Saturday, May 16, 2009

And Away We Go!'s the first of what I hope is many additions to the new and improved "Here's one...". It's a little story I put together about when I was a younger lad living in Pine Hills (Orlando). The one thing I remember from all of this is how important our neighborhoods were to us then. These days, I wouldn't notice if they busted a bank robber outside my condo, but then, oh the drama, the excitement! A small part of me wishes I could still think like I did then. When possibilities were endless to me with no internal censorship. It was good to be a kid, not that I'd want to go back, but still, it was pretty good. I know I'll never again have the same sense of wonder at things, of secret places that no longer exist and friendships/alliances that have since faded.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I was something of a loner when I was a kid. My time alone meant much day-dreaming, pondering, and "thinking of the cwuel way in which I was tweated. (Thanks to JB for that little quote!)

The Duckling
In the neighborhood adjacent to my junior high school, there was a lake that I had to pass twice everyday on my way to and from school. I don't remember if it had a name or if it was even really a lake. It may have actually been an overflow pond used by the neighborhood that, over time, had expanded to the size of half a dozen houses in length and about half that size in width. You had to scale down the sides to get to it and once you were down in it, you couldn't see the road anymore or any of the surrounding houses. You were in your own little world, with its own litte ecosystem. There were plenty of frogs and turtles and once in a while I would bring a fishing pole and would catch a few bream or catfish, always throwing them back. Mainly because the water was filthy and I wasn't so keen on eating them but mainly I just enjoyed the fishing. There was something fun about waiting excitedly for something to tug at my line and then to bring it in, carefully removing the hook, trying not to tear the fish's tender mouth and then throwing it back. Most of the time I would catch bream as they were easy to unhook and throw back. Unfortunately, this particular pond was also loaded with catfish and more often than not, I had to deal with removing a few of them. The easiest way for me was to just slap the line into the water repeatedly until the fish would fall off. I can imagine my father cringing at the sight of this, but I was pretty squeamish and even though I was out there fishing, I didn't really want to touch anything slimy. I remember once I actually caught a snapping turtle, and as I was reeling it in, realized I had hooked it somehow on the side of its shell. Lucky for me, as if I had hooked it in the mouth, I would have lost my lure and tackle, because there was no way I was going near it with my fingers.
One day while exploring, I heard the sounds of small peeping over near a clump of weeds about ten feet away. As I neared the weeds, I saw approximately six tiny ducklings hiding under the grass and not seeing an angry parent nearby, I went for a closer look. They were small, mottled, brown tufts of delight and I imagined taking one home and letting him swim in the bathtub or playing in the hose. I approached even closer and as if by magic, they all scattered quickly and quietly away. I was disappointed they didn't really want to be friends but I still didn't leave and as I watched them, I noticed one was coming very close to me. I could almost reach it with my hand, but not wanting to risk falling in this disgusting water, I found a stick nearby about three feet in length and tried to poke at it. The first few times missed and I was becoming frustrated, slapping at the water menacingly. Finally, one came near, and I struck at it. Catching it cleanly on the head, it felt like nothing at all. But then, I saw that its head was leaning strangely to the right and was circling wildly in the water. There was a sick feeling in my stomach as I realized that I had broken its neck. It would never swim with its family again and would indeed probably die very soon. In my over zealousness to add some fun to my household, I had instead maimed this innocent and fragile creature.
Somewhere inside of me, perhaps the only redeeming quality I still retained from this incident, something said I must not let this poor thing suffer. So I picked up a large rock and slammed it down on its head, killing it instantly. Its body floated lifelessly as I poked at it again with a stick. I could hear his brothers and sisters nearby and suddenly I was aware of what I had done. I had killed for no reason. I had maimed and then killed this poor creature. And for no reason at all. To simply satisfy my own curiosity.
I felt a chill run through my body as I realized how callous and unfeeling I could be. The potential for such violence and death from my own hands was, prior to this, unfathomable. But here it was, in plain, sickening view and I knew from this day that there would be more opportunities. I was no longer my mother's wonderful, innocent child. This would be the beginning of many secrets I would keep to myself. And from that day on, the world became a little uglier.

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