I am 16, and bored. School let out for the summer a few weeks earlier. Mom is at work and the step-dad is on his annual two week obligation to the National Guard. He is an Officer in Logistics. Dennis is somewhere in the South China Sea.
It is the soul-popper cycle on TV, Days of Our Lives, As the World Turns, ad nauseum. I head outside to feel how hot it is going to be later. HOT. Well, at least it is a ‘dry’ heat. I never really understood that phrase, until I was walking along the Snake River in Boise Idaho a few years later. It was 106 degrees with 88% humidity. WELL, that was a ‘wet’ heat.
Ronnie and Nancy are out across the street. Nancy is Hot, she is probably only 5’2” but she intimidates the shit out of me. They are both as blond as someone could get. Agnetha from ABBA blond, but blonder. Ronnie is not much taller than his sister. He is out taking his Tarantula for a walk in the sun. I cross over and see the spider, and suppress my desire to crush it. He takes off his shoes and let’s the spider crawl around on his foot. I have seen enough.
Up the street there is a kickball game going on. Liane is there; the first time I met her she introduced herself, and spelled out here name L I A N E. Man I hope I remember that right! In most places kickball would be played along the street, not across it. Ives Ave is steep, probably a 10% grade, like Ralston used to be. Her brother Shane is there along with a few other kids from higher up the street. Liane is cute and less intimidating, Shane is thin, almost to thin. A couple of decades later I see Shane, he is on TV, wearing an RFD uniform. It sure looked like him, same name.
I am walking up the middle of the street when the ball takes an errant bounce, and begins to roll down the hill, one of the smaller boys running after it. I am in a good mood this morning and move to stop it’s downward progress. I doubt the kid would have been able to catch up with the ball until it rolled across Coleman and into was is now Rancho San Rafael. I talk with them for a few minutes and head back down the hill.
One of the younger boys had hopped onto his Stingray and began to speed down the hill. He is going to fast. My house is the fourth house up the hill. The bike is going faster than he could ever pedal. Two houses later he squeezes the brake handles; it is far, far, to late. The rubber pads of his calipers all break free. He crosses Coleman; there are only two house to the north, so it would have been rare for a car to hit him. There is a small berm, and a four strand barbed wire fence. The bike flips him head first, his body clearing the barbed wire. The rolled up cuffs of his 501’s do not; the barbed wire acts like the tail hook on the USS Kitty Hawk. His forward progress stops, as he face plants in the dirt.
All the kids outside are down to him in seconds, some of us expecting a corpse. The kid was limber, and when he finally gets the breath that was knocked out of him, he slowly rises up to his feet. The soft earth of the field saved his face from any damage but a bit of dirt in the mouth. The right cuff of his pants was sliced pretty well. The bike was the loser, the front wheel bent beyond repair, the ape-hanger handle bars twisted 90 degrees. I hand him one of the rubber brake pieces. He limps home to the top of the hill. He will not try that stunt again.
Gravity sucks, you have heard that before, right? It is true, especially on Ives. Within a month or two of this event, gravity really pissed me off. It is late in the afternoon, mom has come home and parked the car, facing downhill. I don’t recall how my younger brother got in the car. Mom and I are in the house, probably bringing in groceries, when we hear a ruckus out front. We go out and the car is no longer parked in front, instead it is across the street; down the hill, the left front is wedged into a tangled mass of chain link fencing, the right fender inches away from a fire hydrant. 3 year old Nathan is in the front seat quite happily still turning the steering wheel. Now, why would that piss me off, you might ask. It pissed me off because my three year old brother got to drive my soon to be 63 Impala SS, FIRST. He got to wreck it first too, but a few years later I killed it.
I head back into the house, still soap operas. I open the sliding door and go out to the back yard. Mom and I planted two rose bushes in a brick planter a year ago; hers was Red, mine White, we planted both on the same day. We planted Nasturtiums at the house on Winston. I turn on the hose and give each bush a drink, my white rose is outgrowing the Red. Yes, a 16 year old boy, could appreciate a flower, even in 1968 Reno. It is amazing how well a sacrificial white rose from a bush I planted, can reduce the time of a grounding.
Karen is out in her back yard. She is my friend, but it was a complex relationship. We have been next door neighbors for two years, and we talked a lot; not just hi, or what do you make of the weather. We just talked. Across the fence. Karen is different. It is 1968 and Karen is Jewish; I don’t give a rat’s ass about that, but evidently her parents do. She is pretty, taller than most girls, maybe 5’7”, dark complected, dark hair and eyes.
The six foot fence that I would balance on for hours as we talked was as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall at the time. I never planted both feet on her side of the fence, and she never walked on my side of the fence. I truly can’t remember talking to her in the front yard.
It is 11:00 am and I hear a horn honk in the front. It is Rob, he got off work early, due to the fact that he quit. I lock up the house and hop into one of the nine 1956 Pontiac’s we had, over the past few years. I slam the door, Robs shifts the car into D and we are Discovering.