A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 13

We argued about how and where we were going to have this big race and finally settled on Lincoln Park. This park had two long, slopping, grassy hills that had a sidewalk running between them. The North facing hill was our sledding hill during the snowy season. It was about the length of a football field and only had a couple of trees in it to try to avoid while coming down on our sleds. The other hill had a meandering pathway going between plantings of trees, bushes and flower beds. It was a nature walk and make out spot for the teenagers that didn't have cars yet.

It was five blocks away and so we had to get special permission to go over there on our own. Once again my mother said it was okay because Sam would be with us. I wanted to say something that would have gotten me a mouth washing but I held back on my comments. Ding dang women always sticking together!

Sam was to pull the wagon with her bike and Suzie would ride in the wagon. We'd tie the racer to me n' Jimmy's bikes at the same time. It was a lot heavier than the wagon, even with Suzie in it.

We were ready to take off when Jimmy ran into his house really quick. When he came back out he was carrying two playing cards and two clothespins. He pinned one of the cards on his back forks and and the other on mine. He grinned at me and announced he was ready to go. We start off, pulling our racer behind us and rat-a-tat-tating with Jimmy's cards. I'm pretty sure he meant it as a message to Sam. I could see by the expression on her face that she got the message.

Not to be outdone in the annoyance department, Sam decided to ring the bell on her handlebars all the way to the park. Dring... dring... dring... dring... all the fricking way! Arrrggh... women!

Well, we got to the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill and we let out Suzie. She was to be the judge as to who hit the sidewalk first in our race. Jimmy left his bike here as well because it took the two of us to pull our racer up the hill.

I could tell Jimmy was as excited as I was as we got closer to the actual race. "Gosh, Paul. I wish Craig and Barry and Steven were here. It's their racer too."

"I know, Jimmy. Barry the most. He's the one that wanted us to race it so bad."

"Well, he says, we'll be able to tell him how we just creamed a radio flyer today."

"If wishes wuz fishes you'd be up to your ass in tuna" Sam retorts, walking beside us.

"Huh? What does that mean?" Jimmy asks.

So we get to the top of the hill and decide there will be no pushing the racers. The driver gets one kick with the foot to get started and then the legs go into the vehicles. Gravity and gravity only will determine the winner today.

I'm grinning. Our car has to weigh three times what her wagon does. It stands to reason that we should pick up more speed because of it. And Sam did something weird at the bottom of the hill that should guarantee that we win. She lightened her load a lot by taking all four of the wooden stakes off the sides of her wagon. It's easier to steer but it's a lot lighter now.

"Okay guys, hold up." Jimmy announces. "I want to be at the bottom with Suzie. Wait till I get down there." Then he takes off racing down the hill. He gets half way down the hill and finds out what inertia does when running down hill. He ended up running faster than his feet could keep up. Zoop... he must of slid twenty feet on his belly and elbows.

"I'm okay" Jimmy yells at us. And he's off again and trotting at a slower speed. That was so funny, I'd pay to see that again!

I've got the steering rope firmly in my hands and one foot on the ground to give myself a push. Sam has one foot outside her wagon.

"You yell go Sam, when you're ready." I tell her.

I can hear her take a couple of deep breaths. "GO..." she yells out.

We both give a mighty shove with our foot and quickly pull it inside. I quickly sit down and stretch my legs out. Our racer is designed to be sitting in and not kneeling in. Glancing over I can see Sam has done the same. She is siting in her wagon and holding onto the handle with both hands.

We start out sort of even but then Sam starts pulling ahead rather quickly. She does have larger tires and they are probably better quality than our tricycle assemblies. We get half way down the hill and my weight starts showing some advantage. She slowly loses her two wagon lead to my heavier racer.

We get three quarters down the hill and the race seems in the bag. We have an easy two car lead over Sam and her wagon. I can hear Jimmy's excited banter. He's jumping all over the place. Suzie has her hands over her eyes and is peeking between her fingers.

