMETHING AND MY DAD IS TALKING ABOUT HOW HIS IS POWERED BY WRIST MOVEMENTS AND THEY ARE BOTH MAKING EXTRAVAGANT CLAIMS THAT I CAN NEITHER VERIFY NOR DISREGARD. WE ARE ALL WALKING DOWN TO THE LAKE TO GO SWIMMING. AS WE APPROACH THE SHORELINE UNCLE RON CAREFULLY REMOVES HIS WATCH, WRAPS IT IN A CHAMOIS HE MUST HAVE HAD HIDDEN IN HIS BATHING SUIT, AND PLACES IT DAINTILY IN THE CENTER OF A FOLDING CHAIR.

“CAN’T TAKE IT IN THE WATER, EH?!” MY DAD SHOUTS OUT TRIUMPHANTLY AND UNCLE RON GLOWERS. “MY WATCH ISN’T JUST WATER-RESISTANT, IT’S WATER-PROOF!! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT!” MY DAD SUDDENLY TURNS THE BAND OVER AND SCRUTINIZES THE BACK OF PLATE. “YEP!!!” HE CONTINUES GLEEFULLY “SAYS IT RIGHT HERE – WATERPROOF UP TO 14 WHOLE ATMOSPHERES. WHAT A WATCH!”

RON SILENTLY WADES OUT INTO THE LAKE. MY DAD SPLASHES IN LIKE HE WAS DROPPED OUT OF A PLANE AND SWIMS PAST UNCLE RON, SHOUTING ALL THE WHILE. “14 ATMOSPHERES! THAT’S PRETTY DEEP!! CAN’T DO THAT WITH YOUR WATCH, CAN YOU!” HE SCORES HIS POINT AND TAKES IT FURTHER WITH A LITTLE DIVE UNDER THE WATER. HE SURFACES EXUBERANTLY. “YES, SEE – STILL TICKING!” HE PUTS THE WATCH TO HIS EAR AND SMILES BLISSFULLY ALTHOUGH I’M CONVINCED HE CAN’T HEAR A THING AMID ALL THE SPLASHING HE’S DOING. “YES, THIS IS A FINE PIECE OF CRAFTSMANSHIP. I BET I COULD GO DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE WITH THIS THING!”. HE TAKES AN EXAGGERATED DEEP BREATH AND DISAPPEARS INTO THE MURKY DEPTHS OF THE LAKE.

UNCLE RON AND I WAIT. RON LOOKS AS THOUGH THE LAKE IS FULL OF VINEGAR AND HE JUST SWALLOWED A LOT OF IT. ABOUT A MINUTE LATER MY DAD’S HEAD POPS UP A GOOD 50 FEET AWAY FROM US. HE’S STILL SHOUTING HAPPILY UNTIL HE LIFTS UP HIS HAND – THE WATCH ISN’T THERE ANYMORE. HE’S SOMEHOW MANAGED TO LOSE IT WHILE SWIMMING AS FAST AS HE COULD UNDER WATER.

A THIN SMILE BEGINS TO CREEP ACROSS UNCLE RON’S FACE AND WITHIN MINUTES HE IS JUST BEAMING. HE STILL REFERS TO THAT TIME AS ONE OF THE BEST SWIMS HE’S EVER TAKEN IN THE LAKE.

***

HERE IS A QUICK SCOUT CAMP STORY:

SO IN CUBS OUR CAMP ‘LEADERS’ ALL HAD THESE RIDICULOUS FAKE NAMES THAT WHERE TAKEN FROM THE JUNGLE BOOK AND WE WERE SUPPOSE TO ADDRESS THEM AS SUCH. NONE OF THE KIDS WHERE VERY HAPPY WITH THIS, AND EVEN AT AN EARLY AGE WE ALL REALIZED OUR CAMP WAS BEING RUN BY A BUNCH OF NERDY TRY-HARDS WHO SEEMED TO HAVE A THING IF YOUNG BOYS CALLED THEM ‘AKELA’ OR ‘BALOO’.

ANYWAY SO WE HAD TO DO THIS WINTER CAMP ENDURANCE EMBARASSMENT. IT BOILED DOWN TO SPENDING A FRIGID NIGHT IN A STUPID BARN IN JANUARY. IT WAS AWFUL. I REMEMBER THERE WAS THIS FAT KID NAMED MARK WHO SPENT THE ENTIRE NIGHT MAKING ALL THESE LITTLE LABOROUS NOISES AND GENERALLY SOUNDING FOR ALL THE WORLD LIKE A BEACHED WHALE. I ALSO REMEMBER AT ABOUT 2 IN THE MORNING (BECAUSE IT WAS TOO COLD TO SLEEP), SOMEONE TOLD MARK THAT THERE WERE ‘CORN CHIPS’ HIDDEN IN THE HAY SOMEWHERE, AND THEN MARK WENT VERY STILL FOR A WHILE AND THEN 15 MINUTES LATER WE HEARD HIM MUNCHING. SINCE THERE WERE NO ‘CORN CHIPS’ WE ASSUMED HE WAS ACTUALLY EATING HAY.

SO ANYWAY THE LAST DAY OF THIS WINTER CAMP EXTRAVAGANZA WE WAKE UP TO FIND OUT THE CAMP LEADERS HAVE DECIDED TO TEACH US HOW TO USE A COMPASS. WE ARE TIRED, BROKEN MEN AT THIS POINT AND IN NO MOOD FOR THESE SHENANINGANS. AKELA OR AKIRA OR WHATEVER IS THRUSTING THESE PIECES OF PAPER WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL THE KIDS. THERE HAVE GOT TO BE ABOUT 400 DIRECTIONS ON THIS PAPER, ALL SAYING THINGS LIKE “GO 55 DEGREES NWN FOR 400 PACES UNTIL YOU SEE A TREE SHAPED LIKE A VULVA”.

WE ALL GROAN AND THAT FRUIT “BALOO” EXPLAINS TO US THAT THERE’S A BIG SURPRISE WAITING FOR US AT THE END OF OUR “COMPASS QUEST”. MORE GROANING. “BALOO” GIVES US THIS WINNING SMILE AND CRIES OUT “IT’S CHOCOLATE!!!!!”

NOW AT THIS POINT WE ARE DEFINITELY IN A BIG SNOWY FIELD IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE AND TO OUR RIGHT IN THE FAR DISTANCE YOU CAN SEE THE WOODS, AND EVERYWHERE ELSE IT’S JUST HORIZON. THERE IS ONE LONELY LITTLE SHED STICKING OUT OF THE GROUND LIKE A BROKEN TOOTH A MILE AWAY.

THEN ADRIAN SAYS “IS THE CHOCOLATE IN THAT SHED?” AND “BALOO” SAYS “WHAT?” AND THEN I REMEMBER WE ALL STARTED RUNNING TO THE SHED DESPITE THE CRIES AND PLEAS FROM THE COUNSELORS AND SURE ENOUGH THERE’S A BUNCH OF CHOCOLATE EASTER BUNNIES FROM WHO KNOWS WHAT YEAR STACKED UP IN THE SHED. IT WAS AWESOME. WE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THE COMPASS QUEST.

***

I WAS PLAYING MONOPOLY WITH KYLE ONCE, AND THIS KID SERIOUSLY CAN’T GET ANYTHING STRAIGHT AND DEFINITELY IS NO GOOD AT ANY BOARD GAME AND WHENEVER WE PLAYED MONOPOLY HE WAS USUALLY BUST BY THE THIRD OR FOURTH TIME HE WENT AROUND ‘GO’.

ANYWAY THIS ONE TIME HE WENT OUT EXCEPTIONALLY EARLY, EVEN FOR HIM, AND HE THREW HIS LITTLE METAL IRON PIECE ACROSS THE ROOM IN ANGER AND YELLED OUT “I HATE BEING BANK-ROBBED!!!”

***

THERE’S GOING TO BE A FEW STORIES FROM DAYTONA BEACH. SIX YEARS AGO, WHEN I WAS SEVENTEEN, MY FRIEND MATT AND I PRETTY MUCH STOLE 30K FROM OUR SCHOOL. SOME OF THE MONEY WENT TO FUND AN OUTDOOR KEG-PARTY WEEKEND THING IN MONTREAL, BUT A LOT OF IT WAS FUNNELED INTO A TRIP TO DAYTONA FOR US AND ABOUT 50 OF OUR FRIENDS. WE RENTED OUT WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE MOST DERELICT SHANTY-MOTEL ON THE ATLANTIC STRIP, AND HAD ONE OF THE BEST TIMES OF OUR LIVES.

***

ALRIGHT SO WE’VE SURVIVED A 22-HOUR BUS RIDE FROM OTTAWA TO FLORIDA THAT INVOLVED CARL THE WEINER-BOY COMPLAINING ABOUT EVERYTHING, CHRIS BITCHING ABOUT EVERYONE NEEDING TO USE THE BATHROOM IN THE BACK, AND JASON BREAKING HIS BRAND NEW PORTABLE DVD-PLAYER, ONE OF THE FIRST MODELS EVER MADE.

WE GET TO DAYTONA AS THE SUN RISES. WE PARK IN FRONT OF THE SEEDIEST ESTABLISHMENT I HAVE EVER LAID EYES ON, AND ARE IMMEDIATELY GREETED BY A WIZENED OLD LADY WHO IS DISTRIBUTING TOWELS AND ROOM KEYS LIKE RATIONS AMONG THE TROOPS. SHE CLAIMS HER NAME IS ‘ESMERELDA’ BUT SHE LOOKS LIKE A JANE TO ME. SHE QUICKLY LAUNCHES INTO A FASCINATING TIRADE ABOUT HOW IF ANY OF THE FACILITIES IN THE MOTEL DON’T WORK, IT IS BECAUSE WE HAVE ALREADY BROKEN THEM.

I, OF COURSE, AM ALREADY RUNNING TOWARDS THE BEACH. I JUMP IN THE WATER AND SWIM OUT ABOUT 50 FEET AT WHICH POINT I AM STUNG BY A JELLYFISH AND GO INTO ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK. JASON, ALWAYS A BRO, JUMPS IN THE WATER AND HELPS ME GET OUT. WITH MY ARM OVER HIS SHOULDER I STAGGER TO THE FRONT DESK WHERE ESMERLDA IS NOW EXCITEDLY GOING OVER THE LIST-OF-THINGS-THAT-WILL-LOSE-US-OUR-DEPOSITS. I TELL HER SHE NEEDS TO CALL AN AMBULANCE AND SHE GIVES ME A SOUR LOOK. “WHAT ABOUT A CAB?” SHE SAYS?

“I DON’T REALLY HAVE TIME FOR A CAB, I’M DYING” I REPLY SHORTLY.

ESMERELDA BEGINS TO HAGGLE. “LOOK, WHY DON’T WE CALL A CAB FIRST, AND THEN IF IT GETS REALLY BAD WE’LL CALL AN AMBULANCE” SHE SAYS DOUBTFULLY. CLEARLY SHE DOESN’T WANT AN AMBULANCE PARKED IN FRONT OF HER RAT-INFESTED MOTEL.

JASON RUNS INSIDE THE MOTEL AND CALLS AN AMBULANCE WHILE ESMERELDA AND I CONTINUE TO ARGUE OVER THE RELATIVE MERITS OF AMBULANCE VS CAB. FORTUNATELY THERE’S ONE NEARBY AND THEY STOP BY THE MOTEL AND PUT ME ON THE STRETCHER AND TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL. JASON JUMPS IN THE BACK WITH ME.

AT THE HOSPITAL I GO THROUGH THE USUAL – ADRENALINE, NOREPIPINEPHRINE, AND A TON OF BENADRYL DUMPED DIRECTLY INTO THE IV. AS YOU ALL KNOW, BENADRYL MAKES YOU VERY SLEEPY, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE A HUGE DOSE PUMPED INTO YOU INTRAVENOUSLY. WITHIN ABOUT 20 MINUTES I AM SO SLEEPY I CAN BARELY STAND UP, YET AM BEING VERY STUBBORN ABOUT GOING BACK TO THE BEACH. AN HOUR LATER I AM IN THE CLEAR AND RELEASED, DESPITE THE NURSE THINKING I SHOULD STAY OVERNIGHT.

JASON AND I MAKE SOME EDUCATED GUESSES AND FIND A BUS THAT WILL GET US BACK NEAR OUR HOTEL. I CAN BARELY STAND ON THE BUS. I’M STILL IN A WET BATHING SUIT AND TSHIRT AND THAT NOSE-PLUG THING THAT DELIVERS OXYGEN IS DANGLING OUT OF MY POCKET AND I’M TOTTERING ALL OVER THE PLACE. THE BUS STOPS AND OUR MOTEL IS IN SIGHT. THE DOORS IN THE BACK OPEN UP AND I FALL OUT OF THE BUS AND LAND RIGHT ON MY FACE. GASH OPEN MY HEAD AND FALL ASLEEP AT THE SAME TIME. JASON WAKES ME UP, HE LOOKS REALLY CONCERNED.

WE SLOWLY MAKE OUR WAY BACK TO THE MOTEL WITH BLOOD POURING DOWN MY FACE AND BYSTANDERS STARING AT US. WE GET INTO OUR HOTEL ROOM AND I FALL ASLEEP FOR ABOUT 20 HOURS. SO MUCH FOR DAY 1 AT DAYTONA.

WHEN I WAKE UP I IMMEDIATELY FEEL LIKE GOING SWIMMING. I OPEN THE DOOR AND WALK OUTSIDE AND MAKE MY WAY DOWN TO THE BEACH. 20 FEET LATER I SUDDENLY GET VERY TIRED AGAIN, AND SPOT A HOT-TUB FULL OF ELDERY PEOPLE OVER THE FENCE BEHIND THE HUGE HOLIDAY INN THAT’S RIGHT NEXT TO US. I DECIDE THAT’S MUCH CLOSER AND CLIMB THE FENCE AND START WALKING TOWARDS ALL THESE OLD PEOPLE.

THIS HOT TUB MUST HAVE ABOUT TWO DOZEN OCTOGENARIANS CRAMMED IN THERE LIKE SARDINES, AND THEY ARE ALL STARING AT ME. OF COURSE I HAVE A TON OF DRIED BLOOD ON MY FACE BUT I DON’T REMEMBER THAT, AND I MUST LOOK LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A HORROR MOVIE AS I WOBBLED TOWARDS THEM. A FEW REALLY OLD WOMEN WITH LOOKS OF ABSOLUTE TERROR ON THEIR FACES PUSH AWAY FROM ME AS I EASE MYSELF INTO THE HOTTUB.

I’M STILL IN MY BATHING SUIT SO THINGS ARE LOOKING GOOD, BUT WHEN I TAKE MY TSHIRT OFF LIFE STARTS TO GET INTERESTING. I’M TOTALLY COVERED IN THOSE LITTLE ELECTRODE-MONITOR THINGS THAT LOOK LIKE LITTLE METAL NIPPLES. THEY’RE STUCK ALL OVER MY BODY FROM WHEN I WAS HAVING MY VITAL SIGNS OBSERVED. I DON’T REALIZE THIS. PRETTY SOON THE BUBBLING WATER WORKS ITS MAGIC AND MY GERIATRIC AUDIENCE WATCHES IN AMAZEMENT AND DISGUST AS SEVERAL OF THESE LITTLE THINGS LOOSEN FROM MY BODY AND START FLOATING AROUND THE HOTTUB. EVERYONE’S AVOIDING ME BUT NOBODY’S GETTING OUT. I JUST SIT THERE BLISSFULLY, MY FACE CAKED IN BLOOD AND DIRT AND A LITTLE SPHERE OF ELECTRODE-MONITORS BOBBING AROUND ME LIKE LITTLE SILVER WATER-LILLIES.

FINALLY THIS ONE OLD MAN ACROSS ME STARTS SHOOTING THESE BALEFUL LOOKS AT HIS COMPATRIOTS, AND THEN ADDRESSES ME DIRECTLY: “SON, YOUR HOO-HAS ARE FLOATIN’ AROUND THE POO’”

***

DAY THREE AT DAYTONA: MARK, JASON, CHRIS AND I ARE SITTING AROUND COMFORTABLY IN OUR HOTEL ROOM. THE DAY BEFORE JASON HAD BOUGHT A STUFFED CRAB FROM THE GROCERY STORE AND ‘ACCIDENTLY’ LEFT IT IN THE MICROWAVE FOR ALMOST HALF AN HOUR. THE RESULTING SMELL WAS SO BAD AND SO PERMANENT THAT WE WERE MOVED TO ANOTHER ROOM. THIS WAS JUST FINE AND DANDY, AS OUR OLD ROOM HAD A MALFUNCTIONING TOILET.

SO WE’RE SITTING AROUND DRINKING WHEN CARL THE WIENER-BOY BURSTS IN AND TELLS US OUR HOTEL IS BEING RAIDED BY THE POLICE. YOU NEED TO MEET CARL TO UNDERSTAND HIM. HE IS CONSTANTLY HIGH-STRUNG AND EVEN THE MOST PERFUNCTORY ACTION IS THE BIGGEST DEAL TO HIM.

JASON BELCHES PEACEABLY. “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT NOW, CARL”

CARL IS LOOKING AROUND HIM WILDLY. “THE COPS! THE COPS ARE HERE AND THEY’RE BREAKING INTO EVERYONE’S ROOM AND LOOKING FOR ALCOHOL AND ARRESTING ANYONE WHO ISN’T 21!!!”

MARK LOOKS AROUND HIM AT THE IMPRESSIVE ARRAY OF LIQUOR WE’VE GOT WITH US. WE PROBABLY HAVE THE MOST ALCOHOL OUT OF EVERYONE IN THE MOTEL. HE LOOKS AT ME INQUISITIVELY. “CARL, GO HOME” HE SAYS.

IT’S TOO LATE – CARL’S ALREADY JUMPED OVER ONE OF THE BEDS AND IS RUNNING TOWARDS SEVERAL BOTTLES OF HARD LIQUOR ON THE MANTLE. HE GRABS A 60 OF RUM AND ONE OF WHISKY AND RUNS INTO THE BATHROOM.

THIS SHIT DEFINITELY DOESN’T FLY IN OUR PARTICULAR MOTEL ROOM. I TELL JASON TO START PUTTING THE ALCOHOL INTO EMPTY COKE BOTTLES AND LARGE CUPS FOR NOW, AND FOLLOW MARK INTO THE BATHROOM, WHERE CARL HAS BEGUN TO POUR WHISKEY DOWN THE BATHTUB. MARK SLAPS CARL IN THE FACE, HARD.

“CARL YOU LITTLE WEINER, GET OUT OF HERE!” MARK BELLOWS.

CARL LOOKS AT MARK, THEN AT ME, AND MAKES SOME SORT OF FEEBLE REMONSTRATION ABOUT HOW WE NEED TO GET RID OF THE ALCOHOL. MARK REMAINS UNMOVED AND WE ESCORT CARL OUT.

WHEN I OPEN THE FRONT DOOR (WE’RE ON THE THIRD FLOOR), I NOTICED AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF MY FRIENDS MILLING ABOUT ON THE BALCONY BELOW US LOOKING UNCOMFORTABLE, AND SEE SEVERAL POLICE OFFICERS DOING A BIT OF A METHODICAL SEARCH. CARL’S LITTLE SPASM ISN’T ENTIRELY FABRICATED, IT SEEMS.

WE EMPTY THE LAST OF OUR ALCOHOL INTO TWO LITER BOTTLES AND ABOUT A DOZEN PLASTIC CUPS, AND THROW THE BOTTLES OUT THE BACK WINDOW ONTO THE BEACH. A MINUTE LATER THERE’S A KNOCK ON OUR DOOR AND COPS COME INTO OUR ROOM. THEY’RE VERY FRIENDLY AND POLITE, AND SAY THERE HAVE BEEN COMPLAINTS OF UNDERAGE DRINKING AND THEY KNOW IT’S SPRING BREAK BUT THEY NEED TO DO THEIR JOBS. THEY DON’T LOOK VERY HARD, AND LEAVE QUICKLY.

THIS CALLS FOR A CELEBRATION. MARK, JASON, CHRIS AND I ALL GRAB A RANDOM CUP EACH AND START DOING SHOTS.

OF COURSE JASON, IN HIS UNENDING HASTE, JUST HAD TO EMPTY A BOTTLE OF RUBBING ALCOHOL CHRIS’S MOM PACKED IN HIS KNAPSACK INTO A CUP, AND OF COURSE I JUST HAD TO CHOOSE THAT PARTICULAR CUP FOR MY CELEBRATION. SINCE I’M ALREADY DRUNK I CAN’T REALLY TASTE THE DIFFERENCE, BUT TEN MINUTES LATER I KNOW SOMETHING’S WRONG. I GO DOWNSTAIRS WITH JASON, WHERE I PLAN TO SIT IN THE LOBBY UNTIL THINGS EITHER GET BETTER OR I NEED ANOTHER AMBULANCE. I DON’T REALLY MAKE IT THAT FAR – ON THE FIRST FLOOR I KIND OF FALL OVER AND CAN’T STAND UP ANYMORE. I REMEMBER BEING REALLY DIZZY. ANOTHER MINUTE AND I’M PASSED OUT FACE DOWN.

NOW FOR SOME WEIRD REASON THIS ONE KID I DON’T REALLY KNOW THAT WELL SUDDENLY COMES INTO THE PICTURE (WORD TRAVELS FAST IN THE MOTEL WHEN THERE’S TROUBLE AND THERE’S ALREADY ABOUT 30 KIDS STANDING AROUND ME). ANYWAY THIS KID, ROBBIE, APPARENTLY SHOUTS OUT SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF “I’VE WATCHED A VIDEO ON SAFETY” AND LEAPS INTO THE FRAY. FROM WHAT I’VE HEARD HE LOOKS ME UP AND DOWN AND ISSUS HIS EXPERT OPINION THAT I NEED TO BE ON MY SIDE. HE THEN GRABS ME BY THE BACK OF MY HEAD AND PULLS MY HEAD UP. UNFORTUNATELY I’M SOAKING WET, IN SOME SORT OF WEIRD COLD-SWEAT, AND ROBBIE’S EXPERT GRIP FAILS HIM. MY HEAD CRASHES BACK DOWN AND I RIP MY HEAD OPEN AGAIN ON THE HALL FLOOR. AMBULANCE COMES, JASON ONCE AGAIN HOPS IN THE BACK. WHEN I RETURN LATER THAT NIGHT ESMERELDA GIVES ME A WITHERING LOOK.

***

AWESOME

MAN SO IN GRADE 1 I HAD MY FIRST ‘CRUSH’ ON THIS GIRL NAMED PAMELA WHO WAS THE FASTEST KID IN SCHOOL. SHE WAS IN MY GYM CLASS AND WE USE TO START OFF GYM WITH OUR IDIOT TEACHER MR. BILEN PUTTING SOME 80S JAM IN THE TAPEDECK AND THEN WE’D ALL RUN LAPS TO ‘GET OUT OF MY DREAMS, GET INTO MY CAR!!’ OR SOMETHING. ANYWAY PAMELA WOULD ALWAYS LAP THE REST OF THE CLASS WITHIN MINUTES. FUCK SHE WAS FAST.

