Tuesday 14 June 2011

Still Here And Smiling

I received a message on facebook that a friend and his wife are coming to town for a visit. John lived in the house beside me from when I was two till my parents sold the house sixteen years later. He was the middle child, more of a friend of my older brother than mine. His younger brother Mike was the guy that was usually with me when my brother decided he needed to humiliate someone.

It was nice to hear from John and to add him to my facebook friends. I don’t really collect friends as some do; in fact it always surprises me when asked to be someone’s friend. I just can’t respect anyone that would have me as a friend. Hearing from John reminded me of  an incident that happened a long time ago.

I would tag along behind my older brother and his friends when they were out exploring the neighbourhood just as most younger brothers do. I remember one time I followed along when they went down to play in the creek behind our house. I say creek, but really it was an open sewer in which some frogs and tadpoles somehow managed to survive. This one particular day the big kids were going to explore the “tunnels”. The “tunnels” were actually the storm sewer pipes, but back then they were the entrance to a magical kingdom with dragons, wizards, hero’s and quite probably rats.

They had brought flashlights and candles, string, rubber boots, pocket knives (for defence I suppose) and chalk so they could follow the marks back to the creek. Now, at some time in the past, some even bigger kids had cut the bolts that held the iron gate closed. The gate was there to prevent just this kind of excursion. I guess that there was some chance of danger, which made it even more attractive to ten year old kids. I followed them down the creek to the entrance and watched them get prepared. They had to decide the order in which they would enter. The bravest would be first of course. I don’t remember who went first or second, but I knew I would be last, due solely to my age of course.

No one had noticed me until this minute, but everyone stopped the preparations and as a unit turned to look at me. “Where do you think you are going?” my brother asked. “Uhhh, with you guys.” I replied. The two punches in the arm and a backhand across the head was all the answer I got. I was told that if I followed them I would be in big trouble and if I told mom I would be dead! How did they know that I was going to tell mom?

I watched as they all filed in to the tunnels, laughing and swearing and bent over so their hair didn’t brush the roof. I could feel the damp, cool, fetid air that came out of the tunnel. They told me to go home, but I can play in the creek if I wanted to. That wasn’t entirely true, as both mom and dad forbade us from going down to the creek. It seems that it is just this kind of thing that causes polio. I know my uncle had polio when he was a kid, but I didn’t know what it was. They might just as well have said I could get syphilis. Come to think of it, they just might have said something along those lines.

I hated being left out of things, and it happened far too often. I looked for mutant frogs or perhaps a turtle that someone had flushed down the toilet, all to no avail. I started tossing stones into the tunnel as far as I could, hoping that when they came out they would trip on them and fall into the water and get polio and syphilis! I turned my attention to the gate. I mentioned that it was iron, but didn’t say just how heavy it was. I could barely move it. I went behind and pushed as hard as I could and it swung out and slammed against the concrete opening of the tunnel. The gates of Hell couldn’t have made more noise. I swear to God, that I could feel the vibration of that gate from my tonsils to my asshole. The world didn’t end! No bats, hellhounds or my brother’s friends came out of the tunnel. Whew!

Now that the gate was closed I would leave it like that! In fact, I think I will take that long grass and tie it shut. The grass didn’t work very well, so I went looking for some rope. No luck on the rope either, but I did find a broken piece of TV antenna which fit the bolt hole perfectly. I bent it over and Holy Shit! It broke off in the hole. I couldn’t get it out! What am I going to do? They will know it was me. Just then I heard voices from the tunnel! Please God, let me die right now!

I did what anyone of sound mind would do, I ran. When I got to my yard I looked back and saw many arms sticking through the gate and fists shaking. What am I going to do? I can’t tell mom, I would get in trouble for going to the creek, Better to let my brother and his friends die. Yes, that’s it. No! I can’t do that. I remembered that John’s older brother was probably home and he would know what to do. I went and knocked on the door and Jim answered. I guess he must have understood me through my tears and chin quivering. He told me to go home so that when he let them out they wouldn’t kill me right away. Good plan!

Jim did know what to do. He called a few of his friends and did what big brothers do. He went to the tunnel and put his younger brother through a living hell, tossing stones and sewer water at them through the iron gate before letting them out.

I can’t remember just what happened to me. That is one of the wonders of the human mind. It just shuts down when something horrible happens.

I guess it couldn’t have been too bad, I am still here and smiling…

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing that story with us, ahhh I think ...ya it's all good. reminds me of the movie "Stand by Me" one of my favorites I'll add! B