Monday, August 15, 2011

MY FRIEND

The Twins
     Her given name was Belinda, which means beautiful, and anyone who was fortunate enough to have crossed her path, knows that she lived up to that name. She had an hourglass figure, hair like Gloria Estefan, and large, mahogany eyes that lit up like moonbeams when she was happy. But 'Linda’s' beauty was not only on the surface, it seeped into her pores and wound itself tightly around her inner core. She was a kind, loyal, devoted, and generous friend, who came into my life, and left me with a plethora of marvelous memories that I will forever cherish.

Me as Linda on Halloween
     Linda and I connected over our love of dance. In fact, we met on a Country Line Dance Team in the mid ‘90s, while strutting our stuff to the tunes of the hot, new, country music star Alan Jackson, et al. We became BFF’s, almost inseparable.  Soon we branched out, allying ourselves with two other girls to create “The Mambo Girls”—a Latin dance team. When we weren’t on stage, we could be found in the center of the dance floor at one our favorite clubs. Many nights Linda and I suited up in matching dresses and we would dance into the wee hours. We earned us the nickname “The Twins,” in some circles, which was ironic since we were opposites, with my eyes and hair as light as hers were dark.
    Over the years, Linda became more than a friend, she became a sister to me. We vacationed together with our kids. We celebrated our birthdays together—we were both born in August. We shared hopes and dreams and even a few tears. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and we drifted apart.
     I married. Linda did the same, moving three states away.
Three of The Mambo Girls reunite Me, Linda, and Elsa
     For almost ten years, we never spoke, though, I'd heard tidbits about her life through mutual friends. Then, in summer of 2009, both older and wiser, we reunited. For the remainder of the year, we worked on rebuilding the friendship we had so recklessly tossed away. We vowed to get together every summer, for no less than a week. Linda was back in my life, and life was good.      
     I wish I could end this story differently, but this story is real life, not fiction. The reunion of our second summer was never to be. Linda passed away just over a year ago. Many of  us were unaware she was sick, but that was Linda style. She was a proud, strong, Puertorriquena, and she dealt with her problems head on and in a private manner. Linda would not have wanted me or any of her friends to pity her. And I do not pity her, but I do miss her. I only hope that while she was here, I touched her life as much as she has touched mine.
     Happy Birthday Linda! I will look for you tonight dancing amongst the stars.
Your friend Sue.
Linda's pride and joy. She inherited her
mom's eyes and her smile.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Possessed by the Daredevil

     The Kid learned to ride a two-wheeler, and in the first week of practicing his new skill, he rode out in front of a car. Twice!

    I need to confess something. I am not a young mom. I did the Hollywood starlet thing. I gave birth to The Kid when I was in my “new twenties.” And while the mental image that I have of myself may be new, my nerves are not. My poor old nerves are frazzled from four-plus decades of experience. And, two days ago, after The Kid's second near miss with a minivan, they reared their ugly neurons.
   
      I ran down the street, hands in the air, screaming like a banshee while all the neighbors stood gape mouthed in their front yards. I yanked The Kid off his bike, and then dragged them both home.

    My first instinct was to throw the damn bike in the trash, but I realized that would be selfishly witchy of me, so I took a different approach, a more sensible one. Bound and determined to teach The Kid the rules of the road by example, I pulled my rusty ten-speed out of the garage.

     “Follow me,” I said.

      Surprisingly, The Kid listened for once, and the ride went quite well. We were on the way home, when from a peripheral glace, I spied the dirt trails near the power lines.
    
    “Come on Kid, we’re going on four-wheeling.” I called out.

   
    The Kid and I had a blast! In fact, The Kid had such a jolly time, the next day, he begged me to take him on another “fun” bike ride.  

    Recently, a dear old friend reminded me that as a child, I was the neighborhood purveyor of fun. And now--sniff--my eight-year-old kid wanted to go biking with me. The idea of being a "fun mom," a "cool mom," swam in my head, and my chest swelled with pride. I wiped a happy tear from my cheek, ran to the garage, grabbed my bike, and yelled, “Come on, Kid! Let's go!” 

     The two of us happily rode off toward the four-wheeler trails.