ANYWAY ONE DAY AT LUNCH IN THE PLAYGROUND I DON’T REALLY REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED BUT I DID SOMETHING SUPER NICE FOR HER OR I HELPED HER UP WHEN SHE FELL OR SOMETHING, BUT ANYWAY SHE DECIDED TO ‘REWARD’ ME BY TELLING ME ON MONDAY WE COULD HOLD HANDS WHILE WE RAN LAPS AROUND THE GYM. IT WAS LIKE TUESDAY AT THIS POINT.

SO EVERY DAY THAT WEEK AFTER SCHOOL I WOULD GO HOME AND RUN LAPS AROUND MY HOUSE, TRYING TO GET FASTER. I WAS SO WORRIED THAT SHE WOULD BE DRAGGING ME BEHIND HER IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS AT GYM. I THINK I ACTUALLY DID GET FASTER, BUT I WAS STILL WORRIED. SUNDAY NIGHT FOUND ME IN MY ROOM CRYING BECAUSE I STILL DIDN’T THINK I WAS FAST ENOUGH AND WAS SERIOUSLY TERRIFIED AND DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL.

NEXT DAY AT GYM PAMELA SINGLES ME OUT RIGHT AWAY AND TELLS ME TO HOLD HER HAND. WE’RE ALL STANDING AROUND AT THIS POINT AND MR. BILEN PUTS IN THE FLAVOR OF THE WEEK AND WE ALL START RUNNING. INSTANTLY I FEEL MYSELF GETTING YANKED FORWARD BY PAMELA WHO IS MOVING LIKE A GODDAMNED BULLET AND SHE KEEPS YELLING ‘FASTER!! FASTER!!’ AND SHE’S STRINGING ME ALL AROUND THE GYM AND IT’S JUST LIKE MY NIGHTMARES.

ANYWAY EVERYTIME SHE KEEPS YELLING ‘FASTER!!’ I ACTUALLY MAKE AN EFFORT TO SOMEHOW RUN ‘HARDER’ AND IT’S TOTALLY WORKING. BY LIKE THE 8TH OR 9TH TIME SHE’S YELLED OUT ‘FASTER!!’ I’M ACTUALLY KEEPING UP WITH HER AND I FEEL LIKE GODDAMNED HERMES HIMSELF AND THEN SHE YELLS OUT ‘FASTER!!’ AND I ACTUALLY START BEATING HER. AND THEN SHE YELLS OUT ‘OKAY THAT’S TOO FAST!’ AND I REMEMBER THE WHOLE CLASS IS JUST STARING AT ME IN TOTAL DISBELIEF AND EVEN MR. BILEN SEEMS TO HAVE LOST SOME OF HIS COLOR AND FOR THE REST OF ELEMENTARY I WAS THE FASTEST KID IN SCHOOL.

***

ALRIGHT SO I SHOWED PROMISE IN PRESCHOOL AND WAS CHOSEN FOR THIS SPECIAL ‘EARLY START’ PROGRAM WITH 3 OTHER LOSERS IN MY PROVINCE AND WE SPENT THE MAJORITY OF OUR KINDERGARTEN YEAR IN A MUSEUM. KIND OF SWEET, BUT I DIDN’T LEARN MUCH AND WHEN I WENT TO A REGULAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN GRADE ONE I WAS THROWN INTO THESE SPECIAL ‘ENRICHMENT’ CLASSES BECAUSE OF IT. ENRICHMENT SUCKED. IT WAS DONE OVER HALF OF OUR LUNCH AND THE ‘BRIGHT’ KIDS FROM GRADES 1-6 WOULD GET TOGETHER AND WE’D BE GIVEN THESE RIDICULOUS PROJECTS.

ANYWAY I REMEMBER THIS ONE YEAR THE PROJECT FOR THE ENRICHMENT KIDS IN GRADES 1-3 WAS TO DO SOME LOSER PRESENTATION OF ‘THE LOON’ OR SOMETHING, WHICH WAS THIS TOTALLY RANDOM INDIAN/NATIVE AMERICAN NARRATIVE THAT INVOLVED THINGS LIKE TREE SPIRITS AND MENORRAHS AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

ANYWAY I AM PRETTY SURE OUR ENRICHMENT TEACHER HAD IT ALL PLANNED OUT IN HER HEAD BECAUSE SHE SUGGESTED WE HANG UP A SHEET AND MAKE A TON OF CARDBOARD CUTOUTS AND THEN BUY A REALLY POWERFUL BULB AND DO A SHADOW-PRESENTATION WHERE THE AUDIENCE WOULD ONLY SEE THE SILHOUETTES OF OUR CUTOUTS PRESSED AGAINST THE SHEETS, ILLUMINATED FROM BEHIND BY THE BULB. WHICH IS KIND OF DUMB BUT OF COURSE NOBODY FELT LIKE ARGUING SO THIS IS WHAT WE DID.

JEFF AND I IMMEDIATELY GOT SCREWED AND HAD TO DO ALL THE CUTOUTS FOR SCENERY. IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ‘THE LOON’ IS PRIMARILY BASED IN THE GODDAMNED REEDS, WHICH IS THE WORST SORT OF SCENERY TO MAKE IF YOU’RE DOING CARDBOARD CUTOUTS AND JEFF AND I WERE REALLY HAVING A HARD TIME OF IT. IT WAS SUGGESTED WE JUST TAPE A BUNCH OF COMBS TOGETHER AND PUT THAT UP AGAINST THE SHEET BUT THE TEACHER SHOT IT DOWN FOR NO GOOD REASON AND JEFF AND I SPENT HOURS MAKING THE SCENERY.

SO OTHER KIDS ARE MAKING CUTOUTS OF THE CHARACTERS AND EASY THINGS LIKE THAT, AND WE’RE GLUING THEM TO STRAIGHTENED-OUT COAT HANGERS SO THAT THE PUPPETEERS CAN MANIPULATE THEM ACROSS THE SCREEN WITHOUT THEIR HANDS CASTING SHADOWS AND THIS IS REALLY TURNING INTO A BIG THING AND SOMEHOW THE TEACHER DECIDES WE SHOULD PRESENT THIS LITTLE SHOW IN THE AUDITORIUM IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE SCHOOL.

SO THE BIG DAY COMES, JEFF AND I ARE SITTING TO THE SIDE, THERE ARE PEOPLE’S PARENTS HERE FOR SOME REASON, AND THE MAIN PUPPETEER IS THIS GIRL WHO I ACTAULLY THINK WAS NAMED SADDAM. SADDAM WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LOON, AND SHE HAD OBVIOUSLY BEEN FEELING PRETTY IMPORTANT AND IT WAS ALL SHE TALKED ABOUT FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS.

SO THE AUDITORIUM LIGHTS GO OUT AND A HUSH SETTLES OVER THE CROWD AND THEN THAT SINGLE 800 WATT BULB IS TURNED ON AND THE BED-SHEET-SCREEN IS ILLUMINATED. OUR GODDAMNED REEDS AND TREES ARE LEANED UP AGAINST IT AND JEFF AND I SMILE IN SATISFACTION BECAUSE THAT SHIT LOOKS DAMN GOOD. THE TEACHER TURNS ON THE TAPE DECK AND THE ROOM IS FILLED WITH THE SOUNDS OF A LOON CALLING, BIRD CHIRPS, RUNNING WATER, SOME NATIVE AMERICANS DOING A POW-WOW FAR OFF IN THE DISTANCE, YOU KNOW, NATURE THINGS. THEN THE BOY WHO WAS SELECTED TO NARRATE BEGINS:

“LONG AGO, WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN, A SINGLE LOON SWAM ALL ALONE IN A SACRED LAKE WITH EMERALD SHORES”

OR YOU KNOW, SOMETHING RIDICULOUS. SADDAM PICKS UP HER LOON BY THE COAT-HANGER AND MAKES THE LOON DO THIS RIDICULOUS LITTLE HOPPY DANCE ACROSS THE SHEET.. THAT IS UNTIL SHE ACCIDENTLY TOUCHES HER HAND AGAINST THE BULB SOMEHOW. ALL WE HEAR IS THIS SLIGHT HISSING NOISE, SADDAM CRYING OUT IN PAIN, AND THE LOON TAKES THIS TERRIBLE FALL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SHEET AND KNOCKS OVER OUR GODDAMNED SCENERY.

THEN ALL YOU HEAR IS JEFF YELL OUT “MY REEDS! MY FUCKING REEDS!” AND LIKE THIS IS GRADE 1. 6 YEAR OLDS DON’T SAY ‘FUCK’ IN FRONT OF GROWNUPS AND TEACHERS. THE LIGHTS GO ON AND THERE’S ALL THIS CONFUSION. SADDAM HAS BURNT HER HAND PRETTY BADLY, THERE’S A LITTLE ‘TEAM’ OF PEOPLE ATTENDING HER WOUNDS, THE ENRICHMENT TEACHER IS TRYING TO KEEP THE SHOW GOING, EVERYBODY IS STARING IN MY DIRECTION AND TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHO SWORE, AND ABOVE ALL OF THIS I CAN STILL FAINTLY HERE THE NATIVES DOING THERE LITTLE POW-WOW HEYA-HOYA’S BECAUSE NOBODY HAS STOPPED THE TAPE.

THE NEXT YEAR AT ENRICHMENT WE HAD THE SAME TEACHER AND OUR PROJECT WAS TO MAKE OUR OWN BOARD GAME.

***

AWESOME

SO IN JR. HIGH SCHOOL A BUNCH OF US TOOK THE CITY BUS TO SCHOOL AND BACK BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ENOUGH SCHOOL BUSSES MAKING THE TRIP TO WYCHWOOD (WHERE A BUNCH OF US LIVED). ANYWAY THERE WAS THIS ONE GIRL NAMED CINDY WHO WE ALL HATED. SHE WAS ENORMOUS (WHICH OBVIOUSLY ISN’T A GOOD REASON TO HATE SOMEONE BUT THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU’RE 12) AND SHE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO TONE TO HER VOICE. SERIOUSLY. WHEN SHE SPOKE IT SOUNDED LIKE A TRASH COMPACTOR HAD JUST COME TO LIFE AND WAS TRYING TO COMMUNICATE. AND SHE WAS DUMB AND PERPETUALLY AGGRAVATED AND JUST NO FUN TO BE AROUND.

SO ANYWAY THIS ONE DAY WE’RE ON THE BUS HEADING HOME. THE CITY BUS DRIVERS HATED TO PICK US UP BECAUSE WE’RE LOUD NOISY KIDS, AND THE DRIVER THAT GOT SHAFTED WITH THE 3:45 STOP AT HADLEY JR HIGH ALWAYS TRIED TO BE ABOUT 5 MINUTES EARLY SO THAT HE’D ONLY PICK UP THE STUDENTS WHO DIDN’T DICK AROUND IN THE LOCKER BAYS AND LEFT THE SCHOOL THE MINUTE THE BELL RANG AND RAN UP THAT FUCKING HILL IN ORDER TO CATCH THE CITY BUS.

ANYWAY YEAH, THIS ONE TIME THE BUS DRIVER IS ON TIME SO WE’RE ALL WAITING FOR HIM AND WE ALL PILE INTO THE BUS. CINDY IS ALWAYS THE LAST ONE ON, NOT BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T LEAVE THE SCHOOL ON TIME, BUT BECAUSE SHE CAN’T RUN UPHILL VERY WELL DUE TO HER SIZEABLE GIRTH. SO SHE’D ALWAYS BE THE ONE WHO HAD TO STAND ON THE CITY BUS. SO ANYWAY THIS PARTICULAR TIME I’M SITTING IN THE VERY BACK ROW, DEAD CENTER, AND CINDY IS STANDING ABOUT 10 FEET IN FRONT OF ME.

MY FRIEND BEN AND I ARE JUST BEING RUTHLESS TO HER. DEFINITELY NOT COOL, BUT AGAIN WE’RE 12 AND ENJOYING OURSELVES. CINDY, ALWAYS IN A FOUL MOOD TO BEGIN WITH, IMMEDIATELY STARTS FROTHING AT THE MOUTH AND STARTS MAKING THESE DISTINCT GURGLING NOISES SHE MAKES WHEN SHE’S IRRITATED. BEN AND I DON’T STOP AND KEEP MAKING JOKES AT HER EXPENSE. CINDY’S BOMBASTIC CHASSIS BEGINS TO SHAKE AND QUIVER ALL OVER AND HER LITTLE BEEDY EYES NARROW. THIS IS ALWAYS A SIGN THAT WE’RE APPROACHING THE APEX OF HER WRATH, AND TODAY IS NO EXCEPTION.

VERY SUDDENLY CINDY STRAIGHTENS UP AND BASICALLY SCREAMS OUT IN THAT ROBOTIC WHEEZE OF HERS “LOOK OUT EVERYBODY!!! IMA GONNA KICK DAVID IN THE FACE!!!!!”

I KIND OF SIT UP SMARTLY AND FEEL LIKE I’VE JUST COME OUT OF A DREAM OR SOMETHING. HAVING THIS MASSIVE BEAST OF A WOMAN KICK ME IN THE FACE IS A SOBERING THOUGHT. I’M CONTEMPLATING THE WHOLE SITUATION WHEN CINDY BEGINS HER CHARGE AND SLOWLY PLOWS TOWARDS ME LIKE A LINEBACKER. I’M THINKING I MIGHT HAVE 5, 10 SECONDS BEFORE I’M ON THE RECEIVING END OF A FLABBY FOOT WHEN CINDY SUDDENLY KICKS FORWARD.

AT THIS POINT SHE IS STILL A GOOD 9 FEET AWAY FROM ME. I HAVE NEVER SEEN SOMEONE MISJUDGE DISTANCE SO BADLY IN MY LIFE. SHE HAS TAKEN MAYBE 2 STEPS, TOPS, AND HAS SOMEHOW DECIDED HER TONELESS WRETCH OF A LEG IS GOING TO REACH ME. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T, BUT WHAT’S INTERESTING IS THAT SHE DOES MANAGE TO KICK THIS 80 YEAR OLD WOMAN SITTING QUIETLY RIGHT IN THE FACE.

THE WOMAN JUST SORT OF TOPPLES OVER BACKWARDS AND IS TOTALLY LIMP. I AM POSITIVE HER NECK MUST BE BROKEN IN A THOUSAND PLACES, IF HER SKULL ISN’T FRACTURED ALL TOGETHER. CINDY IS BELLOWING LIKE A HARPOONED WHALE, EYES CLOSED. SHE ISN’T EVEN LOOKING AND SHE’S STILL ON THE RAMPAGE. SHE TURNS ABOUT 10 DEGREES TO HER LEFT AND KICKS AGAIN. ONCE MORE I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER IF SHE HONESTLY THINKS SHE’S ANYWHERE NEAR ME.

THIS TIME CINDY KICKS THIS POOR KID’S DISCMAN RIGHT OUT OF HIS HANDS. I REMEMBER THE DISCMAN DESCRIBED THIS BEAUTIFUL ARC ACROSS THE BUS AND PULLED THE KIDS EARPHONES OUT OF HIS EARS. HE LOOKED UP IN A HURRY, I CAN TELL YOU THAT MUCH, AND TURNED GODDAMNED WHITE WHEN HE SAW CINDY IN FRONT OF HIM, HER MONSTROUS MOUTH OPEN AS WIDE AS A HIPPO’S. I FELT AWFUL FOR HIM.

THEN CINDY KIND OF OPENS HER EYES AND QUIETS DOWN. THE BUS DRIVER IS PUSHING HIS WAY THROUGH THE CRUSH OF ASTONISHED KIDS TOWARDS CINDY. THE OLD LADY I SERIOUSLY THINK IS DEAD, AND IS LYING VERY STILL WITH HER HEAD TILTED BACK TO AN UNNATURAL DEGREE. THE BUS DRIVER GRABS CINDY BY THE SHOULDERS, TURNS HER AROUND AND MAKES HER GET OFF THE BUS.

THEN HE WALKS UP TO THE OLD WOMAN, GRABS HER BY THE SHOULDERS, SHAKES HER LIKE A CAN OF PAINT AND SHE IS MIRACULOUSLY REVIVED AND LOOKS A LITTLE DAZED BUT OTHERWISE OKAY. THEN THE DRIVER SAYS SOMETHING MENACING TO BEN AND I, TURNS AROUND ABRUPTLY AND MARCHES BACK TO THE FRONT OF THE BUS. WE TAKE OFF.

I TAKE A QUICK LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW AND SEE CINDY STANDING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. SHE’S SWINGING THOSE COLOSSAL ARMS OF HERS AROUND LIKE LOGS AND IS DEFINITELY STILL SCREAMING AND SHOUTING OUT NONSENSE. BEN YELLS OUT ‘HEY CINDY!!’ AND SHE TURNS TO US AND THE LAST THING SHE SEES THAT DAY IS BEN HOLD UP HER KNAPSACK TO THE WINDOW WITH A GIANT GRIN ON HIS FACE.

***

ALRIGHT HERE’S A GOOD STORY ABOUT BEN.

THIS ONE TIME ON HALLOWEEN HE TOLD ME HE HAD BOUGHT A HUGE PUMPKIN AND AN OLD SUIT AND WAS GOING TO STUFF THE SUIT WITH LEAVES, CLIMB IN IT, PUT THE HOLLOWED OUT PUMPKIN ON HIS HEAD, AND SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF EVERY KID WHO CAME TRICK-OR-TREATING. WE’RE LIKE 14 AT THIS POINT.

I THINK IT’S A MARVELOUS IDEA, ESPECIALLY SINCE BEN LIVES 5 STREETS DOWN FROM ME AND I CAN WATCH THE HAVOK FROM A SAFE DISTANCE.

SO HALLOWEEN NIGHT THINGS ARE WORKING FLAWLESSLY. BEN IS REALLY SCARING EVERYBODY, BECAUSE EVERYONE THINKS IT’S JUST A DUMMY WITH A CARVED HEAD PLACED ON TOP. BEN IS REALLY GETTING QUITE ARTISTIC ABOUT HIS SCARING PROCEDURES, FINDING IT BEST TO USE SMALL, SUBTLE MOVEMENTS TO GET THE BEST REACTIONS OUT OF PEOPLE. THE NIGHT IS YOUNG, WE ARE YOUNG, LIFE IS GOOD.

SO THEN I SEE MY DAD AND MY LITTLE SISTER COMING UP THE STREET. I AM REALLY REALLY HAPPY NOW. I WATCH THEM, ALMOST PAINFULLY, SLOWLY MAKE THEIR WAY UP TO BEN’S HOUSE. THE EXCITEMENT IS ALMOST TOO MUCH FOR ME. FINALLY THEY ARE COMING UP THE DRIVEWAY. THEY GET TO THE DOOR AND BOTH LOOK APPROVINGLY AT THE MOTIONLESS PUMPKIN-HEADED CREATURE SITTING IN THE CHAIR.

BEN THIS TIME DECIDES FOR A LITTLE MORE DIRECT ACTION AND STANDS UP SWIFTLY. MY SISTER SCREAMS BLOODY MURDER AND MY DAD GOES “AHHHHHHHHH!!!” AND AND JUST FUCKING NAILS THE PUMPKIN-MAN RIGHT IN THE HEAD. THE PUMPKIN BREAKS OPEN AND LITTLE PIECES OF IT FALL OFF, REVEALING A VERY FRIGHTENED AND BLACKEN-EYED BEN, WHO BEGINS TO REEL AROUND AND LOOKS LIKE HE’S GOING TO COLLAPSE ANY MINUTE. MY DAD YELLS OUT ‘OH SHIT!’ AND STRAIGHTENS BEN UP AND BRINGS HIM BACK TO HIS LAWN CHAIR WHERE HE SITS DOWN AND PROFFERS SOME LAME APOLOGIES TO BEN AND BEN’S PARENTS WHO HAVE OF COURSE ARRIVED ON SCENE BY THIS POINT.

BEST HALLOWEEN EVER!!!

***

SO BRENT AND I FINISH PLAYING THIS SHOW AND WE MAKE LIKE $20 SO WE DECIDE IT’S HIGH TIME FOR MCDONALDS FRIES. OF COURSE WE’RE DRUNK BY THE TIME WE GET TO THE CAR SO WE NEED TO CALL UP BRENT’S GIRLFRIEND TO DRIVE US TO MCDONALDS. ONCE THERE WE’RE REALLY DRUNK AND I JUMP OUT OF THE CAR AND CLIMB UP THE ROOF OF THE MCDONALDS AND START RUNNING AROUND AND SCREAMING DOWN THOSE BIG METAL PIPES THAT STICK OUT OF THE CEILING AND I CAN HEAR THE EMPLOYEES DOWN BELOW SAYING THINGS LIKE ‘WHO IS THAT?!” AND SOUNDING ALL CONCERNED AND MEANWHILE BRENT & BAR ARE IN THE CAR IN THE DRIVE-THRU LANE WONDERING IF THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE TO COME GET ME.

ANYWAY I COME BACK DOWN AND GET IN THE CAR AND BRENT ROLLS DOWN HIS WINDOW AND THE MCDONALD DUDE GIVES HIM HIS FOOD AND IS LIKE “SAY BUDDY, HAVE YOU SEEN A CRAZY DUDE RUNNING AROUND ON THE ROOF?”

AND I SIT BOLT UPRIGHT AND LEAN FORWARD INTO THE FRONT AND I START SAYING VERY LOUDLY “NO BUT I WILL FIND THAT MOTHERFUCKER IF YOU JUST GIVE US THESE FRIES FOR FREE. JUST GIVE THEM TO US FOR FREE AND I’LL GET ON THE ROOF SO QUICKLY IT’LL MAKE YOUR ASS CRACK AND I’LL FIND THAT GODDAMNED SONOFABITCH AND I’LL MAKE HIM PAY!!” AND I’VE TOTALLY FORGOTTEN IT WAS ME ON THE ROOF AND THE MCDONALD’S EMPLOYEE IS LIKE “UHH, NO THAT’S OKAY!!” AND I’M LIKE “NO! NO! YOU GIVE US THOSE FRIES FOR FREE AND I’LL GET ON THE ROOF AND CATCH THAT DIRTY ROTTEN BASTARD OF A MAN AND I’LL -” AND THE MCDONALDS GUY IS LIKE “NO! NO! IT’S OKAY! IT’S OKAY! IT’S OKAY!” AND I’M LIKE “NO! YOU DON’T GET IT!” AND BRENT DRIVES OFF AND WE SAIL HOME INTO THE SUNSET AND THEN THE NEXT MORNING I HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF IT (WHICH BAR CONVENIENTLY TOOK) BEFORE I REMEMBER WHAT WAS GOING ON.

***

ALRIGHT THIS ONE IS A LITTLE GROSS AND NOT THAT FUNNY, BUT STILL A STORY.

