I’ll never forget that day. My brother, Kenny, and I were left alone while mom and daddy went to the grocery store. Because my youngest brother, Leonard, was too young to stay with us, he always got to go and Kenny and I always had to stay home.
Kenny, who was eight at the time, is four-teen months younger than I and a hundred years wiser. He never sassed, never questioned, and never ran out the door kicking and screaming like a lunatic. He was made of moonbeams and stardust and placed delicately in my mother’s arms.
Me, I was made of cowhide and hurled like a football in her lap.
Long before video games and iPhones and five-hundred TV channels, we actually had to sit and talk to each other or play pick-up sticks or ball and jacks or tinker toys or build little log cabins out of Lincoln Logs.
Well, that day we got bored with all that. We needed some adventure. The kind of adventure we had before moving into that stupid cramped, cinder block apartment, far away from the woods and trickling streams and giant bullfrogs. The bottom line was we didn’t like living there.
While pacing the tiny living room floor, I glanced out the window and saw the landlord working in her flowerbed. For whatever reason, mom, and daddy didn’t like the landlords, so I didn’t like them either.
Suddenly, as if being poked with the devil’s pitchfork, I coaxed Kenny into doing something totally out of character for both of us. We raised the window, stuck out our pea-brain heads and yelled, “Hey, old lady Brummel! Hey, old lady Brummel!”
We lived quite a distance away, so I didn’t think she even heard us until she threw down her garden tools and stormed toward the apartment huffing and puffing and smoke pouring out of her ears.
Oh, no! She’s coming to chop off our arms and legs!
Like a cat with its tail on fire, Kenny ran downstairs and locked the door just in the nick of time before she started pounding on it and screaming like the big bad wolf, “Let me in! Let me in! I’m telling your parents when they get home!”
True to her word and to my horror, as soon as the car pulled into the driveway, the phone started ringing.
My mother was the warden at our house. A strict, religious warden that didn’t put up with nonsense and expected her brood to follow the rules or else. And that day “or else” meant that we march our little impudent behinds over to the landlord and apologize!
I’d rather have shoveled a pile of manure in the freezing cold stark naked.
Yes, she made me go, but I made her pay!
Like a bloody battle between the North and the South, I bawled and kicked and screamed as mom nearly yanked my arm out of the socket, pulling and dragging me across the field. By the time we got to the landlord’s house, mom needed a long nap and I needed a straight jacket.
I thought that if I danced around bawling and screaming long and hard enough, mom would give up and take me home. But, oh no! If it meant waiting for the rapture to take place, I was going to straighten up and apologize before I could even think about going home.
Like swallowing a ton of bricks, I finally choked up the words everyone was waiting to hear and never talked my brother into doing anything that stupid again.
But, I just remembered that other time when . . .