     We chose the exact route as the day before, but towards the end of the trail, rather than turn right, The Kid requested to go straight. Being in an adventurous frame of mind, I agreed. But what awaited us at was more challenging than anything else we had encountered. At the end of the trail was a six-foot by six-foot ditch. It looked steep, but not impossible to navigate.  My inner-daredevil possessed me, and I said, “Kid, let’s do it.”

6ft deep. 

     The Kid went first.  I plunged in after him, but something went terribly wrong. On the way up, the Kid tipped over. I hit the hand brakes, and the next thing I knew I on the ground lying on top of the handlebars, the rear wheel of my bike up in the air.

     After I realized what had happened, I pushed my bike off me, and then hopped up to make sure The Kid wasn't hurt. He wasn't. In fact, he was laughing at me. Next, I looked around to make sure no one saw what happened. When you are my age and fall down, people become overly concerned, making such incidents even more embarrassing. Fortunately, this time, The Kid and I were alone. I quickly pulled The Kid’s bike from the ditch, hopped back on mine, and the two of us rode off into the sunset.

     (Today, I have a slight limp, two black and blue goose eggs on my thighs, and a pedal-bruise on my shin, and thankfully, I don’t have to bend my wrist to type.)

     But even if I could have a “do over” of yesterday, I wouldn’t.
    
    My kid learned to navigate over small hills, wheel through tire tracks, and jump mud puddles. The twinkle in his eyes and ear-to-ear grin after each new accomplishment was worth a few minor injuries any day.

     I also learned something about myself that I deem to be important. This old, gray nag maybe ain't what she used to be, but she still has guts.

© 2010-2011 Each Head Is A World - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MY HUSBAND HAS TAKEN UP TREE PLANTING

     I didn't intended to write again until next month as I am crushed under the massive weight of my many different projects; however, my husband/nemesis has struck again, and I can't help myself.
      My dilemma began last Monday afternoon when my husband returned home from Lowes with three or four fruit trees in the back of his truck. For the last few evenings he has been hard at work in the backyard digging holes. Now, I am not complaining about this, because trees are good, and I'm delighted that he has been occupied and out of my hair. But last night--given his track record--when my husband grabbed a shovel and said, “one more to plant,” I should have known my delight was about to come to a screeching halt.
     After about an hour of absence he stuck his head in the door and called out for a glass of water, which I promptly readied, ice and all, good spouse that I am, and then I went outside to hand deliver his  drink. I don’t know what possessed me to go out the front door, when I presumed him to be planting in the back, maybe it was some kind of six-sense, or maybe it was some strange kind of foreboding, but as soon as I crossed the threshold, I saw my husband's head bobbing up and down on the other side of my car. I scurried across the lawn, hand over my mouth, and there, four feet from the driveway, was a hole.
     “What are you doing?” I asked in my not so nice wife voice.

A FULL SIZED APPLE TREE
     “I’m planting an apple tree,” he responded. His glance never veered from the hole.
      I took a deep breath, and calmly said, “You can’t plant an apple tree there. Apple trees grow huge. We’ll have rotting apples dropping all over the neighbors yard, our driveway, and my car.”
     I was sure my logic would persuade him to move it because even a squirrel brain could figure that a tree that grows between 12 and 20 feet high and bears fruit does not belong next to the driveway, but my husband kept digging and said, “Don’t worry about it. When the tree gets that big, and if it produces apples, then will talk.”
     I couldn’t believe my ears. “Stop. That tree will have to come down in a few years. We have a large backyard. Plant it there."
      My husband kept digging.
   "I know you're not stupid. (Wink, wink.)  Don't plant the tree there!” I screamed. Loudly!
    “The tree stays,” he growled in his deep alpha voice, and I knew he meant it. Then he looked up from the ground and said, “Go back in the house. I can deal with your mental illness inside, but not outside in front of all neighbors.”
      Why I thought I could reason with someone whose frontal lobe is so obviously broken is beyond me. I had to think of another way, a more clever way to get though to him. Although extremely appealing, removing my husband, over a tree, would prove too costly, and possibly time consuming. And a bout of fisticuffs with a 230-pound gorilla would most likely prove deadly--to me. So, with "my mental illness" in full swing, I marched back into the house and Googled, “what kind of soil will kill an apple tree?” 
     I feel bad for the little tree, really I do, but it's either my car and my sanity, or it. And today, I'm headed to Lowes to buy some lime, hide it under the top layer of soil, and pray for root rot. It's going to be a slow process, so it's not too late to stop me if you have any other suggestions.