SO KYLE AND I ARE GOING CAMPING WITH KYLE’S PARENTS. AND I USE THE WORD “CAMPING” LOOSELY, BECAUSE WITH KYLE’S FOLKS THAT SHIT TRANSLATES INTO A CEMENT PARKING LOT WITH RUNNING WATER AND ELECTRICITY AND ALL THE AMENITIES OF HOME. IT’S CAMPING FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE AFRAID OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS.

SO WE PULL OFF THE HIGHWAY, PAY THE 20 DOLLARS OR WHATEVER TO PARK UNDER THE TARP, AND KYLE’S DAD SETS UP HIS BIG TRAILER AS WELL AS THE LITTLE TRAILER KYLE AND I SLEEP IN. WE LOVE THIS THING. IT’S TINY AND COZY AND HAS TWO BUNKS AND A LITTLE CARD TABLE AND A BUNCH OF SNACKS. EVERYTHING WE NEED.

NOW OF COURSE THERE’S NO PLACE TO SWIM IN THE CONCRETE PARKING LOT SO WHAT THE KIDS ARE FORCED TO DO WHILE LAZY ADULTS WATCH THEIR PORTABLE TV’S AND COMPLAIN ABOUT ‘ROUGHING IT’ IS SNEAK OUT AT NIGHT, WALK ABOUT A KILOMETER TO THIS OLD LADY’S HOUSE, AND SWIM IN HER POOL.

BECAUSE THIS OLD WOMAN IS SO CLOSE TO THE CAMP SITE, SHE’S GOT AN EXTRA HIGH FENCE TO KEEP OUT THE KIDS. IT’S GOT TO BE ABOUT 12 OR 15 FEET HIGH. SO WHAT THE KIDS WOULD DO IS THROW THEIR TOWELS OVER THE FENCE, CLIMB OVER IT AND JUMP DOWN TO THE OTHER SIDE. IT WAS A BIT OF A FALL BUT AT LEAST YOU COULD SWIM. ALSO I SHOULD MENTION IT WAS ONE OF THOSE GREEN-DIAMOND FENCES THAT ARE BASICALLY WIRE COATED WITH GREEN PLASTIC. AT THE TOP OF THE CROSSBAR THE WIRES ARE CUT SO YOU HAVE ALL THOSE LITTLE POINTY BITS STICKING UP AND THAT’S THE SECOND BIGGEST DANGER OF THE NIGHT. THE BIGGEST DANGER IS, OF COURSE, THE OLD WOMAN WHO OWNS THE HOUSE. RUMOURS ABOUND THROUGHOUT CAMP ABOUT HOW SHE’S JUST THE MEANEST EVILIST CRAZY OLD LADY ALIVE AND SHE’LL SHOOT AT YOU WITH HER B.B. GUN OR PUT SPELLS ON YOU OR MAKE YOU WATCH OPRAH WITH HER OR WHATEVER SCARY STORIES KIDS CAN MAKE UP ABOUT HER.

SO ONE NIGHT KYLE AND SNEAK OUT AND RUN TO THE FENCE. I’D LIKE TO SAY IT WAS A STARRY NIGHT OUT BUT BECAUSE OF ALL THE LIGHT POLLUTION YOU CAN’T TELL. WE GET TO THE FENCE AND THROW OUR TOWELS OVER. I CLIMB UP AND OVER AND JUMP TO THE OTHER SIDE. KYLE FOLLOWS SUIT, ONLY WHEN HE JUMPS DOWN I HEAR THIS TEARING NOISE.

KYLE LANDS ON HIS FEET AND DOESN’T MOVE. HE’S VERY ASHEN-FACED AT THIS POINT AND THERE’S A LARGE TEAR IN HIS BATHING SUIT. A LITTLE RIVULET OF BLOOD IS TRICKLING DOWN HIS LEG.

“JESUS CHRIST KYLE!” I WHISPER FIERCELY. “ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

KYLE PULLS HIS SWIMMING TRUNKS OPEN A LITTLE BIT AND TAKES A FEARFUL GLANCE DOWN. “DAVE… DAVE…” HE STAMMERS, “I THINK I CUT MY BALLS OPEN!!”

THIS IS NOT WHAT I NEED TO HEAR RIGHT NOW. KYLE STARTS MAKING LITTLE BLUBBING NOISES AND I THINK HE’S CLOSE TO CRYING. I NEED TO KEEP HIM FROM DOING THIS BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO WAKE UP THE CRAZY OLD LADY.

“KYLE” I HISS, “CAN YOU CLIMB BACK OVER THE FENCE?”

KYLE ISN’T EVEN LISTENING TO ME. HE’S STARING DOWN HIS SWIM SUIT AND STARTS SAYING “OH GOD DAVE, WHAT SHOULD I DO? SHOULD I JUMP IN THE POOL? SHOULD I JUMP IN THE POOL?”. HE’S GETTING PROGRESSIVELY LOUDER SO OUT OF DESPERATION I SAY “YES!” IN HOPES THAT HE’LL BE TOO PREOCCUPIED BY SWIMMING TO REMEMBER TO CRY.

KYLE JUMPS INTO A POOL AND IT’S PROBABLY ABOUT A MILLISECOND BEFORE HE HITS THE WATER THAT I REALIZE IT’S PROBABLY VERY HEAVILY CHLORINATED AND IT MIGHT STING A LITTLE BIT. WHICH IT EVIDENTLY DOES. KYLE EMERGES FROM THE WATER SCREAMING LIKE A STUCK PIG. THIS IS ENOUGH FOR ME. I THROW MY TOWEL BACK OVER THE FENCE AND CLIMB BACK OVER TO SAFETY AS AN UPSTAIRS LIGHT IN THE OLD WOMAN’S HOUSE TURNS ON.

ONCE AGAIN I JUST KIND OF LEAVE KYLE FOR DEAD AND QUIETLY CRAWL BACK INTO THE TRAILER AND GO TO BED. LATER THAT NIGHT I’M WOKEN UP BY SCUFFLING NOISES, AND I UNLOCK THE DOOR. KYLE HOBBLES IN AND LIES ON HIS BUNK. I CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE HE’S WEARING AN ADULT DIAPER.

“WHAT IN GOD’S NAME HAPPENED TO YOU?” I ASK IN ASTONISHMENT.

KYLE KIND OF LETS A TIRED SIGH ESCAPE FOR HIM AND LOOKS SADLY INTO THE CORNER OF HIS BUNK: “THAT OLD LADY.. SHE PUT IODINE ON MY SACK. IODINE, DAVE.” HE LOOKS UP AT ME AND DESPITE THE POOR LIGHTING I CAN SEE THAT HIS EYES ARE VERY RED AND HE APPEARS TO HAVE AGED CONSIDERABLY. KYLE CONTINUES: “AND THEN, BECAUSE MY BATHING SUIT WAS RIPPED, SHE MADE ME WEAR THIS.” KYLE POINTS DUTIFULLY AT THE ADULT DIAPER DRAPED AROUND HIS WAIST. “I HAD TO WAIT HOURS BEFORE I HAD ENOUGH CONFIDENCE TO RUN BACK HERE. THANK GOD I DIDN’T RUN INTO ANYONE I KNOW” HE CONCLUDES WITH A BIT OF A SNIFF.

“WELL AT LEAST YOU’RE BACK HERE AND YOU CAN CHANGE” I BEGIN, BUT KYLE IS ALREADY ASLEEP.

THE NEXT MORNING KYLE’S DAD WAKES US UP AT 6AM FOR SOME SORT OF PANCAKE BREAKFAST, ONLY TO FIND HIS SON PRETTY MUCH NAKED EXCEPT FOR THE DIAPER. SINCE KYLE CAN’T TELL HIS DAD HE WAS IN THE POOL, HE TELLS HIS DAD INSTEAD THAT IT WAS A ‘DARE’, WHICH IS ALMOST JUST AS BAD IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT.

***

SO IN HIGHSCHOOL THERE WAS THIS DUDE NAMED PAT WHO ALWAYS FUCKING TALKED TO US ABOUT HOW MUCH HE LOVED THE ARMY AND HOW HE COULDN’T WAIT TO GET IN THE ARMY AND HOW HE WAS GOING TO KILL A HUNDRED MEN AND WAS GOING TO POLISH HIS GUN EVERY NIGHT ETC ETC ETC.

SO ANYWAY EVERY GODDAMNED DAY IN HISTORY CLASS WE’D STARE BLANKLY AT OUR TEACHER AND LISTEN TO PAT DRONE ON AND ON ABOUT THE HELICOPTERS AND COVERT MISSIONS AND SHIT NOBODY CARED ABOUT, AND THEN THE BELL WOULD RING AND WE WOULD RUN OUTSIDE AND INTO THE WOODS WHICH IS WHERE WE WOULD PLAY EVERY DAY AT LUNCH.

WE’RE ABOUT 14 OR 15 AT THIS POINT, AND OBVIOUSLY LOVE RUNNING AROUND IN THE WOODS. THERE WAS THIS LITTLE CREEK THAT RAN THROUGH OUR FAVORITE SPOTS, AND OVER THE DECADES EXTREME SOIL EROSION HAD ALLOWED FOR THIS LITTLE STREAM TO CREATE A 15-FOOT DEEP GULCH. FROM ONE BANK TO ANOTHER WAS MAYBE A 10 FOOT JUMP, BUT IT WAS STILL KIND OF SCARY TO DO IT. AT SOME POINTS ONE BANK WOULD BE SEVERAL FEET HIGHER THAN THE OPPOSING ONE, AND THESE WERE ESPECIALLY FUN FOR JUMPING.

SO ANYWAY THERE’S THIS ONE SPOT WHERE ONE BANK WAS ABOUT 10 FEET HIGHER THAN THE OTHER, AND IT WAS A FORMIDABLE LEAP BUT FORTUNATELY THERE WAS SOFT CLAY ON THE OTHER SIDE TO HELP ABSORB THE SHOCK. THIS WAS OUR FAVORITE JUMPING SPOT. THERE IS REALLY NOTHING QUITE AS SATISFYING AS JUMPING ACROSS A GULCH AND FALLING ABOUT 15 FEET AND LANDING SAFELY IN SOFT MUD. YOU’D GET YOUR SHOES DIRTY BUT THAT WAS ABOUT IT.

ANYWAY GETTING BACK TO PAT, THE DUDE WAS SUCH A PUSSY. FOR SOMEONE WHO TALKED NONSTOP ABOUT TACTICS AND RATIONS, HE WAS ALWAYS CHICKENING OUT AT THE LAST MINUTE. WHENEVER WE DID A ‘SCARY’ JUMP HE WOULD ALWAYS GET LEFT BEHIND ON THE OTHER BANK, AND THEN WE’D CONTINUE ON OUR ADVENTURES AND PAT WOULD HAVE TO TURN TAIL AND EITHER GO BACK TO THE SCHOOL, OR RUN ALONGSIDE THE CREEK WITH US UNTIL HE COULD FIND A FALLEN TREE OR SOMETHING BRIDGING THE GAP.

SO ONE DAY WE DECIDE TO GO STRAIGHT TO THE FAVORITE SPOT. WE ALL JUMP AND LAND IN THE CLAY ON THE OTHER BANK. FOR SOME REASON I REMEMBER SCOTT JUST BARELY MADE IT ACROSS. OF COURSE IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE IT TO THE OTHER BANK, YOU FELL AN ADDITIONAL 10 OR 15 FEET INTO THE CREEK, WHICH IS ONLY A FOOT DEEP AT MOST. NOT FUN, VERY DANGEROUS.

SO ANYWAY WE ALL JUMP EXCEPT FOR PAT, WHO HAS BEEN MARCHING ALONG WITH US AND TALKING ABOUT CAMOFLAUGE. WHEN WE’VE ALL JUMPED WE LOOK BACK AT PAT WHO IS EYEING US SADLY AND HAS FINALLY SHUT UP. WE START TEASING HIM, URGING HIM TO JUMP.

PAT LISTENS TO OUR TAUNTS BUT NEVER TAKES HIS EYES OFF THE OTHER BANK. FINALLY HE SIGHS AND TURNS AROUND AND TRUDGES OFF IN THE OTHER DIRECTION BACK TO THE SCHOOL WITH AN AIR OF FINALITY. ONCE AGAIN HE HAS CHICKENED OUT.

WE ALL TURN THE OTHER WAY AND BEGIN TO WALK FURTHER INTO THE WOODS WHEN SUDDENLY WE HEAR THIS CRAZED YELL. WE ALL WHIP AROUND AND STARE AT THE OPPOSITE BANK. THE YELL IS GETTING LOUDER, AND IT’S DEFINITELY COMING FROM PAT.

BECAUSE THE BANK THAT PAT IS ON IS ABOUT 10 FEET HIGHER THAN US, WE CAN’T SEE OVER IT VERY WELL, SO FOR A GOOD 20 SECONDS WE JUST HEAR CRASHING AND RANDOM NOISE AND PAT’S YELLING GETTING LOUDER AND LOUDER. I AM CONVINCED HE IS BEING CHASED BY A BEAR. I AM WRONG.

TURNS OUT PAT IS JUST FED UP WITH BEING A COWARD. HE COMES INTO VIEW LIKE A ROCKET AND BEFORE ANYONE CAN SAY ANYTHING HE TAKES THIS BARRELLING LEAP OFF HIS SIDE OF THE BANK. THEN FOR SOME REASON HE TUCKS HIS KNEES IN LIKE HE’S DOING A CANNONBALL OFF A DIVING BOARD. BECAUSE OF THIS, HE DEFINITELY MISSED OUR BANK BY A MATTER OF INCHES AND WE WATCH IN UTTER DISBELIEF AS PAT JUST KIND OF FALLS IN FRONT OF US AND DISAPPEARS FROM VIEW.

A FRACTION OF A SECOND LATER THERE’S A SICKENING CRUNCH/SPLASH AS PAT HITS THE CREEK BOTTOM. WE’RE ALL STILL STANDING ON THE BANK AND NOBODY HAS MOVED YET, WHEN WE ALL SEE THIS LITTLE TINY SILVERY-WHITE THING KIND OF FLY UP OUT OF THE GULCH AND LAND RIGHT NEXT TO JAKE.

JAKE BENDS OVER AND PICKS UP THE LITTLE SILVERY-WHITE THING. IT’S DEFINITELY PAT’S GODDAMNED CANINE TOOTH. BECAUSE THAT IDIOT HAD HIS KNEES PULLED UP TO THE BITTER END, WHEN HE HIT THE GROUND HIS KNEE HIT HIS CHIN WITH SUCH FORCE THAT HE CRACKED OUT A TOOTH.

WE ALL RUSH OVER TO THE EDGE OF THE ESCARPMENT AND LOOK OVER. PAT’S LYING ON HIS SIDE COVERED IN MUD WITH A THIN TRICKLE OF BLOOD FLOWING OUT OF HIS MOUTH AND INTO THE STREAM. SOMEONE SAYS “PAT?” AND HE GROANS IN RESPONSE AND WE SPEND THE REST OF LUNCH PULLING HIS STUPID ASS OUT OF THE CREEK.

***

AWESOME

ALRIGHT SO IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KYLE WOULD COME OVER EVERY MORNING AND EAT BREAKFAST WITH ME & MY SISTER AND THEN THE THREE OF US WOULD WALK TO SCHOOL TOGETHER.

ANYWAY THIS ONE TIME THERE’S ONE OF THOSE RANDOM FOOD DRIVES GOING ON AT OUR SCHOOL, AND EVERYONE’S SUPPOSE TO CHIP IN AND HELP OUT THE HOMELESS BY BRINGING IN AN ITEM OF NON-PERISHABLE FOOD.

SO KYLE SHOWS UP ONE MORNING WITH THIS LITTLE CAN OF TUNA AND I MAKE A LITTLE MENTAL NOTE TO BRING SOMETHING SLIGHTLY BIGGER. I DON’T KNOW WHY. I WAS A VERY COMPETITIVE CHILD AND OH I DON’T KNOW WHY. ANYWAY KYLE’S WATCHING ME LIKE A HAWK WHILE WE EAT OUR OATMEAL AND HE NEVER LOWERS HIS GAZE. FOR SOME REASON I AM JUST VERY SURE THAT KYLE IS ALSO A LITTLE WORRIED THAT I AM GOING TO BRING SOMETHING BIGGER. AGAIN, I DON’T KNOW WHY. I JUST HAVE THIS FEELING.

SO AFTER WE FINISH BREAKFAST I CLIMB UP ONTO THE COUNTER AND OPEN UP THE CUPBOARDS AND START RUMMAGING THROUGH ALL THE VARIOUS CANS WE’VE GOT. KYLE IS NOW STARING AT ME LIKE HE’S STARVING, AND AS I PULL OUT THIS ENORMOUS CAN OF TOMATO SAUCE HIS LITTLE FACE FALLS LIKE HE’S JUST BEEN DRAFTED. ALTHOUGH NEITHER OF US HAVE SAID ANYTHING, WE BOTH KNOW THAT I HAVE WON.

SO THE NEXT MORNING KYLE SHOWS UP AND HE’S GOT THE BIGGEST BOX OF CEREAL I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. IT’S ONE OF THOSE ENORMOUS ONES YOU BUY FROM THE BULK STORE AND IT’S PRACTICALLY THE SAME SIZE AS KYLE. HE SETS THE BOX DOWN AKWARDLY BY THE KITCHEN TABLE AND SITS DOWN TO THE TABLE WITH A GIANT SMILE. THROUGHOUT BREAKFAST KYLE ATTACKS HIS TOAST AND EGGS WITH CHEERFUL VORACITY AND I NOTICE HE DOESN’T SO MUCH AS BOTHER LOOKING IN MY DIRECTION. CLEARLY HE THINKS HE HAS TRUMPED MY EFFORTS.

SO AFTER BREAKFAST I CLIMB BACK UP TO THE COUNTER AND THROW OPEN THE CUPBOARD DOORS. THERE’S NOTHING EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO KYLE’S GIGANTIC CEREAL BOX AND AS I FRANTICALLY SEARCH THROUGH THE CUPBOARD CONTENTS KYLE’S SMILE JUST GETS WIDER AND WIDER. HE’S GOT ME BEAT.

SUDDENLY I HAVE A DIVINE MOMENT OF INSPIRATION AND RUN OFF INTO THE BATHROOM. KYLE FOLLOWS ME WITH INTEREST, AND LOOKS ON WITH UTTER DISMAY AS I STRUGGLE TO PULL OUT THIS ENORMOUS BULK BOX OF TAMPONS FROM UNDER THE SINK. I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT THESE THINGS ARE BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER, IT’S LARGER THAN KYLE’S GODDAMNED CEREAL BOX.

KYLE’S STILL RECOILING FROM THIS BOMBSHELL, AND WE BEGIN OUR WALK TO SCHOOL IN SILENCE. OUR RESPECTIVE CARGO IS MUCH TOO BIG FOR US, AND WE BOTH HAVE TO GRIP OUR DONATIONS WITH OUR ARMS OUTSTRETCHED. SINCE OUR STREET IS RIFE WITH YOUNG PARENTS, THE SIGHT OF TWO SMALL BOYS CLUMSILY WALKING UP A HILL WITH GIANT BOXES OF CEREAL AND TAMPONS CAUSES SEVERAL MOMS AND DADS TO STAND IN THEIR DOORWAYS AND SMILE AT THE SIGHT.

WE’RE ABOUT HALFWAY UP THE HILL WHEN THE SILENCE IS SHATTERED BY MY MOM YELLING OUT ‘DAVID!!!’. I STUMBLE AND TRY TO TURN AROUND, BUT MY VIEW IS OBSTRUCTED BY THE ENORMOUS BOX OF TAMPONS. I PUT THE BOX DOWN. MY MOM IS DEFINITELY RUNNING UP THE HILL AND LOOKS A LITTLE EMBARASSED.

“DAVID, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” SHE HISSES AT ME.

“I’M BRINGING DONATIONS FOR THE HOMELESS!” I TELL HER IN NO QUIET VOICE. I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN I’M CAN’T GET IN TROUBLE FOR HELPING THE NEEDY, AND BESIDES, I LIKE ATTENTION JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER 8 YEAR OLD.

“OH..” MOM PAUSES FOR A SECOND AND CATCHES HER BREATH. “WELL, CAN’T YOU BRING SOMETHING ELSE?” SHE ASKS ME

“WHAT? WHY? I DON’T WANT TO BRING SOMETHING ELSE” I SAY DEFENSIVELY, QUICKLY GLANCING OVER AT KYLE. HE LOOKS HOPEFUL.

“WELL WOULDN’T IT BE BETTER TO BRING SOME FOOD?” MY MOM BARTERS, LOOKING UNEASILY AROUND HER AT THE THRONG OF PARENTS STANDING IN THEIR DOORWAYS.

I HOLD MY GROUND: “NO, I THINK THIS WOULD BE BEST”

“LOOK, LET ME JUST GET YOU A CAN OF SOUP INSTEAD” MY MOM PLEADS.

“NO!!!” I SHOUT IN PANIC, LOOKING APPREHENSIVELY AT KYLE. “WHY?!!”

“JUST BECAUSE!” MY MOM TELLS ME URGENTLY.

“WHY!!!” I REPEAT, FALLING INTO THAT COMFORTABLE AND TESTED CHILD-PARENT DIALOGUE WE ALL KNOW SO WELL

“BECAUSE!!” MY MOM SAYS FEROCIOUSLY

“WHY!!!!!” I YELL OUT FOR THE THIRD TIME, REALLY GETTING DOWN TO THE MEAT AND POTATOES OF THE ARGUMENT

“BECAUSE I NEED THEM” MY MOM BELLOWS OUT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.

SHE THEN SNATCHES THE ENORMOUS BOX AND CARRIES IT TRIUMPHANTLY DOWN THE HILL WHILE KYLE AND I LOOK ON IN A BIT OF A BEWILDERED DAZE.

***

ALRIGHT THIS ISN’T REALLY FUNNY BUT I JUST REMEMBERED IT AND IT’S PRETTY CUTE/AWESOME:

SO WHEN I WAS LIKE 4 I WENT WITH MY MOM TO DC TO VISIT MY GRANDMOTHER AND ONE DAY WE ALL WENT OUT TO THE PARK AND I LOST MY FUCKING TEDDY BEAR. I’M PRETTY SURE HIS NAME WAS ‘BEARY’ BUT ANYWAY I LEFT HIM ON ONE OF THOSE HORSES MOUNTED ON THAT GIANT INDUSTRIAL SPRING THAT LITTLE KIDS RIDE ON. YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

SO I DIDN’T REALIZE MY BEAR WAS LOST UNTIL LATER THAT NIGHT AND WHEN I FOUND OUT I WAS SO SAD, AND LIKE I NEVER REALLY CRIED THAT MUCH AS A CHILD BUT I REMEMBER I WAS PRETTY TEARFUL ALL NIGHT AND THE NEXT DAY.

