The Backyard Kids

I wrote the following story last year. I thought with all of the CoVid-19 chaos, a story would be a great escape. It’s not long. Enjoy and take care, xxoo

Growing up in the seventies, our only responsibility was to be occupied outside until dinner without ample blood loss or missing a limb.  An old apple tree situated on a backyard lot gave us cool shade from the searing pavement of our parking lot playground and enough activity to ensure we met that responsibility.  There were no monkey bars or climbing walls unless we trekked down to Steele Avenue Park.  Even then we had to have an older sibling or an adult accompany us to make our way.  No older sibling would be caught dead dragging his kid sister down an open street where actual people could see him.   We lived in a complex of townhouses that had been developed on an old apple orchard.  Some of the trees were saved, but the majority were destroyed to make room for the townhouses.  One backyard still had one of the old trees and it served as a gathering place for the kids in the neighborhood. It creaked and swayed in the wind, the tenuous branches daring us to climb and sit upon them, our bare legs scraping against the dry bark.   Summer days were spent climbing, making forts and playing around the trunk until dusk set in.  The tree was expansive with wide enveloping arms that stretched to the sky, inviting us to linger.  The crab apples became ammunition as the screams of innocent kids who wandered by the tree unaware of its silent occupants, echoed throughout the adjoining backyards.  These cries of pain elicited concerned adults to venture out onto their back steps to protest the unprovoked assaults.

An older kid nailed a two by floor across the middle branches of the tree making a perfect lookout spot.  If a kid got to the tree early enough he could sit on the plank with another kid and keep watch over the backyards, ammunition at the ready.  Kids who were good at climbing would clamber up around the crow’s nest to the top of the tree calling names and daring others to climb higher.  The tree was abandoned in the darkening night save for a few brave souls who remained hidden in her shadowy leaves determined to claim a spot on the plank.   I always had a sense of comfort sitting up in that tree, secreted away from the noise of the other kids’ roughhousing, the revving of car engines and slamming of screen doors.  My eyes closed I would raise my face into the cool leaves allowing the tree to wrap me in her false sense of security.  My feet would dangle precariously from the plank, the cold smooth wood underneath me, my hands clenched onto the encroaching branches.   I was directed not to ‘let go’ by my brother.   He was the only reason I was sitting up on the plank in the first place.  His fate was clenched in my fist as tight as those branches had I fallen.  I’m sure the phrase “Watch out for your sister and don’t let her climb that tree,” was said on more than one occasion.  Much to my delight my brother would pay no heed and would only allow me to get to the plank if he was there.  Otherwise, I was on my own.  I dared not climb without him, and usually, he would knock a kid or two out of the way just so I could get a chance to sit up there.  It was a glorious accomplishment and I relished every second.  I would sit and view the world, a queen on her pedestal overlooking her court.  The jostling and screams of wrestling boys and girls playing tag as several kids tried to climb the chain-link fence without getting their shorts stuck on the links that jutted out on the top.  It was an active and chaotic yard. 

 No one tried to kick anyone out of the crow’s nest or push anyone off.  If a kid got to the spot first, he owned it.  Plain and simple.  I wasn’t a very good climber.  My brother would make sure no one tried to knock me down or take my post, but he would climb up and ask me to move claiming it was his ‘turn’ on the plank.  I was obligated to climb down and gaze upwards at the kids higher than the plank seat as the crab apples tumbled to my feet; the damp earth trampled and worn from our sneakers’ incessant pounding.  The chain-link fence that surrounded the back yard sequestered the tree as if attempting to cage it from the adjacent parking lot of the businesses that it bunkered.   There was a hole in the fence just across the tree that provided a short cut to the variety store parking lot where it was twenty-five cents for a bottle of pop if it was drunk inside the store, and thirty cents if it was ported outside its doors.  I spent many days hovering around the pop machine inside the store trying to drink as fast as humanly possible to catch up to the other kids who were already down the path back to the tree.  Just like the crab apples, it didn’t make for very good stomachs afterward.  For most of that summer, we managed to skirt trouble and broken limbs with only sporadic blood loss.  Until one fateful day when we didn’t.  

That hot day in July started like any other.  The sun blistered the pavement sending kids for multiple requests to parents for change for popsicles and ice cream treats from the Dickie Dee truck.  We could hear his bell jingle from around the last housing development and the ensuing pandemonium resulted in chaotic line organizations for a chance to buy the first treat.   We gathered under the shade of the apple tree, our popsicles dripping down our bare legs making them sticky orange masses.  Blades of grass and dirt would stick to us making it look as if we rolled in glue and fresh grass cuttings, sending our mothers running for wet washcloths and exclamations of “What a mess!”  After the mass cleanup, we again pandered for the crow’s nest resulting in shrieks of dismay and more wrestling for branches still waiting for eager occupants.  Some kids trotted off to the nearby Thames River to throw rocks under the cool bridge or to watch the Americans moor their boats for the weekend.  The rest of us sat under the tree, relishing the shade and quiet rustle of the leaves.  A few boys sauntered by the tree, my brother among them giggling in hushed excitement at their new toy.

