My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Pancake Sunday

I've been wanting pancakes for a week and thought Sunday would be perfect for a stack.  I found a recipe on line and checked the cupboard for the ingredients.
All-purpose flour?  It's five or six years old and had been sitting in an old bread box above the microwave.  Aaah, what the hell.  They used flour in olden days that wasn't stamped with an expiration date.
Baking powder?  I double checked the recipe and the tin to be certain it was powder and not soda.
Salt?  Who doesn't have a box of Morton salt sitting somewhere in the kitchen.  And there it was behind the can goods on the bottom shelf.
Milk?  Of course.  Even better that the expiration date is a while back.  That's almost the same as buttermilk, isn't it?  I have always liked buttermilk pancakes.
Sugar?  Yep, right there in the sugar bowl as it has been since I was a working stiff.
Eggs?  In the door of the refrigerator where I left them a couple of months ago.  I thought about trying the water test but decided I would know as soon as I cracked the shell and exposed the innards.  I checked the expiration stamp on the carton but whoever stamped that day must have been hungover since it was just a blue smear across the carton.
And there I had it.  All the ingredients for pancakes sitting on the counter. The next order of action involved finding utensils to prepare the mixture.
A bowl.  I wiped out the husk of some flying creature with a damp paper towel.  The measuring cups I had washed the night before to remove the sticky film.  They had dried over night in the dish rack.
The flour was still white.  I filled two cups.  After watching the surface of the powder for a few minutes and being certain there was no motion I moved on to the next ingredient.
I remembered my mother always tossed the dry components into the bowl first which I did.  Still no movement.
Happy with the half full bowl I cracked the first egg.  Wouldn't hydrogen sulfide be apparent with the first crack?  I figured it would.  Into the mound flopped the egg white and yolk.  I watched it slide down the side of the flour hill with an observant eye to be certain no baby chick or blood spot was apparent.  Nope.  I cracked the second egg with the same results.  I had been a bit concerned that this might be the ingredient that would destroy my pancake dream.
The last thing to go was the milk.  One cup.  It said one and a half to two cups so I held back on the second to see how the mixture would look.  Fortunately for me one and a half was the perfect amount.
Everything whipped up into a lovely lumpy paste.
I was proud of myself.  Not only did I have batter in a bowl but I had a large frying pan pre heating to the proper temperature while preparing it.  I had thought ahead.  I was ready.
The quarter cup measure was the perfect amount for a hand sized pancake.  In the end I had ten pancakes stacked and buttered in my pie plate sitting near the burner.  Some may have been a bit tanner than others but, surprisngly, there were none so burnt they needed to be arced into the trash bin.
The bowl, measuring cups and spoons along with other unnecessary dishes, pots and pans I tossed into the sink leaving a trail of batter and eggshells drizzled across the stove and counter top.  Let 'em soak, says I.
I had read somewhere that to keep the syrup from being unevenly absorbed by those porous pancakes that a hole should be cut into the center of the stack.  It makes a swell well of syrup for dipping.  I found that to be a good innovation for me.
While all this was going on Robin, my Heinz 57 hybrid, left the room to hide in the TV room.  Any  time the activity becomes too boysterous for her delicate nerves she high tails it to the back.  Nakita, my akita, had gone out earlier to observe the neighborhood and repell any elephants that might stray into the yard.
As I sat to indulge myself with that mound of syrup drenched fried dough Nakita body-slammed the door  which was her quiet way of requesting entry to the house.  I let her in, removed her elbra after which she moseyed to the back.
It was just too much.  It was more than I could eat.  So I scraped the leftovers into the trash bin.  When I turned around I saw both my girls turning the corner.  Nakita was looking at me expectantly.  She licked her chops in preparation.  Robin rounded the corner looking a bit guilty rolling her eyes groundward.  I swear that Robin told Nakita in their canine way that I had been cooking.
"Sorry girls.  It was too sweet for you two and I tossed it."
Nakita looked at me.  Then she looked at Robin as if to say why'd you make me get off my comfortable bed for this.  Robin looked at her then at me tucked her tail and meandered over to her chair.