SO ANYWAY MY MOM DRAFTS UP THIS GODDAMNED ‘MISSING TEDDY BEAR’ POSTER AND GOES OUT EARLY THE NEXT MORNING AND FLIERS LIKE HALF OF DC. SERIOUSLY THE SWEETEST/MOST AWESOME THING EVER. WE NEVER FOUND THE BEAR, THOUGH. AND THEN WHEN I GOT HOME MY DAD WAS WAITING FOR ME – HE HAD BOUGHT MAYBE 40 DIFFERENT STUFFED ANIMALS AND HAD THEM ALL LINED UP AND TOLD ME MY MOM HAD CALLED AND TOLD HIM ALL ABOUT THE DISASTER AND HE KNEW I COULDN’T REPLACE ‘BEARY’ BUT HE HOPED MAYBE I COULD CHOOSE AN ANIMAL TO HELP ME THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES!!

SO I ENDED UP CHOOSING THIS LAMB BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS A DOG AND I NAMED IT ‘DOGGY’ (CLEARLY THE EVENT HADN’T SAPPED MY CREATIVITY) AND THAT LAMB WENT EVERYWHERE WITH ME FOR THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO.

***

AWESOME

THIS ONE BEAUTIFUL SATURDAY MORNING I DECIDE TO CREATE THIS ELABORATE ‘TREASURE HUNT’ FOR KYLE. I THINK THIS WAS GRADE 4 BECAUSE I REMEMBER AROUND THE SAME TIME WE GOT TO DISSECT OWL PELLETS (OWL PUKE) IN CLASS BECAUSE WE HAD AN AWESOME TEACHER AND I DISCOVERED AN ENTIRE RAT SKELETON IN MY OWL PELLET. SO ANYWAY I’M ABOUT 9.

SO I’M UP BRIGHT AND EARLY AND HAVE FOREGONE THE USUAL SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS TO PLAN MY TREASURE HUNT. I GRAB A BUNCH OF JELLYBEANS FROM THE KITCHEN AND PUT THEM IN A MASON JAR AND BURY THE JAR IN THE GROUND AT THE VERY END OF OUR STREET, UNDER A BUNCH OF TIGER LILLIES.

THEN I GRAB A PAD OF PAPER AND START WRITING THESE LITTLE RIDICULOUS ‘CLUES’. EACH CLUE BASICALLY JUST SAYS SOMETHING LIKE “THE NEXT CLUE IS IN A BIRD’S NEST IN A TREE BY THE DRIVEWAY” AND “THE NEXT CLUE IS UNDER A BIG ROCK BY THE RIVER” AND STUFF LIKE THAT. I SERIOUSLY MUST HAVE MADE ABOUT 150 OF THESE ‘CLUES’, AND THEN I WORKED BACKWARDS FROM THE CANDY TO PLANT THEM ALL OVER THE NEIGHBORHOOD. BY LUNCHTIME I HAD THEM ALL HIDDEN WITH THE FIRST ‘CLUE’ IN KYLE’S MAILBOX.

SO I GO OVER TO KYLE’S, EAGER FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT TO START. I ASK KYLE IF HE’S CHECKED HIS MAIL YET, WHICH ALONE SHOULD HAVE GIVEN THE GAME AWAY BECAUSE THAT’S SOMETHING A KID NEVER ASKS ANOTHER KID. HOWEVER KYLE’S A LITTLE, YOU KNOW, AND HE SEEMS TO THINK MY QUESTION IS AN ACCEPTABLE ONE AND WE AGREEABLY WALK DOWN HIS DRIVEWAY TO THE MAILBOX.

KYLE FINDS THE FIRST CLUE AND JUST FUCKING ERUPTS. “DAVE!!! DAVE!!!” HE YELLS AT ME. I HAVE COYLY STAYED A FEW FEET AWAY AND AM GUILELESSLY KICKING AT THE GRASS PRETENDING TO MIND MY OWN BUSINESS. “DAVE!! DAVE!!! LOOK AT THIS!!!”

SO I WALK OVER AT AN INTENTIONALLY SLOW PACE AND WATCH WITH PLEASURE AS KYLE JUMPS AROUND ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE. “IT’S GOT TO BE TREASURE!! IT’S GOT TO BE TREASURE!! JUST LIKE THAT BOOK WE’RE READING IN CLASS!!!”

“WHAT DOES IT SAY, KYLE!!” I ASK INNOCENTLY AND HE STUTTERS OVER THE FIRST CLUE. “GO TO THE.. WE GOT TO GO TO THE… TO THE POND IN BILL’S BACKYARD!!! WE GOT TO GO TO THE POND!!”

KYLE STARTS RUNNING FLAT OUT TOWARDS THE POND AND I FOLLOW HIM WITH A BIG SMILE. THIS IS GOING TO BE JUST GREAT. BY THE TIME I ARRIVE KYLE’S ALREADY KNOCKED IN ABOUT 8 ROCKS AND HAS KILLED A GOLDFISH LOOKING FOR THE NEXT ‘CLUE’, BUT OF COURSE HE EVENTUALLY FINDS IT AND WE’RE OFF ONCE MORE, THIS TIME TO THE DECK IN FRONT OF OUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE.

THE NEXT HOUR IS PRETTY MUCH LIKE THIS. OCCASIONALLY I’VE HIDDEN A ‘CLUE’ TOO WELL AND KYLE CAN’T FIND IT, BUT WHENEVER THIS OCCURS I MIRACULOUSLY STUMBLE ACROSS IT AND PICK UP THE SCENT AGAIN. KYLE IS PRACTICALLY WETTING HIMSELF HE’S SO EXCITED.

SO THE TREASURE HUNT TAKES US ALL OVER THE NEIGHBORHOOD, AND AT ONE POINT WE’RE TURNING DOWN HEMLOCK STREET WHICH IS ABOUT 5 BLOCKS AWAY FROM WHERE WE LIVE. WE ROUND THE CORNER AND KYLE IMMEDIATELY FLOCKS TO THE STOP SIGN AND STARTS PAWING AROUND IN THE DIRT FOR THE NEXT CLUE. HE CAN’T FIND IT. AT THIS POINT I’M KIND OF STARTING TO FORGET MYSELF WHERE I’VE HIDDEN HALF OF THESE DAMN THINGS, AND ABSENT-MINDEDLY BEGIN TO SEARCH AROUND THE STOPSIGN WITH KYLE.

I SAY ABSENT-MINDEDLY BECAUSE I’M STARING DOWN THE STREET AT A GROUP OF ABOUT 4 OR 5 KIDS MY AGE WHO I DON’T KNOW, WHO SEEM TO BE AWFULLY EXCITED. THEY’RE RUNNING FROM ONE SIDE OF THE STREET TO ANOTHER, GROUPING TOGETHER HERE AND THERE FOR A FEW MINUTES AT A TIME UNTIL SOMEONE ISSUES A LOUD GLEEFUL SHOUT AND THEN THEY’RE OFF AGAIN. ALL THE WHILE THEY ARE GETTING FURTHER DOWN THE STREET AND DISAPPEARING FROM VIEW.

I SWEAR IT TAKES ME LIKE 5 MINUTES OF WATCHING THIS AND LISTENING TO KYLE’S STRANGE INTERPRETATIONS OF THE CLUE (“WHERE IS IT?!? WHERE IS IT?!?! MAYBE STOP-SIGN MEANS SOMETHING ELSE… HMMMM.. STOP… SIGN… MAYBE THE ROOF?”) BEFORE I REALIZE THAT THOSE DAMN KIDS DOWN THE STREET HAVE LUMBERED ACROSS MY GODDAMNED TREASURE-HUNT AND ARE HOT ON THE TRAIL.

I ACT QUICKLY AND MAKE UP SOME SORT OF VERY IRRATIONAL REASONING: “KYLE!!! MAYBE THEY MEAN THE STOP-SIGN DOWN THE STREET!!” I SUGGEST WEAKLY. I’M THINKING AHEAD AS MANY CLUES AS I CAN – I NEED TO SOMEHOW HEAD OFF THOSE OTHER KIDS BEFORE THEY GET TO THE CANDY.

WE RUN BY THE LITTLE GROUP THAT’S CAUSING ME SO MUCH DISTRESS. THEY’RE A GOOD 10 CLUES AHEAD OF US AND I REALIZE I NEED TO GET KYLE ON A DIFFERENT BLOCK ALTOGETHER IF THERE’S TO BE ANY HOPE OF US SALVAGING THE HUNT. I FEEBLY SUGGEST WE TRY ANOTHER STOP-SIGN OVER ON WALNUT STREET AND KYLE, THANK GOD, AGREES TO IT WITHOUT ANY QUESTIONING.

ON WALNUT STREET I PRETEND TO ‘TRIP’ AND BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE UNEARTH A NEW CLUE. KYLE IS ABSOLUTELY OVERJOYED. THE LAST 15 MINUTES HAVE EVIDENTLY BEEN EXTREMELY HARD ON HIM AND HE IS JUST TICKLED PINK TO BE BACK IN THE HUNT. I MYSELF CAN’T HELP BUT FEEL A LITTLE SMUG ABOUT MY QUICK THINKING. I CHUCKLE IN DELIGHT AT THE THOUGHT OF THE LITTLE TEAM OF GUMSHOES BACK ON HEMLOCK STREET COMING TO AN INEVITABLE DEAD END.

SO WE RESUME THE TREASURE HUNT, AND NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON, AS WE ARE APPROACHING THE END OF OUR STREET. WE HEAD DOWN PINE AVENUE AND TURN THE CORNER. KYLE’S FINDING ALL THE CLUES EASILY AND IS MORE EXCITED THAN ANYONE I’VE EVER SEEN. WE’RE ALMOST HOME FREE NOW, AND I’M ALMOST SAD MY LITTLE DISTRACTION IS COMING TO AN END.

SO KYLE IS ON THE LAST CLUE, WHICH SAYS SOMETHING TO THE EXTENT OF “TURN LEFT AND DIG UNDER THE TIGER LILLIES” AND WE ROUND THE VERY LAST CORNER AND ARE REWARDED WITH THE SIGHT OF CHRIS, THE FAT TUBBY KID DOWN THE STREET WHO NOBODY LIKES, SITTING IN THE DIRT EATING A BUNCH OF DIRTY JELLYBEANS AND SMACKING HIS LIPS IN ECSTACY.

KYLE LOOKS HEARTBROKEN. I AM JUST ABOUT READY TO KILL CHRIS BUT I CAN’T SAY ANYTHING FOR FEAR OF GIVING AWAY THE GAME. CHRIS LOOKS AT ME AND HIS LITTLE PIGGY EYES GLINT IN THE SUN. HE SHOVES ANOTHER HANDFUL OF JELLYBEANS INTO HIS CAVERNOUS MOUTH.

“HEY DAVE!” I CAN ACTUALLY HEAR JELLYBEANS GETTING STUCK IN HIS BRACES. “I WATCHED YOU BURY THESE THIS MORNING FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW. I HOPE YOU DON’T MIND.”

***

ALRIGHT SO I’M IN CLASS, GRADE 3, MY TEACHER IS MRS. MENEZOS AND SHE’S PRETTY BATSHIT AND IS TRYING TO TEACH US HOW TO LINEDANCE EVEN THOUGH WE’RE SUPPOSE TO BE LEARNING ABOUT THE PLANETS OR LONG DIVISION OR DOING REPORTS ON BEVERLY CLEARY STORIES. I’M LOOKING AT THE BIG POSTER ON THE SIDE WALL, IT’S GOT A LIST OF EVERYONE’S NAME IN THE CLASS AND BESIDE EACH NAME IS A LONG ROW OF GOLD STARS EARNED BY THAT PARTICULAR STUDENT, USUALLY FOR GETTING A GOOD MARK ON A TEST OR DOING PARTICULAR WELL AT AN ACTIVITY.

MY LINE OF STARS IS ABOUT AS LONG AS THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA AND THERE’S NO WAY IN HELL ANYONE’S GOING TO CATCH UP TO ME. I’VE SPENT MOST OF THIS YEAR MAKING SURE I’M WELL AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION (JEFF) BECAUSE MRS. MENEZOS SAID AT THE END OF THE YEAR THE STUDENT WITH THE MOST STARS WILL GET A SURPRISE. AND I LIKE SURPRISES.

SO ANYWAY I’M THINKING ABOUT ALL OF THIS WHEN THE INTERCOM SYSTEM GOES ON AND I’M CALLED TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE. THIS IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL – ONLY BAD STUDENTS GET CALLED TO THE OFFICE, AS YOU ALL KNOW, AND I’M ONE OF THE BEST STUDENTS IN SCHOOL. AN INQUISITIVE MURMUR RUNS THROUGH THE CLASS LIKE A COLD BREEZE AND I GET UP IN A BIT OF A PANIC AND GO OUT INTO THE HALL.

SCHOOL HALLS ARE QUIET AND EERIE WHEN CLASS IS IN, AND I’M NOT VERY PLEASED ABOUT ANYTHING. I WALK INTO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE. IT SMELLS LIKE THOSE PINK PEARL ERASERS AND HOT DOG BUNS WHICH IS ACTUALLY PROBABLY COMING FROM THE CAFETERIA. WHAT IS MOST NOTICEABLE, THOUGH, IS KYLE, WHO IS SITTING IN A CHAIR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY WHILE THE PRINCIPAL MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM TRIES TO CONSOLE HIM. SHE SEEMS POSITIVELY RELIEVED WHEN I ENTER THE ROOM AND EXPLAINS THE SITUATION.

“WE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM – WE’VE CALLED HIS FATHER BUT HE’S NOT AT HOME, AND THE ONLY THING HE’S ASKED SO FAR IS TO SPEAK TO YOU.”

THIS RINGS A VERY SMALL BELL. A YEAR AGO IN GRADE TWO THE SAME GODDAMNED THING HAPPENED, ONLY WITH MY SISTER – SHE HAD BEEN STUNG BY A BEE AND SPENT A SOLID HOUR IN THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE BLUBBERING AWAY AND GENERALLY PERPLEXING EVERYONE IN SIGHT UNTIL THE SECRETARY FINALLY WAS ABLE TO MAKE OUT THE WORDS “I.. WANT.. DAVE!!”

I GRIP KYLE BY THE SHOULDERS AND ASK HIM WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.

KYLE PAUSES SOBBING JUST LONG ENOUGH TO BLURT OUT “I WAS KICKED IN THE THROAT!”

A FAINT SMILE APPEARS ON MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM’S FACE AND SHE RELAXES A LITTLE BIT. I GUESS SHE NO LONGER THINKS THAT KYLE’S ON HIS DEATHBED.

“KICKED IN THE THROAT?” HEGGINBOTTOM IS BACK IN CONTROL; “WELL WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT! KYLE, WE’RE GOING TO CALL YOUR PARENTS AGAIN, AND WE’LL GET ONE OF THEM TO TAKE YOU HOME.”

“TRY HIS STEP-MOM” I SUGGEST, KNOWING THERE’S A BETTER CHANCE SHE’S AROUND, “AND IF THAT DOESN’T WORK, JUST CALL MY MOM”.

THE SECRETARY PICKS UP THE PHONE. SHE’S UNABLE TO GET THROUGH TO KYLE’S STEP-MOM, BUT MY MOTHER PICKS UP. UNFORTUNATELY SHE’S HEADING OUT FOR AN APPOINTMENT SHE CAN’T BREAK.

“PERHAPS DAVE CAN WALK KYLE BACK TO YOUR PLACE?” MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM SUGGESTS. KYLE’S STILL CRYING AND SHAKING AND CLUTCHING HIS THROAT LIKE HE WAS ATTACKED BY A WOLF AND I’M STARTING TO GET A LITTLE EXCITED THAT I MIGHT GET TO GO HOME.

MY MOM AGREES AND THE PRINCIPAL TELLS ME TO GET KYLE HOME AND TO BED. THIS LITTLE TALK WITH MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM HAS MADE ME FEEL LIKE I’M 12 YEARS OLD AND TAKE THE REPONSIBILITY TO HEART. “COME ON, KYLE” I CROON GENTLY “LET’S GET YOU HOME AND ALL TUCKED IN.”

KYLE AND I BEGIN OUR TREK HOME TO THE EVIDENT APPEASEMENT OF THE PRINCIPAL AND SECRETARY. KYLE, SLIGHTLY MOLLIFIED BY MY COMPANY, HOBBLES ALONGSIDE ME, SNIFFING EVERY COUPLE OF SECONDS. I PUT AN ARM AROUND HIM AND GIVE MRS. HEGGINBOTTOM WHAT I HOPE TO BE A RESPONSIBLE, MOTHERLY SORT OF LOOK, AND OUT WE GO.

IT’S A 10 MINUTE WALK BACK HOME AND MOST OF IT IS ACCOMPLISHED ON A PATH THROUGH THE WOODS BEHIND THE SCHOOL. THE SECOND WE GET TO THE WOODS KYLE WIPES HIS EYES AND NOSE AND MIRACULOUSLY CONVALESCES RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES. “I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WORKED!!” HE SHOUTS IN AMAZEMENT.

I THINK AT THAT POINT IN TIME THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF SKIPPING SCHOOL WAS FOREIGN TO ME BECAUSE I REMEMBER REGARDING KYLE IN COMPLETE DISBELIEF. WE RESUME WALKING. I AM TOTALLY STUNNED.

KYLE’S BUOYANT AS EVER. “NOW WE HAVE THE DAY OFF!” HE STARTS WHISTLING AND DOES A LITTLE DANCE DOWN THE STREET IN FRONT OF ME. MY AMAZEMENT IS SLOWLY GIVING WAY TO ANGER AND I ADDRESS KYLE WITH AS MUCH ACRIMONY AS I CAN MUSTER.

“KYLE YOU MORON, I HAVE A TEST LATER TODAY AND IF I DON’T DO IT I’M NOT GOING TO GET A GOLD STAR AND YOU KNOW I NEED THOSE GOLD STARS!”.

KYLE LOOKS AT ME WITH A HINT OF AMUSEMENT IN HIS FACE. WE’VE LEFT THE FOREST AND HAVE TURNED ONTO OUR STREET. SINCE IT’S WARM OUT WE BOTH TAKE OFF OUR SHOES AND WALK BAREFOOT. (WE ALWAYS DID THIS WALKING TO AND FROM SCHOOL). I’M GETTING ANGRIER BY THE MINUTE.

“NO, REALLY, KYLE, THIS ISN’T AWESOME AT ALL! I NEED TO DO THAT TEST! ” I’M JUST FURIOUS NOW. KYLE’S PRETTY GOOD AT RECOGNIZING WHEN I’M ANGRY, AND HE LOOKS AT ME FOR ABOUT HALF A SECOND AND THEN TEARS DOWN THE STREET.

I START RUNNING AFTER HIM, SHOUTING OUT THREATS. KYLE PUTS ON AN EXTRA BURST OF SPEED AND ROUNDS THE CORNER TO HIS BACKYARD WHEN HE SUDDENLY CRUMPLES TO HIS SIDE. I QUICKLY CATCH UP TO HIM – HE’S HOLDING HIS FOOT. I TAKE A LOOK AND AM APPALLED – HE’S SPLIT HIS HEEL OPEN. THERE’S THIS FINE BLOOD-RED LINE RUNNING ALMOST RIDE DOWN THE CENTER OF HIS HEEL AND IT’S BEGINNING TO BLEED.

“KYLE, THIS DOESN’T LOOK VERY GOOD” I CONFESS. KYLE’S EYES ARE WELLING UP WITH TEARS AND IN A BIT OF A PANIC I SEE HE’S GETTING READY TO CRY AGAIN. I’M RIGHT. WITHIN MINUTES HE’S BAWLING AGAIN AND CLUTCHING HIS FOOT LIKE HE STEPPED IN A TRAP. I’M WONDERING HOW TO GET HIM HOME.

IT’S AT THIS EXACT MOMENT THAT KYLE’S STEP-MOM MAKES AN APPEARANCE. SHE’S DRIVING DOWN THE STREET IN HER CAR AND IS OBVIOUSLY A BIT CONFUSED AS TO WHY HER STEP-SON AND HIS BEST FRIEND ARE SQUATTING IN A DITCH BAREFOOT ON A SCHOOL DAY. SHE PULLS THE CAR OVER. SINCE KYLE’S ALWAYS CRYING SHE’S NOT TOO CONCERNED YET, AND ASKS ME WHAT’S GOING ON.

KYLE INTERRUPTS BEFORE I CAN SAY ANYTHING. “I WAS KICKED IN THROAT!!!” HE BAWLS OUT IN COMPLETE FRUSTRATION, STILL CLUTCHING HIS FOOT WITH BOTH HANDS AND LYING ON HIS BACK. “AND DAVE DID IT!“.

THE REST OF THIS LITTLE EPISODE IS MERCIFULLY BLURRED. I REMEMBER I WAS SENT TO MY ROOM AND MY MOM WAS CALLED, AND I REMEMBER I WASN’T EXONERATED UNTIL A FEW CALLS TO THE SCHOOL WERE PLACED. EVEN THEN I SEEM TO RECALL GETTING A STERN TALKING-TO BECAUSE I CHASED KYLE. WORST OF ALL, I MISSED THE TEST AND JEFF GOT A GOLD STAR.

***

AWESOME

SO KEVIN, MYSELF, AND THIS FOREIGN DUDE “PEET” (NOT PETE, PEET) FROM FRANCE ARE PLANNING AN EXCURSION TO STEAL GOLF BALLS FROM THIS VERY EXCLUSIVE FRENCH GOLF COURSE.

PEET’S AT HIGH SCHOOL WITH US BECAUSE FRANCE AND QUEBEC DO EXCHANGES ALL THE TIME. HOW HE GOT WEDGED INTO OUR SCHOOL I’LL NEVER KNOW BECAUSE PHILEMON WRIGHT IS PRETTY GHETTO AS FAR AS CANADIAN HIGHSCHOOLS GO.

SO ANYWAY WE WALK TO THE GOLFCOURSE AND SNEAK OVER THE GATE AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE WOODS. IT’S A BRIGHT FALL DAY AND WE’RE PRETTY MUCH HIDDEN IN THE TREES AND THERE ARE GOLF BALLS EVERYWHERE. WE’VE BROUGHT LARGE BLACK GARBAGE BAGS WITH US. WE’RE SLOWLY MAKING OUR WAY TO THE DRIVING RANGE WHICH IS WHERE THINGS GET TRICKY. YOU HAVE TO RUN OUT INTO SIGHT OF THE GOLFERS, SECURITY, ETC, AND SCOOP UP AS MANY GOLF BALLS INTO YOUR BAG AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. THIS CAN GET KIND OF DANGEROUS BECAUSE FIRST OF ALL THE GOLFERS TRY AND HIT YOU WITH BALLS FROM 300 YARDS, AND AS SOON AS YOU’RE SPOTTED BY SECURITY THEY START CHASING YOU DOWN AND YOU ONLY HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE BEFORE YOU NEED TO BAIL.

ONCE YOU’RE BACK IN THE WOODS SECURITY/RANDOM GOLFERS USUALLY STOP GIVING CHASE, AND YOU CAN CAREFULLY PICK YOUR WAY BACK TO THE GATES. THEN THE WHOLE PLAN IS TO TAKE YOUR SPOILS DOWN TO THE HIGHWAY AND START THROWING THEM AT CARS, BIKERS, PEOPLE, ETC. IT WAS A GOOD WAY TO PASS THE LUNCH-HOUR.

