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Comments on Horror StoriesAnd Rabbits
Joined: May 03, 2008
Total Topics: 7
Total Comments: 50
Posted 05/04/08 - 1:23 PM:
Subject: Horror Stories And Rabbits
Most of my favorite memories of Sterling are about the long hot and sometimes turbulent summers. This was the time of year when freedom from school and idle hands not only got us into trouble, but taught us about life like our teachers never could. For most of us, summer held the promise of spreading our growing wings and testing their strength against whatever came our way.
Parents didn’t obsess over safety helmets, each bruise, or even where we were every second of the day. My mom (God rest her soul) and most mom’s I knew, kicked us out of the house by nine o’clock, expected us back around noon, fed us; kicked us out again, and then finally looked for us around the time it got dark. If we were going to go over to a friend’s house before going home, we new to call, (because if that call wasn’t made, my butt would have been tanned). It was a simpler, less worrisome time when parents trusted their neighbors to help watch and guide their children. It was this reason I avoided the neighbors whenever I could.
During these in-between times, adventure was limited to only what your own imagination could create. And since Sterling was the best of town and country, we had an endless variety of environments to choose from. In one day, I/we might start off at Lincoln Park playing baseball, visit Bob’s Market for penny candy (supplies were essential and Bob‘s always had the best selection), roam around Sinnissippi Park, trek along the Rock River, make a run to Elmo‘s Bookstore to read comics, and ride our steel Schwinn stallions in endless circles. God bless the freedom we enjoyed as kids.
But, as we all know, it wasn’t just the places we went, it was who we were with, and what we did at those places. These were the crucial elements that tested our wings.
When I was in the fourth grade (1967-68), I was not particularly popular, but neither was I one of the unfortunate outcasts. I had a select but strong set of regular friends. However, like most children of that age, I never felt liked enough. The “right” kids didn’t like me, not enough kids liked me, and certainly kids of the opposite sex didn‘t like me. So, when I finally found a bit of attention, well beyond what I was use to, I was in heaven.
A friend of mine named Mark enjoyed a wider circle of friends than I did. Most of the time Mark and I hung out it was just the two of us or occasionally his younger brother tagged along. But, every once in a while our dynamic-duo transformed into larger numbers, some of which were one or even two grades a head of us.
It was during one of these times when my key to notoriety was revealed. A group of about six of us were just walking the neighborhood, telling jokes shortly after dark one evening. It was one of those warm, but not too hot summer nights. Because it was night, someone began telling ghost stories. I remember walking down the streets, listening to each story as the others took turns. I loved feeling the warm air, and peering up at a crescent moon. As I listened, I wished that it would never end. That is, until someone pointed at me and said, “your turn.” Three of the kids were older than myself and everyone was definitely “cooler” than me. So, when they expected me to start telling a story, I had no choice, I started telling a story.
Of course, I don’t remember the story, but I remember how I came up with it. All the most popular stories had already been told, so I just mushed a bunch of ideas and characters together. At first I doubted anyone was listening because no one was making any wisecracks about my story. But then I started looking at their faces. I realized they weren’t making fun of it because they liked it. In fact, they weren’t just walking and looking at their feet or things around them, they were staring at me. Holy crap Batman, they were enthralled with it. As soon as I was done, they asked me for another one. Who was I to deny my public? I must have told three, maybe four stories and they were still hungry for more. If I hadn’t had to go home, I might have told four more.
So, for the next few weeks, once or twice a week, we all got together and told ghost stories. It was usually my turn first and last. Oh, the attention, I reveled in it. I felt like that guy on “Creature Features”, all I needed was for Chuck Acri to introduce me. I was feeling six feet tall. Older, cooler kids wanted to hear what I had to say. I suddenly felt cool. I was cool! But, kids who aren’t really cool, no matter how lucky, can’t stay cool.
As we were walking and talking one evening, we happened upon a rabbit laying in the gutter. It was twitching and had an almost alarming fearfulness in its eyes. We just stared for what seemed like minutes before anyone said or did anything. One of the older kids picked it up then pronounced, “It was hit by a car.” We all agreed and nodded our heads. The explanation sounded reasonable. There was talk about taking it to a Vet, taking it home so someone’s father could “fix” it, and a million and one other ideas.
Then Mark said, almost matter-a-factly, “We should put it out of its misery.” With that we all looked at one another, eyes as big as saucers, even the older kids. Our response was all the same, “We can’t do that”, but it was in our minds, not on our tongues. At least that’s what I thought. In the back of the group one of the other kids suddenly agreed, “Yea, we need to kill it.” At once, a flood of debate started. As we stood there, we took turns laying out “closing arguments” as to what should be done. Finally, one by one, we started to agree, we should kill it for its own good.
Now that the verdict had been reached, what was the method of execution? More importantly….who was going to do it? At the first thought of actually having to do it myself I new I couldn’t. Even more importantly, I realized it wasn’t for us to decide. This decision should be made by an adult. If they decided on the gallows, fine, let them be the executioners. They would know how to do it.
As I finished thinking this through, I realized the group had already picked its rabbit killer. It was a kid named Tim, the oldest and most looked up to in the group. But Tim began expressing doubts. Every time someone came up with a method of execution he would shoot it down.
We had found the rabbit about a block from Mark’s house. With my attention riveted on what was going on, I hadn’t noticed Mark had slipped away. Abruptly, he came dashing out of the darkness holding one of his dad’s golf clubs over his head yelling, “I have it, I have it”. We all looked at him and I knew this was it, Tim would have to do it now. Mark handed Tim a golf club with dirt still on its business end and Tim took it.
Before I even new what I was doing I was clutching the golf club in the middle with both my hands. I tried pulling it away from him. He was two years older than me and much stronger. I yelled, “gi’me that you fucking asshole”. He started twirling me around in circles until I fell on the ground. Now his blood was running, he turned and brought the club down on the rabbit. I thought he would stop, but he didn’t. He just kept swinging the fucking club.
I stared at him. I didn’t notice it at first, it was a secret not meant for the rest of us to see, he was crying. Not sobbing, but tears were running down his pale white cheeks. I new then that he really didn’t want to do it, but was doing it because the group had decided and he was the group’s leader. He had to protect his ranking in the group. That’s what leaders do.
After it was done, everyone (except me) agreed we had done the right thing. The adrenaline was still high, so everyone was talking about it (except me) and it took a better part of thirty minutes before it started, “What was you cry’n about, grabbing the club…give me that, give me that”. With that one remark I new I was done for. I got made fun of the rest of the evening. I tried to explain I hadn’t cried, but trying to state facts in the face of grade school teasing doesn’t work. And it never crossed my mind to point out that it had actually been Tim crying. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
After that night no one ever requested my ghost stories again. In fact, it wasn’t long after that that Mark and the others quit hanging with me all together. Good-bye coolness, good-bye popularity.
Even today, I’m not sure if that experience left my wings a bit tattered or a bit more wind resistant. I still think and wonder about it, sometimes at night, before I go to sleep.
Edited by JosefK on 05/04/08 - 11:36 PM. Reason: fix title
Joined: Apr 16, 2005
Location: San Francisco
Total Topics: 425
Total Comments: 4672
Posted 05/15/08 - 5:38 PM:
autobiographical, i presume?
reminded me of my childhood days in alabama, running amok with my cousins and telling our fair share of ghost stories (my cousin brian was always the best at it).
very well done, c. i love the candid tone. the tension over killing the rabbit is palpable.