Well, it was too sweet for them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Thirteen, again

My arm smarted.  I swear there was a fist imprint on my deltoid.  It was nothing compared to the feelings I had when I looked into my friend’s eyes. They were like neon signs flashing, “what a dumb thing to do.”  I turned away my face reddening. 
“Now that the fun’s over, anyone ready to ski?”
It was my uncle who had laughed loudest when I hit the wall across the room.
“That sounds good,” said one person and then another. 
“We’ll have to take turns in the back room changing into bathing suits,” called out my aunt.
I laughed as I slipped out of my jeans and shirt.  I had forethought.  I had worn my suit under my clothes.  Rolling up those clothes, I stashed them in the corner.  I glanced at the wall of my recent encounter and could have sworn it bowed in at the impact point.  So much for foolishness, there was a lake waiting and my friend who was excited to ski.
She was a very popular young lady at school.  Everyone knew she was one of the brightest students we had, a fact which belied her status as a natural blonde.  When she entered a room it was as if sunshine lit every corner bringing smiles to all faces she shown upon.  The boys had begun to seek her out in a new way since the age of puberty had begun to pump new chemicals into their blood streams.  We were all red blooded arrivals into the teen years.  Scales had dropped from our eyes enabling us to see a whole new world.  Not one of us understood it, however.  I am certain I didn’t.
It was all so confusing.  That becomes apparent when a teenage boy challenges his dad to an arm punch.  The guys did this all the time. It was almost a rite of passage.
“Bare your arm, Croucher,” said one of my buddies on one such occasion.
“I said bare your arm,” he repeated.
“Why?”   My inroads to puberty were lagging some would say.  Others my age had begun to get into the whole thing by lifting weights.  This was their way of proving their new strength.
“We’re going to trade punches.”
“Huh?”  My quick retorts were not the wittiest.
“Come on. I’ll show you.”  He pulled his sleeve up over his deltoid which was impressive. 
“There,” he said.  “You punch me as hard as you can.  Then I get to do the same to you.”
“It’s what guys do,” he said with a smirk.
“Since when?”  I was still a little befuddled.
“Since we became men,” he answered with a grin.
“I thought that was when we were twenty-one.”
“Well, technically, yeah, but, you know…” he winked.
“You know!”  He nearly shouted.
“I guess I don’t.  How about tellin’ me.”
“See?”  He lifted his arm with the sleeve pulled up to his shoulder.  He leaned into the sunlight.
“Yeah?”  I said.
“Well, look!”  He did yell this time.
“At what?  Your armpit?”
I leaned in that direction.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Look closer.”   He grabbed the back of my head pushing my nose into his pit.
“Whoa!” I shouted jerking away from him.  “You talking about that smell?”
“No! Dipweed. I’m talking about that hair.  Men have hair growing under their arms and there it is.  It just proves that I’m a man!”  His face beamed with the satisfaction of logical deduction.
“What those two blonde hairs?” The sunlight glinted off a couple of short straight hairs protruding from his pit.
“Yeah.  That’s only the beginning.  Wanna see more proof?” The words no sooner left his mouth than he was loosening his belt buckle.
“Whoa!  Whoa! NO!!”  I yelled jumping back from him.
I knew what he was talking about because my body was sprouting peach fuzz in places I’d never had hair before.  Dad had told me it was a natural thing when boys reached a certain age which was pretty much all he told me about puberty.  There were things going on inside and outside that I found totally confusing. 
Girls.  I was especially confused about girls.  They began to look different, to me and to every guy my age.  They were beginning to blossom.  I heard that term but didn’t truly understand it at the time. 
“They’re bustin’ out all over,” said one of my buddies one day.  I wanted to ask what he meant by that but the moment passed as one of the girls we had known all our lives walked past.  We followed her with our eyes like we never had before.  She had a new demeanor about her that I certainly didn’t understand.  I felt like iron in the wake of a magnet.  The pull was just as mysterious.  What was it about her these days that hadn’t been there last year? 