ANYWAY SO WE’RE IN THE WOODS HEADING TOWARDS THE DRIVING RANGE. ‘PEET’ IS ENTERTAINING US WITH HIS FRENCH ACCENT, TELLING US ABOUT THE TIME HE COULDN’T FIND HIS SHOES, WHEN WE HEAR A SWISHING NOISE AND A GOLF BALL HITS THE TREE RIGHT IN FRONT OF KEVIN. WE STOP DEAD IN OUR TRACKS. FRENCH GOLFERS ARE NASTY PEOPLE AND A GOLF BALL CAN GIVE YOU A GODDAMNED CONCUSSION IF YOU AREN’T CAREFUL.

WE PAUSE AND HOLD OUR BREATH. IT’S UNLIKELY WE’VE BEEN SPOTTED SO QUICKLY, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE WOODS ARE SO DENSE. WE LOOK UP – ABOUT A HUNDRED YARDS UP ON THE GREEN A GOLFER IS PEERING DOWN INTO THE WOODS WITH A GIANT FROWN. WE AREN’T SURE IF HE’S LOOKING AT US, OR IF HE CAN EVEN SEE US FOR THAT MATTER. MOST LIKELY HE JUST LOST HIS BALL AND IS SEEING IF THERE’S ANY HOPE OF RECOVERING IT. SOON THE GOLFER STEPS BACK OUT ONTO THE COURSE AND DISAPPEARS. PEET GIGGLES NERVOUSLY, GRABS THE GOLF BALL, THROWS IT INTO HIS SACK, AND WE MOVE ON.

ABOUT 4 MINUTES LATER ANOTHER GOLF BALL WHIZZES THROUGH THE AIR AND NEARLY BRAINS KEVIN. WE ALL PAUSE AGAIN AND QUICKLY LOOK UP. WE’RE A LOT CLOSER FROM THE GREEN THIS TIME AND IT’S THE SAME GODDAMNED GOLFER. WE’RE PRETTY SURE HE CAN SEE US, BUT NOT POSITIVE. HE’S DOING THE SAME THING – STARING DEEPLY INTO THE FOREST AND SCOWLING LIKE HE WAS JUST POKED IN THE BEHIND WITH A NEEDLE. WE DON’T MOVE UNTIL HE GIVES A LITTLE GRUNT OF DISSATISFACTION AND DISAPPEARS BACK ON THE GREEN. THIS IS GETTING WEIRD.

PEET PICKS UP THE BALL AND COMPARES IT TO THE ONE IN HIS BAG – IT’S THE SAME BRAND. THERE’S NO MISTAKE – THIS IS THE SAME GOLFER. “WHAT THE HELL IS HE PLAYING AT?” KEVIN HISSES AT ME. I SHRUG MY SHOULDERS.

“DEES IS DANGEROUS” PEET CLAIMS AND LOOKS AT US WISELY. WE ALL STARE AT EACH OTHER FOR A SECOND AND CONTINUE.

THIS TIME BARELY 10 SECONDS PASS BEFORE ANOTHER GOLF BALL SAILS THROUGH THE AIR AND NEARLY STRIKES ME DEAD. WE STOP ABRUPTLY AND STARE UP. THE GOLFER IS LOOKING RIGHT AT THE SPOT WHERE WE’RE STANDING BUT I GET THE IMPRESSION HE STILL CAN’T SEE US. SUDDENLY IT DAWNS ON ME; HE CAN HEAR US WHEN WE’RE MOVING, BUT HE CAN’T SEE US WHEN WE’RE MOTIONLESS. I QUICKLY RELAY MY MESSAGE TO KEVIN AND PEET AND THEY AGREE.

WE CONTINUE CAREFULLY FROM THAT POINT ON. EVERY SO OFTEN A BALL COMES HURTLING IN OUR DIRECTION, SOMETIMES DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, SOMETIMES WAY OFF. EACH TIME IS FOLLOWED BY THE IRATE GOLFER STARING PASSIONATELY INTO THE FOREST.

THE TENSION IS DEFINITELY MOUNTING. I PERSONALLY AM STARTING TO FEEL LIKE A FOX IN A HUNT AND I CAN TELL KEVIN AND PEET AREN’T MUCH BETTER OFF. PEET IN PARTICULAR IS STARTING TO LOOK A LITTLE OFF-COLOR AND HAS TAKEN TO SILENTLY SHAKING HIS FIST AT THE GOLFER EACH TIME HE MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

THE GOLFER, TOO, I’VE NOTICED, IS DEFINITELY TAKING A GREATER ACCOUNT OF THE SOUNDS COMING OUT OF THE WOODS, BECAUSE HE’S LOOKING LONGER AND LONGER EACH TIME HE SENDS A GOLF BALL OUR WAY.

THE CLOUDS BREAK WHEN A GOLF BALL ACTUALLY HITS PEET IN THE LEG. UNABLE TO CONTROL HIS FRUSTRATION, PEET YELLS OUT ‘HEY, HEY YOU!!’ AT THE GOLFER. “WHAT ARE YOU DO-EENG, HUH? QUIT THAT, WHY DON’T CHU! ESTI!”

EVEN THOUGH THE GOLFER IS A WAYS OFF, I CAN SEE THAT PEET’S LITTLE CRY OF INDIGNATION HAS STARTLED THE MAN. HE’S SPEECHLESS FOR A SECOND, AND THEN, IN AN ACCENT JUST AS FRENCH AND AS THICK AS PEET’S, THE GOLFER MAKES HIS OWN VOICE HEARD: “OH YOU STUPEED KIDS! I KNEW, I KNEW DER WAS SOMEONE IN DER!! OH YOU STUPEED KIDS!”

THIS IS TOO MUCH FOR PEET. “NO, NO! YOU’RE STUPEED!! YOU’RE STUPEED!”

THE GOLFER IS GETTING REALLY WORKED UP NOW. HE’S GOT HIS CLUB RAISED HIGH THE AIR LIKE HE’S IN THE MIDDLE OF A VIGOROUS POLO GAME, AND PEET’S LITTLE RANDOM DENIGRATING CRIES ARE JUST EXCITING HIM FURTHER.

“YOU STUPEED KEEDS!! YOU TAKE ALL MY BALLS! I KNOW IT! YOU TAKE ALL MY BALLS.. YOU.. .YOU” THE GOLFER IS BREATHING HEAVILY, I CAN HERE IT FROM WHERE I’M STANDING. HE’S GOT SOMETHING ON HIS MIND AND IS EVIDENTLY PROCESSING THE BEST WAY TO SAY IT. KEVIN AND I HAVE BEEN SILENT THE ENTIRE TIME, WATCHING PEET AND THIS GOLFER BOIL UP INTO RESPECTIVE LITTLE BALLS OF RAGE. I CATCH KEVIN’S EYE FOR A SECOND AND HE GIVES ME A LITTLE GRIN. I’M RELATIVELY SURE HE’S THINKING THE EXACT THING I AM, WHICH IS THAT BOTH PARTIES ARE SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER IN ENGLISH WHEN THEY’RE BOTH SO CLEARLY FRENCH. THAT OR THE FACT THAT WE MIGHT BE WITNESSING THE TWO ANGRIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.

“YOU KEEDS.. YOU STUPEED KEEDS.. YOU.. YOU..” CONTINUES THE GOLFER. HE FIGURES OUT WHAT HE’S DRIVING AT: “YOU PROFIT FROM MY SUCK!“.

KEVIN HAS TO LAUGH AT THIS AND I DON’T BLAME HIM. I’M HAVING A HARD TIME KEEPING IT IN MYSELF. I’M STILL STAGGERED THAT THIS MAN HAS BEEN ‘ACCIDENTLY’ HITTING SO MANY GOLF BALLS INTO THE WOODS. I’M JUST ASTONISHED THAT HE WASN’T 100% SURE WE WERE THERE.

BUT BEST OF ALL IS PEET’S REPONSE. HE’S JUST ENRAGED BEYOND MEASURE AT THIS POINT AND IS SHAKING BOTH FISTS IN THE AIR LIKE A SHAMAN. “I DON’T WANT YOUR SUCK!!!” HE SCREAMS OUT, BARELY AWARE OF WHAT HE’S SAYING, “I JUST WANT YOUR BALLS!! AND NOW I HAVE THEM!!

WITH THAT PEET SLINGS HIS NEARLY-EMPTY GARBAGE OVER HIS SHOULDERS AND RUNS BACK INTO THE WOODS. KEVIN AND I FOLLOW HIM, NEARLY DOUBLED OVER WITH LAUGHTER, AND THE LAST THING WE HEAR IS THE GOLFER SCREAM (AND I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP) “YOU WON’T GEET AWAY WITH DEES!!!!”

***

ALRIGHT SO IN SCOUTS THIS ONE WINTERY DAY EVERYONE HAD TO GET UP AT ABOUT 4AM AND OUR PARENTS HAD TO DRIVE US ALL TO THE PARKING LOT BEHIND THE BOWLING ALLEY. WE ALL GOT THERE AROUND 4:30 AND WERE GREETED BY “AKELA” AND “BALOO” AND ALL THOSE LOSER SCOUT-LEADERS. APPARENTLY THE TASK FOR THE DAY WAS TO BUILD UP A ‘FLOAT’ FOR THE LITTLE AYLMER PARADE (AYLMER WAS THE TOWN I GREW UP IN), WHICH CAN BE INTERPRETED AS DECORATING THE FLATBED OF AN 18-WHEELER USING SNOW, BRANCHES, AND WHATEVER LITTLE TRINKETS THE SCOUT-LEADERS BROUGHT FROM THE DOLLAR STORE OR THEIR PARENT’S BASEMENTS.

SO WE’RE SHOVELING SNOW ON THE FLATBED AND PACKING IT DOWN AND EVERYTHING’S KIND OF BORING. WE’RE ALL JOKING AROUND BUT MOST OF US CAN’T WAIT TO GET THIS OVER WITH AND GO TO THE BOWLING ALLEY WHERE OUR PARENTS WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BUY US HAMBURGERS AND HOTDOGS, HOPEFULLY AROUND NOON.

THE SUN RISES AND THE CAMP LEADERS DOLE OUT SOME CHEAP TRAIL-MIX TO EVERYONE AND TELL US SOME ABJECT TALE ABOUT FOOD ENERGY. WE’VE ALMOST COVERED THE FLATBED WITH SNOW, AND A FEW OF US ARE MAKING LITTLE SNOWHILLS AND OTHER THINGS TO TRY TO VARY IT UP.

IT’S ABOUT THIS TIME THAT “BALOO” EXCITEDLY TELLS US HE’S GOT A HUGE SURPRISE FOR US, WHICH HE WILL SHARE IN AN HOUR. SO WE WORK A LITTLE MORE FEVERISHLY, SLAPPING PINE BRANCHES OVER THE SNOW AND TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT LOOKS LIKE A SCENE FROM A TRANQUIL WOODS OR SOMETHING. THE HOUR PASSES QUICKLY AND SOON WE ARE ALL LOOKING OVER AT “BALOO”. HE HOLDS OUT AS LONG AS HE CAN AND THEN FINALLY EXPLODES “YOU BOYS ARE GOING TO RIDE ON THE FLOAT!! NOT JUST MAKE IT!!”

I THINK SCOTT MUMBLED “WHAT THE FUCK” BUT I COULDN’T BE SURE, BUT ANYWAY, NOBODY IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS. ‘RIDING THE FLOAT’ TRANSLATES TO 10 HOURS OF SITTING ON THE FLATBED, WAVING AT RANDOM WELFARE FAMILIES IN FREEZING CANADIAN WEATHER. INSTANTLY THE ATMOSPHERE BECOMES A LITTLE TENSE AS EVERYONE LETS THIS NEW KNOWLEDGE SINK IN.

I NOTICE A FEW KIDS TALKING QUIETLY TO THEMSELVES AND WAIT AS THE NEWS SLOWLY PASSES TO WHERE I AM. APPARENTLY SEVERAL SCOUTS HAVE DECIDED TO QUIT WORKING ON MAKING THE FLOAT “PRETTY”, AND INSTEAD ARE CARVING HOLES INTO THE SNOWHILLS ON THE FLATBED SO THAT THEY HAVE A WARM AND COZY NOOK TO HIDE IN DURING THE PARADE. I FIND THIS TO BE A CAPITAL IDEA, AND PRETTY SOON ALL US ARE STANDING ON THE FLOAT, DIGGING DOWN INTO THE COMPACTED SNOW WE HAD SO CAREFULLY SHOVELLED ON JUST HOURS AGO.

WITHIN AN HOUR THE BASE OF THE FLOAT RESEMBLES A PIECE OF SWISS CHEESE; THERE ARE LITTLE HOLES ABOUT 3 FEET DEEP EVERYWHERE, SERIOUSLY COMPRIMISING THE STRUCTURE AND TENACITY OF THE BASE. MOST OF THE SCOUTS ARE TRYING TO “CAMOFLAUGE” THEIR HOLES BY DRAPING BRANCHES OVER THE HOLES, SO THAT THE CAMP LEADERS, WHO HAVE DISAPPEARED FOR THE LAST LITTLE WHILE, DON’T SEE THEM UNTIL WELL AFTER THE PARADE HAS STARTED.

THE COUNSELORS ARRIVE IN A BEAT-UP CAR, AND PULL THIS GIANT OBJECT OUT OF THE BACKSEAT. THEY UNFURL THIS ENORMOUS BANNER THAT SAYS “AYLMER CUB SCOUTS RULE!!!” AND A COUPLE OF GIANT POSTS TO HANG EACH END OF THE BANNER. WE ALL GROAN INWARDLY A LITTLE BIT BUT RESIGN OURSELVES TO OUR FATE. “THIS WILL BE OUR CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT!!” YELLS OUT BALOO IN WHAT I DETERMINE TO BE FRANTIC HYSTERIA – THAT DUDE ALWAYS GOT SO WORKED UP OVER NOTHING.

WE THROW ON A FEW EXTRA BRANCHES AND ARE EACH GIVEN A SMALL HORDE OF CANDY CANES TO THROW AT THE WELFARE FAMILIES. OF COURSE MOST OF THEM ARE GONE WITHIN MINUTES, BUT NOBODY REALLY CARES ABOUT THAT. THE CAMP LEADERS ARE PRACTICALLY WETTING THEMSELVES AS THEY MOUNT THE FLATBED. MIRACULOUSLY THEY EITHER DON’T SEE ALL THE HOLES, OR DON’T CARE.

THEY PLACE THEIR TWO POSTS FIRMLY IN THE COMPACTED SNOW, AND STRING THE “AYLMER CUB SCOUTS RULE!!!” BANNER ACROSS THEM, AND IT LOOKS REALLY REALLY BAD. IT’S ALMOST 10AM, AND THE PARADE IS ABOUT TO START. THE TRUCK DRIVER SHOWS UP AND “BALOO” YELLS, “ALL ABOARD!!” OR SOMETHING EQUALLY DUMB AND WE ALL CLIMB UP ONTO THE FLATBED.

THE LEADERS GET IN THE FRONT WITH THE TRUCK DRIVER AND WE’RE OFF AT 5MPH. WE WAIT UNTIL WE’RE ON THE MAIN ROAD AND ARE FIRMLY LODGED BETWEEN WHAT LOOKS LIKE A LEFTOVER FLOAT FROM THE SANTA-CLAUS PARADE, AND THE BOOKMOBILE FROM SCHOOL. WE CAN SEE A FEW FAMILIES OFF IN THE DISTANCE, WAVING LIKE LUNATICS.

AS SOON AS WE APPROACH A THIN HERD OF BYSTANDERS WE DECIDE IT’S COLD ENOUGH AND EVERYONE MAKES A DASH FOR THEIR SNOW-HOLE. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE WHAT THIS MUST HAVE LOOKED LIKE TO ANYBODY ON THE STREET – ONE MINUTE THERE’S A FLOAT WITH A DOZEN YOUNG BOYS ON IT, THE NEXT MINUTE THERE’S NOTHING BUT BRANCHES AND A SIGN ABOUT HOW “AYLMER CUB SCOUTS RULE!!”. OH, AND THERE’S ADRIAN.

ADRIAN, YOU SEE, GOT TOTALLY FUCKED ON THE DEAL, BECAUSE WHEN THE SCOUT LEADERS PUT UP THE POSTS FOR THE BANNER THEY LODGED ONE OF THEM RIGHT IN HIS SNOWHOLE, EFFECTLY BLOCKING IT. SO HE’S RUNNING AROUND LIKE A SCARED RABBIT, TRYING TO SEE IF ANYONE HAS EXTRA ROOM IN THEIR HOLE. OF COURSE NO ONE IS WILLING TO SHARE.

HIS FIRST PLAN FAILED, ADRIAN THEN DECIDES TO PULL THE POST OUT OF HIS HOLE. SO HE THROWS HIS LITTLE BODY AGAINST THE POST AND LIFTS IT UP WITH ALL HIS MIGHT – IT’S NOT THAT HEAVY AND HE GETS IT OUT. OF COURSE IT TOPPLES OVER AND THAT’S THE END OF THE BANNER. I LOOK OVER AT THE FRONT OF THE TRUCK, AND CAN SEE “BALOO”, LOOKING ABSOLUTELY APPALLED, AND MAKING THESE RIDICULOUS ‘LIFTING’ GESTURES WITH HIS HANDS.

ADRIAN FOR SOME REASON DECIDES TO COMPLY, AND GETS THE POLE BACK UPRIGHT. THE BANNER CATCHES IN THE WIND AND ONCE AGAIN THINGS LOOK KIND OF NORMAL – ONLY NOW ADRIAN NEEDS TO MAKE A NEW HOLE FOR THE POST.

HE DECIDES, FOR WHATEVER REASON, TO MAKE THIS CLOSER TO THE CENTER OF THE FLATBED. HE’S HOLDING THE POST WITH BOTH HANDS AND IS STABBING IT DOWNWARDS THROUGH THE COMPACTED SNOW. IT LOOKS LIKE HE’S TRYING TO BREAK THROUGH SOME ICE WITH A LOG OR SOMETHING. HE LOOKS RIDICULOUS, AND I KIND OF HUNCH DOWN IN MY HOLE SINCE THE WIND IS GETTING PRETTY FIERCE.

MY VIEW OBSCURED, I CAN NOW ONLY HEAR ADRIAN POUNDING THE POST DOWN THROUGH THE SNOW. IT’S SOUNDING REALLY LOUD, AND THEN SUDDENLY I HEAR THE SMACKING SOUND AS THE POST HITS THE WOODEN BOTTOM OF THE FLATBED, FOLLOWED BY THIS ENORMOUS “WHOOOOSH” AND THEN A LOT OF YELLING.

I QUICKLY STAND UP IN MY HOLE AND SEE WHAT’S GOING ON – WHEN ADRIAN BROKE THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM WITH THE POST, THE WHOLE BACK HALF OF THE FLOAT SEPARATED AND FELL OFF THE FLATBED. SERIOUSLY WEAKENED BY THE SNOWHOLES, THE COMPACTED SNOW JUST SORT OF GAVE WAY AND SLID RIGHT OFF. OF COURSE THERE WERE SEVERAL KIDS IN THE BACK OF THE FLOAT WHO FELL OFF WITH THE SNOW AND THE BRANCHES AND IT’S A WONDER THAT THEY WEREN’T ALL CRUSHED TO DEATH BY THE BOOKMOBILE BUT NOBODY WAS SERIOUSLY HURT. I REMEMBER A BUNCH OF FAMILIES AND PEOPLE ON THE SIDEWALKS RAN OUT AND STARTED PICKING LITTLE CUB SCOUTS OUT OF THE SNOW AND RUNNING BACK TO THE SIDEWALKS WITH THEM, AND I REMEMBER ADRIAN STANDING THERE HOLDING THAT POST LIKE HE HAD JUST LANDED ON THE MOON AND IT WAS THE US FLAG, AND I REMEMBER BALOO LOOKING ABSOLUTELY STUNNED BY THE WHOLE THING.

***

i remember this one time in grade 1 our teacher was trying to teach us how to LINE DANCE for some reason. she’s got the whole class loosely organized in three rows and everyone’s doing the little step-over-step-step-kick routine as best as we can but the whole thing lacks purpose and is irritating. kyle, of course, is really getting fed up with this because he’s got such a short attention span and such a short temper. we’ve been kicking inanely for about 10 minutes when kyle suddenly breaks away from the crowd and squarely faces mrs. meneen with his hands on his hips.

“I’M NOT DOING IT ANYMORE!” he yells out defiantely

“fine,” says mrs. meneen in a soft voice, “go sit down in that chair until the rest of us are done.”

and then kyle, who evidently didn’t hear her properly due to his building rage, yells out “WELL I WON’T TODAY!!” and then sits down passionately in the chair mrs. meneen just pointed at.

there’s a bit of a confused silence as mrs. meneen tries vainly to understand what just happened. kyle’s just glowering at her with his arms folded across his waist. to this day i have know idea what kyle thought mrs. meneen said, and i don’t think she does either.

anyway, then out of nowhere, our other friend pat decides he’s had enough, too. in an unprecedent act of compassion and comraderie he walks across the class to where kyle is and says “I’M NOT DOING THIS, EITHER”, and gives kyle a hearty slap on the back.this would have indeed been a proud moment for any rebellious six-year-old, only what happened instead is that one of kyle’s baby teeth shot out of his mouth like a rocket the second pat made contact with his backside. kyle did what we all did when we lost our baby teeth: slowly felt over the area with his tongue, and only when he realized the tooth was gone did he start to panic.

in the meantime, the class went from organized rows of dancers to wild maniacs on a scavenger hunt. as the tooth slid a few feet across the floor and disappeared from view about a dozen kids made lunges for it, which quickly incited riot among the rest. i guess we all must have been greedy bastards at the time but i remember this wild panic and a whole mess of grabby arms turning the place upside down in hopes of finding the tooth and making a quick dime or something.

kyle, of course, has just watched this whole horror unfold in front of him. i highly doubt there’s anything more terrifying to a six-year-old than watching your so-called ‘friends’ voraciously try to to steal your goddamned teeth. so kyle, instead of reprimanding pat,
instead stands up and faces mrs. meneen and yells out “NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE!!!”, then issues a high-pitch shriek i will take with me to the grave, and jumps into the throng of children in front of him.

mrs. meneen is still standing dumbfounded and probably wondering how line dancing could have gone so wrong when some kid stands up and yells out “I’VE GOT IT!!” and holds the baby tooth high up to heaven and then kyle jumps up and starts BAWLING and runs out of the class.

***

AWESOME

ALRIGHT SO ONE BRIGHT SUMMER MORNING KYLE AND I DECIDE TO OPEN UP A LEMONADE STAND. WE DRAG THIS GIANT COOLER OUT OF MY BASEMENT AND RANSACK OUR FRIDGES FOR LEMONS AND SUGAR, AND WE GET THIS GIANT PITCHER AND A BUNCH OF ICE, AND THEN WE TREK OUTSIDE TO THE CORNER OF MY STREET TO SET UP SHOP.

