Summer / Summer

Trees up and down our block were filled with toilet paper.

Garbage cans overturned in the street. grass bags gutted. mailboxes knocked off their hinges, lawn art destroyed.

An old woman wearing rhinestone rimmed glasses stood in her front yard weeping into her hands.

The remains of a bird house lay in shambles at her feet.

Someone had knocked it down?

She and her father had built it when she was just a little girl.

Now? it was gone. with it, a sweet memory of time spent together.

Lois Ahnya removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

We all knew who did it.

It was those Macgillycuddy Bastards.

I’d dealt with these two before.

Troublemakers. make no mistake about it.

Rocks, bottles, bricks, boards and bats were the instruments of their trade.

If you had a son or daughter the age of these boys? You spent the better part of your day dodging em.

Not an easy thing to do when you’re from a small village.

Timmy Macgillycuddy , younger of the two boys. Shifty eyes, mean, cunning. I wish I could say he was highly intelligent. but that would be a lie. he was trouble, a weasel. equally adept using his feet or fists to inflict damage . His preferred weapon of choice was anything he could get his grubby little paws on. Didn’t matter. rock, stick or garbage can lid. anything he could throw at your head.

Billy Macgillycuddy, the older brother. When he looked at you? It felt like he wanted to chew on your face. something was just not right about that boy.

First time I saw them. they were standing in the street in front of our house throwing rocks at a mailbox.

They had moved onto our block a few years before we did. people felt helpless. some gave up, moved out.

Surely it can’t be as bad as that?

You got a minute? My neighbor Monty Asked.

When they first moved into town, the boys were invited to a birthday party for one of the local kids. You know the Monahan’s? Their son Finn?

Well, At the party……One of the other children made the mistake of telling Timmy to…Stop chewing with your mouth open.

Timmy took it up to ninety. flipping the table over on top of the birthday boy. His older brother unaware of what was happening, having just come out of the bathroom, picked up a chair and threw it into the melay. both boys grabbed an armful of gifts. and fled out the front door.

Nobody knew what to do? call the parents? they’re just kids after all. kids being kids.

They’ll grow out of it. right? isn’t calling the parents a little excessive? You want to do it? go ahead. The Mother is a Nut. The Husband? a hardchaw not to be trifled with.

I asked if anyone ever saw them at parent teacher conferences?

Responses varied from. “Oh Thank God, No!” to “Holy Jaysus, I hope not?” to “No? Is She Here?! I said good morning to her once…..she told me to go shit in my hat.”

The entire neighborhood had their fill, it was looking like the next incident would push good people too far.

We all wanted these little hooligans gone.

We just didn’t know how to do it? the coppers weren’t being much help.

Garaging was rampant in the neighborhood. Items reported stolen included, tools, balls, bats and bikes.

Most of the handy work having been done after dark. no one saw a thing. people were installing security cameras, The town locksmith was working overtime. One of my neighbors suggested we dig a pit in his backyard and try and trap em.

Lois had reached her limit. enough was enough. from then on? anytime the boys made an appearance on the street. they got the hose. playtimes over now eh?

When the boys hit or kicked a ball onto her property. she’d burst out the front door, grab the ball, stare the boys down, and return with it to her home.

If they tried to enter the property from the rear? she’d sick her dog on em. German Shepard, Named Doug.

Something was gonna give. a few bets were made on the side. everyone had their money on the boys.

I wasn’t so sure.

Weeks passed. things quieted in the neighborhood.

Tuesday Night turned to Wednesday morning.

A favorite pastime of the boys was ghost riding bikes.

Our street has a slight grade to it, which makes it the perfect test track.

Ghost riding a bike is an art form. you have to know exactly when to dismount. when to release. and a general idea where you hope to have it go.

One judges a good ride on the length. the longer it travels un-piloted, the better the rush is.

Lois was backing her car out of the driveway.

The bike had been released. rolling on its own accord. Riderless.

On impact the back tire rotated over the front. striking the passenger door window shattering it.

Broken Glass flew every which-ways.

Lois catching most of it in the beehive.

Thankfully she was wearing her glasses.

Bridie Donovan out watering her porch plants shrieked. she had witnessed the whole diabolical thing from across the street. barreling inside to call the police.

Billy and Timmy scattered.

Ducking between the Mulligan and Kelly’s straight home to establish an alibi.

At The Macgillycuddy residence.

The boys were questioned by our village finest. One Officer Fink. followed by a trip with their mother to the station to fill out some paperwork. their attorney apprised of the situation would meet them to assist.

