Crusty Memories

Wind rushing past, tugging at clothes and hair, sends the pulse racing until a collision with the dark loam reins in the momentary thrill. When you’re ten, the consequences are easy to ignore, the grass stains, a scratch here, a bruise there. Jump to your feet, race back to the porch, climb the railing and leap. A brief moment of freefall, a slap from the laws of physics, roll-over and repeat.

If you’re lucky, friends will cheer you on, if not, they land on you, sending stars across your field of vision, leaving you to sniff and search your arms for contusions, nose for blood. Hurt? Nah, shake it off. That baby tooth needed to come out anyway.

Weekends meant crawling through the neighborhood bushes, behind garages, over gravel driveways, until an adult began baying your name. As long as your middle name didn’t drift on the breeze, it was safe to ignore the summons.

Provided the prospect of being fed was not involved, then all bets were off. Chucking rocks over the garage into the Linkletter’s yard could not compete to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — manna from the gods.

Unless, of course, you could hear old man Linkletter cursing and chucking rocks back at you, in which case, your impugned honor as a neighborhood goon demanded a response. Failing that, offer up a sacrifice.

“Dan Karlson is throwing rocks!”

“Just wait till I talk to his father,” comes the biting reply.

We laugh. Dan was going to get it now. Too bad he isn’t with us. “Come on, let’s go to my house and have a snack,” I offer.

Ben nods, and we sprint toward my house, a two level thirty-year-old former barn, now masquerading as a residence. He reaches the door first. As usual, my lazy legs don’t get me anywhere fast, but that leads to one advantage I have.

“Oooof,” Ben squeals as I slam into him, plastering his bony carcass to the screen door. “Yur keeling me,” he moans, his face squashed into the glass insert.

“Ha! Sucks to be you,” I offer with as little sympathy as I feel. Being fast is one thing, being larger than most kids your age is something else.

“C’mon, I’ll let you pick something out of the freezer.”

“Cool. You have ice cream sandwiches?”

I nod. Only two left. One for me, and one for Ben. Which of course means … none for my sister. YES!

The door yanks open. A pair of feral eyes glare at me from under a mop of pony-tailed fury. A smirking grin mocks me, as does the bits of ice cream sandwich in her teeth. “What took you so long?” she asks rhetorically.

Crap, sis struck first, now Ben is going to get the last ice cream sandwich. “What’s for lunch?”

“Lunch? What makes you think there is lunch?”

DUH. “Because it is lunch time, and I’m hungry.”

“Well, you’re out of luck. There’s nothing made.”

“Fine, I’ll make something myself.” As usual. I start to push past her, but she spots Ben behind me. “Why is he here?”

Ben slides down behind me, taking the chance that my demon sibling must devour me before getting to him.

“I invited him.”

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever. You feed him, cause I won’t.” She turns away and saunters out of the kitchen.

Good news, that’ll reduce the chances of explosive diarrhea. “Come on Ben, I’ll make you a sandwich.”

Now that Tyrannus Sisterous Rex has left, Ben slides by me and sits in the breakfast nook. “Remember to cut my crusts off.”

Sweet Jesus, what is with him and bread crusts? Okay, whatever. But if he asks me to wipe his ass, forget it. “What do you want to drink?”

“Pop.”

Which in midwestern parlance meant soda. Seriously, the bastard knows we don’t drink that crap. “Water or juice.”

Ben frowns. The prospect of not drinking caffeinated sugar is clearly unappealing. “What kind of juice?”

I open the fridge. Two pitchers sat on the top shelf, one orange, the other red. Now, normally that would mean we had apple AND orange juice, but thanks to Sister Sunshine, my guard is up. I grab the handles and gently lift. Crap. Both empty. They were both half-full this morning. Sis must have dumped them out before calling me in.

“Nevermind, we’re having water.” Ignoring the whining, I grab the jelly jar and turn to the counter. On the end sits the peanut butter. Where’s the bread? I glance around, a nearly empty wrapper sits there.

Snatching it up, I look inside. Four slices left. Yeah! All of which have my sister’s fang marks in them. Boo! I glance at Ben. He either crapped himself or is still resenting have to drink water. Better not say anything.

I grab a knife. Guess we’ll both be eating sandwiches with their crusts cut off.

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