“SHOP” BASICALLY INVOLVES THIS TERRIBLY UNSAFE, RATTY STRUCTURE KYLE AND I HAD BUILT FROM THE REMAINS OF A ROTTEN FENCE. ORIGINALLY WE HAD MEANT TO BUILD A CLUBHOUSE BUT WE QUICKLY RAN OUT OF WOOD AND WE ENDED UP WITH WHAT LOOKED LIKE A SORT OF STAND. REALIZING THIS, WE QUICKLY TURNED IT INTO A STAND, WHICH IS WHERE THE LEMONADE SELLING PLANS CAME INTO PLAY.

SO ANYWAY WE’VE TRUCKED OUT OUR STUPID ‘STAND’ AND PROP IT AGAINST THE COOLER AND ANNOUNCE WE’RE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. IT’S LIKE 8:00AM ON A SATURDAY MORNING AND WE’RE MISSING ALL THE GOOD CARTOONS FOR THIS. AND NOBODY’S EVEN AWAKE YET.

OF COURSE OUR FIRST COUPLE OF ‘CUSTOMERS’ ARE OUR PARENTS. THEY ACT ALL AMUSED AND PATRONIZE US FOR A WHILE, ‘HAGGLING’ WITH OUR PRICES, ETC. I DEFINITELY REMEMBER OUR PRICE FOR A GLASS OF LEMONADE BEING 5 CENTS, WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY PREPOSTEROUS, EVEN BACK IN THE 80s. ANYWAY SO WE POCKET A FEW QUARTERS FROM OUR PARENTS AND ARE PRETTY PLEASED WITH OURSELVES. KYLE’S DAD BRINGS US SOME MORE LEMONS BECAUSE WE’RE OBVIOUSLY SQUEEZING THEM BY HAND AND GETTING LEMON JUICE EVERYWHERE AND IT’S TAKING LIKE 4 LEMONS JUST TO MAKE ONE GLASS.

THEN THINGS SORT OF SLOW DOWN FOR ABOUT 40 MINUTES, AND WE ALMOST MAKE A SALE TO AN UNUSUALLY SUSPICIOUS OLD MAN WALKING HIS DOG. HE ACTUALLY DECIDES TO PASS ON A GLASS OF LEMONADE FROM SOME CHILDREN OPERATING A STAND, AFTER GRILLING US FOR ABOUT OUR PRACTICES FOR NEARLY TEN MINUTES. UNREAL. WE’RE GETTING DEJECTED.

ANYWAY AFTER SOME SERIOUS TALKS, WE DECIDE WE NEED A GREATER VARIETY OF GOODS TO SELL, SO KYLE RUNS HOME AND RETURNS WITH A BOX FULL OF LARGER GLASSES, A LOAF OF BREAD, AND HIS STUPID PLASTIC BUBBLEGUM MACHINE WHICH IS FILLED WITH BUBBLEGUM.

NOW WE’VE GOT A REALLY LEGITIMATE BUSINESS RUNNING – CUSTOMERS HAVE TO DRINK THEIR LEMONADE AT OUR STAND BECAUSE WE CAN’T GIVE AWAY THE GLASSES, WE’RE RUNNING BACK HOME EVERY 20 MINUTES TO WASH THEM, KYLE’S OFFERING A FREE SLICE OF BREAD WITH PURCHASE OF LEMONADE IN SOME SORT OF BIZARRE MARKETING INCENTIVE, AND WE’RE SELLING BUBBLEGUM FOR 5 CENTS AS WELL. HOWEVER WE ARE ACTUALLY GETTING MORE BUSINESS, AS BEMUSED ADULTS WANDER BY OUR LITTLE STAND AND SMILE AT THE CARNIVAL OF INDUSTRY WE’VE CREATED.

SPURRED BY THE SUCCESS, KYLE AND I RUN BACK HOME AND GRAB MORE GLASSES, AND MORE BREAD, AND OTHER RANDOM THINGS WE CAN FIND IN OUR KITCHEN. KYLE HAS LADEN HIS LITTLE WAGON WITH CONDIMENTS AND HAS THAT NEXT TO THE STAND, IN CASE ANYONE WANTS SOME KETCHUP OR VINEGAR WITH THEIR LEMONADE OR BREAD. I AM PUTTING JELLO POWDER IN THE LEMONADE. THINGS ARE GOING BRILLIANTLY.

THEN WE HIT A SMALL SNAG – WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF GUM (WHICH IS SELLING WELL) AND KYLE WANTS THE REST FOR HIMSELF. SO WE DECIDE TO DO A RAFFLE. KYLE RUNS AND MAKES ‘TICKETS’ AND I MAKE A SIGN STATING THAT ANYONE GUESSING THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF GUM BALLS IN THE MACHINE WILL WIN A FREE LEMONADE. TICKETS ARE 25 CENTS, 5 TIMES THE PRICE OF A LEMONADE.

MORE CUSTOMERS ARE COMING IN AND KYLE AND I HAVE PROBABLY MADE AT LEAST A DOLLAR AT THIS POINT. SEVERAL CUSTOMERS ASK US WHEN THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED FOR THE GUMBALL RAFFLE, WITH A HINT OF A SMILE, AND KYLE AND I REALIZE WE HAVEN’T REALLY THOUGHT THIS ONE THROUGH. “LATER”, WE REPLY. “LATER – JUST STOP BY LATER AND WE’LL TELL YOU IF YOU’VE WON.”

KYLE NOW HAS ANOTHER STROKE OF GENIUS AND RUNS HOME AND DONS HIS CUB SCOUT UNIFORM. MINE IS UNFORTUNATELY AT MY GRANDPARENTS PLACE (ANOTHER STORY), AND I SERIOUSLY FEEL REALLY LEFT OUT BECAUSE KYLE HAS HIS SCOUT UNIFORM ON AND I’M IN MY NINJA TURTLE SHORTS AND RED TSHIRT WITH A PICTURE OF FRENCH FRIES ON THE FRONT. NONETHELESS, WE ARE NOW SCOUTS SELLING LEMONADE AND HAVE A RENEWED SENSE OF WELL-BEING AND PURPOSE IN OUR LEMONADE-SELLING BUSINESS.

TIME PASSES AND BUSINESS SLOWS DOWN. LUNCHTIME COMES AND AS THERE HAVE BEEN NO CUSTOMERS FOR AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR, KYLE AND I HUNKER DOWN INTO OUR STORES AND EAT ALL THE BREAD, AND ALL THE GUM, AND FINISH OFF THE LAST OF THE LEMONADE. IT IS DELICIOUS.

SHORTLY THEREAFTER, SOME GODDAMNED JERK-ADULT COMES WALTZING UP THE STREET WITH A BIG SMILE ON HIS FACE. HE’S HOLDING HIS RAFFLE TICKET AND IS CLEARLY BACK TO TEASE THE CHILDREN SOME MORE.

“ANNOUNCED THE WINNER, YET?” HE SAYS, ALL SMILES. KYLE AND I STARE AT EACH OTHER IN HORROR, AS THERE IS NO MORE LEMONADE. OR GUMBALLS. AND WE DIDN’T EVEN COUNT THEM.

I STALL. “YES, BUT THE ANSWER IS WRITTEN AT HOME – KYLE WILL GET IT.” THEN I HISS AT KYLE TO RUN HOME, WRITE DOWN A NUMBER – ANY NUMBER – ON A PIECE OF PAPER, AND GRAB A BUNCH OF LEMONS”

KYLE RUNS OFF AND I AWKWARDLY TRY TO FORM SOME SORT OF CONVERSATION WITH THE ADULT, TELLING HIM ABOUT HOW GOOD BUSINESS IS, AND HOW I THINK THERE MIGHT BE ANOTHER LEMONADE STAND A FEW BLOCKS OVER (I WANT HIM TO GO). HE’S MAKING ALL THESE DUMB JOKES ABOUT HOW I’M GOING TO HAVE TO PAY TAXES, ETC ETC, WHEN I SPOT KYLE, RUNNING BACK TO ME EMPTY HANDED AND LOOKING SCARED.

KYLE GETS BACK, AND PAYS NO ATTENTION TO OUR CUSTOMER. “DAVE!!!” HE HISSES IN A VERY AUDIBLE TONE, “THERE AREN’T ANY LEMONS LEFT!!! WE’RE OUT OF LEMONS!!!!”

AT THIS THE ADULT GIVES US A BIG BENEVOLENT GRIN AND IS CLEARLY HAVING A GOOD TIME. KYLE LOOKS AT HIM IN UTTER HORROR, AND THEN TURNS TO HIS RIGHT TO SEE ANOTHER ADULT WALKING UP THE STREET, HOLDING ANOTHER RAFFLE TICKET HIGH UP IN THE AIR.

THIS IS TOO MUCH FOR KYLE. WE’RE BOTH PRETTY SCARED THAT WE’VE PROMISED SOMEONE A FREE LEMONADE AND DON’T HAVE ANY LEMONS LEFT, BUT KYLE JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT. HE TAKES ONE MORE WILD GLANCE AT THE ADULT IN FRONT OF HIM, AND AT THE ONE MOSEYING UP THE DRIVE, AND THEN YELLS “GET OUT OF HERE!!!” AT ME, AND TEARS DOWN THE STREET IN HIS CUB SCOUT UNIFORM.

BARELY A SECOND GOES BY WHEN I SEE KYLE’S STEP-MOM DRIVE AROUND THE CORNER. SHE’S CLEARLY GONE TO DO SOME ERRANDS OR SOMETHING, AND SEES KYLE RUNNING. SHE DRIVES PAST ME, THE LEMONADE STAND, AND THE ADULTS, AND STOPS BY KYLE AND MAKES HIM GET IN THE CAR. AND THEN, AND THIS IS THE BEST PART, SHE TAKES HIM ALL THE WAY TO CUB SCOUTS BECAUSE HE WAS WEARING HIS UNIFORM AND SHE THOUGHT HE WAS LYING WHEN HE SAID HE DIDN’T HAVE A MEETING!!!!!

MEANWHILE, I’M STILL BACK AT THE STAND, AND I MAKE AMENDS SOMEHOW BY SAYING THE RAFFLE IS EXTENDED UNTIL TOMORROW, AND TEAR OUT OF THERE LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL. KYLE EVENTUALLY RETURNED HOME WITH HIS EXTREMELY ANGRY STEP-MOM, AND WE BROUGHT IN THE STAND. ALL TOLD, WE HAD USED NEARLY 30 LEMONS (MY PARENTS HAD ACTUALLY GONE TO THE GROCERY STORE TO BUY SOME MORE FOR US), AND BROUGHT IN ABOUT $1.50.

GOOD TIMES IN AYLMER!!!!

***

AWESOME

ALRIGHT SO MY DAD, MY SISTER AND I WENT CAMPING ALONG WITH ONE OF OUR NEIGHBORS, AND ONE OF OUR NEIGHBORS DECIDED TO BRING ALONG ONE OF HIS ACQUAINTANCES, WHO DECIDED TO BRING HIS SON. IT WAS ALL KIND OF LAST MINUTE AND THERE WASN’T ANY UPSHOT TO IT AT ALL – MY SISTER AND I NOW HAD THIS STRANGE THIRD PARTY TAGGING ALONG. THE KID’S NAME ESCAPES ME BUT I REMEMBER IT BEING AN UNFAMILIAR FRENCH NAME, LIKE TONQUESS OR RATATFOU. WE’LL JUST CALL HIM LUCERNE FOR NOW. LUCERNE’S DAD, WHO’S NAME WAS MIQUEL, WAS A REALLY STRANGE MAN WHO RIGHT OFF THE BAT DISPLAYED SIGNS OF OCD AND WAS FOREVER WASHING HIS HANDS WITH ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP AND USING KLEENEXES TO TOUCH EVERYTHING AND GENERALLY SHOWING ACUTE WHAT-ABOUT-BOB SYNDROME.

ANYWAY WE ARRIVED AT THE CAMPSITE AND SPENT TWO DAYS FISHING AND LOUNGING AROUND. MIQUEL AND LUCERNE ARE DEFINITELY NOT BUILT FOR THE OUTDOORS AT ALL AND THEIR CONSTANT BITCHING IS MAKING THINGS INCREASINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE. THEY DON’T LEAVE THE TENT MUCH, THEY DON’T WANT TO GO FISHING, THEY DON’T WANT TO GO HIKING, AND MIQUEL IN PARTICULAR GETS REALLY UNHAPPY WHEN MEALTIME COMES AROUND. HIS COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR IS TOTALLY GETTING THE BEST OF HIM OUT HERE IN THE WILD AND AROUND DAY THREE HE FINALLY DISCARDS HIS RETICENCE AND BEGINS TO ADMINISTER THESE LITTLE ADMONISHMENTS HERE AND THERE. THE GROWN-UPS ARE ALL TAKING IT WITH COMMENDABLE POLITENESS, BUT IT’S KIND OF SCARY FOR A LITTLE KID TO GET ‘WARNINGS’ FROM AN ADULT HE/SHE BARELY KNOWS. LUCERNE SEEMS IMMUNE TO MIQUEL’S UNFAVORABLE COUNSEL AND AS A RESULT HE’S ALSO BECOMING A LITTLE MORE BRASH AND STARTS TURNING INTO A TOTAL TWIT, ENDING A LOT OF OUR PETTY DISAGREEMENTS WITH ‘MIQUEL (HE ALWAYS REFERRED TO HIS FATHER IN THE THIRD PERSON) WILL TELL YOU YOU’RE WRONG’ IN HIS HEAVY FRENCH ACCENT.

THE CAMPING TRIP IS FALLING APART AT THE SEAMS AND I NOTICE MY FAMILY AS WELL AS THE NEIGHBORS ARE STARTING TO GIVE MIQUEL AND LUCERNE A WIDER BERTH THAN BEFORE, AND MIQUEL SEEMS TO BE INTERPRETING IT AS SUPPLICATION OR SOMETHING BECAUSE HE STARTS BECOMING LOUDER AND LOUDER WITH HIS COMPLAINTS. THE STORM BREAKS ON THE FOURTH NIGHT AROUND DINNERTIME. LUCERN AND MIQUEL HAVE ALTOGETHER STOPPED EATING THE HAMBURGERS AND HOTDOGS THAT THE REST OF US BROUGHT, AND HAVE INSTEAD TAKEN TO EATING THEIR SCANTY RESERVES OF CANNED FOOD. I SHOULD MENTION THAT BOTH OF THEM CAME HORRIBLY UNEQUIPPED AND HAD TO CONSTANTLY USE OUR STUFF, USUALLY REPRIMANDING US ABOUT OUR LACK OF TIDYNESS OR WHATEVER AFTERWARDS.

SO ANYWAY AROUND NIGHT FOUR THE ‘RESERVES’ OF MIQUEL AND LUCERNE ARE RUNNING BONE-DRY AND SINCE NEITHER OF THEM CAN DRIVE AND WE DON’T WANT TO DRIVE THEM HOURS BACK TO THE GROCERY STORE WHEN THERE’S AN AMPLE SUPPLY OF FOOD HERE, THEY HAVE TO PARTAKE IN OUR MEAL. MIQUEL IS HANDLING HOTDOGS LIKE THEY MIGHT STAIN HIS SKIN AND LUCERNE IS GIVING THESE DISDAINFUL LOOKS AT EVERYTHING AROUND HIM AND THE REST OF US ARE ALL SILENTLY GLOATING A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE IT’S NICE TO WATCH THEM BE UNCOMFORTABLE FOR A CHANGE.

ANYWAY AT ONE POINT MIQUEL JUST SNAPS AND YELLS OUT, “THAT EES EET! DON’T YOU HAVE ANYT’ING HERE DAT YOU GUYS ‘AVEN’T TOUCHED?!” AND LITTLE LUCERNE CHIMES IN WITH A “YEAH GUYS”, STARING AT MY SISTER AND I WITH GREAT DISPLEASURE. MIQUEL, UNABASHED, CONTINUES ON ABOUT THE UNSANITARY PRACTICES HE HAS WITNESSED HERE IN THE CAMPSITE WHILE MY DAD AND THE NEIGHBORS LOOK OFFENDED AND PLEASED ALL AT THE SAME TIME. MIQUEL FINISHES HIS RAMBLE WITH A PARTING SHOT AT HOW HE IS COMPLETELY DISGUSTED WITH HOW WE WASH OUR DISHES IN THE RIVER NEARBY, AND THEN STORMS OFF TO HIS SHITTY LITTLE ONE-MAN TENT THAT HE’S SHARING WITH LUCERNE. LUCERNE ECHOES HIS FATHER’S LAMENTS AND TRAILS OFF AFTER HIM. THAT’S THE LAST WE SEE OF THEM FOR THE NIGHT.

WE STAY UP AND I HAVE A VAGUE RECOLLECTION OF MY DAD AND THE NEIGHBORS TALKING QUIETLY AND LAUGHING GENTLY. EVEN AT MY AGE I REALIZE THAT WE SORT OF HAVE MIQUEL AND LUCERNE AGAINST THE ROPES – THERE’S STILL A FEW DAYS OF CAMPING LEFT AND THEY BASICALLY HAVE TO EAT OUR FOOD.

THE NEXT DAY AT BREAKFAST WE WAKE UP TO FIND THAT MIQUEL HAS HOARDED THE LAST DOZEN OR SO EGGS AND IS CAREFULLY FRYING ONE OF THEM, WHICH HE THEN CUTS IN HALF. HE GIVES THE SMALLER PORTION TO LUCERNE. WE ALL SMILE INWARDLY AT HIS NEW PLAN AND GO ABOUT OUR BUSINESS. LUNCH ROLLS AROUND AND WE ALL GET OUT A BIG SPREAD OF FOOD. AMONG THE ITEMS PRODUCED IS A BRAND NEW JAR OF PEANUTS WHICH ONE OF THE NEIGHBORS HAD HIDDEN AWAY SOMEWHERE. WHEN THIS JAR OF PEANUTES COMES OUT MIQUEL NEARLY SHITS HIS PANTS AND DOES AN EXTREME DOUBLE-TAKE AND STARTS MUMBLING TO HIMSELF. HE AND LUCERNE MAY HAVE SORT OF HOLED THEMSELVES UP IN THEIR TENT WITH THEIR EGGS, BUT THIS SEALED JAR OF PEANUTS HAS REALLY CAUGHT THEIR ATTENTION.

MY DAD AND THE NEIGHBORS, OF COURSE, NOTICE MIQUEL’S UNUSUAL BEHAVIOUR AND CORRECTLY ATTRIBUTE IT TO THE JAR OF PEANUTS, AND THEN I GUESS SOME INNER DEMON COLLECTIVELY SPURS THEM ALL TO LEAVE THE JAR UNOPEN THROUGHOUT THE MEAL AND RETURN IT BACK TO THE NEIGHBOR’S TENT. MIQUEL NEVER ONCE TAKES HIS GAZE OFF THE PEANUTS. THEN WE GO OFF SWIMMING AND ENJOY OUR AFTERNOON.

THE SUN STARTS SETTING AND WE PREP OUR EVENING MEAL. ONCE AGAIN THE PEANUTS MAKE AN APPEARANCE. ONCE AGAIN MIQUEL NURSES HIS LITTLE CLUTCH OF EGGS. LUCERNE HAS LOST A LOT OF HIS BUOYANCY AND LOOKS LONGINGLY AT OUR HAMBURGERS. ONCE AGAIN MY DAD AND THE NEIGHBORS RETURN THE JAR OF PEANUTS TO THE TENT, STILL UNOPENED, AFTER THE MEAL.

THE NEXT DAY THIS FOLLOWS SUIT FOR BREAKFAST AND LUNCH. MIQUEL LOOKS HALF-INSANE. AFTER LUNCH I’M CONVINCED HE’S GOING TO MAKE A RAID ON THESE PEANUTS WHILE WE’RE OUT SWIMMING OR SOMETHING.

ANYWAY WE DECIDE TO GO FISHING AFTER GETTING A TIP FROM ANOTHER CAMPER WHO HAS CAUGHT SOME GIANT CATFISH NEARBY. OUR NEIGHBORS TELL US THEY SOMETIMES COOK CATFISH AND THAT IT CAN BE A DELICIOUS MEAL, WHICH PIQUES MY INTEREST. SO WE HEAD OUT TO THE SPOT AND START CASTING OUR LINES. THE AFTERNOON PASSES PLEASANTLY ENOUGH, ALTHOUGH NOBODY HAS CAUGHT ANYTHING AND THE HOOKS ARE GETTING CAUGHT IN THE ROCKS AS WE DRAG THEM. TWILIGHT ARRIVES AND EVERYONE DECIDES TO HEAD BACK FOR FOOD, EXCEPT FOR ME. I AM DETERMINED TO CATCH A GIANT CATFISH AND PROVIDE FOOD FOR THE GROUP AND GENERALLY BE REGARDED AS A HERO AMONG ALL.

IT’S NOW DARK OUT AND I CAN SEE THE CAMPFIRE UP ON THE HILL AND I CAN HEAR VOICES AND COOKING NOISES. THE SMELL OF HOTDOGS ONCE AGAIN WAFTS DOWN TO WHERE I AM. I’M STILL TROLLING THE RIVER AND GETTING READY TO PACK IT IN. SUDDENLY I HEAR MY DAD’S VOICE, WITH A HINT OF AMUSEMENT IN IT, “WELL I GUESS WE SHOULD OPEN THESE PEANUTS” WHICH IS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED BY A LOUD SQUEAL AND THEN MIQUEL YELLING FRANTICALLY, “ME!!! ME!!! LET ME OPEN THE PEANUTS!!! I WILL OPEN THE PEANUTS!!” WHICH IS THEN FOLLOWED BY THE SOUND OF LAUGHTER.

AT THIS MOMENT MY ROD IS PRACTICALLY YANKED OUT OF MY HANDS AND I HAVE TO FOCUS ON MY LINE. I’VE CAUGHT A FISH, AND IT FEELS HUGE. I REEL IN AS PATIENTLY AS I CAN, REMEMBERING THAT YOU CAN SNAP THE LINE IF YOU JERK IT OR REEL IT IN TOO QUICKLY. AT ONE POINT I’M ALMOST PULLED INTO THE WATER AND I LEAN BACK AND TRY NOT TO START SHOUTING OUT FOR HELP. A FEW MINUTES OF DARKNESS PASS WHERE THE MAGNIFICENT STRUGGLE BETWEEN ME AND THE FISH IS COMPLETELY UNKNOWN TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, AND THEN I LIFT UP MY ROD AND OUT COMES A GIANT FUCKING CATFISH. THIS THING IS ABOUT A FOOT AND A HALF LONG, MAYBE TWO FEET, WHICH IS JUST AN OUTSTANDING SIZE TO A CHILD. I HAVE CAUGHT THE MOBY DICK OF CATFISH. I GRAB IT BY THE GILLS AND DON’T EVEN FEEL THOSE SHARP WHISKER-THINGIES SCRAPE AGAINST MY HANDS. I SHOUT OUT AS LOUD AS I CAN AND BEGIN RUNNING UP THE HILL HOLDING THIS GIANT FISH. THE HOOK IS STILL ATTACHED TO IT AND THE ROD IS BEING DRAGGED SOME 10 FEET BEHIND ME, THE REEL SPINNING MADLY.