Malicious mischief, destruction of property were the charges. all misdemeanors. sadly? not a felony to be to be found.

They claim to have only borrowed the bicycle. and were on their way to return it when it jumped up, took off and plowed into Lois car.

This wasn’t the boys first trip to court.

“No Boy is Bad If Given a Chance?”

Father Flanagan of Boys Town obviously had never met these two. Pah! What did he know about good boys? No boy is bad is it?

Well aware of who was in front of him. The judge sighed and shook his head.

A warning was not going to suffice this time.

1500-2500 to fix the damages estimates provided the court stated.

In Addition, Her attorney asked the court for compensatory damages to her bird house.

The judge, while being sympathetic to her testimony. was unable to indict the boys on the bird house destruction. there were no witnesses after all? unlike the ghost ride.

Seated nearby, Lois enjoyed the proceedings immensely. leaning forward cupping her hand over her mouth while she listened intently.

The judge heard the case as put forth by the attorney’s representing each party. after which he remanded the boys to juvenile detention for 30 days.

What started as a giggle turned into uncontrollable hysterics.

Rising from her seat. she exited the court room laughing all the way out.

The Macgillycuddy’s glared, watching her in silence.

A month? that’s it, is it? Well?

Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

All anyone knew or care, was they were gone. for now.

Everyday is a gift.

I’m excited to find out what’s next?

You never know what tomorrows going to bring.

Up at the Lake

L to R: Roach, Robert Hogan, Tom Hogan.

L to R: Roach, Robert Hogan, Tom Hogan.

Roach had me by the collar. He flung me like a sack of potatoes.

I landed in the lake. My older brother dove in and fished me out. We called the kid across the lake Roach. I’m Not sure why? Maybe that was his name or just some nickname he got tagged with? Roach meant to toss me in the direction of the Bear that charged us. unfortunately for him. I slipped out of his hand as he windmilled me, and I flew into the lake, not into the path of the bear. sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes? the bear? he eats you. I was 4 going on 5. I don’t remember much? I remember the lake and the cabin. But not that day. though others would.

Our family spent the month of August that year in Northern Wisconsin in a rented cabin on a chain of lakes vacationing. My older brother Tom and I would find all kinds of stuff to do that summer. Dodging Bats in the attic, Fishing for Tadpoles and Listening to the Loons.

I looked up to my big brother. he was cool. I wanted to tag along everywhere he went. I’m sure that day he would’ve rather hung around with Roach across the lake? instead of his pesky little brother. Can’t say I blame him. There was a ten-year age difference between us. after a while you have to get exhausted listening to a 4 year olds relentless questions? on the rare occasion they would tolerate my company.

We were walking from our cabin to the Roach’s cabin on the other side of the lake by taking a path that skirted along the lakes edge.

I didn’t understand the concept of wild animals back then. Not that I would have thought that the beast charging at us was Yogi Bear.

The Bear we found out later was only trying to protect her cubs. we startled it. and it did what bears do. protect their young.

Roach never liked me much. I was just a nuisance to him. a little brat. my brother was put in charge of watching me that day. my parents were going out shopping. he had no choice, he was told, “Watch your little brother.”

When you’re young. you don’t get up in the morning and make plans to do anything. you just hit the ground running and see where the day takes you. hopefully you have some fun, laugh and find some trouble to get into that won’t necessitate a trip to the hospital.

That day I got lucky, I just swallowed some lake water. Roach? he didn’t fare so well, he lost a lot of blood. ending up with a huge bite out of his right arm and left leg. the bear bounced him around like a rubber ball. I’m not sure how many stitches he took? my brother tried to explain it to me. after trying to count the number on my fingers? I lost track, anything after ten to a 4 year-old? might as well be in the hundreds.

I realize how fortunate I am that I slipped out of Roach’s hand.

At first, he was considered a hero. Then he spilled the beans. he meant to toss me at the bear, hoping it would go after me instead of him. I was nothing more to him than cannon fodder. Sorry kid? wrong place, wrong time.

Our family would visit Roach in the hospital, bring him gifts, offered to help his parents with their medical bills, we believed he all but saved my life. they politely refused. after he was released. he was confined to their cabin for the remainder of the summer. We’d go over every day. bring him cookies. hang out, drink coca cola sitting in the shade of his screened in porch looking out at the lake. it was fun, good times, easy living.

Until a couple of days before our vacation ended. while goofing around. my brother made growling noises at Roach. and he snapped, he started to yell and scream, his arms were flailing about. I don’t think my brother intended to scare him? although? this was the same guy who told me the Boogie Man lived in our bedroom closet.