 A pellet gun had been presented.  I spotted the black handle and the fervor the boys expressed as they encased it in their small hands.  They took turns holding it, impressed with its power they perceived it held.  They ogled over its smooth finish and weighty trigger.  They practiced holding it in two hands and then in one hand, pointing it at the fence and then at the trunk of the tree.  They searched the branches for a wayward squirrel or latent wren that they could shoot.    Appalled that an innocent squirrel or bird could be maimed, the girls retreated to the parking lot to skip and dance among sprays of the water hose on a front lawn, leaving the boys to their prey.   Lunch turned into the late afternoon and once again we made our way back to the tree.  The boys were still hunched around the trunk.  I could see the black gun barrel protruding from my brother’s shaky hand.  He aimed intently at a bird perched on a high branch as it sang to the sky.  In horror, a young girl screamed out scaring the bird and obliterating my brother’s concentration.   A blast fragmented the quiet summer day.  The pellet had missed its intended target.  The little girl who had protested the impending slaughter of a bird slumped into a heap a few feet in front of me.  Blood seeped from her chest as her face contorted into a scowl.  I screamed in horror.  I stared into my brother’s ashen face, his eyes staring at the girl lying limp at my feet.  He dropped the gun and ran.  The other boys were quick to scream and run, one scurrying to the girl, one clamoring to a neighbor’s door pounding in panic.  I stood frozen in my spot, crying and sobbing in terror.  With the chaotic movements of parents and kids running and screaming, there was no time to think nor any time to move.  The ground reverberated with desperate feet.  Questions and demands were hurled through the humid air as the mother of the girl lifted her daughter’s sweat-soaked head checking for consciousness, blood soaking her hands.  I stared up at the apple tree.  Its quiet branches seemed less inviting, the leaves remained still in the weight of the afternoon heat.  It absorbed the chaos, the cries, and the blood.  The bird had flown away.  The tree stood steadfast and waited in stoic silence as the child was picked up and hoisted to a car to be transported to the hospital.  We were all ordered home at once, parents questioning kids, reprimanding the carelessness and providing as much comfort to other parents as possible.

We stayed inside for the rest of the day.  Few words were spoken as dinner was placed on the table, the heavy absence of my brother felt throughout the house.  Despite my mother’s searches he was nowhere to be found.  The police car was still outside even after my father had returned from work, a panic phone call urging him home at once.  He remained outside with the officer as dusk descended and games of hide and seek were long forbidden.  He stormed through the house snatching my brother’s grade five picture from the photo album.  It was the one with his half-smile and a straight bowl cut.  He shoved it into the police officer’s hand.  My mother paced in the hallway as we waited for news of him and the girl he shot, the evening growing darker with every step my mother took.   My eyelids grew heavy with sleep but I was determined to wait out the night and to see my brother home.  “He’s small,” I heard my father plead to the police officer.   Weeks passed, the summer retreated into fall and the neighborhood fell in step with the march of time.  The girl’s family moved, too distraught by her death to remain.  My parents’ guilt became too much and I watched my father pack a suitcase and leave without a “goodbye.”  My mother’s morning ritual of retching away her worry yet another sound I was forced to tune out.   My brother had flown away like the bird who escaped the intended pellet.  I still wait for his return.  

The following summer, we went back to the apple tree.  The crow’s nest remained and we continued to dare each other to climb up to reach it.  With my brother no longer there to knock kids out of the way for my ascent to the perch, I conceded to sitting beneath its expansive branches.  The leaves were in full bloom and the crab apples tumbled around me as I closed my eyes and listened to the echoes of the backyard kids.  They climbed higher up the tree, the limbs creaking beneath their weight and the leaves rustling with movement.   A tear slid down my face as I opened my eyes and clutched a crab apple from the ground.  A robin flew and perched on the chain-link fence in front of me, its head darting side to side.  It stayed despite the commotion and I clutched the crab apple tighter, ready to throw.  I raised my hand to strike and the robin gazed into my face as if daring me to follow through.  For a moment, I stared back.  The apple sailed from my grasp launching the robin skyward, its wings whipping the humid air.  I watched it as it flew high above the apple tree and out into the summer sky.     