MY YELLING BRINGS ALL THE NEIGHBORS TO THE CREST OF THE HILL, EXCEPT FOR MIQUEL, WHO I ASSUME IS EATING PEANUTS AND EGGS WITH LUCERNE, AND THEY WATCH IN AMAZEMENT AS I EXPLODE INTO SIGHT CARRYING THIS ENORMOUS FISH! WHAT A GODDAMNED HERO I AM!!

MY DAD IS ALL SMILES AND THE-APPLE-DOESN’T-FALL-FAR-FROM-THE-TREE’ISH AND THE NEIGHBORS ARE REALLY IMPRESSED AND THE NIGHT HAS TURNED INTO A JOYOUS CELEBRATION AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED. PEANUTS ARE THE FURTHEST THING FROM MY MIND WHEN I LOOK OVER AT THE TABLE AND SEE THE OPENED JAR. THEN, FOR SOME REASON I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO DETERMINE SINCE, I SUDDENLY HAVE A LONGING FOR PEANUTS. MIQUEL IS NEAR THE TENT, PRESUMABLY SPOONFEEDING PEANUTS TO HIS SON. I DROP THE CATFISH AND YELL OUT SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF, “OH BOY! PEANUTS!” AND MAKE MY WAY OUT TO THE TABLE. MIQUEL LOOKS AT ME WITH A LOOK OF UNMITIGATED HORROR AND SCREAMS OUT SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T SOUND ENGLISH AT ALL. HE JUMPS UP LIKE HE’S BEEN ELECTROCUTED AND STARTS GALLOPING TOWARDS THE TABLE. I CLOSE IN BEFORE HE DOES AND POUR A BIG HANDFUL OF PEANUTS INTO MY LITTLE HAND AND STUFF THEM INTO MY FACE. MIKE MAKES A FINAL LUNGE AND MAKES A GRAB FOR THE JAR. HE FALLS SHORT BY A FEW FEET AND LANDS ON ONE KNEE. HE’S PANTING HEAVILY AND STANDS UP STRAIGHT.

“YOU ATE DE PEANUTS!!!!” HE SCREAMS OUT. “DE PEANUTS!! YOU ATE THEM!! LOOK AT YOUR HANDS!!!!!”. I LOOK AT MY HANDS WHICH DON’T REALLY LOOK TOO BAD EXCEPT THAT THEY’RE A BIT DIRTY, AND SMELL LIKE FISH.

“AND YOU.. AND YOU…” MIQUEL TRAILS OFF AND TRIES TO FIND SOME SUITABLE WORDING FOR ME. “WELL NOW YOU HAVE TO.. YOU MUST…,” HE STRUGGLES, “YOU… MUST.. EAT.. ALL.. OF DE PEANUTS!!!!”

WHILE I’VE NO DOUBT THAT HE MEANT FOR THESE WORDS TO INDUCE TERROR INTO MY VERY SOUL, ALL THAT HAPPENED WAS THAT MY LITTLE BABY SISTER GIGGLED HOPELESSLY AND LUCERNE STARTED TO CRY. I TURNED AND LOOKED AT MY DAD WITH A WORRIED EXPRESSION BUT WAS RELIEVED TO SEE HE WAS ALSO SMILING. THE NEIGHBORS WERE ALREADY BEGINNING TO PREPARE THE CATFISH. NOBODY PAID THE SLIGHTEST ATTENTION TO MIQUEL. HE RETIRED TO HIS TENT WITH HIS WAILING PROGENY AND FOR THE NEXT HOUR OR SO WE HAPPILY BUSIED OURSELVES WITH THE CATFISH AMID THE MUFFLED SOBBING COMING FROM THE TENT. I RECALL AT ONE POINT I FELT LIKE THE SOBS HAD DOUBLED IN STRENGTH, BUT THAT COULD BE FANCIFUL IMAGINATION.

***

ALRIGHT SO IN GRADE SEVEN, TOWARDS THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, OUR CLASS WENT TO CAMP KALAILEE FOR 5 DAYS. THIS WAS KIND OF ONE OF THOSE ‘EDUCATIONAL’ CAMPS WHERE YOU SPENT CHUNKS OF YOUR DAY LEARNING ABOUT RECYCLING AND HOW MANY NEEDLES THERE ARE ON RED PINES AND WHITE PINES (CLUSTERS OF FIVE AND TWO, RESPECTIVELY) AND HOW TO MAKE A QUICK AND EFFICIENT STOVE USING A TUNA FISH CAN, SOME CARDBOARD, LINT FROM A DRYER AND CANDLE WAX; FOUR THINGS YOU ARE LIKELY TO FIND WHILE LOST IN THE WOODS.

ANYWAY CAMP FUCKING RULED AND THE COUNSELORS WERE IN THEIR MID-TWENTIES AND THEY WERE KIND OF NERDY AND GOOFY AND GENERALLY DELUDED. WE SLEPT IN THESE CABINS THAT HELD 7 PEOPLE EACH – THREE BUNKS ON EACH SIDE (THE TOP BUNK BEING CONSIDERABLY HIGH UP) AND THEN ONE BED RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CABIN. WE HAD SCREEN DOORS AND THESE LITTLE WATER-PUMP THINGS OUTSIDE IN CASE A CABIN CAUGHT ON FIRE.

ANYWAY SO IN ORDER TO DISCOURAGE PEOPLE FROM TALKING AFTER LIGHTS OUT, THE COUNSELORS WARNED US THAT THEY MIGHT COME CREEPING AROUND OUR CABIN WITH NOTEPADS, WRITE DOWN WHATEVER GOSSIP THEY MIGHT OVERHEAR, AND THEN READ IT OUT TO THE ENTIRE CLASS THE NEXT MORNING. WE’RE ALL LIKE TWELVE YEARS OLD SO THE GUYS DON’T CARE AND THE GIRLS LOOK APPALLED.

SO THE FIRST NIGHT THERE MY ‘GROUP’ FIGHTS TO SEE WHO’S GETTING THE TWO TOP BUNKS. I MANAGED TO CLAIM ONE OF THEM AND MY FRIEND MATT MANAGES TO GET THE OTHER ONE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE CABIN. JEFF AND MARK GET THE BUNKS IN THE MIDDLE, AND PAUL AND JORDAN GET THE ONES AT THE BOTTOM. COREY GETS THE BUNK IN THE MIDDLE BECAUSE COREY’S A WEINER AND DIDN’T FIGHT FOR A GOOD SPOT.

SO ANYWAY IT’S “LIGHTS OUT” AND WE’RE ALL IN OUR BUNKS LYING TO EACH OTHER ABOUT HOW MANY BOOBS WE’VE TOUCHED WHEN YOU CAN VERY CLEARLY HERE ONE OF THOSE INBRED COUNSELORS STRAGGLING THROUGH THE WOODS. WE ALL SHUT UP AND FOR A FEW MINUTES ALL YOU HEAR IS THIS MORON GETTING CAUGHT IN THE BUSHES AND SWEARING UNDER HIS BREATH AND GENERALLY SOUNDING LIKE A PACK OF WOUNDED BEARS. HE’S OBVIOUSLY HERE TO ‘SPY’ ON US SO WE KEEP STILL UNDER WE HEAR HIM LABOR OFF TO THE NEXT CABIN, WHICH IS A COUPLE HUNDRED FEET AWAY.

THE NEXT MORNING WE’RE ALL IN THE MAIN KITCHEN LISTENING TO THE COUNSELORS HAPPILY ANNOUNCE TO THE WHOLE WORLD ALL THE STUFF THEY WROTE DOWN FROM LAST NIGHT. IT’S ALL PRETTY BORING, UNTIL ONE OF THE COUNSELORS BOOMS OUT THAT SARAH HAS A CRUSH ON CHRIS, AND THEN SARAH PROMPTLY BURSTS OUT INTO TEARS AND IS ESCORTED OUT OF THE KITCHEN BY A SYMPATHETIC COUNSELOR. THAT’S KIND OF FUNNY. ANYWAY THEN WE GO OFF ON OUR MORNING HIKE TO LEARN HOW SAP FROM A TREE TURNS INTO MAPLE SYRUP. DURING THE HIKE MY GROUP, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF COREY, TALK NONSTOP ABOUT HOW WE CAN SOMEHOW TURN OUR COUNSELOR’S RIDICULOUS SPY GAME TO OUR ADVANTAGE. WE DECIDE THE BEST PLAN IS TO WAIT UNTIL WE HEAR THE COUNSELOR SHOW UP AT NIGHT, AND THEN SPEW OUT HOARDS OF FAKE INFORMATION ABOUT CRUSHES AND GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE, IN ORDER TO MAKE MORE GIRLS CRY THE FOLLOWING MORNING. WE ALL FIND THIS TO BE A SATISFACTORY PLAN.

SO ANYWAY THE DAY PASSES PLEASANTLY ENOUGH AND THEN WE RETIRE TO OUR CABIN AND IT’S LIGHTS OUT AGAIN. WE’RE ALL TALKING ABOUT RANDOM SHIT WHEN WE HEAR THAT INEPT COUNSELLOR APPROACH AGAIN. ONCE AGAIN IT SOUNDS LIKE HE IS GETTING BEATEN UP BY THE FOREST. JEFF SAYS “OH CHRIST!” UNDER HIS BREATH, SINCE WE TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT OUR PLAN AND HAVEN’T COORDINATED ANY FAKE INFORMATION YET. WE CAN HEAR THE COUNSELOR NEAR THE SCREEN DOOR. JORDAN WHISPERS OUT “PAUL! SAY SOMETHING!” AND THEN I HEAR PAUL HISS VIOLENTLY “JEFF!! SAY SOMETHING!” AND THEN I HEAR JEFF WHISPER IN MOUNTING PANIC: “MATT!!! SAY ANYTHING!” AND THEN MATT SITS UP IN HIS BUNK AND IN AND GALLANTLY ANNOUNCES: “I AM GOING TO PEE ON COREY”.

***

THIS IS SHORT BUT WORTH NOTING FOR MY OWN SAKE

THE LITTLE LIBRARY IN MY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (AYLMER ELEMENTARY) WAS LOCATED IN THE EAST WING, WHICH WAS THE NEWEST ADDITION TO THE SCHOOL AT THE TIME. (IT WAS A SMALL SCHOOL, AND A VERY SMALL LIBRARY). MOST OF US LIKED TO GO TO THE LIBRARY. NOT BECAUSE OF THE BOOKS, THOUGH, BUT BECAUSE THERE WAS THIS GIANT STUFFED GREAT HORNED OWL SET ATOP ONE OF THE HIGHER BOOKSHELVES IN THE BACK. THE OWL HAD ITS WINGS SLIGHTLY OUTSTRETCHED AND IT WAS JUST COLOSSAL. IT WAS PRACTICALLY MY SIZE.

ANYWAY THE OWL GAVE OFF A VERY MUSTY, WOODSY SORT OF ODOR THAT MADE THE LIBRARY SMELL LIKE AN OLD MUSEUM, OR AN ABANDONED COTTAGE AND THAT JUST MADE THE LIBRARY EVEN COOLER.

ANYWAY ONE OF OUR LITTLE RITUALS WHILE WALKING TO THE LIBRARY WENT AS FOLLOWS: FIRST THERE WAS A LITTLE STEP DOWN WHEN YOU WENT INTO THE EAST WING – IT WAS CUSTOMARY FOR STUDENTS TO JUMP WHEN WE APPROACHED THE STEP, TOUCH THE CEILING TILE ABOVE OUR HEADS (ONE OF THOSE LARGE SQUARE CEILING TILES MADE OUT OF THIN DRY-WALL) AND THEN FALL THE EXTRA 6 INCHES INTO THE EAST WING. SINCE WE ALWAYS HAD TO WALK IN A LINE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL EVERY KID BASICALLY GOT A CHANCE TO JUMP AT THE STEP, AND WE WOULD OFTEN TEASE ANYONE WHO FAILED TO TOUCH THE CEILING TILE. I THINK IT WAS ALMOST CONSIDERED BAD LUCK OR SOMETHING.

ANYWAY THE SECOND STEP TO THIS ROUTINE WAS THAT ONCE YOU WERE IN THE LIBRARY YOU HAD TO GO TO THE BACK, JUMP UP AND TOUCH ONE OF THE WINGS ON THE GREAT HORNED OWL. ONCE YOU HAD TOUCHED BOTH THE CEILING TILE IN THE EAST WING, AND THE FEATHERS ON THE OWL’S WING, YOU WERE SET FOR THE DAY.

THE PROBLEM WITH THE SECOND PART OF THIS DUTY WAS THAT THE GREAT HORNED OWL WAS PERCHED RATHER PRECARIOUSLY ATOP THE BOOKSHELF, AND WOULD TEETER ALARMINGLY EVERYTIME SOMEONE TOUCHED IT. IT WASN’T UNUSUAL TO SPEND ONE’S TIME IN THE LIBRARY HELPING JOE AND FRANK HARDY GET TO THE SECRET ISLAND WHILE KEEPING AN WATCHFUL EYE ON THE GENTLY ROCKING OWL IN THE FAR BACK.

OF COURSE THE TEACHERS SHARING LIBRARIAN DUTY NOTICED WHAT WAS GOING ON AND EVENTUALLY AFTER SOME HIDDEN MEETINGS DECIDED THAT THE OWL HAD TO GO. I WAS THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED. I WAS SITTING ON ONE OF THOSE SHORT STOOLS WITH THE WHEELS AND CURSING CHET’S SLUGGISHNESS WHEN SUDDENLY AN AWFUL MOAN AROSE FROM EVERY MAN AND WOMAN IN THE ROOM. I STOOD UP AND IMMEDIATELY LOOKED OVER TO THE FAR BACK JUST IN TIME TO SEE TWO TEACHERS WRESTLE (WITH NO LITTLE DIFFICULTY, I MIGHT ADD) THAT GIANT OWL OFF THE BOOKCASE AND DISAPPEAR WITH IT THROUGH ONE OF THE BACK DOORS.

WE WERE ALL VERY SAD THAT DAY. THERE WAS SOME SPIRITED TALK OF RESCUING THE OWL, AND MANY PLANS WERE DRAFTED AND REVISED THROUGHOUT MATH, BUT ULTIMATELY WE REALIZED THAT A VERY LARGE PART OF OUR CHILDHOOD HAD BEEN ABSCONDED.

THE NEXT DAY WE HAD LIBRARY TIME AGAIN, BUT THERE WASN’T ANYWHERE NEAR AS MUCH ENTHUSIASM AS THERE ONCE WAS. WE ALL SHUFFLED AROUND LISTLESSLY – IT JUST WASN’T GOING TO BE THE SAME WITHOUT THE OWL. ONCE AGAIN WE WERE LINED UP, BUT THIS TIME WE MARCHED TOWARDS THE EAST WING WITH THE HOPELESS DISINTEREST OF A PRISONER MARCH. WHEN WE APPROACHED THE EAST WING NOBODY EVEN BOTHERED TO JUMP; THERE WAS NO POINT.

AS THE LINE TRICKLED DOWN THE STEP AND INTO THE EAST WING THIS KID DONALD, WHO HAD DONE HIS BEST TO ROUSE OUR SPIRITS SINCE THE DISASTER, DECIDED HE WASN’T GOING TO GIVE UP ALL HOPE AND JUMPED WHEN HE REACHED THE STEP. HE GRACEFULLY BRUSHED HIS FINGERTIPS AGAINST THE CEILING TILE, AND THEN, FROM WHAT I REMEMBER, THE HEAVENS OPENED UP, A GREAT BLACK SHADOW CAME OUT OF THE SKY LIKE A BOLT OF LIGHTNING, DONALD PLUMMETED TO EARTH LIKE SOME DEMENTED ICARUS, AND THEN A GOOD PART OF THE EAST WING CAVED IN ON TOP OF US.

OF COURSE WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WAS THAT OUR IDIOT TEACHER-CUM-LIBRARIANS DECIDED THE SAFEST PLACE TO STORE THE OWL WAS IN THE CEILING, ROUGHLY RIGHT FUCKING ABOVE THE PLACE WHERE ALL THE KIDS LIKED TO JUMP. (THIS WAS, BY THE WAY, MY FIRST REAL GLIMPSE INTO THE MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF DESTINY, FATE, AND A SELF-RIGHTING UNIVERSE.) AND OF COURSE WHAT HAPPENED WAS THAT WHEN DONALD TOUCHED THE TILES, THE OWL, NOW PRECARIOUSLY PERCHED IN THE DEPTHS OF THE CEILING, FINALLY TOPPLED OVER AND FELL THROUGH THE WEAKENED TILE, TAKING DOWN DONALD AND A HANDFUL OF OTHER STUDENTS. SEVERAL OF US WERE COVERED IN A FINE DUST. I WISH I COULD SAY THAT A FEW FEATHERS FLOATED GENTLY IN THE BREEZE BUT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. IT WAS A GREAT DAY. I HUGGED THE OWL, (SOMETHING I HAD WANTED TO DO SINCE MY FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN) AND, AS I HAD IMAGINED, THE OWL WAS TOO BIG FOR MY ARMS TO REACH ALL THE WAY AROUND IT. WHICH TOTALLY FUCKING RULED.

***

AWESOME & SCARY

 

THE doppelganger STORY

so this is a semi-fucked up story. it involves a weird series of events that occurred one afternoon in march or april back when i was 16 and in high-school. this is maybe the only weird thing that’s ever happened to me so far in my life:

i’m walking home from school, and some dude walking about a hundred feet behind me yells out, “HEY DAVE?!” so i turn around and stare hard at the guy. i don’t recognize him at all, and i notice he’s staring hard at me like he’s unsure of who i am, and finally he yells out, “SORRY I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND DAVE!”

i don’t know if this has anything to do with the actual story, but it’s where i begin things. so i’m on my street walking down the hill, when i suddenly hear really loud punk music blaring from my house. it’s pretty evident someone has turned my awesome stereo up full blast which is something you are never suppose to do because that shit gets fucking LOUD. so i kind of run down the street towards the noise. it’s definitely my house and the front door is wide open. the car isn’t in the driveway. i run inside and tear into my room, pissed. i think it’s my sister being an idiot and ruining my stereo. nobody’s in my room. i turn the music down and off. without the music, i can now hear my dog barking like crazy, only it sounds like it’s coming from the basement. this is a little weird in itself, because my dog usually greets me when i come home from school.

i go down into the basement. my parents’ basement is fucking creepy, it’s like four rooms that almost spiral inward and the rooms keep getting smaller and more dismal as you go in. my dog is in the second room and her leash is attached to her collar and the other end is tied around the leg of an old desk. weird. she’s still barking like mad. as i’m untying her i hear the back door slam shut really loudly. the dog is now loose and runs upstairs barking like crazy. i follow her and open the back door. i can’t see anyone, and i have a pretty good view of everything from my back door. this is really, really strange.

so i decide to go check shit out, because i think maybe a stranger was in the house just now. i shut THE front and back door and leave through the back. i walk around the house and stroll around the whole block looking for anybody. there isn’t a single person around, which is kind of surprising because i lived in an area full of kids my age and school’s out for the day. rounding the corner back to my house music suddenly explodes from my room. someone’s turned my stereo back on. i run around the corner, back to my house. front door is wide open again. i run inside. this time the dog is barking and running around me all excitedly. i run into my room, but nobody’s there. i turn off the stereo just in time to hear the back door slam shut. i run back into the kitchen and yank the back door open. i look out, nobody is fucking there. the dog’s barking and staring out the back and whining and just going nuts.

i step back into the kitchen and notice there’s a message on my answering machine. i’m used to checking it as soon as i get home, and noticed that it had been empty prior to my little walk around the block, which means it must have just been left. i press play. it’s from my neighbor dana, who lives across the street and one house down from me. the message goes as follows:

“hi janet? (janet’s my mom) this is dana. is dave home? there’s someone walking around and around the house screaming out his name and banging his hands on the walls. i think he’s gone now.”

i want to mention that at no point in this whole fiasco was i ever even remotely upset or scared, i remember just being really confused and kind of angry, but there was nothing really ‘scary’ about the situation.

anyway, i decide it’s high time i figure out what the hell is going on. i grab my dog (a retriever/border collie mix who is pretty amazing at tracking people down), put her on the leash, shut both doors, leave through the back and do a second circuit around the block. the dog is pulling me hard all the way around the block, as though she’s caught the scent of something that’s making her really excited. at pretty much the exact same spot on the corner music erupts from my house for the third time. i run like crazy, only to find the front door open. exact same fucking shit, only this time when i get through the front door i immediately hear the back door slam shut. i ignore my bedroom/stereo for the moment and tear through the kitchen to the back door. the answering machine & phone have both been moved across the counter and the message has been deleted. i throw open the back door… nothing. i run around the house really quickly…. nothing.

i head back inside and turn off my stereo. this time i’m determined to wait things out since my little walks aren’t being very productive. i call up my mom to see if maybe she has any potential explanation for this. she answers and says she & my sister & my other neighbor tanya are all out getting ice cream and will be coming home soon. i tell her some weird stuff is happening but everything’s alright.

so i wait at home, thinking that this is the best plan since the person slamming the doors keeps returning to the house. i keep checking the back & front doors and the basement every couple of minutes. nothing’s happening. about ten minutes later my mom, sister & tanya pull into the driveway. as they get out of the car and see me waiting by the front door they suddenly all look really surprised.

my mom’s the first to say something: “what are you doing home?” i tell her i’ve been waiting for her since i called. mom looks at me really strangely and so does my sister & tanya. i ask why they all look so confused. then my sister says, “while we were driving home we saw you walking in the woods along the bike path!”

i quickly ask her what she means. i should explain that to get home from the downtown part of the town i grew up in, you take a long road next to the woods. about twenty feet away there’s a big chain-link fence that runs parallel to the road, and on the other side of the fence is the bike path.

tanya continues: “yeah, we saw you walking down the bike path! you weren’t wearing shoes and you were walking all funny and muttering stuff!”

then my mom says, “yeah even i thought it was you. that’s really strange.”

i never told them my half of it, but anyway it’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me so far.

***

I’M GOING TO KEEP THIS SHORT SINCE I’M PRESSED FOR TIME, BUT I COULD HAVE PROBABLY DRAWN THIS ONE OUT:

ALRIGHT SO ONE BRIGHT MORNING IN KINDERGARTEN FOR SHOW AND TELL I MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT HOW SOME OF THE FLOWERS IN OUR FRONT YARD HAD BEEN TRAMPLED DURING THE LATE EVENING. I GAVE EVERYONE WHAT I HOPED TO BE A SUSPICIOUS SQUINT, AND THEN WAGGED MY INDEX FINGER AT THE CLASS AND DEMANDED TO KNOW IF ANYONE ELSE HAD ALSO BEEN THE VICTIM OF AN OVER-NIGHT FLOWER TRAMPLING. A LOT OF KIDS STILL WANT TO COPY THEIR PEERS AT THAT AGE SO A WHOLE BUNCH OF KIDS IMMEDIATELY STATED THAT THEY DID THINK SOME OF THE FLOWERS IN THEIR FRONT YARDS LOOKED AWFULLY TRAMPLED, AND BEFORE YOU KNOW IT I’VE GOT HALF THE CLASS BOASTING TO THE OTHER HALF ABOUT JUST HOW TRAMPLED THEIR FRONT-YARD FLOWERS ACTUALLY ARE.