My body began to act in strange ways as well.  The bus rides were times of true angst.  The bus came like always and I jumped on books in hand like always but the air was different.  The girls seemed softer, shyer, with smiles that brought a smile to my face.  Sliding into my seat with a lingering memory of the brunette in front of the bus whose smile lit the morning I grinned for no apparent reason.  That smile would never have affected me before but for some reason it lingered in my mind.  That smile lived inside of me warming me.  It became my world as everything else slipped away until the laughter of the girls in the next seat woke me from my own personal paradise.
The giggles turned to real laughter.  I looked to see what they were laughing at when I saw they were pointing at me.  I looked in the direction of their index fingers and …   My books were not sitting flat on my lap but tilting at an angle.
I felt all the blood in my body burn intensely in my face.  Well, not all the blood, obviously.   I slumped forward my arms pressing my books down.  Gone was the smile, gone paradise.  My face remained beat red for the remainder of the bus ride.  I stared at the bus wall in my slumped position until the bus stopped in the school yard.  I waited until the everyone had left before I moved.  There was no fear of my books sitting at an inappropriate angle any longer.  
I don’t think the blood left my face until lunch time.  That fire lit again upon entering the lunch room.  There were titters and giggles trailing along behind me as each of the girls from our morning  bus ride watched me pass.  It was a long day.
I won’t say that didn’t happen again because it did.  Those first couple of years proved a difficult time for a shy kid going through puberty, which brings me back to the cabin and my friend. 
I was talking to dad who came over to check on me.  We walked outside into the sun where he looked at my arm to be certain there was no permanent damage.   He straightened up satisfied I was fine.  I noticed he was smiling as he looked over my shoulder.
“I’m ready,” she said behind me.
I smiled and turned. 
I froze.  My eyes were held by a sight I never dreamed I would see in my life time.  Here in front of me was all the mystery I had never fathomed as puberty wore on day by day.  The richness of life was right before me in all its splendor.  Twin peaks of beautifully fashioned flesh warmly mounded beneath a red bit of cloth held my eyes transfixed.  I simply could not move.  My jaw was near the sandy ground. 
“Rickey, are you alright?” she said.
Her voice was warm and tantalizing.  I was adrift in my mind approaching paradise.
“I think he’s still stunned from our contest,” said my dad who shook me.
He shook me harder a second time.
“Son, your guest wants to know if you are alright.”  He shook me a third time very hard.
My eyes rattled into use once more.
“Uh, um, uh…  yeah, I’m alright,”  I mumbled as my eyes began to drift to those alpine…
Dad shook me again.
“Good, let’s head to the beach.  I hear the motor being cranked.”  He turned me in that direction.
Dad said she smiled as she began to walk to the beach.  I was willing my face to return to its lily white complexion.  How do guys get over this? The question tumbled through my mind constantly.
The rest of the day was lost to me in my crazed state.  I saw her slide her feet into the skis and fly away as my uncle hit the lever forward.  She was very good for a beginner.  She fell a couple of times.  I’m positive my uncle did it on purpose.  It was his way.  I know it was his attempt to loosen that bit of red cloth but he was never successful.
Watching him I knew some of us guys never got beyond the hold of puberty.  All I could hope was that I would never grow up to be like him. 

The day finally came to a close and we took my friend home.  I am sorry to say my embarrassment ruined the day for us since I was never able to talk intelligently for the rest of the stay.  We never went out together again but we did remain good friends.  She was one of my favorite people.  I’m glad to say she must have understood my awkwardness as a newly minted teenager.  I am thankful for that.  I will always remember her as one of the finest people I ever knew.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wait! My what?

I had a dream last night.   In it I had just finished a large canvas.  The oils were drying as I stepped back to view the overall design.  It was an old brigantine, sails billowing and prow bursting through the open sea.  The sky was filled with clouds and the horizon held the promise of shelter from the storm.  It was a grand thing I thought eyeing the three by four foot canvas and yet...