But as I continue to pick up speed a tine wobble commences in the front end. The wobble graduates to an actual shake that has the whole car rattling... and, unfortunately, slowing. We are probably fifty feet from the sidewalk when Sam pulls up even with me. And she is a full wagon ahead of me when we cross the sidewalk.

We continue to coast up the opposite hill until we come to a stop. Jimmy catches up to me and holds the racer steady while I get out. Sam has gotten out and pulled her car up next to us.

Once I climbed out of our racer, I stood by it, my hands in my back pockets. I felt defeated. Worse of all though, I was feeling rejected by Sam. She'd become an important friend to Jimmy and me in just a short while. When she made fun of our race car it felt more like she was rejecting me. And then she proved our car wasn't very good by beating it in a Western Flyer wagon.

Sam stood there, holding her wagon by the handle and looking over at me. I expected to see a smiling, laughing, exuberant Sam after winning her race. But her face looked sad.

Sam spoke to us. "I'm sorry, Paul and Jimmy. I'm sorry I insulted your nifty race car. I guess I was just jealous. You showed it to me and you were both so proud. But you built it without me and I guess I just felt really jealous."

I realized then that she hadn't been rejecting us. She was rejecting the idea that we could do fun stuff without her.

I just stood there, impacted by a ton of emotions. I didn't know how to respond. Weeping won out. Sam, watching me, began to weep as well. This caused me to sob and, sure enough, Sam copycated me. Well, I immediately drove the needle on the emotional scale all the way up to 'wail'. This was soon followed by Sam who walked over, leaned in and wrapped her arms tightly around me. I got a kiss on the forehead.

"Ah... POPSICLE!!!" Jimmy hollered, stamping his foot, clearly disgusted. "Are you two gonna do sex now? If ya are, I'm gonna go watch TV."

A wide-eyed Suzie, jumping up and down, said, "not me! I wanna see, I wanna see!"

Jimmy points to me and growls... "she insults our racer then beats us in a race and now you're goin' all kissy-poo."

With all that said, Sam walks over to Jimmy, places her palms on the sides of his head, pulls him in and then kisses his forehead. "I'm sorry Jimmy. I still want to be your friend, okay?"

Jimmy seems to sigh and then gives her a lop-sided grin. "I don't haf'ta do sex, do I?"

She grins back and shakes her head no.

"Ah shoot..." Suzie grumbles and stomps her foot.

My brother Dick got a monkey. I can picture it in my mind even now and I believe it was a Rhesus Monkey. I think he hounded my parents for weeks prior to his birthday to get it. In those days you could actually get one from a pet store.

It was a cute thing, about the size of a cat. And it arrived at our house in a large cage. My brother was carrying it and Father walked behind him with his arms full of rolled up screening material and some boards.

Me and Sam and Jimmy were in my backyard where Sam was showing us how to do cartwheels. Samantha did excellent ones and Jimmy soon learned to do a pretty passable cartwheel. I, on the other hand, would spin around on my hands just fine but then land on my butt. I was feeling all frustrated when the simian parade showed up.

They walked over to our shed where Dad began to explain his vision of a pen for Dick's new pet. It seems that this was a Rhesus Macaque from some mountainous region of the world. The pet shop ensured Dick and my Father that they were supposed to be able to handle living outdoors in our cold, Utah winter climate. He sold us a bill of goods though, because today we know that they need to be with other Macaques, in a social group, to remain healthy both physically and emotionally. A solitary monkey, on its own, would freeze to death in a Utah winter.

It also turns out my brother could have gotten a used car for the cost of that monkey. But, he'd seen too many Tarzan movies and just knew it would become a loyal companion.

Anyways, Dick and my Father spent all Saturday and part of Sunday building a screen enclosure off the side of our garden shed. Father made a covered platform on the side of the shed as shelter in case of bad weather and put a denuded tree inside the enclosure with limbs for it to climb on.

The whole time Father was working on the inside of the enclosure, the monkey would climb up to his shoulders and ride there. That monkey really took to our Father. Dicky? Not so much. It tended to ignore my brother, his actual owner. If my brother attempted to pick it up it would screech at him and bat his hands away.