NOW THAT I HAVE ALLIES, I DECIDED TO FORM SOME SORT OF ‘POSSE’ TO CATCH WHOEVER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLOWER TRAMPLING. EVERYONE VOLUNTEERS, AND SINCE IT’S FRIDAY I ANNOUNCE THAT WE’LL MEET IN MY FRONT YARD AT 10AM SHARP SATURDAY MORNING.

SO ANYWAY SATURDAY MORNING ROLLS AROUND, I COULD NOT CARE LESS ABOUT FLOWERS ANYMORE, I’VE GOT OTHER IMPORTANT SHIT ON MY MIND AND CARTOONS TO WATCH, WHEN A CAR PULLS INTO OUR DRIVEWAY, A PASSENGER DOOR OPENS, AND THIS RANDOM GIRL IN MY CLASS WHO I DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT WELL IS BOOTED OUT INTO OUR FRONT LAWN. MY MOM GOES TO CHECK IT OUT AND COMES BACK ASKING IF I HAD CALLED A “MEETING” AND THAT THE GIRL IS HERE FOR THE “MEETING”. MY MOM LOOKS REALLY AMUSED.

SO I’M FURIOUS AT BEING DISTURBED, (I WAS FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE WEAPONS OUT OF STICKS AT THE TIME), AND I GO OUT FRONT AND NOW HAVE TO HANG AROUND WITH THIS RANDOM GIRL FROM CLASS. I CAN’T REMEMBER HER NAME.

SO I TAKE HER TO WHERE THE FLOWERS WERE ‘TRAMPLED’ AND SHE LOOKS IT OVER AND SAYS VERY THOUGHTFULLY “IT COULD BE BURGLARS – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?” AND I’M LIKE “I DUNNO, TRAP THE BURGLARS?!” SO WE START HUNTING AROUND FOR SOMETHING TO ‘TRAP BURGLARS’ WITH. WE FIND THIS GIANT THICK CHAIN IN THE GARAGE, AND SHE SUGGESTS WE STRING IT ACROSS TWO TREES IN THE FRONT LAWN – “LOW ENOUGH SO NOBODY SEES IT, BUT HIGH ENOUGH SO THEY TRIP”. I STILL REMEMBER HER SAYING THIS LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY.

SO WE STRING THIS HEAVY GODDAMNED CHAIN UP AND IT’S SUPER HEAVY AND SAGGING SO MUCH IN THE MIDDLE THAT IT’S PRACTICALLY TOUCHING THE GROUND. THE GIRL AND I CONGRATULATE EACH OTHER AND THEN SHE APPARENTLY DECIDES TO WALK HOME. I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE SHE LIVES AND AM FRANKLY RELIEVED TO BE RID OF HER.

SO ANYWAY SUNDAY MORNING, I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING, LIKE 4 OR 6 JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ALL TRIP OVER THE CHAIN IN GODDAMNED UNISON, (I WAS STILL IN BED), AND THEY’RE ALL OLD SO THEY’RE ALL “BADLY HURT” (IN THE BRUISED HIP SORT OF WAY) AND A FUCKING AMBULANCE HAS TO COME GET ONE OF THEM AND THE INCIDENT IS EVEN RECORDED IN OUR LITTLE TOWN NEWSPAPER, AND I HAD TO DELIVER A LITTLE EXPLANATION TO THE NEWSPAPER MAN ABOUT WHY THE CHAIN WAS THERE AND THEY ACTUALLY WROTE ABOUT IT IN THE NEWSPAPER ARTICLE!!! HOW I HAD THE CHAIN STRUNG UP IN ORDER TO PREVENT “BURGLARS” FROM TRAMPLING OUR FLOWERS!!! IN GODDAMNED PRINT!

MY MOM HAS THE CLIPPED ARTICLE SOMEWHERE, ALONG WITH THE REST OF MY CHILDHOOD ACCOLADES AND WHAT-NOT. SHE USE TO HIDE FROM JEHOVAH WITNESSES SUNDAY MORNINGS SO I DON’T REMEMBER HER BEING THAT MAD ANYWAY.

***

AWESOME!

KYLE AND I HAVE A DUMB INSIDE JOKE THAT HAS BEEN WITH US FOR NEARLY FIFTEEN YEARS NOW. WHENEVER WE WALK BY A LARGE AMOUNT OF YELLOW SNOW ONE OF US HAS TO SAY “I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE A SQUIRREL PEED THERE”.

….

ALRIGHT SO ONE COLD WINTERY AFTERNOON WHEN I WAS 9 OR 10 KYLE AND I DECIDE TO ENTERTAIN OURSELF BY GETTING OUR OTHER NEIGHBOR, EVAN, TO DRINK PEE. WE HAVE A BRILLIANT AND TOTALLY ORIGINAL PLAN WHICH LARGELY INVOLVES TELLING EVAN IT’S “APPLE JUICE”. TO MAKE THINGS SEEM EVEN MORE NATURAL, WE DECIDE TO INVITE HIM UP INTO OUR TREE FORT FIRST, AND THEN, IN THE SPIRIT OF COMRADERIE, PRESENT HIM WITH A GLASS OF PEE.

THE NEXT STEP OBVIOUSLY INVOLVED PEEING IN A GLASS AND I DON’T FULLY REMEMBER HOW EXACTLY THAT WENT DOWN, BUT I REMEMBER WE HAD TO TRANSFER PEE USING A REMARKABLE AMOUNT OF CONTAINERS. I ALSO VAGUELY RECALL A BRIEF BUT INTERESTING CONVERSATION REGARDING THE COLOR AND QUALITY OF EACH OTHER’S URINE ONCE WE HAD RETURNED FROM OUR PARENT’S BATHROOMS WITH OUR BOTTLES. FUN STUFF. ANYWAY TOGETHER WE MANAGED TO FILL UP A LARGE GLASS WITH PEE AND CAREFULLY MADE OUR WAY TO THE TREE FORT. ONCE INSIDE WE PLACED THE JAR DOWN CAREFULLY ON A SMALL TABLE WE HAD SALVAGED FROM THE GARBAGE, AND STARTED WALKING TO EVAN’S PLACE.

HALFWAY THERE I WAS SUDDENLY REALIZED A SERIOUS FLAW IN OUR OTHERWISE INFALLIBLE PLAN. “KYLE!” I YELL OUT, “DON’T YOU THINK IT’LL LOOK WEIRD IF WE GET EVAN UP INTO THE TREE FORT AND TELL HIM TO DRINK HIS “APPLE JUICE” IF WE DON’T HAVE ANY OURSELVES?”

I HAVE TO RUN THIS THROUGH KYLE A FEW TIMES BEFORE HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT I’M GETTING AT, BUT WHEN HE DOES FINALLY REALIZE WHAT’S GOING ON HE GETS INTO GEAR AND WE RUN BACK HOME TO POUR TWO MORE GLASSES OF REAL APPLE JUICE. ONLY NEITHER OF OUR PARENTS HAVE REAL APPLE JUICE, SO WE COMPROMISE AND FILL UP OUR GLASSES WITH ORANGE JUICE, AND THEN PLACE THEM BY THE GLASS OF PEE. WE’RE NOW BOTH CONVINCED THAT ANY SUSPICIONS ON BEHALF OF EVAN WILL BE THOROUGHLY ALLEVIATED BY THE FACT THAT WE WILL DRINK A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COLORED BEVERAGE ALONGSIDE HIM.

WE GO OVER TO EVAN’S HOUSE AND KNOCK ON HIS DOOR. HIS MOM, A SUSPICIOUS AND ANGRY WOMAN, ANSWERS AND WE ASK IF EVAN CAN COME OUT AND PLAY. EVAN IS DELIGHTED AT THE IDEA. HIS MOM CASTS A FURIOUS GLANCE AT US AND SAYS “WHAT ARE YOU THREE GOING TO DO”. IN THE MOST INNOCENT AND BEGUILING VOICE I CAN MANAGE I TELL THE ROTTEN WOMAN WE’RE GOING TO PLAY OUTSIDE. EVEN THOUGH WE’RE IN GRADE 4, EVAN’S MOM WAS THE KIND OF WOMAN WHO BELIEVED THAT CHILDREN, IF NOT MONITORED CONSTANTLY, WOULD IMMEDIATELY TAKE TO HABITUAL DRUG USAGE AND OTHER LUDE VICES. ANYWAY, SINCE MOST OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS ALWAYS WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH US, OBTAINING EVAN’S COMPANY ISN’T TOO DIFFICULT ONCE WE PLACATE HIS MOTHER. SO THE THREE OF US START WALKING BACK TO KYLE’S PLACE. EVAN ASKS US WHAT WE FEEL LIKE DOING. KYLE SUGGESTS THE TREE FORT. I CHIME IN WITH A “AND I COULD GO FOR SOME JUICE – I’M THIRSTY” IN THE MOST NON-CHALANT WAY POSSIBLE. EVAN AGREES AND WE ALL MAKE OUR WAY TO THE TREE FORT.

SO WE’RE ALL UP THERE AND KYLE’S LIKE “LET’S ALL HAVE SOME JUICE. HERE. THIS ONE IS FOR YOU.” AND I’M SAYING ALL SORTS OF EQUALLY CLEVER AND CONVINCING DIALOGUE AND AFTER SOME CONFUSION WE’RE ALL STANDING IN THE TREE FORT LIKE IDIOTS HOLDING OUR RESPECTIVE GLASSES OF ORANGE JUICE AND PEE. I’M STARTING TO ACTUALLY GET KIND OF NERVOUS.

“WELL, THEN” I START, WHEN SUDDENLY EVAN’S MOM SHATTERS THE PEACEFUL WINTER DAY AND CRIES OUT “WHAT ARE YOU THREE DOING UP THERE!!!”

EVAN IMMEDIATELY RESPONDS WITH “DRINKING!!”

EVAN’S MOM SCREETCHES BACK WITH AN EAR-SPLITTING “WHAT?!?!” AND PROCEEDS TO START CLIMBING UP THE LADDER TO THE TREE FORT.

AT THIS POINT KYLE’S STEP-MOM (ALSO AN ANGRY WOMAN) STEPS OUTSIDE AND SEEING A CHANCE TO YELL AT CHILDREN BELLOWS “YOU’RE DOING WHAT?!

BEFORE I CAN DIFFUSE THE SITUATION, EVAN SINGS OUT “WE’RE DRINKING APPLE JUICE!” KYLE’S STEP-MOM THEN YELLS OUT “WHEREDYA GET THE APPLE JUICE!??! WE DON’T HAVE ANY APPLE JUICE!@!!”

AND KYLE YELLS BACK “I FOUND SOME”

OF COURSE THIS RESULTS IN THE THREE OF US GETTING ‘CALLED IN’ TO DISCUSS WHERE EXACTLY WE GOT THE APPLE JUICE AND KYLE STUBBORNLY INSISTS HE “FOUND IT”, “SOMEWHERE” AND MIRACULOUSLY HIS STEP-MOM AND EVAN’S MOM HAVEN’T ACTUALLY ASKED THAT WE BRING THE APPLE JUICE INSIDE FOR THEIR INSPECTION.

WE SORT OF KIND OF GET IN TROUBLE BUT ARE ALLOWED TO GO BACK OUTSIDE, SO WE RETURN TO THE TREE FORT. AT THIS POINT IT’S DARK OUTSIDE BECAUSE CANADIAN WINTERS ARE HORRIBLE AND IT’S CUSTOMARY FOR THE SUN TO GO DOWN AT LIKE 4:00PM OR SOMETHING EQUALLY RIDICULOUS. WE ALL TRUNDLE OVER TO THE TREE FORT TO DRINK OUR DRINKS (EVAN IS STILL INTO THIS FOR SOME REASON) ONLY TO FIND OUT NOBODY CAN TELL WHICH OF THE THREE DRINKS CONTAINS THE PEE. NOT WILLING TO TAKE ANY CHANCES, WE ALL DECIDE TO GO BACK TO THE HOUSE TO FIND A FLASHLIGHT.

YOU’D THINK BY NOW EVEN A SMALL ANIMAL WOULD HAVE HAD ITS SUSPICIONS THOROUGHLY AROUSED BY ALL THE GODDAMNED POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE SURROUNDING THE APPLE-JUICE-DRINKING, BUT IT’S ALL RIGHT OVER EVAN’S HEAD AND THE GAME’S STILL AFOOT.

THE THREE OF US RUMMAGE AROUND IN KYLE’S GARAGE AND SOON ENOUGH WE FIND A FLASHLIGHT. I’M EXHAUSTED AT THIS POINT BUT KYLE’S GOT A GLINT OF DETERMINATION IN HIS EYE TO SEE THIS THING THROUGH, SO WE ONCE AGAIN RETURN TO THE TREE FORT.

KYLE PUSHES THE BUTTON ON THE BOTTOM OF THE FLASHLIGHT AND POINTS THE BEAM AT THE THREE GLASSES, NOW LIGHTLY FROSTED. THEN KYLE NOTICES HIS OWN BREATH. YOU CAN’T SEE IT IN THE DARK, BUT IN THE BEAM OF THE FLASHLIGHT THE WARM AIR EXHALED FROM HIS LUNGS TAKES ON MAGICAL SMOKY PROPERTIES AND ROLLS AROUND LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF DREAM. WE ALL INSTANTLY FORGET OUR PLANS AND BEGAN PASSING THE FLASHLIGHT AROUND AND EXHALING INTO IT.

AT THIS POINT EVAN’S FUCKING MOM RETURNS AGAIN AND YELLS OUT INTO THE DARK “NOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

AND THAT GODDAMNED RETARD EVAN YELLS OUT “WE’RE SMOKING!!”

AND EVAN’S MOM ONCE AGAIN SHRIEKS OUT “WHAT?!” AND BEGANS CHARGING TOWARDS THE TREEFORT LIKE A RHINO IN THE DARKNESS, AND KYLE’S STEP-MOM ALSO COMES OUT AGAIN AND IT’S LIKE A SCENE IN A BAD BRITISH COMEDY OR SOMETHING. I AM STARTING TO FEEL LIKE I’M IN SOME SORT OF PERPETUAL DEJA-VU AND I HISS AT KYLE “LET’S JUST GET THIS OVER WITH!” AND KYLE GRABS THE GLASS OF PEE, HANDS IT TO EVAN AND SAYS “DRINK THIS”

EVAN RAISES THE GLASS TO HIS LIPS WHEN THE TREEFORT IS SUDDENLY SHAKEN BY WHAT FEELS LIKE A SMALL EARTHQUAKE. IT WOULD APPEAR EVAN’S MOM TRIED TO CLIMB THE LADDER AGAIN BUT MISSED A RUNG IN THE DARKNESS AND PLUMMETED A FEW FEET BACK TO EARTH. EVAN RUNS TO THE ENTRANCE OF THE TREE FORT AND PEERS OUT INTO DEPTHS BELOW HIM AND YELLS OUT “MOM!”, SPILLING MOST OF HIS GLASS IN THE PROCESS.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MURKY DEPTHS BELOW WE HEAR EVAN’S MOM, COMPLETELY ENRAGED, START YELLING OUT “ARE YOU POURING WATER ON ME?! ARE YOU POURING WATER ON ME?! ARE YOU POURING WATER ON ME?!” AND KYLE’S STEP-MOM ADDS TO THE DIN WITH HER STANDARD “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HER?!” AND I AM SERIOUSLY ON THE VERGE OF LOSING MY MIND. I GRAB THE GLASS FROM EVAN AND QUICKLY EMPTY IT OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TREEFORT, AND QUICKLY POUR SOME OF MY ORANGE JUICE INTO THE GLASS. EVAN’S MOM IS RUNNING AROUND LIKE A WOUNDED ELEPHANT AND JUST SCREAMING AT EVAN TO COME DOWN OUT OF THE TREEFORT, AND KYLE AND I ALL BUT HURL HIM RIGHT OUT INTO THE NIGHT. THEN WE SORT OF JUST STAND THERE SHIVERING WHILE BELOW US EVAN AND HIS MOM REUNITE AND SHE DRAGS HIS PROTESTING ASS HOME.

THEN ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DEAL WITH KYLE’S STEP-MOM. WE EXPLAIN TO HER HOW WE WERE JUST PRETENDING TO BLOW SMOKE USING THE FLASHLIGHT BEAM AND SHE CALMS DOWN SUFFICIENTLY. WE SEEM TO HAVE AVOIDED DISASTER, EVEN THOUGH WE DID NOT ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE SET OUT TO DO. WE DECIDE TO CALL IT A DAY.

THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON WE GET HOME FROM SCHOOL ONLY TO FIND KYLE’S DAD WAITING FOR US. BEFORE WE CAN SAY ANYTHING HE IMMEDIATELY GRILLS KYLE ABOUT THE COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF YELLOW SNOW PRESENT AROUND THE TREEFORT. AND KYLE, OF COURSE, IMMEDIATELY ISSUES THE RESPONSE WHICH, FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, I STILL CONSIDER TO BE ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS I HAVE EVER HEARD.

***

TOTALLY JUST REMEMBERED THIS ONE! SO IT’S SUMMER AND KYLE AND I ARE BUSY TRYING TO MAKE A “WAVE POOL”. THIS IS WHAT WE CALL IT WHEN WE BOTH GET INTO THE LITTLE ABOVE-GROUND POOL IN KYLE’S YARD, WAIST HIGH, AND START CHARGING AROUND AND AROUND THE PERIMETER OF THE POOL UNTIL A CURRENT HAS DEVELOPED. I REMEMBERED TIMES WHEN WE’D DO THIS FOR NEARLY AN HOUR. THEN, WHEN YOU’RE TIRED, SOMEONE WOULD YELL OUT “ALRIGHT!!! NOW!!!” AND WE’D LIFT UP OUR LEGS AND HANG ON TO THE RAIL OR THE LADDER AND LET THE CURRENT PULL OUR FEET OUT FROM UNDER US. IT WAS KIND OF A GOOD WAY TO KILL TIME WHEN YOU WERE A KID AND IT WAS HOT OUTSIDE.

ANYWAY KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER, WHO WAS LIKE 3, WAS WAY TOO YOUNG TO BE OF ANY REAL HELP, BUT LOVED THE “WAVE POOL”, AND WHENEVER SHE SAW US FIGHTING THROUGH THE WATER IN PERPETUITY SHE WOULD SHRIEK AND YELL AND GIGGLE UNTIL SOMEONE STUCK HER INTO A LIFE-JACKET AND DROPPED HER IN THE POOL WITH US. SHE’D THEN BOB AROUND LIKE A BUOY IN A ROUGH SEA UNTIL HER LITTLE GRUBBY FINGERS CAUGHT HOLD OF SOMETHING AND THEN SHE’D LATCH ON LIKE A TICK AND SQUEAL IN DELIGHT. MEANWHILE KYLE AND I WOULD CLENCH OUR TEETH GRUDGINGLY BECAUSE A) WE NOW HAD TO SORT OF JUMP OUT OF THE WAY EVERYTIME WE CAME ACROSS LILY BECAUSE OTHERWISE WE’D PLOW INTO HER AND SHE’D CRY, AND B) ALSO HER “FUN” SLOWED OUR WHIRLPOOL DOWN BY A CREDIBLE AMOUNT.

ANYWAY ONE TIME WE’RE DOING THIS AND SURE ENOUGH LILY GETS DROPPED INTO THE WATER LIKE A BIG CHUBBY RAINDROP AND KYLE AND LOOK AT EACH OTHER AND GRIMACE AND KEEP PUSHING THROUGH THE WATER RESOLUTELY. I’M GETTING TIRED OF THIS CRAP, AND SO IS KYLE. UNFORTUNATELY KYLE’S A LITTLE SLOW ON THE UPTAKE SO HE CAN NEVER QUITE VOICE HIS OPINION AS WELL AS HE’D LIKE. TODAY, HOWEVER, HE DECIDES TO SPEAK UP.

“TAKE LILY OUT OF THE WATER!!!” HE YELLS AT HIS MOM, WHO IS HANGING LAUNDRY OUTSIDE.

“I AIN’T TAKIN’ HER OUT OF THE WATER!!” SHRIEKS BACK KYLE’S MOM, WHO IS PERPETUALLY ANGRY AT KYLE.

“SHE’S RUINING OUR WAVE POOL!!” KYLE SCREAMS BACK.

“SHE’S JUST A LITTLE GIRL!!! THERE’S NO WAY SHE’S RUINING YOUR WAVE POOL!!” HISSES BACK KYLE’S MOM.

“no, but that fucking life-jacket she’s wearing is.” i whisper to kyle in a matter-of-fact sort of way.

“NO, BUT THAT FUCKING LIFE-JACKET SHE’S WEARING IS!!!” YELLS OUT KYLE WITH AN AIR OF VICTORY.

KYLE’S MOM DISREGARDS THE FACT THAT KYLE JUST SWORE AND CASTS ME THIS INSIDIOUS LOOK LIKE SHE KNOWS KYLE’S LATEST BARB CAME FROM ME, AND THEN SHE SORT OF THROWS UP HER ARMS AND SIGHS AND STORMS INSIDE.

ANYWAY WE FORGET ABOUT THE MATTER, DEAL WITH LILY, AND THEN SEVERAL HOURS LATER WE’RE EATING DINNER (WE USUALLY ATE DINNER TOGETHER, OUR PARENTS SORT OF ALTERNATED PARENTING I THINK) AND OUT OF THE FUCKING BLUE KYLE’S FUCKING MOM POINTS AT ME AND YELLS OUT “I KNOW WHAT YOU SAID TO HIM IN THE POOL!!” AND I AM MOMENTARILY STUNNED AND THEN KYLE YELLS BACK “I BET YOU DON’T!!!” AND KYLE’S DAD GIVES ME THIS PARTIALLY SYMPATHETIC, PARTIALLY ENCOURAGING, PARTIALLY I’M-WASHING-MY-HANDS-OF-THIS-RIGHT-NOW-THE-HOCKEY-GAME’S-ALMOST-ON LOOK AND I TRY TO SHOOT HIM ONE BACK. ANYWAY I DON’T REMEMBER THE PARTICULARS ON HOW LIFE WORKED HERSELF OUT THAT LONE DISMAL EVENING BUT I DO REMEMBER I FELT IT WAS KIND OF A STEPPING STONE INTO ADULTHOOD FOR ME BECAUSE I HAD ACTED LIKE A BIGGER PERSON THAN KYLE’S MOM. I’M SURE KYLE WAS GROUNDED. HE WAS ALWAYS GROUNDED.

Credit: davesecretary (inactive) @ VLV message board (inactive)