© 2010-2011 Each Head Is A World - All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 14, 2011

MY BRIGHT IDEA (GAYLE AND THE NOOSE)

KER-KNOCKERS

    I’m going to take you back to a time when kids were kids. There were no cable channels, VCR’s, or in-home video games available, so we had to find other means of entertainment.We played with Ker-knockers—two heavy acrylic, golf ball sized balls on string with a ring in the middle. The object was to use momentum to get them to clack together—not only were they obnoxiously loud, but oh, the bruises we sported on our arms, not to mention, foreheads. And bike riding, no one ever thought of wearing a helmet back then. We’d play fun games on our bikes, like: “Who Can Ride Down The Hill The Fastest and Stop the Closest to the Garage Door Without Hitting It?” And, you know what, the large majority of us lived. That being said; let me get on with my story.
     
    It was summer of 1970, and I was almost eleven. One Saturday afternoon, I talked my parents into allowing me to stay home  while they went furniture shopping. It was my first time home alone without a sitter, so it took some convincing, but eventually they agreed under the following conditions: I was not to go outside, and no one was allowed in. 
    
    “Remember Susan,” my mother threatened. “No one had better come through the front, or the back door, while we are away. And, under no circumstances are you to open either door for anyone. Do you understand?”
    
       I swung my head up and down, and then happily waved goodbye to my family as they drove off.

     Proud of myself, and feeling quite mature, I went inside as  promised, and locked the door. I fixed myself a glass of Coke and went upstairs to watch an episode of The Flintstones on the portable TV in the den. I was behaving quite well until the doorbell rang, and tossed a large fly into the ointment.  Remembering I was not supposed to open the door, I ran to my room, which opened directly onto our wrought iron balcony, and I hung my head over the railing.

Gayle and me. (I'm the one with the red shoes)
      “Who’s there,” I yelled.
     
    My best friend Gayle hopped down off the porch and hollered, “It’s me! Can you come out and play?”
    
    “Sorry. My parents are gone, and I’m not allowed to go out and no one is allowed come in," I informed her.
      
     Her face fell, and then her chin drooped to her chest. She looked so gosh darn sad it tore at my heartstrings. I just had to find a way for her to come in and play. I just had to. (Now, what my mother failed to realize was that because she specified which thresholds were not to be crossed, her edict was left open to interpretation by my inventive, preteen mind.) The gears of logic began to turn in my brain.
     
     “Wait right there a minute. I’ve got an idea,” I said.
     
     I flew through the balcony door back into my bedroom, wheeled down the first flight stairs, rounded the corner in to the kitchen and then down the second flight of stairs into the basement. I ran straight towards my dad’s workbench and grabbed a thick rope that was hanging on the wall nearby. This was my dad’s special rope. It was a three-strand fiber braided rope, about one-half inch thick and incredibly strong. I stuck my arm though the middle and hung it over my shoulder, and then galloped up to the first floor, and then on to the second and back out onto the balcony.
     
     “I've got good news. My mom said no one could come in the front door or the back door, but she didn’t say anything about the balcony doors.”
      
    Then,  I ran back into my room on the South side of the house and looped the rope around my bedpost and then fed the rope over the side of the balcony on the North side of the house. Since my friend Gayle was never one to pass up a brilliant idea, I didn’t have to ask her twice to tie the rope first around her left leg, then around her right leg, then under her butt, and around her waist, and finally to back on to the hanging rope to form a harness/noose.
     
Click on the picture for a clearer view of the red diagram
     Once she was secure, I started my laborious walk towards her. At first, her weight proved too cumbersome, and my bed slid across the room. But once it crashed into the wall, it made a great anchor. Then I huffed and I puffed and I pulled and I tugged until  Gayle’s feet began to leave the ground. 
     
     The following three lines of dialog are  though my sister's eyes as she remembers it. 
  
    “I will never forget that day. We pulled up to the driveway and saw Gayle about four feet off the ground, dangling from a rope.”
     
     “Oh, my God!” Mom screamed.
   
