My brother Johnny once paid me $5 to leave him and his neighborhood friend Tom alone. I took the five bucks. After a respectable 20 minutes, I found them. “You promised. Give it back, you big baby.” Johnny hissed.
John loved calling me, you big baby.
He also loved suffocating me with blankets in front of the TV and holding my head underwater in the pool at the Cape. Adam seven years older than me was disinterested in torturing me, while Johnny four years my senior relished it. Just the same I wanted to hang out with both of them.
I had friends up on Christian Hill but that wasn’t close enough for the quick after school hang out. I only had our neighbor’s granddaughter to play with and she didn’t visit all the time. Unlike my brothers who had their two friends Tom and John L., also brothers, just down the street.
I was the sidecar. The mascot. The tail. The pain in the ass sister with five bucks in her pocket dying to play.
Who are they kidding I thought, how can you play hide-and-go-seek with two people? They needed me, even if they didn’t readily admit it. Who else would circle around the house for what seemed like hours trying to find them. Who else would race a sled alongside them and appreciate the yellow shag carpet remnant they lined the sled with or marvel at the fake paper licenses they created for pulling themselves over for fast sledding down Mr. Ouellette’s backyard hill?
I made for the slowest snowball target. The gullible player in 52-Pick Up. I was the lightest projected human off ramps of snow and given the sacred “booster” request, meaning someone would lie on his belly and link their sled behind mine and just as I was about to hit the ramp, pushed my sled forward with all his might.
Getting air, as every kid knows, is like breaking the sound barrier.
One booster from John L. sent me flying vertical. Plastic crackling over the ice. My red sled fell away from me like the space shuttle loses its rockets when it hits the atmosphere. I ripped through the sky and then gravity barreled me straight back to earth. My head a pumpkin thud. Sky and tree branches seemingly moved in a circle. Faces suddenly popped into view. My response to are you okay, slow.
A goose the size of a plum started growing at the back of my head. No blood, a relief; a good indicator that my parents would not have to kill anyone with a look that night.
A fearful, don’t tell Mom, okay? And then a comforting, you’re okay. Somebody rubbing my head until I had to push the hat back up above my eyes. I can’t remember if I cried. I’m sure I did. It was Kryptonite to the boys when it came from a real accident.
“Man, did you see her go up?” Head shakes and ohhhhs lasted the whole way back up the hill and over our fence. They knew how to cheer me up. Our round-toed spaces boots barely gripped the chain link as we climbed over.
That night I sat next to my mom on the couch. She stroked my hair, hand stopping at the bump on my head. My eyes wide. She called it a guza. A bump– oddly similar to us calling it a goose in English, though I am sure the only relation is the sound.
“Aw, nothing. Jus’ bumped my head sledding.”
Some moments called for discretion, especially when future launches were at stake.
Years later, discretion was the same friend that would get me into my first party.