Well, it didn't take long, with his pet's constant rejection, until Dick was looking to sell it. He would go out to the cage in order to feed and water it and that was pretty much all the attention it got after awhile.

Looking back, there were some things my family missed because we really didn't understand monkey social mores. For instance, it recognized that Father was the head of our troop and so it, quite naturally, tried to earn the leader's favor. My brother was another contender for the leader's affection and was, ergo, an enemy. Now, I, on the other hand, didn't represent any threat to the monkey's hierarchy. I was just another brat, such as itself, that was safe as a playmate.

Thus it was that one day I entered his pen, on a dare from Jimmy, to hand the monkey a grape. To my surprise, it accepted the grape and then quickly hopped onto my shoulder. I was in a bit of a panic for a minute, and then recalled that it rode around on my Father's shoulders. I looked over to Jimmy and Jimmy just shrugged.

My little ego was working overtime now. "Me Tarzan..." I'm thinking. But then I started thinking ahead.

"What do I do now, Jimmy?" And he shrugs his shoulders once again. Then... "I know, Paul. Let's see if it'll ride on your shoulders over to Sam's house."

Well, that didn't sound like intelligent advice, but being only six, I hadn't yet learned between intelligent and dumber than shit.

"Okay, open the gate Jimmy. And... and, hand me some more grapes."

I was a bit nervous but thrilled to have been singled out for this obvious honor. If my brother Dick were here he would have recognized that his six year old brother was a force to be considered. After all, the monkey would have to be dead and bloated to want to sit on Dick's shoulder.

Jimmy opened the gate and I walked slowly and deliberately out of the cage. So far so good.

Jimmy slides a hand full of grapes into my hand and I continue walking. I'm careful not to sway or bob up and down or have anything but the smoothest forward momentum. I'm handing grapes, one at a time, to the rhesus. The monkey sits quite passively on my shoulder and accepts the yummy treats.

I'm only half the way to Sam's house when I realize that I will run out of grapes in just another few steps. I whisper to Jimmy...

"Have you got anything else to eat, Jimmy?"

"No, but he likes you Paul. He'll stay with you without any grapes."

"I hope so," I respond, "but I saw him yawn once and he has teeth like a cat."

"Awww, he won't bite you..." and just then the monkey leans over my ear and promptly bites it! Then he jumps off my shoulders to the ground and then jumps up on Jimmy's shoulder.

"Eeeek..." Jimmy squeals. "He bit me!"

Two six year old boys are holding their ears, jumping up and down and screaming in pure terror. We've been attacked by a wild animal! Our ears have obviously been eaten! We promptly run into one another and then run to our respective homes.

Mother had the door open by the time I hit the yard. Six year old squeals are hard to ignore. She sees the monkey running for it's enclosure just as I'm running for her. Mother pulls my hand away from my ear only to see that the skin hasn't been broken. She sighs in relief.

"Paul, what were you doing bringing that darn thing out of it's cage?"

"It liked me Mother. Me and Jimmy were gonna show Sam."

"It's a wild animal, Paul. It doesn't like anyone. Well, maybe with the exception of your Father.

"It didn't bit you hard enough to break the skin."

"It bit Jimmy too, though, Mother. He says his ear was coming off!"

Mother walked over to Jimmy's with me to access the damage on my friend. She visited with Mrs. Grundle after inquiring about Jimmy. It seems he was certain his ear was missing and didn't want to feel for it or see it. His mother assured him it was still attached and there were no bite marks.

Me and Jimmy stood outside the monkey's enclosure later on and said all sorts of bad words that would have gotten us into trouble if our Mother's had heard. Stupid monkey and stupid brother Dick. I was certainly happy when Dick managed to sell it. Today, though, I can't help but feel sad for the life that poor critter led. I wonder how it fared later on.

I started keeping my miniature car collection in our garden shed so me and Jimmy could get to the sandpile and start playing as quick as possible. Our deal with Sam was, we get Saturday afternoon to play cars. She would be entertained by one of our Moms. I guess they were gonna teach her girl stuff... poor Sam. But hey, beggars can't be choosers and me n' Jimmy have been having sandpile withdrawals. Sam hates playing cars and so Jimmy's Mom worked out this deal with her. Me n' Jimmy get up early on Saturday and do Sam stuff until lunch time and then the rest of the day me n' Jimmy get to play cars.