     “Great Caesars Ghost! What in the hell is Susan up to now?” Dad screamed.
    
    I froze as I saw my parent's car pull into the driveway. Dad slammed on the brakes and  Mom flew out the car and grabbed onto Gayle.  “Let her down right this instant! What in the world were you thinking?” she scolded.
    
    I held my head over the balcony sideways and then threw her words back at her. “But Mom, you only said that no one could come in though the front and back doors. You never said anything about the balcony doors.”
    
    Mom was too flabbergasted to speak.

    Once Gayle was safely on the ground, Mom ordered me to come down from the balcony.  I crawled over my bed that was butted up against the balcony doorway, crept out of the house onto the front porch with my shoulders slumped and my head down and then slowly, I began the funeral march toward my mother. I stopped in front of her just outside of spanking distance and looked her in the eye. She glared at me and opened her mouth to speak. 
    I cringed. 
    Gayle turned white as chalk. 
    But instead of bawling us out, her mouth twisted into a wry grin and she said,“Why don’t you and Gayle go to her house and play for a while?” 



© 2010-2011 Each Head Is A World - All Rights Reserved



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HumorPress.com





I am honored to report that my story HAVE YOU EVER EATEN GOAT? won honorable mention at HumorPress.com

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Hate My Husband's Chewed Gum!

                  



     I need to vent. For twelve long years, my husband and part-time nemesis, has left chewed gum in odd places around the house. I’ve found gum stuck (a) on the bottom of my dinner plates, (b) on the margarine container lid, (c) on the bathroom sink, (d) on the napkin holder, (e) on a magazine in the living room, and finally (f) on the kitchen counter atop a paper towel, which for some reason, it remained over night.
    Not only am I grossed out by this unsanitary behavior, I’m baffled as to why a middle-aged man feels the need to save chewed gum.
    In downtown Charleston, we have a wooden telephone pole designated especially for this purpose. Everyone, tourists included, sticks his or her gum to the pole. My husband walks past it as if it’s invisible and then sticks his gum to a dinner spoon at the Red Lobster.
     If all this sounds disgusting, it was, and is, but what happened at our son’s basketball practice was the gum d'├ętat.
    At 4:55 PM, my husband called my cell phone, frantic. “We’re out of peanuts. Stop by the store and buy some. I will pick up little Johnny from the daycare and bring him to practice. He needs to eat and he won’t eat bread in my truck.”
   Why our son won’t eat bread in the truck is long story, so I’ll save it and continue.
   My husband is a heath-nut who dances to the tune of his own ideas about what’s healthy. According to him, all anyone needs to survive is peanuts and bread, and my son will fall ill and die if he doesn’t eat either before basketball practice.
    Anyway, I met him outside the gym, jar of peanuts in hand. My son and he sat in his trunk and munched away while I waited. When they were finished, my hubby passed me the half-full jar, and the lid and said, “Hang on to this for me.”
      I obliged and then placed the lid on the jar and twisted, but it balked. When I flipped it over to see what the hold up was, I spied chewed gum smashed to the threads.
    I glared at my husband. “Why in the world would you stick your gum to the lid of the peanut jar?”
    He ignored me and walked away as if I were the stupid one.
    I calmly removed the gum with a Kleenex and I stashed it in my purse for later.
    After we returned home, I found a more appropriate place for the chewed gum—in the crotch of a pair of my husband’s tighty-whites.
     Let him sit and chew on that one for a while!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reliving Latin with Zumba

I took my first Zumba class yesterday, and I'm already hooked. Granted, I have been a fan of aerobic exercise for years, but Zumba was exceptionally fun! For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, I’ll give you the run down. It is a series of dance and toning routines done in four to five minute increments, one right after the other. Steps from la Cumbia, la Merigue, La Salsa, and Latin hip-hop are incorporated into the workout routine. The music is inspiring. In my opinion, no other music urges one to shake one’s bootie more than Latin Music. I‘ve been listening to it for years.

So anyway, I got out there, not knowing what to expect. Once the music started, I danced my heart out. The time just flew by. I sweat like a pig, but left invigorated.

I was surprised how quickly Latin dance came back to me.

