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Childhood Excursion MAG
Galway had to be the best town in the world to be six years old in, especially in the summer. After dinner I would always sit on the back porch steps, usually dripping popsicle juice all over the warm concrete, waiting for the sky to darken and become laden with fireflies.
One humid moonless night my best friend Ryan, clad only in pajama bottoms, came tearing into our driveway on his bike. His cheeks were flushed and he wore a naughty smile. Ryan's parents always made him go to bed at eight o'clock, and he really resented the fact that he was a year older than I but went to bed two hours earlier.
"How'd you get out of the house?" I asked in a loud whisper.
"Climbed out my window," he grinned.
I was impressed. I watched in awe as he clapped his hands together on a hovering lightning bug and proceeded to smear it across his arm. It left a phosphorescent trail. He looked up from his work.
"Wanna ride up to Wolfe's store? Maybe Dennis'll give us a piece of gum!"
"He closes at six, remember?"
"Oh yeah," Ryan lamented. He loved candy because his parents never let him have it. They had a huge garden full of vegetables and apple trees, but all Ryan wanted was the forbidden fruit, sugar. Therefore, he was Dennis' best customer.
"Well," he sighed, "wanna hop on anyway an' go for a ride?"
"But my mom-" I began, casting a glance towards the screened window blue with television light and hearing the muffled canned laughter from "M*A*S*H." She'd never find out! "Oh, all right!" I decided.
I climbed onto the bike seat while Ryan stood and pedaled, his long blonde hair flying in the warm wind. We felt like we were taking part in a dangerous mission as trucks rushed past, almost throwing us off balance with their hot, oily air blasts. As we rode past the Glendale Inn, we saw lighted cigarette ends sticking out of mouths who'd spent enough time at the watering hole and were lumbering their way back to their pickup trucks.
As we pulled into Ryan's driveway, he announced, "Wish I had a cigarette!"
We got off his Huffy, laid it on the dewy grass and went to the tomato patch. We each picked a huge red one to feast upon in his barn. Ryan set his down.
"Be right back."
He crept into the house for a moment. I looked for the telltale blue haze in his parents' upstairs window. It was there. He dashed back out.
"Come on!" He dragged me by the arm into the barn. He reached into his pocket and produced a Marlboro and a lighter.
"Stole it from the coffee table!"
I stared in wonder as he lit up and took a long drag before having a coughing fit. He climbed up to the top of the hay bales and perched in front of the gaping hole of the huge barn that faced Route 29.
"Ya gonna try it or not?" he called down.
"No! Of course not."
"Oh!" he retorted, "Little Miss Priss."
I clutched my tomato and stormed up to Ryan. He handed me the cigarette and I put it in my mouth waiting for the earth to shatter.
"Breathe in," he instructed.
When I did, my eyes watered profusely and my virgin lungs burned. I felt really strange. I inhaled again just for good measure and handed back the cigarette. He took another puff, then ground it into the wall.
"I don't feel very well..." he began.
"Neither do I."
The air seemed heavy and the highway traffic noise outside seemed especially slow and loud. I took a big bite of my tomato to get rid of the ashy taste. Seeds and juice squirted down my chin and neck. For some reason, it felt good to be bad and to be sick, even.
We already possessed the restlessness that would one day heighten our awareness of Galway's stagnancy and prompt us to look in the wrong places for escape. n