My aunt was in the studio, why I do not know except the law of dreams is the unexpected.  She was my aunt by marriage to the artist of the family.  She passed away many years ago but here she was young and vibrant as I remember from my childhood.
"What do you think?" I asked her.
She stood back appraising my efforts.
I interrupted her concentration with my statement, "I think it's probably the best I have done so far but something seems wrong.  I just can't put my finger on it."
She glanced my way her face registering annoyance.
"Is it that bad?"
"Give me a minute," she said.  "I kind of see what you mean.  It's very good but something just seems out of sorts.  I need to study it."
I left her alone in front of the easel.
Another ten minutes passed in silence.  I saw her smile.
"I see it now," she said.
"Yes?" I looked over at my work.
"Look at this section," she said pointing at a portion of the ship.
"I still don't see it," came my answer.
"Look closely."
"I'm sorry.  Is it in the clouds?"  My puzzlement was growing.
"No!" she nearly shouted.
"Well what?" I did shout.
"There.  You should always research your material.  It's right there."
"Your stengal's broken."  With that she disappeared.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thirteen without a clue...

She is going!
Ah, silver tongued devil.  You talked her into it, a day of skiing and barbequing.  Yessiree, I lured her in and sprung the trap.  And now I’m sharing the day with her.  Just me and her.  Hot diggity dirt. 
My words were accompanied by a jig and a smile until I tripped over my feet.  The other kids in the breezeway stopped to laugh at my clumsiness but, heck, I didn’t mind because she was going with me to the family gathering at the lake house.
I looked over at her. My sheepish grin and reddening face must have made her smile as she shook her head then turned to go to class.
“Need help getting’ up?” asked my best friend.
“Naah, I got it,” I said pushing myself into a sitting position.
“What was that stupid dance all about?” he asked.
“My happy dance.”
“Yeah?  Happy about what?  The quiz this period?”
“Heck no!”  I looked at him slyly.  “She said yes.”
I told him.
“No way.  She’s way out of your league.”
“That may be but she said yes.”  My grin showed all thirty-two of my teeth.
“Wow!   You lucky dog.  What’re y’all gonna do?”
“You know the cabin my uncle has at the lake?”
“He’s having a barbeque.”
“Big deal. We can do that here.”  He shifted the books to his other hip.
“Yeah, but you don’t have a boat and skis,” I said with a triumphant smile.  “And you know what that means…”
He looked at me with questioning eyes. 
“No, what does that mean?”
“There will be water sports… swimming and skiing.”  I almost gave the knowing wink I had seen my dad give when he was privy to secret information.
“Yeah, it sounds like fun.” 
I could see he didn’t understand.  It was hard being sophisticated at thirteen.  Even my wink would not have been clue enough.
I started to elaborate when the second bell rang.  We were going to be late to class, a definite no-no for a quiz day.
“Come on!  We better run!” 
Our teacher was at the door drawing it shut as we skidded up to her.
“You know you shouldn’t be running in the halls,” she said to us with a smile.
“Yes, ma’am,” we replied in unison.
The rest of the day I was walking on a cloud thinking about the smile I had received.  A yes, accompanied by a smile.  I was the luckiest guy in the world.
The final bell rang.  The school week was over with that bell.  Tomorrow was Saturday.  The cabin at the lake was a night away.  As I walked to the bus I saw her sitting at the window seat in the bus going to her neighborhood.  I ran over and slapped the side as I jumped up for an eye to eye glace.  Though startled, she turned to see my face across the window sill.  She followed it as I landed back on solid ground.  She smiled.  I smiled back.
“Don’t forget!” I shouted.
“Tomorrow at ten, right?”  She leaned over the window opening.
“That’s right!  Don’t forget your bathing suit if you want to go skiing!” 
“We’ll see,” she said.  “I’ve never skied before.  I don’t know that I could.”
Her bus jerked into motion.
“But you can swim if you don’t ski!” I shouted at her.  She withdrew into the bus.  Her hand waved back at me.
My bus stopped in front of me.  The doors opened.
