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Giggles. Bunches and bunches of giggles coming from the front of the house, the family room where Mom was “entertaining” one of her friends. I sighed. At fifteen, I’d dealt with Mom’s bouts of giggles for as long as I can remember and by now I think it’s safe to say that she is showing off my baby pictures again. It’s embarrassing enough that she has to tell some incredibly “funny” story from my younger years to every girl I go out with, not that there are very many of those, but does she have to show the entire neighborhood all the shots of me in the bath tub too?
“Oh Charlie,” Mom calls from the front room. “come and see this!”
I closed the computer where I was gaming with my friends and walk the ten steps it takes for me to leave my room, turn the corner, and smile at my mother. She pats the spot beside her on the couch, her short blonde hair bobbing with her movements.
Muttering a quick “Hello” to Mrs. McDaniel on the other side of my mother, I sat. The picture Mom had called me over to see was of two blonde haired, bare-chested, muddy, little boys.
“Oh! So cute!” Mrs. McDaniel squealed.
“Yes, I know. Remember this one Charlie? I took this one at Jason Donald’s birthday party and everyone one was just…”
I did indeed remember that party. Jason used to live right next door to us. He turned eight that day, by then I had already been eight for a couple of months and therefore felt completely superior to him.
Jason’s pool party started out as most parties often did, with noisy children running around screaming at each other while their parents lounged on lawn chairs making polite conversation and acting like the actually enjoyed each other’s company. Then after about an hour we ate hot dogs and had birthday cake. Next came the presents. Mr. and Mrs. Donald sat Jason under a large oak tree on a white outdoor chair speckled with dirt. Stacked beside him was a mountain of gifts. Some where bigger than my 4”3’ frame and one was even as small as my hand. For some unknown reason my eyes were riveted to that one small gift wrapped in some kind of blue paper with assorted colored balloons splattered all over it.
Jason’s eyes sparkled with excitement as he tore through the gifts one by one. I wished it was me. Me sitting in that chair. Me being handed all the presents. Mrs. Donald gave Jason the very last present, the one as small as my hand. He grinned at all of us before digging his grubby fingers into the paper and the box that housed his prize. He reached his hand in the box and pulled out a red toy truck.
Ever wanted something so darn bad that it made your head spin in circles? Ditto. I wanted that truck. It made me green to see all the nerf guns, board games, and toy soldiers Jason got on top of the toy truck. Something snapped inside me then and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
“Give it to me Jason.” I demanded of him standing up in the middle of the crowd of children and holding out me hand.
“B-b-but it’s mine. You can’t have it!” Jason’s fingers curled around the truck so tight his hand turned white. “Mine.”
“Give it to me Jason, I want it.”
“NO!” Jason sprinted around the tree and I followed right on his heels. I was older than he was which to my eight-year-old brain told me he should do as I say and I had said for him to give me the truck.
It wasn’t long before I had him cornered. Being just a bit taller than he was I had the advantage. So, I tackled him. We feel to the ground in a sickening collision of flesh and dirt. Jason lost his grip on the truck but neither of us cared to reach for it by then. Both hands now free, Jason used then in an attempt to pin me down. There was no way I could let him win. We rolled around in the dirt, one jumbled mass of feet and arms. My ears rang with our grunts, heavy breaths, and something else. An intense piercing scream hesitated my tiny fist from knocking into Jason for only a second.
“Someone, someone get the hose!” Mrs. Donald shouted. A short while later water pelted my body, dampened my skin, and stuck my hair to my forehead. She sprayed us with the water from the hose as if we were dogs, hoping to break us up. The water just had the opposite affect. It enriched us.
Below us the dirt turned to sludge and hindered our movements. I wish I could take created for the awesome moments that ensued but I’m not a bad guy so I’ll say this, realizing the futility of our movements, it was Jason who scooped a handful of the sludgy mud and pasted it on my face. Shocked for a moment, I remember standing there, then I reached my fingers into the wet earth feeling it moisten my pores and slide between the groves of my knuckles. With both hands I held a huge chunk of mud above my head and unleashed the mound onto Jason. The mud fight that raged between us was entirely epic.
The brown goo slung everywhere, splattering our hair, faces, arms, and chests. Jason picked up another chuck of the muck and slung it with all the intensity he could muster but I was too fast for him, I ducked. The mud sailed over my head and hit Mrs. Donald square in the face. For the second time that day she screamed. Jason’s eyes grew wide and his fingers twitched as he anticipated his mother’s oncoming scolding. I felt his pain.
“Hey Jason.” He turned towards me, a doe-eyed look freezing his features. I did the only thing I could think of. I slung mud at him. For a minute he didn’t move. Then a smile cracked his frozen look of horror and it was unenviable, we feel into barrels of laughter.
“Jason Cornelius Donald! Get over here this instant!” Eyes twinkling, Jason high fived me good-bye before he walked off to face his doom. It was then that I saw he had left his little red truck a few paces away from the muddy mess.
“…don’t you think Charlie? Charlie.”
“I’m sorry what was that Mom?” I asked as her voice transported me back to the present.
“Don’t you think the Donald’s were nice people, Charlie?”
“Oh, yeah Mom, very nice.”
She reached over and patted my jean covered knee. “You’re so sweet Charlie, you can go back to your room now, we won’t keep you any longer.”
“Alright Mom, nice to see you Mrs. McDaniel.”
“You too dear.”
I backtracked the ten paces to my room and bumped into the bookshelf by my door. Something hit the floor but I wasn’t too worried about it, my computer was waiting and the game was probably still running. I didn’t take but a couple of steps before I stepped on the fallen object. I reached down and picked up the shiny red toy truck and smiled as I placed it back on the shelf.