Saturday, October 04, 2008

Justice for Penny

"Neeyah! Neeyah! Neeyah! I'm having a birthday party and you're not invited!"

Penny stuck out her tongue, dug a few more Neeyah! Neeyahs! into my soul then flounced off head held high. Penny radiated aloof, self-satisfied disapproval. She left two little boys in her wake. We were not invited to her birthday party. Neeyah! Neeyah!

Her name was Penny. She was an enemy!

It must have been something about the soil in Encino, a lot of clay was turned up when the subdivision was graded. It clumped great. Dirt clodded into fist size chunks naturally.

I seized a coconut sized chunk and looked at my buddy Ira. He nodded in wordless agreement. “THROW IT!”

Penny was a long way down the sidewalk by now. She seemed small in the distance, an impossible distance to throw a dirt clod. She was just a silhouette skipping down the sidewalk of a 1950's middle class sub-division in the late afternoon at Encino California.

I threw the clod high, arching, and well to Penny's right. It soared upward truer than any baseball I was ever destined to toss. The clod arched slowly reaching the apogee of it's flight, just as Penny turned right on her walk. It dropped straight down, exploding on top of her head.

The clod vanished in a halo of dirt. Penny dropped instantly. A perfect hit. Ira and I couldn't believe it. I never dreamed I'd get close, let alone land a perfect hit. I looked at Ira slack-jawed. His eyes glazed behind his glasses.

"It was perfect." he whispered. "She just turned and walked right under the thing at the perfect moment and “Wham!” and she's down!"

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaady!" Penny was up and screaming. Three front-yards away and I could hear the shock, anger, and hunger for revenge in her whining, Neeyah! Neeyah! little girl voice.

The beauty of the shot was forgotten in guilty panic. Ira disappeared. I ran for home, slammed through the door, scooted into my room and slid under my bed.

I knew Penny's dad was coming for me. It was claustrophobic and quiet under my bed. Little dust balls rolled in front of my nostrils. I counted dust tumbleweeds in the high desert under my bed. I knew a storm was coming.

Thump, thump, thump! I heard Penny's daddy's angry fist on the front door. Thump, thump, thump!

I could hear the floor creak as my Dad walked to the front door. (Even then I knew you were big dad.) I heard angry voices and stayed very still. Slamming doors.

Dad came into my room and called me out from under the bed. Gentle voiced. No shaking rage, no heavy anger. In a gentle voice. "What happened Dennis?"

I told you. You listened. And as the story unwound, I know you understood the wonder of the shot, that magic trajectory, the incredible long flight of the clod as it extinguished the ringing sound of ²Neeyah Neeyah³s in my ears.

Later mom told me you'd grabbed Penny's daddy by his redneck and held him up a bit when he'd tried to pass by you to get to me.

I don't know if that really happened. But I hope it did.

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