Did I mention that before I married my Bulgarian ball and chain, I dated a guy from Cuba? Oh, yeah, and one from Puerto Rico, and one from Columbia, and I had a semi-long term relationship with a Peruvian-born marine. (A year was long term in my single days.) So you see, Zumba was easy for me because I had a lot of prior experience with Latin dancing.

Anyway, for one and a half glorious hours, I danced, toned, burned 1200 calories, and most importantly, had a blast.  Viva Zumba! See you later. I gotta go scour the internet for my next fix. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

HAVE YOU EVER MADE-OUT WITH A DONKEY? (It wasn't on purpose)

    Noreen, Me, and Julie in Morgantown.
          The year was 1975. The draft had ended a few years earlier. The hippie movement still existed, but was on its way out. It was a different world than we live in today. The legal drinking age was 18, high school students had in-school smoking privileges, and overall, teenagers were treated more like adults than the teens of this era.

        Julie and I were in our sophomore year of high school, well on our way to becoming adults. We thought. Her father willingly, and my parents reluctantly, (I made myself sick, refusing to get out of bed or go to school until they allowed me to go) let us hop a bus from New Jersey to West Virginia to visit Julie’s brother Roger who was attending the university there. We arrived on a Friday. Roger and his wife Noreen decided it would be great entertainment for us to spend the weekend on a farm owned by a couple of their friends.
       
         We all hopped into Roger’s 67’ Volvo 122, and drove for an hour or so on windy roads until we came upon a beautiful two-story farmhouse. It looked just like a Norman Rockwell picture. The house was the color of corn silk. A large white porch circled it. In the center of the porch was a picture window, with two rocking chairs strategically placed on either side. Directly across from the house was a dirt road. Roger turned there. I was excited as we drove down the hand-cleared road surrounded by an unlimited supply of trees. I couldn’t wait to see the house where we would be staying. After about a quarter mile we came to a clearing surrounded by mountainous terrain, in the center, was a tiny shack. Julie punched me in the thigh, and we shared an astonished glance.

         The ramshackle house where we would be staying was no bigger than a cracker box, had wooden crates for steps, a crooked porch, and one window in the front. Two donkeys, a couple of chickens, a goat, and a dog ran freely around the yard. I guess you could say the place bore a hint of hillbilly-like charm. Sort of. 
    Noreen and Julie standing on the porch
         After an hour or so, Julie and I finally got over the fact that there was no running water, or electricity, and, that the only bathroom on the premises was an outhouse, and we forgave Noreen and Roger, and started to have fun. 


         That evening, our hosts, a couple of hippies who were extrememly  into living off the land, brought us to the neighbor’s house to party. (The beautiful farmhouse  I noticed on the way in)  And party we did. We didn’t stop until the cows came home. Literally. We had so much fun that by the time we stumbled back to our ramshackle quarters Julie and I were singing, “Outhouse-schmouthouse who cares.”

         Our hippie hostess lit a candle, and we all crammed ourselves inside the cracker box house. Everyone was dead tired, but we had a big problem. There wasn’t enough room for all four guests to roll out a sleeping bag, so Julie and I being the youngest, were elected to camp outside. I grabbed my leopard print sleeping bag with the orange flowers and spread it out on the ground about twenty feet from the house. Julie laid her real camping style hunter green sleeping bag next to mine. Enveloped by nature, we camped out under the stars, watching them  twinkle brightly in the clear night sky.


           I inhaled a gulp of fresh mountain air. “Almost heaven.” I whispered, before I passed out.
         
          I awoke some time later shivering uncontrollably. I glanced over at Julie. She didn’t look cold. She was resting peacefully, snug in her real sleeping bag meant for outdoors. I inched my body closer to her until my back touched hers hoping to steal some of her body heat. But it didn’t work. Every five minutes or so, I was awoken by the sound of my chattering teeth. Finally, after what seemed like hours of torture, dawn arrived. The sun crept up in the sky, blessing me with its warming rays. My body relaxed; I fell into an oneiric state, until I slipped off into unconsciousness, again.
        
