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When I was growing up, my neighbor down the street had a trampoline. It was a raised rectangle. Metal springs pinched when we didn’t remember our boundaries and landed on them. A host of childhood accidents waited to happen, especially since we usually used the thing in the dark and jumped as high as we could to grab the thick tree limbs sprouting overhead.
Yeah. That was childhood.
I forgot how much I loved jumping on a trampoline, until I reconnected with my five-year-old friend Joshua over the weekend. I barely hugged his mother Joanna, when he ran up to me with a fetching smile and said, “Will you jump on the trampoline with me?”
He didn’t have to ask twice. I decamped to the backyard and left MTM to be the adult.
I crawled through netted zippers and negotiated bumper pads, finally finding Round Springy Heaven under blue Colorado sky. With shocking immaturity, I squealed, “I bet I can jump higher than you, Joshy.”
“No you can’t!” He shouted as he propelled himself like a rocket, while I eyed the kitchen windows and hoped Joanna wasn’t watching. Instead, awful example that I am, I joined him. We pinged higher and higher, and I remembered what it felt like to be five.
Until Joshy brought me crashing down from that high.
“And don’t do a cannonball, either, because you’re too big. You’ll break the trampoline, and Dad will have to buy another one, and it will cost a lot of money, and he will be real mad.”
Joanna is a spectacular mother. She is tireless in her efforts to imbue her children with all the things they will need to be successful adults. It’s very hard for me to keep a straight face when a child says something funny, regardless of whether that funny is deemed a Teaching Moment.
The next morning, Joshy marched into the kitchen over breakfast and announced, “Mom. My boogers are green.“
Of course, Joanna adopted a parental poker face and tried to explain that his comment was rude. And, all I could do was laugh.
September. A Wednesday. Foggy. I woke up to a white-out of fog. So thick I couldn’t see the end of my gun when I balanced it on my shoulder to aim. Not being able to find the target sort of defeats the purpose of hunting, but that little detail didn’t stop me from heading out into the chilly morning mist. It swirled around me. Tingled in microscopic drops on my face.
Made me feel alive.
It was the noise that put a pause in my step. A snort, it sounded like. Maybe a chortle. An unknown, invisible being laughing at me. The whiteness billowed like it breathed, like it was an extension of the thing, the menace that was out there. Somewhere. I could hear it, sucking in air, could even smell its exhale. In and out, the stench of consumed death made my eyes tear and caught in my throat like bile.
I rubbed my eyes and pressed onward, determined to reach the place along the river, the one I targeted the day before. My compass kept me on track as I cut through the atmospheric cobwebs. Determined, I blotted out the animal sounds that assaulted me from I-could-not-tell-where.
Over a rise, the swirling ground cover parted, teasing me with a glimpse of a ribbon of water. Some riffling white patches on its surface, rapids crying to be run. I reached for my scope to see the way ahead. In a nauseating cloud of stink, I saw it, its bared fangs still red from feeding and its mouth a mask of dried blood, remnants of its last unlucky meal. A grizzly.
I stared into its wild eyes, and I knew. I was next. I was going to meet my end. Chomped between those teeth or crushed underneath that rump or shredded by those claws. The manner of death wouldn’t matter. In the end, I would be consumed. The circle of life, one way or the other.
It reared up on its hind legs and belted out a roar of sorts, a deep bass-like thing that reverberated through my core. At least eight feet tall. I was too stupefied to even think about my gun, my mouth ajar at all that raw power. I forgot to aim until it was on its four paws, charging me, jaws chomping.
Back. I ran backward. Toward the edge of the cliff that fell away into the river. I balanced my gun on my shoulder, closed my eyes, and fired.
That grizzly lurched to its side, part of its head sheared away, twitching on the ground. And, I can’t explain it, how those big brown eyes glazed over with a sheen of peace. Without a care, it slipped into the unseen.
I wanted to go with that bear. When Death comes calling, why does He always spare me?
She lay on the floor. On her stomach. The braided rug made tread marks from knee to elbow, grooves in her pale soon-to-be second grade skin.
She didn’t care about the ruts, the indentions.
Watching baseball with her Dad.
Do you have a favorite summertime memory from childhood?
This post is part of the series The Soundtrack of Life. If this is your first visit to the series, please click here for the first installment, click here for the second, click here for the third, click here for the fourth, here for the fifth, here for the sixth, herefor the seventh, here for the eighth, here for the ninth, here for the tenth and here for the eleventh. MTM wrote a great guest post, which you can find here. Thanks for your contributions and insights in the comments. They always enrich this blog, especially in a series like this one.