Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sandpile

The Sandpile

While most kids in our Connecticut suburb had a small confined sandbox to play in, my brother and I had a sand-pile. The delivery of the sand was something of a neighborhood event, usually held in the spring, after the clench of winter released the earth once again.

My parents invited all the neighborhood kids to come over to behold the crusty dump truck as it backed up our driveway and sat waiting for my dad’s signal for the driver to release the waterfall of sand in the side yard under the shade trees.

Just before the truck was to unload, mom would toss plastic toys into the pile, knowing they would be buried instantly, raising their status from cheap plastic trinket to buried treasures that we all ferociously dug for.

The little boys were fascinated with the truck; it’s stubbly-faced driver and the amount of sand that poured out burying plastic army men that they quickly tried to rescue. The little girls were fascinated with the older boys and the small cups of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream mom handed out.

We’d spend hours digging around in the fresh sand, like a cat delighting in a newly changed litter box. The sand was cool and free of twigs, rocks, dirt and buggers that eventually would contaminate the pristine granules.

One afternoon, two of the older neighborhood boys I thought were cute said we should play a prank on my best friend, two years younger than me, also named Patricia. Wanting their acceptance, I eagerly agreed.

I felt special. Naively, I thought the cute boys wanted me on their side. But they were just using me with their cunning and prank savvy. The only reason they wanted me involved was that Tricia trusted me. They knew I could get her to do almost anything. It wasn’t unusual for me to take advantage of my superiority in age over her. After all, I was the one that got her to drink Tinkerbell cologne, eat playdoh and stick berries up her nose.

How I wish I could have sided loyally with my little best friend and concocted a fiendishly smart double-cross plan against the evil boys. But, they were cute boys and I desperately needed their pre-pubescent attention. So I did as they asked.

The plan was to dig two adjoining holes in the sand and fill one with dog-doo carefully placed on a flat stick, leveraged in such a way that it could be sprung to have the dog-doo fly up out of the hole in the sand. My job was to trick Tricia into getting her face close enough to the hole; the boys would take care of the rest.

I compliantly dug holes and walked around the yard pointing out different specimens of dog-doo that the boys would poke a stick in to determine if it was fresh enough for the job.

Once the trap was set I went across the street to lure Tricia over to the sand-pile. It didn’t tug at my heart when her sweet freckled face lit up after I asked her to come over and play. I didn’t have second thoughts as we walked up my driveway and I told her I wanted to show her something.

We told her there was a frog deep in the hole. She knelt down next to the hole, a little suspicious but looked to me for assurance. I gave it to her. She bent down, closer, holding her hair back from her face. The instant the boys had the sand covered poop fly up into her face my heart broke. Sand was in her eyes, she spit it out from her mouth, her face turned red and tears moistened the sand on her cheeks. I felt horrible. I had betrayed my friend’s trust and saw the painful consequences of my actions. Of course she forgave me, like a puppy that keeps getting kicked but greets its owner with a fresh round of excitement and forgiveness.

I crossed the fine line between a practical joke and cruelty that was drawn in the sand that day, and even though there were still mean things I’d put Tricia through in the future, rotten friend that I was, as I got older I became more of a protector than tormentor of her and we were good friends for many years.

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