“You ridin’?” the boy from the senior class asked holding the door handle ready to close it.  The bus behind beeped.  He began to close the folding doors.
“Yeah!” I yelled.  I pushed the flaps back and clamored on board.
He jammed the accelerator as I was making my way down the center aisle.  I fell forward into one of the students sitting on the aisle side of his seat.
“Watch it!” he yelled pushing me off of him.
“Yeah, OK. Sorry.”
The bus stopped abruptly sending me back into him.  I heard the driver chuckle as the boy shoved me back into the aisle a second time.  The seat behind him was empty so I plopped myself into it and tossed my books onto the seat.
My mind was filled with Saturday’s events.  I’d only just tried skiing the last time we had spent time there.  It wasn’t easy getting up on those things but once I did the rush was overwhelmingly wonderful.  Sliding along on a glassy lake zigzagging behind the power boat was the most fun I had had since turning thirteen. 
It took me several tries to hold the rope and control the two slabs of wood attached to my feet.  The last time I was about to fly through the skis when my uncle eased off on the engine just enough for me to gain my balance.  Then I was up skidding atop the lake.  I held on for dear life as he gunned the outboard.  I could hear the power increase in a split second.  I felt the rope whip taut and I was flying behind the wake of his four-seater with the biggest grin I could muster plastered across my face.   I was buzzing along directly behind the motor.  I was happy enough but started thinking of the things I had seen others do so I leaned just a bit to the right and began to cross the wake out to the left of the boat’s trail. 
The skis slapped over the outside wake as I leaned to the left and began an arc over to the other side.  It was easy I laughed to myself leaning once again to the right.  Up into the air ever so slightly my skis smacked across the churned water and up again to settle unsteadily on the other side.  My balance was lost.  My body smacked into liquid concrete.  Stunned, I tried to breathe.  There was no air, only water.  Panicking, I tried to right myself.  The skis were no help.  Pulling my feet clear I kicked for the surface.  My uncle was circling the area when my head popped up.
“Get the skis!” he yelled at me over and over.
I looked around.  Seeing one I scissor kicked toward it.  When I had it in hand I hand paddled in a circle until the other one came into view.  A few stokes in that direction brought it into my hand.
“Put ‘em back on!  I’m going to come past you so you can grab the rope.”
 He crossed my path keeping the engine well away from me.  I saw the wake that the bar at the end of the rope made as it came close. I reached, caught the bar and lifted the rope over my ski so it was between them and started to yell, go.
My uncle didn’t wait for my order.  He gunned it.  I held on tightly, leaned forward then back trying to achieve a balanced stance.  Just at the point of being jerked from the skis I found that balance and was once again slicing through the wake behind the boat.  The time skimming the lake seemed far too short but it came to an end as he eased off the outboard.  The boat slowed into the sand.  My skis did the same.  I stepped out of them, picked them up and carried them to the boat.
“Not bad for a beginner,” said my uncle.  He tied the boat to an anchor he had spiked into the sand. 
“Do you always gun the engine like that?” I asked him while I propped the skis against the boat.
“Makes it fun for me,” he said with a laugh.  “Now we need to get your mother on those skis.”
“I don’t think that will happen,” I replied.
One day my mother did try it.  She never did again.  She found no fun in his gunning the engine.  My uncle just laughed.  My dad didn’t.
I was in front of the TV when my parents got home.  After they settled down and a pot of tea was on the table I spoke up.
“We’re still going to the lake aren’t we?”
Dad looked at me. 
“Why do you ask?” he said.
I looked at my mother who told me she would discuss my bringing a friend.  Asking directly was usually followed by a big fat no.  My mother had always interceded important requests so that he might say yes.  It depended on his mood.
My mother smiled at me a nodded as she poured the tea.
“I… I kinda asked somebody to go with me.  I hope that’s OK.” 
“Your mother mentioned something about a girl.  You want to ask a girl to go along with us?”
“Uh, yes sir.  If it’s OK,” I stammered back.
“Did you ask her already?”
