At the dinner table, over a big dish of Pastitsio, talk turned to the exploits of friends and cousins. Today at guitar lessons, Ingrid’s and Dagne’s best friend, Norah, sang a song accompanied by her guitar. She is six. From what I can gather, it went something like this:
My boyfriend wouldn’t show up so I went to his house. There were books lying out with the pages torn off. The garbage overflowed. There was a spot of blood on the floor where he used to stand because an alien came and cut him and then took him away-ay-ay.
Then, the talk turned to Weston, my seven-year-old nephew, who came to stay a few weekends ago. We visited my sister-in-law, Anne, who has horses, chickens, and a trampoline. Weston spent most of his time chasing the chickens. Unfortunately, his face and neck are right at the height of most of the electric-wired fences.
The girls spent most of dinner re-enacting Weston clotheslining himself on the electric wire. They described the burnt lines across his face — how one time the shock threw him backwards onto his back and he lay there for several minutes with his legs in the air. Paul laughed ’til his stomach hurt.
The girls reported that Bud, my brother-in-law, wasn’t too happy. Bud asked Anne, “Why are you letting the kids chase the chickens?”
Anne shrugged her shoulders. “Why not? It’s not like they’ll actually catch them.”
At that moment, Weston came around the corner, burnt lines across his face, triumphantly holding a chicken.
“Hey, look at this!” he shouted joyfully.
Bud looked pointedly at Anne.
Anne said, “Ahhh, Weston, maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
Weston replied by throwing the chicken across the yard.
“Yeah,” he said, “we can always chase them again.” And he stooped over to run another one down…
just before he ran into another electric-wired fence.
These childhood antics made me think of my own experiences. I grew up next to my cousins who were ten, eight, and six years older. Denise would take us on fun outings with her boyfriend — hanging out by the river or going to the lake. Linda, who was six years older, taught me to drive and dance. Eric, who was eight years older, was my buddy. All the kids at school called him Bubba.
He had a T-shirt that had the sleeves and bottom half of it cut off. It had a hand with the pointer and pinky finger pointing up like horns that said “Hang Loose” on it. And he had a sweet mullet — black and feathery. He always carried a black comb with curvy teeth and a handle in his back pocket.
Sometimes he’d pay me 25 cents to pop the zits on his back while he watched Elvis videos. He had Elvis posters hanging all over his room. He’d also pay me 25 cents to comb his hair.
I didn’t care. I just loved hanging out with any of my cousins. They were sooooo cooool.
We lived on acreage and four-wheelers were not popular then. It was motorcycles. Anyway, every free day or afternoon, Eric would roar up and ask me if I wanted to ride. He always picked me because I kept quiet, he said. Quiet was not a gift of my talkative little sister.
I did keep quiet. And after the first wheelie when I slid off the back of the motorcycle and stood there, lost, I never fell off again. Eric was one of those driving wizards. He could ride a wheelie all the way up our driveway, which was pretty steep. One time, he did fall. We all laughed at the hole in the rear-end of his brown corduroy pants and the bloody, raw raspberry on his arse. Anyway, he would do wheelies and jumps and cookies and races over the streets with me clinging tightly to his bare love handles through the fields and back country roads.
My mother always made me wear a helmet which was much too big. It wobbled on my head and my head turned inside it. Sometimes it would fall off and the strap would choke me. But the helmet was on and it was as if my mother could check that off her list: daughter wears helmet while on motorcycle, Check!
I wonder if she had any idea of the antics we pulled. We raced and jumped and splatted and narrowly missed barbed-wired fences and burnt legs and almost lost a hold and Whoa! that was close!
It was exhilarating.
One time, Eric stopped to feed the cows. I was hanging onto the electric-wired fence that was turned off. My other hand was grabbing onto my usual handhold: Eric’s muffin top. Eric reached over and flipped something. I felt a tingly, vibrating sensation travel through me.
Eric jumped with a squeal. I didn’t know that a guy of his build and size could jump like that. I wondered why he would jump like that. But I didn’t let go my hold. I just listened to him squeal, watched him jump and kept feeling that wierd tingly sensation travel through me. He figured it out before I did. He reached over and flipped the electric fence off and told me to remove my hand from it. Then, he flipped it back on.
He was a good sport and laughed about the whole ordeal. Off we went on another adventure. I think that one involved a cop chase. I don’t really remember. I was holding on very tightly and my helmet had flown off and was choking me.