        I was having this dream that I couldn’t breathe. A warm, wet, slobbery, mound of goo was covering my mouth. Terrified, I startled awake my heart pounding in my chest. I blinked my eyes until they came into focus. That’s when I realized I wasn’t dreaming. But before I had time to react, a huge, grey, tongue rolled out like a carpet and spread itself all over my face. It was horrible. Whiskers were tickling my cheeks; hot, grassy, smelling breath was puffing on my face as the slobbery mouth expanded its exploration to include my eyeballs. I tried with all my strength to wrestle the donkey head away, but it resisted my force and continued to tongue-kiss me against my will.

        “No! Stop it!” I heard Julie scream in the background. The two beasts must have timed their attack perfectly because from a peripheral glance, I saw Julie turtle her head in her sleeping bag. But that didn't stop the donkey. Ooooh, no. He relentlessly nudged at the opening, chewing on the few stray tendrils of her hair that remained exposed.
       
       Copying Julie, I quit trying to fight off my attacker, and pulled my sleeping bag over my head. But my nemesis wouldn’t quit either. He copied his donkey friend and kept nudging, attempting to stick his snotty nose in my man-made cocoon.
       
         Instantaneously, Julie leapt to her feet, and crouched into a kung fu like stance. If she was that brave, I could be too. I wriggled out of my sleeping bag and stood up to face my attacker eye to eye.
        
          “Get out of here!” I screamed at the donkey clapping my hands trying to scare him away. But the donkey just looked at me and took a step forward in my direction. Now, both Julie and I had done a lot of horseback riding, so we had experience with four-legged equidae, but these animals had a mind-set that was all their own. It became an intriguing battle of the wills—and what my foe didn’t know, was I was stubborn as a mule too. I stretched my body as tall as I could so I would look big.
       
         “Get out of here!” I snarled slapping my hands together again. The donkey took another step forward—I took a step back in retaliation.

        Right next to me, Julie screamed, “Hi yah! Hi yah!” and karate chopped the air, but her donkey didn’t budge—he just looked at her as if she were crazy. Now, I don’t think the donkey’s thoughts were too far off because in the next instance, she turned and did a ninja leap onto his back.
        
        Her donkey bolted forward, Julie slid from side to side on his saddle-less back. She managed to regain her balance by grabbing tightly to the mane of her beast that was timorously trotting toward the mountains. The offensive play worked!
    Julie conquering her beast

         So, now it was my turn. I looked my donkey straight in the eyes and snarled; then I pounced on his back. He proved to be a worthy opponent, darting directly under a low branch. It was either dismount or be decapitated—I chose the former. “Be gone fowl beast.” I gloated as he forged briskly toward the mountains in the direction of his crony—securing his escape. Julie dismounted mid way up the hill lest she be carried off to who knows where by her impish foe. 
          
        We must have caused quite a commotion because when I looked at the brown shack of a house, Noreen, Roger, and the hippie couple were standing on the porch clapping and cheering. First, Julie and I took a few bows, and then we went to the stream out back to wash the taste of donkey out of our mouths.

    © 2010-2011 Each Head Is A World - All Rights Reserved

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Breaking Dawn (A time when love was real)



    Summit Entertainment released this picture from the set of Breaking Dawn due to be released in November. I may be the oldest Twitarded fan in the world, but all I have to say about that is "Bring it on Summit. Mama's waiting!"

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Mr. ASS-gar And The Mulberry Tree Hide Out

    front row 3rd from rt. Sara,
    Gayle, and then me. Back row 4th from rt. Claudia, then Paula
        In the late 1960’s, my family moved into a brand new development in Omaha, Nebraska. Houses were springing up to the left and right of us everyday, and the new construction sites were fun places to play. A kid could always find something to do there.
         
         Occasionally we would get into mischief. For example, one summer, angry they were clearing a lot right middle of our yearly winter sled run, a teenager gave us the idea to stuff toilet paper in the exhaust pipe of the shiny yellow digger. He felt sure that would stop the construction crew from building the house. So, about ten of us went home and swiped a roll. We used a large stick to make sure the pipe was packed tight and none was sticking out the top. The builder, Mr. Asgar, or as we kids called him ASS-gar, didn’t like it too much when his tractor wouldn’t start, and he liked it even less when he found out why. He marched around from house to house, talking the neighborhood parents. There were many kids involved, but nobody squealed, and everyone pled innocent, so no one got in trouble.
          
