Thursday, June 28, 2007


I was a gullible little boy, sitting next to the coolest guy in my fifth grade class. Sometimes he took cheap shots at me; commenting on my raggedy shoes, or the clothes I had worn for the second time in one week. His timing was always perfect, and he only teased me when he had an audience.

One day, after one of his verbal jabs, I scanned him for discrepancies. His shoes were in style; with bellbottoms, a silk shirt, and Afro. Then I noticed that his fingernails had little white streaks. It looked odd to me, and I thought it was my one shot to get even with him.

“Well,” I said, “at least I don’t have white marks on my fingernails.”

He laughed at me, and then fired back. “These marks tell you how many girls like me!” he said, “How many do you have?”

A cloud then hovered above me, as I discreetly studied my nails for marks and found none.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bad Hiding Places

It would be my last time to play hide and seek. It began with us sitting on the bench outside the Laundromat, Richard, Tyron, and me. We were bored, and waiting for Tyron’s clothes to finish. I don’t recall whose idea it was. One moment we were watching the cars go by, and the next, Richard and I were looking for a place to hide while Tyron counted.

Something compelled me to look inside the Laundromat while I counted inside my head, fifteen…sixteen…seventeen. When my time was nearly up, I noticed an open door to one of the large dryers. Tyron will never find me in there, I thought. “Nineteen! Twenty! Ready or not, here I come!” Tyron yelled as I closed the door behind me.

The dryer immediately turned me upside down and dropped me on my head, flipping me repeatedly while punching me all over with its steel ridges, designed to toss clothes. It was blasting me with heat the entire time, and then it delivered a hard jab to my ribcage, knocking out what was left of my air. Yelling did not occur to me, only disorientation and wanting to get out.

Between the stars, flashing lights, and falling clothes, I caught glimpses of the round window, turning while I took my beating. Then the door opened. Tyron had heard the machine tossing me around. It threw me out; and I fell hard to the floor. It was still a relief to be outside.

“You’re it!” yelled Tyron, laughing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why I Call Them Fire Ants

Growing up, I was always scheming up new ways to get rid of the fire ants in our front yard. Then—in the wintertime, while they remained inside their anthills eating the foods they had gathered all summer—I would somehow miss them. Springtime would return, and our bouts would begin again.

Round one went to the ants when I was five years old, sitting and playing near their anthill while countless numbers of them crawled inside my cloths. They waited until I stood up to leave before they began stinging me in unison. That began our rivalry, and over the coming years, many of my attempts at revenge would backfire.

There was the time one of them snuck inside my trousers while I was using a magnifying glass on their anthill. It climbed up to my inner thigh before striking. There was also the time I mixed every toxic liquid I could find inside the house: ammonia, Clorox, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, etc. I intended to pour it inside the anthill, but first, my curiosity wanted to know how it smelled. When I leaned over the toxic mix to take a whiff, before I could inhale, invisible vapors rushed into my nostrils and sucked all the air from my lungs. Desperate, ran around the room trying to inhale, but there was no air. Then I ran outside, walking in circles around the front yard. There was a cool breeze against my face and chest, but still no air for my lungs. I thought I was going to die. Then, near the end of my battle, my lungs; my tired lungs found a short painful breath; one after the other, and soon I was able to breath again. The narrow escape temporally took away my desire to bout with the ants and I poured out the toxic mix.

I was twelve when the ants and I had our last bout. It was summertime, and the grass in our front yard was dry. I figured that gasoline and a match would do a lot of damage—to the anthill. They swarmed when I poured gasoline over their bed. Then I sat the can beside me. It didn’t occur to me to close the gas cap before striking a match. It also didn’t occur to me to note the tiny trickle of gasoline leading from the anthill to the gas can.

The moment I touched the lit match to the anthill, the gas can erupted in flames. I panicked and started kicking the gas can away from the fire, not realizing that flaming fuel was spilling out with each kick. I was nearly twenty feet away from the anthill when I turned around and saw that half our front yard was in flames.

My parents were away, so while I stumped at flames, I yelled for my brother and sisters. They came rushing outside moments later and helped me put out the flames, leaving eighty percent of the front yard charred black.

“Man you’re gonna get it,” said Richard, “I’m glad I’m not you.” He is right, I thought to myself, looking out at the yard. The fire ants were still swarming the anthill, over and around the ones that the flames had killed, while I thought for a solution. Then I convinced my siblings to help me collect green grass from the backyard to spread over the burnt areas. After nearly two hours of plucking and transferring, the yard was still ugly; and nothing was going to get rid of the charred smell. The best I could hope for was that Daddy would arrive home after dark.

I got lucky, and Daddy arrived home late that evening. He didn’t notice the burnt grass until the next day. Then, to my surprise, he didn’t make a big deal about it when I told him what happened. As for the fire ants, we called it a draw.