“Yes sir.  She’s really something and I…”  I stopped.  His mind was made up.  I’d have to call her to apologize.
“Well, if it means that much to you, I don’t see why not.”
Wonder of wonders! He said yes! I was stunned. My face must have registered shock.
“Aren’t you going to say thank you?” It was my mother urging me onward.
“Uh, yes ma’am.  Thank you, dad.  Thank you,” I blurted out.
“That’s alright, son.  What time did you tell her we were going?”
“Ten o’clock.  In the morning.”
“Alright, then. I believe we should leave here by 9:30 then.  In the morning,” he said smiling at me.
“Yes sir.  Can I phone her to remind her?”
He nodded.
The night couldn’t go fast enough.  Barbeque. Ice cream. Swimming. Skiing.  And the prettiest girl in the eighth grade.  With me!  Oh man!  The best day ever.
Dad drove over to her house to pick her up.  We went straight to the cabin on the lake from there.  The entire trip I told her about the last time we went and I learned how to ski.  I didn’t include the disastrous fall, however. 
Dad finally turned on to the dirt road leading to the cabin.  It was small.  It was mainly front porch, screened in to keep out the mosquitoes with an inner room containing cots, a table and appliances, a stove and a refrigerator.  It had electricity even in its rustic state. 
I may have over romanticized the place to my friend.  She didn’t seem as impressed as I had hoped, but she smiled.  We stopped in front.  I took her bag and then her hand to help her out.  She looked around at the sandy ground surrounding the shack.  Patches of grass and weeds dotted the unpromising lawn.
The screen squeaked when dad pulled on it stepping aside for mom and my friend to enter. 
My uncle’s loud voice could be heard from the back.
“Well, well.  There’s the Limey.  We were thinking you wouldn’t make it again.”
“Traffic was heavier than usual.  And we left a little late to pick up the boy’s friend.”
My uncle’s lascivious eyes raked over her.  I could see a chill run up her spine.
“Mighty pretty, Rickey.  Mighty pretty.  Too pretty for you,” he added.
I took her hand and led her over to the corner.
“How ‘bout a drink, Al?” he shouted directly at my dad.
Dad smiled and declined. 
“A bit early for me,” he said.
“Never too early for a man,” said my uncle with a smirk.
I asked my friend if she would like to walk over to the lake shore.  She agreed.
“We’ll be back later,” I said as we walked down the gray aged steps.
“You be sure and bring her back now,” yelled my uncle at our backs.
“You’ll have to ignore him,” I told her as we walked side by side.
“I think there is one in every family,” she said.
We walked bare foot along the shore chatting the morning away.  As the sun grew hotter and higher in the sky we began a slow meander back to the cabin.
“Are you getting hungry?” I asked.
“Yes, I am,” she answered.
“Silly question.  Who isn’t.”
The grill was throwing off a wondrous aroma of roasting chicken slathered in barbeque sauce.  We arrived in time to have plates shoved into our hands.
“You children go ahead.  There’s cole slaw and potato salad along with iced tea inside on the table.  Get some of that chicken first though.” 
We filled our plates.  Inside we piled on the afore mentioned foods.  I led her to a place to sit and went back for ice tea.  The screened porch allowed a cool breeze to blow through while we ate.  It was a leisurely lunch followed by a card game or two while our food settled.
My dad was sitting over in the corner quietly having a smoke.  While I watched him an idea came to me.  I was thirteen and full of spunk and I wanted to impress the girl I had brought.  So gathering up courage I looked over at him and said, “Hey Dad!”
He looked up.
“Yes, son.”
“I have a proposition for you.”
“And what would that be?” he questioned.
“How about I get to hit you in the arm as hard as I can?”
“To what end?” he asked.
“I don’t know.  It’s what guys do,” I said.  I realized how ridiculous I sounded but it was too late.
“I don’t think you want to do that,” he replied taking a drag on his Lucky.
“Yeah, I think I do.”  My courage was up.
“You know that if you do then I get to do the same in return?”  He looked at me with a smile cracking his face.
