BEN AND THE TREE
When we first moved to America, I became fast friends with Benjamin who lived across the street. In the summer, aside from the week he had chicken pox, we played together almost everyday. I was jealous of him for having such a nice mother, who smiled a lot and put the weeds we picked for her in a vase on the dining table. On the patio next to his pool, hair wet and wrapped in towels, we stuffed our mouths with popcorn and then took sips of lemonade, scientifically noting the instant transformation of the fluffy and crisp kernels into mush on our tongues.
In front of my house, there grew a large and forked oak tree, which distracted our attentions from box turtles and toys. A rounded stumpy knob, rather like an erect penis I’m afraid to say, stuck out from its trunk midways up at just the right height for a foothold to the next lowest branch. Other kids had nice mothers and cool bikes; I had the only climbable (for a six-year-old) tree in the neighborhood.
Benjamin and I dragged a plastic garbage can out of the garage, turned it upside down next to the trunk, and climbed on top of it. From there, we were able to hoist ourselves into the tree. Coming down though was trickier (as everyone knows), and somehow I fell safely out, but Ben got stuck. As he slid down the trunk, his belt got hooked onto the appendage. He hung there helplessly several feet off the ground like an ornament.
My advice to him was that he undo the buckle of his belt, letting gravity do the rest, but he understandably did not want to break any bones. He thought I should go get help.
That day, my father was the only person home, and I was not going to go inside and tell him that Ben was stuck in the tree after he had firmly told us not to climb it. I much preferred that Ben suffer a few scrapes and bruises than me suffer an angry father and no dessert after dinner.
After hanging there for half the day, the sun gave Ben a few thousand more freckles and his bladder became overfull. When he started crying, I finally relinquished and brought my father outside. He shook his head and simply lifted Ben down.
At dinner, I dreaded my punishment. But all my father said to me was, “That friend of yours, he’s a real crybaby. I hope, in the future, that you will not date sissies like him.”
(I have made a point of dating tender-hearted sissies.)