         And then there was the time, four of my friends and I lay on our stomachs on top of a dirt mound, spying on an unsuspecting cement finishing man. When he quit for the day, he left behind a large patio of uncured cement. Like little commandos, we slid down the other side of the mound, and crept up to the patio. We placed our hands in the fresh cement and signed our names, pretending it was Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. By the time the builder came back the next morning, the cement had hardened, with our names and paw prints included. We left a little too much evidence that time. Mr. ASS-gar went straight to our parents. But miraculously, all five of us came up with the same story—we were good. We all told our parents, “I didn’t do it. Someone else must have signed my name.”
       
         Because we stood united, and there was a plethora of children in the neighborhood with small hands, no one could prove anything for sure so; we got off with merely a warning.
         
         Apart from those two mildly, vandalous, incidents, we never did much more at the sites than have dirt clod wars, or remove discarded wood and nails from the junk pile to make our forts. Well, maybe a little  more.
        
         Our forts, the monstrosities made with different sized scrap boards hammered together with an endless supply of nails. Our parents took turns housing them in the backyard a month at a time. Dilapidated sheds would have been a better word to describe them, which is what led to big trouble when it was my turn to supply the yard.
           
         It took almost a week of begging and pleading, before my parents finally caved in and said we could build the fort. But they attached a stipulation—a big one—my mom had to pre-approve the building plan. The fort had to be neat, or we would have to tear it down immediately. Now that was not an easy thing to accomplish when the wood came from a junk pile, and the experienced builders were between the ages of 7 and 12.
          
         Nonetheless, Saturday morning, elated to be back in the fort business even with stiff code  regulations, my friends Claudia, Paula, Gayle, and Sara, and my kid sister and I went to scavenge wood. Much to our dismay, all we found on the various junk piles were a few small pieces, most of which had been charred from fires the workers had set the night before.
        
          I shook my head. “My mom will never allow us to start building with this junk.” I said to my friends. Their faces fell. Everyone looked so saddened by my words I figured I needed to come up with another plan. I kicked a rusty nail on the ground and then, eyed the empty, half built, house up and down. “I got it! Let’s go inside. Maybe we’ll find some better scraps in there. “
        
         “But, Mom said to only use wood from the scrap pile outside.” My sister reminded me.
        
         I patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll only take the junk.”
         
         Immediately we started checking all doors and windows, in search of a way in. Fortunately, for us, Mr. ASS-gar conveniently left the back door to the kitchen unlocked. The six of us entered and began our hunt. We didn’t have to go far, because right before our eyes, just beyond the threshold, was a pile of perfectly cut blond 4’x6’s. They were about ½ inch thick, with feathery grain, and smooth as a baby’s butt. There had to be about twenty of them, so I was sure Mr. Asgar would’t miss a mere four. This had to be our lucky day because we also found a matching 4’x4’ that would seal the rear of the fort perfectly. I gave the small piece to my kid sister, and then my friends and I divvied up the remaining four boards, and dragged them up the hill to my backyard.
         
         We dumped the pilfered wood in the yard, and I pounded on the back door. “Mom, come quick! We got the wood!”Mom came out to observe our bounty.
        
          “Look, Mom. We are going to nail these pieces together and it will make a perfect rectangle. Our fort will be neat, just like you wanted.” I said eyeing her anxiously.
        
         My Mom looked surprised “My…Susan,” she said. “That looks like awfully good wood. Are you sure you got it off the junk pile?”
        
         “Of course. They were getting ready to burn it. Weren’t they you guys?” I asked my friends. They all swung their heads up and down.
       
         Now, my mom, being a girly, girl, did not know much about wood grains, or building supplies. Or maybe she just thought her daughter could tell no lies, but the important thing was, she gave us the go ahead to build. Everyone cheered.
        
         "Don’t worry Mom. You won’t be disappointed.” I assured her.
         
        With her back to us, she waved her hand in the air and hurried into house. My friends ran home to get their hammers. I went in the garage, grabbed a bucket of nails I’d collected earlier, and a can of army green paint that had been sitting around in the garage unused for years.
        
         We all met up in the back yard. First, we painted all the wood and let it sit in the sun for an hour or so. We did not mind the few pieces of grass that stuck in the paint. It was a fort, you know. Then we took one side, my sister and Gayle held it secure against the bottom piece while the rest of us tacked in a few nails. We did the same to the opposite side, the top, the back, and before we knew it, we had a perfect rectangle.
        