Push The Button

My book is ready to drop in a few days.  All I have left to do is hit the little ‘publish’ button but I’m feeling a tad squeamish.  I get emails from authors who have self-published and want to sell me their guides on how to correctly publish my book.  Is there a wrong way?!

Let’s face it everyone has a guide, a book, a best-practices manual, a notebook full of tips; I even watched a video of an author with a giant binder full of…stuff, and I just have a button and a book.  What do I know?  Apparently, nothing.  After all, I don’t have a giant binder full of stuff.  

It’s a scary leap to jump off that self-publishing cliff with the world telling me I shouldn’t, I can’t, I-wouldn’t-do-it-if-I-were-you.

 NOT WITH THAT ATTITUDE, WORLD.

I’ve chosen to block out the negative vibes of, “Dumb author thinks she can publish her book.  Pfft” and instead I am focusing on, “Dumb author thinks she can publish her book!  Yay!”  There.  That’s more like it. 

The mere fact that I traveled the journey to get to the spot where I’m ready to publish, is a feat in itself.  I wrote a whole book.   

I waded through the self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy that plagues every writer and human on the planet.  I’m not over those feelings and hopefully, never will be.  They push me to be better and to expect better from myself.  I think those feelings were the catalyst that pushed me to finish. 

As the next few days unfold and I steady my finger over the ‘Publish now’ button, I’ll hold tight to the belief that I am worthy of pushing that damned button. 

All the while, I will allow my middle finger to wave freely at the world…and that binder full of ‘stuff’.  

What’s The Colour of Paprika?

I was having difficulty writing last week, hence the non-blogging, non-posting non-thinking non-action from me. Saturday, I decided to head to Chapters to see what’s up with books lately and wandered in with my expensive coffee and daughter in tow. Whilst perusing the aisles, I thought in order to kick start some ideas I would invest in a daily writing book. I wandered to the back where all of the discounted we-still-have-these-and-price-them-ridiculously-low-so-you-think-you-are-getting-a-deal books are located. I found one stuffed on a shelf under the heading ‘Writing and Other Shit’. I swear that’s what it said. Anyway, I bought the book for ten dollars and really should have taken a deeper look at it. It hails that it has 365 writing prompts to “INSPIRE YOU EVERYDAY!!” It looked good to me, so Sunday I cracked it open. The first prompts were to write about colours of herbs and spices and describe something that same colour.  I shit you not.  

What am I, in Grade 1?

By the way, BOOK OF INSPIRATION, I have no idea what the fuck herbs and spice look like other than salt and pepper. They’re spices, right? All I know is that most grow out of the ground and are green. Basically, you want me to describe everything that’s green. Awesome.


The only thing this book has accomplished so far was to make me even more of a sarcastic wise ass. Which is not really a bad thing and pretty par for the course, but I was expecting something a little deeper. More meaningful. More adult and less Grade 1 and what colour is Paprika? Answer: Reddish orangeish like Pippy Longstocking’s hair on acid. Kinda. I’M SO DESCRIPTIVE.

Today’s writing prompts were three events from different eras in history and it asked to describe a mundane event that may have happened on the same day. The first date was William Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616. Now, I’m no historical expert, so what the hell do I know what folks did on a daily basis in fucking 1616?!

This sucks.

Want to know my answer for that one?

Here it is:  

Too bad for William Shakespeare. 1616?! How am I supposed to know what folks did in 1616?! Killed kittens? Planned murderous plots against the King and Queen? Had their pantaloons tailored? Wrote shit poetry and answered everything with ‘where art thou?’ WTF…

If nothing else, I get to be a sardonic jerk without actually failing a course or having an actual writer person tell me I suck at this.

Which I do.

Tomorrow’s prompt?

Jesus Wept

Why? Because He read my last answer? Great. Can’t wait.  

Jesus isn’t the only one weeping.

Ugh 
 

I Have No Business Watching the Osmonds or Reading King…Apparently

Please tell me why I just spent ninety minutes watching the Osmonds’ life story? Ugh… I shit you not, that’s exactly what I did for NINETY INANE MINUTES.  How is that even legal?

 My life has reached a point of stagnation that a movie about the Osmonds manages to hold my attention FOR NINEY MINUTES.  I just kept watching and watching.  It was like I couldn’t tear my eyes away and when the Donny and Marie show spirals out of control it was like I was reliving the tragedy “I’m a little bit country” all over again…then they lose 80 million dollars (yeah, 80 million) and then they start a tour again, then Merril faints (oh noooo)  and then suddenly, they’re all grown up and singing on some wanton stage dressed in black, “He’s ma Brother”   The End.  There.

 I just saved you from having to watch that movie. 

You. Are. Welcome.

RUN KIDS, RUN!!

RUN KIDS, RUN!!

