Friday, March 13, 2009

Back Then

In the summer time we would play triple deck canasta and get in big fights because we all cheated. We spent the hours before falling asleep dreaming up devious ways to cheat our other six siblings. We would form alliances to gang up on one another with secret counter alliances and double blind espionage being major tactics. Sometimes the fighting got physical and then the fists would come out ending in a bloody nose. Then our mother would ban us all from the house to sort it out among ourselves; which sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t.

If someone yelled, “I’m going down to the river!” that was the signal that the fight was off. We’d go running down to the river jumping into the clear water cooling everyone’s tempers. Oddly, we were ethical in the water. We might have a water fight but that was as far as it would go. We never dunked one another. We looked out for the little ones. If a crab was spotted scurrying under a rock a warning shout would go up. Nobody wanted a pinched toe. We harmoniously hated blood suckers in unison. Swimming was good.

Sometimes those fights were just too good to give up. We were not into conflict resolution and no one taught us. Our parents operated under the homegrown philosophy that if we didn’t kill each other eventually everything would turn out. We carried on for days at a time taunting, calling names and making up lies. It was fun. It was mean. It was evil. We loved it. My sister, Sally, was the best at pushing buttons. Hers was psychological warfare throwing out little loaded comments at the dinner table resulting in thigh pinches under the table. She never forgot anything and gathered ammunition daily. Anything was fare game with her. Two of my brothers never caught on and it only got worse as they grew into testosterone-laden teenager boys.

I was the runt of the litter so hiding was my game. Being little had its advantages. I could hide in boxes, under stairs, behind corners, anywhere. I was a terrible liar and always got caught along with my little brother, Jerry. I don’t know how they always knew but they did. Jerry and I were the least social of the siblings. While the others could seemingly carry a fight on forever we two would eventually go out into the woods for some quiet time. We got pretty good at playing Indian and being invisible. If we heard the thundering heels of the other five coming for us we’d climb up a tree or crawl under thick bushes. It was a thrill to watch them run by calling to us.

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