          “Okay, guys. Get busy hammering, ” I ordered, “We need this baby to be strong.”
        
          And they got busy. They pounded in nail after nail, about an inch apart. If a nail did not go all the way in straight, they pounded it sideways into the board, and used another one. In the mean time, I took my dad’s manual drill and cut air holes. When I thought I had created enough holes to be able to breathe easily, I circled around examining our creation with pride. This was gonna be the best fort ever.
         
         But, when I saw the opening in the front, it just didn’t look right. It was too large for a door. It wouldn’t allow any privacy, so I headed back to the empty house to find one more board.
         
         I reentered into the kitchen and found what looked like a pantry door, not yet attached. It was a little too tall, but I figured I could saw it off when I got home. Then it would fit perfectly, leaving a small open space for us to crawl in. I set off for home, holding onto one end of the board, and dragging the other end on the road behind me. I was about half way home when a car pulled up beside me and stopped. I gasped. It was Mr. Ass-gar and he looked pissed. He slammed on the breaks and jumped out of the car. I dropped the board and took off like a racehorse.
         
         “Hey you!” I heard him scream after me. And then I heard a car door slam. I kept running as fast as I could. But, he was closing in one me. Barefoot, I cursed myself for not wearing my PF Flyers. I dashed into my back yard to warn my friends.
        
         “Ruuuuun!” I screamed as I passed by. I ran, and I ran, for a few blocks. I didn’t stop until I got into the park. Once there, I shimmied to the top of a large Mulberry tree, and hid out.
         
         My friends, who were found at the scene of the crime—so to speak, told the next part to me.
          
         Mr. ASS-gar ran behind me into the yard. He rounded the corner behind the house, slid to an abrupt stop, threw his hands in the air, and screamed, “My wood!”
        
         Claudia froze in place; hammer in air. Sara, Paula, Gayle, and my kid sister ducked down on the opposite side, and continued hammering away.
           
         Mr. ASS-gar had a look of shock on his face that quickly morphed into anger. “You stole my wood. You little brats.” He spat. “You’ve totally ruined it.”
          
         At this very moment, my little sister popped her head up from the back of the fort and said in a nasally voice, “Who’s he?”
        
         Mr. ASS-gar turned purple. He marched around to the side of the fort and saw the other three with their hammers still pounding on the wood.
        
        “Stop that!” He screamed. “What makes you think you can just waltz into my house and steal my wood and hammer it to bits?”
       
         “Susan said we could.” Claudia told him. Everyone else agreed with her.
         
         He shook his finger at them. “Well, you go get Susan, and you tell her I want this fort torn down, and I want my wood back! Now! Do you understand me? Now! You tell her I’ll be waiting for her at the house.”
        
         And then, he stormed off.
         
         I had hidden in this same tree before, so my friends knew exactly where to find me. Frankly, I was a little relieved, if they hadn’t come, I would have probably stayed up there all night, I was that scared.
        
        “Susan, come on down.” My friends yelled in unison. “Mr. ASS-gar said we have to bring back the wood.”
        
         “No, he’s going to kill me.” I yelled back. I trying to guilt them into handling the return, but they refused to leave without me.
        
         “We told him it was your idea. He wants you to help bring it back. Don’t make us come up and get you,” Sara yelled.
         
          Knowing I had no other choice, I climbed down, and went to face my punishment. The six of us tore our neat fort into pieces and dragged the green wood back to the empty house. Mr. ASS-gar stood on lot with his arms folded across his chest, scowling at us.
         
         “Where do you want it?” I asked sheepishly.
         
         “Over there,” he said pointing to the junk pile. “And don’t ever let me catch you around any of my houses again.” We all nodded and tossed the wood in a heap. And then, he made us stand there as he set our former fort on fire. It was painful to watch.
         
          “Can we go now?” I squeaked after most of the wood had burned. ASS-gar gave us one last disgusted nod, and we all scrambled away in different directions. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when she explained her part in it to Mr. ASS-gar, “She told me it was from the scrap pile.”
         
    It was great to be a kid growing up in Nebraska.
         
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