“Uh… yes sir.  I know.”  My voice lost some of that confidence.
“I want you to think about this, son.”
My uncle chimed in.
“Naah, you don’t have to think about it.  You know you wanna hit your daddy,” he wisecracked.
“Um… you get to hit me in the arm just like I hit you?” I asked hesitantly.
“You want to hit me as hard as you can? Is that right?” He had sat forward to ask me.
“Y..Yes sir,” I slouched back in my chair.
“If you really want to do this then I will agree but I want you to understand that since you will hit me with all your strength I will do the same.  Do you understand?”  He looked very intently at me.
“Uh, yes sir,” I barely squeaked out. 
“Alright then.  You go first.  And hit me with everything you’ve got.”
“Yes sir,” I said.  Rising from my seat I looked back at the girl I thought I would impress and very sorry I had even wanted to.
Dad walked to the middle of the room.
“Al, you don’t really mean to do this, do you?” asked my mother who was beginning to rise from her seat.
“Sit back down, dear.  The boy wants to be a man.  Let’s let him do it.’  Dad rolled his sleeve up bearing his prominent deltoid.  I approached slowly.
I looked at his arm. It looked like rippled iron pipe.  Mentally I looked at mine, baby fat over tender muscle.  The sweat began to bead on my forehead as I watched those muscles come alive and tighten down.
“Oh, come on kid. Give your dad your best shot.”  My uncle kept egging me on.
I looked around hoping someone would laugh and say, oh stop it you two.  It wasn’t going to happen. I took another step forward.
“Are you going to take all day about it, son?”
“I’m getting there,” I whimpered in reply.
“You can still change your mind,” dad offered.  He flexed his rock hard arm once more as if to deflect my intention.  I remembered having seen him lift the back end of a Volkswagon clear of  the ground to allow someone to work on it.  That had only been a few months ago.  Only an arm of steel could perform such a feat. I looked up at dad, then at his arm. 
I reared back tightening my fist.  With all my might and weight behind it I slammed my fist into that arm.  It felt like my fist cracked.  Pain shot through it. I looked up at my dad who rolled down his sleeve.  He smiled.
“I thought you said that screen kept the mosquitoes out,” said my dad to my uncle.  Then he looked at me holding my fist.
“My turn,” he said.  “Prepare yourself.  Let me know when you are ready.”
I never wanted to hear that screen door slam behind me so badly in all my life.  I had probably injured myself for life slamming my flimsy hand into his tree trunk of an arm.  Yet, I had made a deal.  There would be no running away.  There would be no begging.  There would be no help from the audience.  I was alone bolstering my courage to meet my fate.  The fate I had brought upon myself.  I looked at my mother who sat back with a sad look on her face.  I looked at my friend who looked at me with puzzlement across hers.  And then I knew.  It was all for naught.  I rolled up my sleeve.  I tensed my arm as solidly as I could.
“Go ahead,” I said resignedly.
The wall on the other side of the room slammed into me.  He had just tapped me without full force or follow through and, yet, I had sailed across the room crumpling at the base of the wall.  The birds circling my head were multicolored and tweeting in unison. 
Dad was at my side.
“Are you alright, son?” He was very concerned.
“Did we get the tree alright?” I asked.
“Tree?” He looked perplexed for a moment.  “Oh, the tree.  Yes, we got the tree alright, five years ago.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked my aunt.
“We went for a Christmas tree in Georgia.  He got knocked out.  I guess he thought we were back in the Georgia woods again,’ explained my dad.
“Come on.  Let’s get up,” said dad.  “Do you know where you are?”
I looked around.  I shook my head and looked again.
“We’re at the cabin.”
“That’s right.  Do you remember what happened?”
“Oh, yeah.  I challenged you.”
“That’s right.  Did you learn anything today?” he asked.
“Uh, think before I speak?”
“That’s a good one to learn,” he said letting my arm go.  I was woozy but stayed on my feet.  I tried to keep that lesson in mind but sometimes I still forget.

To be continued…