What me n' Jimmy didn't know was that in two more weeks school would be starting and our days would be severely chopped into.

Jimmy keeps his cars with mine in my shed. My mother feeds us lunch and when we finish we run for the shed. Jimmy's already making race car noises on the way. Me, I've decided to be a fire truck. Poor Misses Bindle, from next door, slams her window shut. This causes Jimmy to burst into a European siren scream and I morph into a motorcycle roar. Her drapes slam shut. We both giggle.

I swing open the shed door to a very big surprise. There's a dog in there! It ain't a really big dog like "Mouse". It's sort of medium sized and laying on its belly. Someone has put a blanket down for it to lay on. It's white with kinda longish hair and has brown spots all over it. It's looking at me and Jimmy kind of scared like.

We stop our motor noises, look at one another and then just sort of hunker down to our knees in the doorway. The dog must have lost some fear of us because it started wagging its tail, sort of slow and unsure like.

"Somebody gave this doggy a bed to lay on" I whispered to Jimmy.

"Well," he whispered back, "it wasn't your Mother or she would have told us. She knows we keep our cars out here."

The dog looks back and forth to us as we talk like it's trying to figure out what we're saying. It whines and licks its lips a couple of times.

"Do you think it wants to eat us?" Jimmy asks, a little panicky.

"Naw, I bet it's thirsty though. I can see a dish setting next to it that's empty.

I very slowly reach over to the dish and, when I do so, the dog seems to pull back aways. I slowly grab the dish, slide it towards me and pick it up.

"Awwww..." Jimmy says. "It's really scared of you, Paul. Gimme the dish and I'll fill it with the hose. You make nice talk to it."

Jimmy carefully rises to his feet and then runs over to the hose coiled up in the backyard. I try to talk low and soothing to it.

"Hi, puppy doggy. Don't be afraid. Me n' Jimmy are good guys. Are you thirsty? I'll bet you're really thirsty. Well, we're gonna fix that."

The dog watched me all the time I was talking to it. It would occasionally wag it's tail as though it found something in my voice to be hopeful about.

Jimmy came back with the dish full of water and settled to his knees once again. He'd only splashed about half of it out on the way over.

"Okay, Jimmy. Just set it over by the poochy."

"Nah-ahh, Paul. YOU set it by the poochy."

Well, I exhale, grab the bowl by the lip and slowly slid towards the dog. All this time it's listening to us, twisting it's head from side to side like it's trying to figure us out.

I give the bowl a final push and the doggy does a doggy crawl towards the bowl until it's over the top of it and starts lapping it up. Still laying on its belly it laps, and laps, and laps. Boy, it was really thirsty.

Then it does something absolutely terrifying! It stands up! Me n' Jimmy both take a sharp intake of breath. But it isn't doing anything else. It's mouth is open and it has what looks like a doggy smile on its face while its bushy tail is whipping back and forth.

Before either of us can react, it walks over to Jimmy, jumps up and puts its paws on Jimmy's shoulders, forcing him backwards and onto his back. Before Jimmy can start screaming the animal is licking him in the mouth, on the face, on the neck and all over his face. Jimmy starts to giggle and then he's laughing out loud, pushing the dog away.

"Get him, Paul! I'm gonna pee!"

I'm hesitant. What if it only likes Jimmy. What if... and then I'm forced to my back with a mouth full of dog tongue. I'm getting a full face bath!

I push on it. Rise back to my knees.

"Ewwww... I got dog spit. Pteww... pteww...pteww." And I'm spitting on the ground.

But then the dog walks over and sticks it's snout into my armpit and just stands there, wagging its tail.

"Wow," Jimmy says. "I guess it likes us. What are you gonna do with the dog, Paul?"

That's a good question and it gets an answer in the next chapter. Stay tuned. Same Bat channel, same Bat station. And talk to the wiener boy at callmepaul@graffiti.net.

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