A Bedtime Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Splintering under the agonizing weight of fried chicken and mounds of pasta salad, the picnictable struggled to remain standing. Pineapple chunks gleamed on a silver platter,impaled by festive toothpicks. Strawberries sat seducing the vigilant eyes ofparents, tempting them to turn their gaze from their children. It was the annualblock party, and a herd of children explored the waterfall of sprinklers underthe exhausting July sun.

As usual, my mother ran about frantically,ranting in tongues and directing my father and his friends. I was five, and withfive comes the tenacious attitude of a teenager and the tender innocence of atoddler. My brother, Adam, 13 at the time, was exploring the horrifying world ofadolescence.

Despite an age gap of eight years, Adam, or Dante as he wascalled at home, always found time to play with me. He would sponsor water balloonfights, and we would ride our bikes down to Benji's, where he would fritter awayhis allowance on my craving for Swedish Fish, buying a few at a time. Hissparkling 15-speed bike was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. He pedaledfiercely, pulling ahead of me by entire houses and soaring through the air whilecutting the asphalt with unimaginable precision.

Smoke from the oldcharcoal grill hung in the air, choking my father who had been coaxed into makinghot dogs and hamburgers. Dante and I were swimming in the pool. He was tossing meup in the air; I begged him to continue, but the sight of a five-year-old'sswimming trunks flying off must not have been as amusing to my mother as Danteand I had imagined. We made our way to the shed where we managed to dig outbadminton racquets and proceeded to launch every birdie on top of the roof beforepersuading Uncle Joe to climb the ladder to fetch them; no one seemed to findthis game funny, either. Frustrated and hungry, I stomped beside Dante who, afterreceiving his third "You have to set an example" speech for the day,was weary of my parents. And then, I made the stupidest mistake of mylife.

"Ross," Dante whined, "I triple-dog dare you tolet me duct tape you to the tricycle and push you down the street! If you get outof it before you hit the bottom, we'll ride up to Benji's and buy an entire boxof Swedish Fish!"

The idea came out of nowhere. In fact, I recallit being the dumbest thing I'd ever heard come out of Dante's mouth. However,this was a triple-dog dare! The most powerful of all dares! I couldn't back out.A box would last me a week! A box made the dare so much more enticing.

Wesprinted to the shed. All I had to do was escape from duct tape. We had watchedDavid Copperfield escape from a coffin tossed from an airplane; surely I couldescape from chains of duct tape and manage to win the respect of my brother. Wedug out the tricycle and snuck behind the Jeep. Strand after strand, piece afterpiece, my dare became more serious, my task more impossible. After the roll ranout, it was time to show my stuff. Dante pushed me down the street as thetricycle quickly picked up speed.

I was five. I wouldn't even know whatphysics was for another ten years. I did know, however, that an unstable tricycleat quicksilver speed meant one thing - I would crash! A blur of vans and sedansflew past me. Tears ran down my face, partially from the wind, but mostly from myforeboding future. I let out a shriek and the tricycle flipped, rolled, tumbled,bounced and eventually came to a stop at the bottom.

I was bawling myeyes out. I looked down at my hands, covered in blood. My back was scraped fromthe burning asphalt and painful little cinders embedded themselves in my skin.The flesh on my arms had been peeled up to my shoulders. Blood ran down my brow,blinding me. I thought of my dog, Dookie, who had been struck by a mercilessIsuzu Trooper that same summer. Was this how he felt?

Soon, an onslaughtof neighbors filled the streets and I was taken to the hospital. It was confirmedI had a broken nose, a concussion, and "a few minor in-juries." Minor,my petite pa'toosh! The day I walked out of that hospital, the stock value ofgauze and remolded casts tripled.

The rest of my recuperation remains ablur. I do remember Dante actually buying me an entire box of Swedish Fish.Strangely, they didn't seem appealing. I was confident that Dante would begrounded for the remainder of his childhood. But as we grew older, and apart,that story has remained a symbol of our childhood - when dares were law, andthose few minutes you got to stay up past your bedtime were priceless.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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