In other relevant news, I just finished reading Under the Dome by Mr. King and it was fabulous.  A tad long, but great.  Wonderful.  You all should read it…just kinda flip through some of the non-essential boring stuff…you’ll see what I mean if you get the epic book that could double as the manual for orchestrating world domination with nothing more than a few arm bands and lighter fluid.  AND, written in Japanese…It’s huge and heavy so if you plan on carrying it around with you, don’t.  You’ll end up in the emergency room with back spasms or shoulder issues. They (meaning Steve) should have affixed a warning label on the cover stating the weight of the book may cause damage to your central nervous system if carried long distances.  Or brain issues if you read incessantly for periods of time that you get confused if there’s a dome surrounding your house or if that’s just your cat blocking the windows with her giant fur-clad body. Or when the next case of radiation may spontaneously invade your space that you think you need to run to Walmart to see if they have wayward lead rolls in stock to cover the windows of your car should you choose to drive up to the nearest cliff to see the strange purple flashing light….it’s a King book, remember?

Bigger than the dome

Bigger than the dome

  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  It’s a two-man lift, …or two-woman lift…or one-man/one-woman lift.  An epic saga in that I-wanna-read-it-all-in-one-sitting-but-I’m-slowly-going-crosseyed-and-what’s-that-strange-idiotic-cat-doing-since-I-don’t-own-a-fucking-cat kinda book.  You get what I’m saying here…IT’S FUCKING HEAVY.   Just to be clear. 

‘Cause that was totally comprehensible…

It’s been a long day.  I need wine.   I could possibly be checking in with you all later this evening if I’m not drunk…or it may be more fun if I am.  Either way. 

Wine.

 

 

 

 

The Word Game

words

There’s a wrestling match going on inside my head and so far Rogue is losing to the opponent.  Problem is I’m not sure who or what the opponent is.  He remains nameless and faceless.  I resolve to write a great post full of wit and wisdom and end up with this…this…rambling and fumbling of words.  I fucking hate that.

In order to free up the creative process, let’s play a little game.  I’ll say a word and the other me will write down the first thing that pops into my head.  It’s easier when there is more than one ‘you’ inside your head.  Yay for mental health!  Ready, people?  Let’s go!

Ball- Run

String- This is stupid

Room-  With a view!  I win!

Desk- A Fucking mess

Lindsay Lohan-  Also, a fucking mess

Pen- With which to write which I haven’t, thus the need for this idiotic exercise. Next.

Apple- Crunchy

Chair- Dumb chair.  Fell over it this morning…oh. Sorry.

Dog-   The cutest wittle doggie evah…ahem.  Again, sorry.

Weight- Wait?  Or WEIGHT!  Like HOLY SHIT I WEIGH HOW MUCH? Or HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO WAIT HOW LONG?!!  Which one?  Both are evil.

Fruit-  Owns a hair salon and totally denies he’s gay…oh!  You mean FRUIT, like apples and oranges and stuff…again with the apples? Ugh.

Heat- Totally absent in this space and therefore I am FUCKING FREEZING!!  Hello?!! Oh!  I meant house.  I’m home today…back to the words…

Keys-  Ima gonna need a new set when they change the locks on the door…to my HOUSE of course, because that’s where I currently am.  HOME.  Yeah.

Florida- where I should be at the moment.

Book- Love them all, read them all, wrote a couple…awesome stuff.

Paper- Umm….white, blank lately, some have lines, trees died for them?  What do you want from me?

Elvis- We went from paper to Elvis?  Really?  “Thank you, you’re beautiful”.  All I got.

The lights are on but no one’s home-  The story of my life…This is supposed to be ONE word.

Money-  Apparently not something young adults take downtown so instead of  YA being able to get home independently, she feels the need to call the mommy so she can meet her at a location only to have that location change when mommy gets there due to the absence of money and the YA’s ability to avail of the public transportation system therefore, after much yelling and throwing of cell phone in car, (which sadly now works intermittently at best) mommy dutifully drives all over fucking town (since the location of pick up changed twice after the first time) to rescue daughter and friend only to hear  “thanks” and “well, if you had let me take the car this wouldn’t have happened”…. Good thing my phone is due for an upgrade….

Fuck off- See above.  ‘nuff said.

Thank you for playing.  See you next time on WORD ASSOCIATION-THE BEST GAME FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.

Disclaimer Clause:  It should be noted that no harming of any cars, horses, dogs, cats, wandering hobos, daughters or cell phones occurred in the above scenario.  Swearing was kept to whispers and loud voices in my head…I think it was implied in the yell of “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY?  WHO GOES DOWNTOWN WITHOUT CASH?!!  TELL ME!  WHO DOES THAT?!”   Ugh….