Lindy had one trout and was in motion to catch another. She must have sensed that the fact that I hadn’t bought into her enthusiasm was a signal that something was wrong.
She looked up and saw me looking up the hill to that spot where a band of pint-sized vigilantes were racing down the field toward us.
“Jeez,” she said, grabbing me by the arm with the arm that wasn’t clutching the trout, “run!”
Run we did. We ran as if our lives were in the balance, which they weren’t, but almost. We ran from a sure beating, a serious thumping of the kind that Lindy’s brother, Lloyd, had been the unfortunate victim of. And, who knew, such a thrashing might well end in a de-pants-ing — that dreaded act where the victim’s pants were pulled down to his or her ankles as the ultimate humiliation — the last act to a pounding, the final aria in an opera.
As the avengers ran downhill we ran up. I don’t know if I had ever run that hard to that point in my life. Reflecting on it now, I probably hadn’t. My muscles burned. My chest pounded, and still, I watched Lindy appear smaller and smaller ahead of me.
There was no time, not a second to squander on a backward glance. The risk was too great. I stumbled awkwardly as I reached the top of the field. As I scrambled to my feet, I saw Lindy, standing just inside the barbed wire of the fence line. She was facing the opposite side of the gulch defiantly.
I knew a few bad words. Lindy knew a lot more, a whole lot more, and she was using the worst of them to taunt our enemies from the valley’s far side.
I turned and saw that our foes had made it to the creek and had apparently weighed the chance of catching Lindy and me against the pitch of the slope we’d just climbed and decided to abort their mission. They were slowly making their way up the slope to their home or homes, stopping from time to time with a feeble counter to the brazen invective Lindy hurled at them.
At first I thought it unwise to jerk on the chain of the beast that stalks you, but, in the end, I joined Lindy in her chorus of rebuke. We had avoided capture. We had won. In a strange way, we were victorious and it felt right to revel.
“Why are they so angry?” I asked. “It’s not their creek, is it?”
I wasn’t sure at that point.
“No, it’s not their creek,” Lindy assured me. “They’re just a bunch of dumb dinks who don’t know their ass from a hole in the grass.”
This seemed a perfectly logical explanation to me. Lindy knew her stuff. And, she was my friend — probably my best friend.
We walked through the field next to the white house where the people kept big white rabbits. Next to the white house was a grove of maple trees. We called them vine maples. I’m not positive that that’s what they were, but they were maples and they had long slender trunks that made them ideal for leaping to and swinging from in the way that Johnny Weissmuller did on some Saturdays at the Vogue Theatre.
The tension was gone. The threat was too. We’d escaped the clutches of the kids who felt it their mission to defend “the Valley” and its resources, and we’d won. Electronics was barely a word back then. Electricity was a word of some importance because it powered radios and vacuum tube TVs . Phones had rotary dials. The woods were our Play Station.
To celebrate our victory we veered from the path that brought us— Lindy’s idea — to swing on the maples. Lindy laid trout and tackle on the ground then we clambered up the sinuous trees and leaped in glee from one stalk to the next under a canopy of maple leaves.
Thinking back on it now, jumping like cheetahs from tree to tree with only a smattering of the evolutionarily programmed skill those simians have, might have — given that we were 3 to 4 metres up — resulted in a significant accident, but it didn’t. Like almost all the kids of our age we were skinny, hard, confident, and agile, and totally unafraid of playground splinters. We regarded risk as the seasoning that gave zest to experience.
When we reached Lindy’s place, the trout was as stiff as shoe leather. She rummaged about under the sink and pulled out a cast iron frying pan. She found some grease and some flour, and after gutting it, rolled the fish in the former, and then the latter, dropped it the pan, and fried it on both sides.
Next, she took a pair of plates from the cupboard. She cut the fish in two. I took the fork she’d given me and ate my portion. It was nearly tasteless.
After finishing up, I stood and made for the door.
“I’ll call on you tomorrow,” I said.
…to be continued…