Once Roach calmed down. he came clean with the real story. We never saw him again. My Dad was fit to be tied when he heard the truth, Mom calmed him down, he figured it wouldn’t do any good to make a stink. His kids were OK. There were no bite marks or scars for them on this day. Those would come later for his boys. And not at the hands or claws of a bear.

The Lemonade Stand

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The sign said, Ice Cold Lemonade 75 cents.

Seemed a little high for a lemonade stand. I stopped my car anyway. ordering a glass from a little girl about 6 or 7 years old who appeared to be in charge.

Look? nobody likes to be taken advantage of…especially me. I don’t care if it’s a Telemarketer, a Car Salesman or a 7 year old kid hustling watered down lemonade at 75 cents a pop. fair is fair. right is right. Unbelievably everything about this kids stand was wrong.

Where do I begin?

It tasted funny, not the least bit sweet or tart. clearly a bad product.  The presentation was all wrong. the table top was a mess. she was holding a dirty rag to wipe it with, but it wasn’t in use when I walked up. immediately I was convinced it was overpriced for what she was selling. and even though? I can’t prove it. I’ll bet she stirred it with her dirty little fingers.

The lemonade was lukewarm, it wasn’t ice cold as advertised. there wasn’t any ice that I could see anywhere. in the glass or in the pitcher.

I told her it was simple. Either give me a fresh one in a clean glass with some ice or give me back my money. she tried to the give me the bum’s rush. it was at this moment her mom came out of the house. she could sense some tension and asked her daughter.

“Is Everything OK Sweetie?”

I interrupted,

 “Everything would be fine, as long as I get another one with some ice.”

The kid told her mommy that,

“He didn’t like the Lemonade.” 

I said that was correct and explained why.

I felt like I was getting ripped off, that if I wanted another one? I had to give her another 75 cents?

The mom laughed at me like I was nuts. at this point I decided I didn’t want another glass. this transaction had gotten way out of hand. I just wanted my money back.

That’s when the little girl started to cry.

The mom asked, “Are You Happy Now?” to which I responded, “No I’m not, all I want is my money back.”

I let them know, I could call the village and report them? as I do not see a permit? or a license to operate a beverage stand?

That’s when the kid really started bawling. and said to me, “You’re Mean.” to which I replied, “Oh Yeah? Well?…You’re a Bad Business…Person and Your Lemonade Stinks! How long have you been doing this?” her mother then scolded me with, “That’s Enough!” over her little girls response of “All Summer.”

Then?!? she stuck her tongue out at me. while the mom continued with, “What is the matter with you?!?”

I was only trying to help instruct her daughter on how to run a business properly. If you want to do something? Do it right. which unfortunately made the kid cry more. that’s when mom informed me that I should open my own stand if I felt that way. I told her, “If I did? My stand would crush theirs and put them out of business.”

Silence and Dirty Looks were exchanged.

I decided it was time to leave. refund or not, what’s done is done. I just wanted to forget the whole thing. so I left.

A couple of days later there was a knock on our door. I opened it to find the father standing there holding his little girls hand.

He asked me if what he’d heard was true? I said there had clearly been a huge misunderstanding here. 

His eyes narrowed.

He wanted me to apologize to his daughter. I tried to explain my position to him, and flatly refused to apologize. I felt I had done nothing wrong? Dad was not happy with me. I could tell by his expression. then he asked me “If I wanted to step outside? Where we could settle this like Men.” I told him, “We could settle it…We could settle it in court if he’d like?” and closed the door in their face.

I couldn’t prove it of course, but the next morning I found that someone? had yanked out all of our flowers in the front yard by the roots. The kids in the neighborhood have started calling me sourpuss and lemon head. and someone keeps ringing our doorbell and running away. I also have found several lemons left in our mailbox.

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This incident thankfully never made it to court, I’m happy to report. I’d like to think that cooler heads have prevailed.

In the end, This seemed to be a simple case of bad parenting.

Which is easy for me to say. I don’t have any kids of my own. Though, if I did? you can be damn sure that if they did open a business? They would be prepared with the proper knowledge and resources to succeed. it’s a tough business world out there.

I believe you should give your kids the tools they need to survive. I don’t care how old they are?

I haven’t seen her around lately.

My wife has requested that I stay away from her.

If I do see her? I’m suppose to look the other way. turn the other cheek. rise above it. I don’t know about all that.

I simply won’t stoop to her level.