Another summer day began to fade with my stomach full of creepy little crawdads my mom was more than willing to cook for her youngest, me, Pete. One has got to love a mom that hates dingy drawers but will cook crawdads caught in a ditch for her seven year old daughter to eat. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized the act of cooking anything caught in a sewer ditch might have been a little strange. However, there was absolutely nothing I could ever do to top mom's stories of the farm, and there was also nothing she wouldn't allow, do, or cook in the name of adventure... well, almost nothing, I thought.
There was just one thing she absolutely would not tolerate. I was not to be hit in the stomach. A blow to the stomach could most certainly hurt my chances of having children in the future. Now, considering all that I did, and the fact that I was not actually a girl, so to speak... I found her concerns of the stomach and childbirth most confusing. However, since she never yelled about too much, and to be perfectly honest, being hit in the gut rather hurt, I didn't put up much of an argument in regards to stopping all activities that included my belly being pounded.
For a bit that afternoon I laid stretched and full and satisfied, across the hot pool deck, feet in the cool water. I remembered thinking to myself that this is as good as any bath, and I watched the water around my feet cloud with swirling dirt. Then without another thought, I jumped clothes and all into the big blue bath believing that if the clear chlorine filled pool could clean my feet, it could surely clean my white cotton underwear. Problem solved! Well, at least, my mom's problem. I, on the other hand, didn't care if my underwear was gray or not or any other color... nobody sees the stuff. I laughed to myself for a moment at all these thoughts of underwear. "For Pete's sake, my older brother wouldn't ever let someone see his underwear off of his body, let alone on it." Although, it was true that he was much cleaner than I on almost all occasions.
There I sat as long as I could hold my breath at the bottom of the deep end, watching my bubbles and the muck residue rise to the top. It was not until I felt as if I was just about to run out of air that I pushed hard off the bottom, convinced that I was clean, and thinking summer time in Florida was without a doubt the best time in the world to be a kid... or at least to be me. It was during those long, hot, humid days from May through August that I was the most happy, the dirtiest, and all together the most sure of myself. It meant a time of nothing and everything all at once... no school, no shoes, no shirt (when my mom wasn't looking), no schedule, no combing hair... and all the adventures one could imagine.
Before I could bask a moment longer in the glory of summer, however, I heard my older brother and friends coming out of the porch and into the pool with a huge splash. Every one of them nearly landed on top of me as I sprinted for the side. The waves seemed to lift me over the edge and for a moment I was safe on the deck. I pretended as if I wasn't frightened a bit, shook my huge wet head of hair like a dog and stood up. Then as quickly as they entered the pool, came the explanation as to why they were there in the first place. They needed me! Those words... "they need me!" Those very words were greater than summer itself. Anytime my brother needed me for anything was a great moment... and I didn't hesitate, not for a second to answer the call. The slightest delay at all might put me at risk of not being needed and he had a way of making these moments sound urgent. I was never willing to miss out on an opportunity to tag along when I was needed!
My mind raced with all the possibilities of what may be in store for me. What could it be? This had turned out to be a perfect day -- crawdads and now an afternoon with the guys. Truth be told, however, I should have been wiser. I should have hesitated, if only for a moment because then, I would have remembered all of the other times my brother had needed me. I would have been able to mull over the inevitable results of my presence in his world... pain! He truly gave credibility to the saying, "If something sounds to good to be true, it usually is." But it was already to late to think about the past.
Before I could ask a single question I found myself lying flat on my back ,in the front yard in front of a homemade ramp. My brother was hurling toward me on his bike and gaining speed. There was a dull thud as his tires hit the ramp and over me he flew to the cheers of his friends. I swallowed hard and opened my eyes to find my brother staring down at me with a grin, water dripping from his hair to my face. "Good job! Man are you lucky. You get to be the death defying daredevil human barrel!" Now go ahead and scoot out a little further... pretend you are two barrels," he said with all the confidence in the world. I, the "death defying daredevil human barrel," gladly slid out into the yard away from the ramp. What an important job I had. I imagined myself, in an instant, as the first human being ever to be jumped over with a bike and live to tell about it. Then, before I knew it, I heard the familiar thud and looked up just in time to see the bottom of my brothers bike as it sailed by me. This time, however, the landing was not as clean. I felt the hot burn of the rubber tire come down on my arm, and then heard my mom at the front door.
She didn't appear all too concerned about my arm but she made sure my brother knew he could have easily landed on my stomach. As you might have guessed our game came to a quick end - my stomach and my future children safe again! But, as I got up from the yard rubbing my arm, hoping for a mark to show for my bravery, I wasn't sure if I was mad at my mom for ruining my moment of daredevil glory or relieved that she felt the need to once again save my belly, to save me from myself.