Down the ******--
Adventures of Feral Children
If there has to be a gate, I suppose I have always had my own theory that “The ******” was one of those places through which God pulled Paradise inside out. I was always wandering there, pretending-- playing sometimes or searching for something-- the exact moment that spring begins, or the place of my secret dwelling where I was in charge, where I was queen. Always hoping for the constant surprise of beauty, a lady slipper-- stunning last year's leaves, a meadow of white violets-- May snow on green? Or was the startle of of seeing my first scarlet tanager in the saplings-- still too cold for leaves?
To the uninitiated The ****** was nothing more than the meaning of its name, a bending tube of woods with a brook tracing along it-- like snake's spine.
Not a practical place for a housing development, it had an ether of history as some “Valentine Park” and playground, and I guess that was true, judging from the ruins of bridges, stone half-penny steps, and the overgrown lima-bean shaped pool. Huge, stone block stairs had faced each other, lining the entrance of a spring-- a fountain once, covered now with moss. It loomed at dusk like an ancient temple. Even the course of the brook had been maintained by giant, redstone slabs-- long-since tumbled in the wake of hurricanes whose names I've forgotten....
...Like a snake's spine... always there for a thousand years, wearing its steep banks ever-deeper into the guts of city till oaks, hemlocks and white pines became sentinel giants, far taller and older than their genes had ever intended. In the war for sunlight, they through up an unwitting wall against all-- but the most daring encroachments...
...Like say-- like say half-grown people, cigarette butts, broken bottles, and underground “forts” with their smells of stale beer and musty clothes, old mattresses-- echos of giggling, the aura of explored forbiddens. To us who knew her, The ****** could outlive remembrance but not rumor. Like an old graveyard or an abandoned house, it was the place to go with our bags of candy, pea-shooters, and fire crackers! We'd go there to fake-smoke punks-- we either were or wanted to be--
Somebody's parents always leaving their lights around....
We came there to delve into our made-up mysteries, like the one about that antique car that had rusted in “The Swamp” for centuries! ...that someone's dead cousin drove off The ******'s cliff side one night... drunk as a skunk! ...right where The Diamond Match's got this big pipe that spews all that gray **** into the brook! ...right where we used to swim and play on the hottest days since we couldn't use the city's Paddle Pond (folks were scared of polio in those days), so we played at “The Pipe” --making “Indian pottery” with the neighbors, Gary, Davy, Shelley, and Sandy. Red clay cups and ashtrays on red hot afternoons-- making wild polluted Indians of Jew and Irish kids alike.
Now I almost forgot.... I was telling you about that antique car-- the one some cousin of Ross was supposed to 'ave driven right off the cliff into the swamp and died... Well... His ghost still lurks there! ...and goes into 'iz cousin's body-- Ross, that is.... Let me tell ya! Ross could sure mess up an afternoon's good time by his appearance!
But The ****** wasn't just for spooks-- not if you were into spraying girls with rusted cans of rotten Reddi Whip, kicking skunk cabbage (same effect), or finding frogs eggs under lily pads, Gary even discovered those curious old Italians picking water cress barefoot in The Frog Pond. Intensely curious, he was not afraid of their funny speech and ways. He had gallon cans and pickle jars for raising pollywogs-- so he was on a mission. But best of all, Gary had a backyard that overhung The ******'s swamp! We could even view The Pipe hurling runoff ten feet out into the basin! Our aberrant Niagara after a good storm.
Then there was the time that Tarzan swing just appeared!-- Like one of those convenient vines in the jungle movies! It hung from a pine on one of The ******'s sheer sides, and was capable-- when wrapped around the trunk and given a running start, of providing one helluva-swooping-good ride-- out over the brook, into the sunlight and back-- with a thousand terrifying variations. Took me a while to work-up my nerve-- a little longer to be really fine!
Tommy Gireaux fell and broke his arm. Our swing was nothing but a stump of rope next day. Twenty feet up, dangling fun, cut off and left-- to remembrance of times so real Tarzan made personal appearances!
Of course, there's more to this. Our feral band of explorers discovers the soggy Playboys and gets sidetracked from their mission to find "The Pine Cathedral" and where The ****** actually ends. Ross shows up.
Not a fiction...not a fiction.
I am totally frustrated by my efforts to use and delete italics and bold print. Why can't this site just post them as they appear in the writing??? How hard can that be?