when i was a kid my best friend and constant companion was a boy named John.
he belonged to my dad's best friend who lived just around the corner with his wife, who just happened to be my mom's best friend.
John was born in september.
i was born in november.
wedding plans began in december.
we did everything together in spite of the fact that Trouble and his sister were always holding hands with our shadows...
even when we specifically told them not to - the smart asses that they were...
Trouble knew we shouldn't be building castles out of the coal that was stored in the basement while John was in uniform for a scout meeting...
and it was Trouble's sister who dared us to jump over the hole in the driveway that kept getting bigger and bigger until John fell into the septic tank. Trouble - of course - laughed his ass off while John clung to the side and i ran for help with Trouble's sister...
and even though John an i insisted old metal belly stoves were meant for warming up spaces, Trouble was probably right then too; we shouldn't have drug it into the playhouse and lit a fire in it...
Trouble made it a point to inform us that it probably wasn't smart to cover the fire we'd started in the woods with pine branches and a board so it would still be there when we were done with lunch - but he sure did enjoy the fire truck.
Trouble's sister immensely enjoyed those punishments we'd get for climbing my grama's lilac trees and stepping on the budding flowers.
and hindsight says maybe we shouldn't have smoked those stolen cigarettes in that old horse barn full of hay, but to this day only Trouble knows how that fire really started... between you and me, i think it was his sister's doing.
after a while John and i wised up and started sneaking off quietly so as to avoid Trouble and his sister. Soon enough we got so good at it we were smoking stolen cigarettes, lighting fires, staying out after dark AND climbing grama's lilac trees without any repercussions at all.
or so we thought...
unbeknownst to us Trouble and his sister came back to spy on us one day when grama was gone shopping. as i recall John was nearly at the top of grama's lilac tree when the branch not only cracked but tumbled to the ground with him on top of it.
thankfully John wasn't hurt and my dads garage was mere steps away and, quite happily we found that it contained everything we needed to
until the following week when Trouble and his little sister summoned us to the kitchen to face the firing squad.
and, with no lawyer present, we were seated at one very dirty kitchen table for interrogation.
my mom snuffed out her cigarette on a paper plate and began the questioning;
HAVE YOU BEEN CLIMBING YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S LILAC TREE AGAIN?
since the question was directed at me, John smiled - just a little bit.
bonus! i wasn't even in the tree!! very honestly i said; nope!
and then she looked at John who lost his smile but quite smartly said nothing at all.
his mom didn't bother putting her cigarette out, it simply stuck expertly on her bottom lip. she did however narrow her eyes into tiny all knowing slits. but she asked the same directed question albeit in that 'if you lie to me i am going to whip your little ass' mother tone;
EOLIST... COME ON NOW... THINK ABOUT THIS VERY HARD AND BE HONEST. WERE YOU CLIMBING YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S LILAC TREE OR NOT?
again John smiled. again i said no. again she only looked at John. again John sat silent.
and then came all those statements meant to create severe pangs of childhood guilt
you know the kind;
if we weren't climbing the tree, why were the flowers dying?
you know just how much grandma loves her flowers.
blah blah blah...
over and over they used those war tactics known only to moms.
over and over we swore we had no idea what they were talking about.
"well," his mom said, finally snuffing her cigarette on the same paper plate; "someone was climbing the tree because someone broke a branch full of flowers from it."
to which my mom added; "and someone else was extremely smart because they figured out how to tie the branch back onto the tree and make it look like it never happened..."
but we remained clueless.
until, as the last and final tactic, they offered freedom to the one who would confess...
now i sat silent, but Trouble must have poked John quite hard because he suddenly started to ramble; "well. i was the one who climbed the tree. but Eolist was the smart one! she also figured out how to steal cigarettes and matches and light fires with the magnifying glass and.... "
i sat there stunned. there he was, my best friend in the world, spilling his guts for freedom at the self same time he was framing me for everything we'd ever done since day one.
it must have been the "holy shit man! shut your mouth! they only asked about the tree" look on my face that finally made him fall silent in the middle of the sentence which revealed that earthworms were at this moment in a metal lunch box roasting over a fire out back...
there was some very colorful language from both
but if you think the death march playing was the worst of it, you are wrong;
my mom grabbed a knife and the butter and John's mom grabbed the bread.
if we'd roasted those worms we were damn well going to eat those worms.
all of us - including Trouble and his sister!
Trouble said; HOLY SHIT! and started to cry. Trouble's sister fainted.
and John and i were escorted toward the fire with ears pinched between clawed fingers.
once there we awaited our doom...
standing in silence while the lunchbox was pulled from from the fire and the bread was buttered.
he swallowed hard and reached for my hand. there we were, fingers intwined, both of us knowing somehow we'd make it through this together.
and we did.
of course it helped that the lunchbox had gotten so hot it had melted shut and all of us declined to offer any proof that earthworms had ever truly been inside.
i think the four of us grew up just a little bit more that day.
but maybe that has always been the intent of the firing squad.