July Seven, 1997: Ingrained Preference

Dad set up the slip-n-slide that my brother got for his birthday last year on the lawn. It’s a long sheet of glossy, yellow tarp with a small blow-up pool at the end of it. It used to have an overhang that went between the pool and the slide that had strips of plastic hanging from it but it has gone missing this year. I imagine it neglected, sitting in some corner of the shed and it makes me sad.

My neighbors Axl and Ross show up on our lawn every day. They seem to be out there even before I’m up and dressed. I am nine-years old, Ross is ten, my brother is eleven and Axl is twelve. They usually show up and want to slip-n-slide at high noon. The weather is particularly hot in Sacramento in July and especially so in the suburbs because of the limited shade from trees which have been long ago uprooted to make room for the streets and middle-sized houses that would become family dwellings for the nouveau middle class parents of the eighties.

Ross is a total screwball who would be medicated if he had the kind of parents who take their kids to mental heath professionals. Fortunately he does not. His father is some kind of blue collar hero who is overjoyed when his military surplus jeep (he named it “froggy”) manages to start in the morning – always with grinding and backfiring noises that sound like shots from a .22. His step-mom is a severely paranoid woman with two gen-x stereotypes for children; a daughter who chain smokes and doesn’t go to school and a son who is a stoner in a hard rock band that practices in their garage to the constant displeasure of my mother. He also plays a lot of hacky sack. Axl and Ross are from Alaska and have not adjusted to whatever culture exists here. They never wear shoes and talk incessantly about hunting caribou. Ross once came over in boxers and a t-shirt and started climbing our tree. He figured since he had heard them called “boxer shorts” that meant they were shorts and acceptable for wearing outdoors. Alaska is their Shangri-La. Ross tells me merely uttering the word “casino” will cause natives to come out of the woods and begin giving you money. I went to Axl to verify this statement and he said it was, in fact, true. There’s no need to work in Alaska and there’s always snow on the ground. All you need is a crossbow and somewhere to live and you’ll do just fine. Axl is the farthest along in puberty and thus only has a slight interest in slip-n-slide. He’s always the first one to go home.

Today Axl and my brother were riding their bikes around the block while Ross and I were playing on the slip-n-slide. They rushed up to the lawn and Axl hopped off his bike letting it ghost ride until it collapsed in the grass. I wanted to tell them about some new slip-n-slide technique I had discovered when I was interrupted by them talking over each other trying to articulate some great thing they had found. They shouted in hushed tones about something spectacular and otherworldly that was happening down the street. Before I could fully comprehend what they were saying, the four of us were all riding our bikes at full speed, throwing all of our weight into each pedal, causing our bikes to rock from side to side. Axl and my brother stopped only a block away and ran onto a lawn and crouched by the fence. This house had one of those sliding gates to the yard that opened wide enough for one to back a boat into. Ross and I crouch-walked closely behind Axl like Navy Seals and peered around the corner of the partially open gate. What we saw I was entirely not prepared for. There were two high school aged girls stark naked in a doughboy pool. One was sitting on the metal siding facing us with her legs dangling carelessly down the side while the other was in the water leaning on the siding talking to her. I focused my attention of the one sitting on the pool in full display. She was slim with long hair that seemed dry. She had small, perky tits and a full bush. I surveyed her legs and pubic area trying to figure out exactly where her vagina was and how it worked. It seemed only more beautiful by how much it defied my expectations. Ross was obnoxiously peeking around me, obscuring my view and ended up getting us caught. The girls yelled at us with faux-indignation and called us “little perverts.” The girl in the pool got out and walked towards us to chase us off or something. I wasn’t sure what she was going to do but whatever it was, it gave me the opportunity to look over her body and I liked it just as much as her friend’s. She looked the same as her friend and was also sporting a bush that was dripping pool water. We left and went back to the slip-n-slide a little wiser and a lot more tumescent. It was all we talked about that week. We went back often but never saw the girls at all. After the summer’s end, I went and surveyed the yard and noticed the pool was gone altogether and the landscape looked so foreign that I had to make sure I was in the right place. I began to question if the whole thing had been real or not. There was just dirt and weeds and the weather became overcast and the wind contained the moisture of impending rain. I stayed out a little longer, riding my bike alone and watching my cat shit on the neighbor’s lawn. I believe that cat was killed for a shit-related offense but I was never able to verify that. Like the girls, he was just gone one day and there was nothing to do about it.

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