Circumstances within my control caused me to become a robber, but at least I was a curious one.
Mikey and Deedee LaCross, David, and I sat in the front yard discussing what to do. “Let’s have Mary think of a new game,” said David. “My sister always thinks up fun things to do.”
It was the most valued compliment I’d ever received, and one I never forgot. The previous week, during a ninety-degree scorcher, I thought up an exploration game. We dressed up in our winter snowsuits, crawled through Weaver’s hay field, and pretended we were freezing in the Alaskan wilderness. David and a neighbor, Connie, played the part of the seals that we Polar Bears hunted. Mom spotted us before heat exhaustion set in.
All eyes focused on me with expectation. I couldn’t let my brother down after such a vote of confidence. I scrunched my face in thought and rejected my first few ideas. I spotted our hula-hoops, a newly introduced fad.
“We’re going to travel through space.”
We needed space suits. We pulled our arms inside our tee-shirts, twirled the shirts around backward, and stuck our arms back out. Two hula-hoop spaceships twirled around the yard, each transporting two space travelers from mars to planet earth.
“Get ready to land!” I shouted.
We dizzily crashed to earth. David lay in a heap without moving.
“Don’t worry, I’ll save you.” I brought the casualty back to life by poking my finger-of-life into his belly-button.
We walked in slow motion because that is how aliens walk on earth. Curiously, we explored the strange new world and wondered at the different life forms. We ate pieces of clover to see if it was food and tried communicating with the maple tree near the mail boxes.
“Ooka, ooka,” I shouted, and pointed at human life sitting on our front porch.
We laboriously moved toward the earthling and surrounded it. Our hands poked and prodded while we interrogated it in Martian.
“Ooky? Loo loo mooky?”
After several minutes, we passed its annoyance threshold. The earthling banished us from the porch, so it could continue reading its book.
Janie entered our yard from next door. We surrounded and touched her in amazement. This earthling would not escape our interrogation. We demanded information about her planet.
“Mooloo! Ooka pooloo!”
“What are you guys doing?” she asked.
“Dooka looka! Peeky pooka!”
Janie never learned Martian and got mad.
“Head back to the ships. I think she’s dangerous,” I yelled.
Our spaceships spun around the yard with the angry earthling chasing.
It was not my first negative encounter with Janie. Her parents never quite knew what to make of me. They planted a small garden on the edge of Weaver’s hay field between our two homes. After pulling a carrot from the Vail’s garden, I rubbed the dirt off on the seat of my pants. It tasted extra good with long green leaf stalks hanging off the end. Janie caught me chewing the freshly picked carrot.
“You’re a robber,” she accused.
“This carrot is equally mine, since it didn’t grow on your property,” I politely informed her. I made yummy sounds while crunching on the carrot and telling her how good it was.
“Mr. Weaver said we could plant here. You’re a robber,” she repeated.
Janie stood with her hands on her hips. In a silent show-down, we glared at each other. My green eyes squinted in my skinny-oval face. Janie’s big brown eyes were magnified and bugged-out behind glasses on her roundish face. Half a minute passed; my maximum time limit for inaction.
The robber picked up a rotted tomato and threw it, mashing Janie between her eyes. She ran to her house screaming, and the robber thought it a good time to give up her life of crime.
“Here she is now,” Mom said, and handed me the phone as I came inside.
Mrs. Vail made me aware of how lucky I was Janie’s glasses didn’t break. I said I was sorry–not really–but explained that her daughter was a pain-in-the-neck. She took the news gracefully.
My final visit to Vail’s wasn’t a good one. I just turned seven, and Janie was still six. Although unsure of the details, I knew boys and girls were physically different. But I was surprised and confused when I caught a glimpse of Mom in the tub. Except for breasts, I assumed all girls were the same. I mentioned it to Janie who said her mother was different, too. We sat behind the corner sofa in her front room to see if we were alike or different, and that is how Mrs. Vail found us.
Janie and her family soon moved away.
Lessons learned: If you happen to throw a tomato at a pain-in-the-neck, be careful of glasses.
Learn to appreciate all forms of life, regardless of what planet they’re from, and celebrate their similarities as well as differences. It’s also handy to learn foreign languages.
Now it’s your turn: Tell the truth, did you ever bop a neighbor with a veggie or compare ‘differences’?
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