On how embarrassing stories from childhood are sometimes remembered by others as bravery.
Our “hero” was five years old, small for his age and somewhat delicate in stature (a predicament which required strong wit and fast footwork to survive). His neighborhood, which was located on former farmland, was surrounded by citrus orchards to the South and strawberry fields to the West. These fields provided great exploration and mischief opportunities as well as a distinctive sweet scent to the air, which still smells as much like home as it did 30 years ago.
On the day of this “life-altering” event he woke up energized, remembering a dream where he led the gang on a high-risk twilight mission in the orchard. The danger came in the form of the horseback night watchmen, a large man with a very bad temper and no patience for “trespassing delinquents”. It was common knowledge — and on good authority from the ten year old down the street! — that the watchmen had on several occasions literally run kids down with his big black horse, when finding them cavorting in the orchard after dark.
Leaving civilization with his kindergarten class that warm spring morning, and getting to the strawberry fields, required crossing a narrow ravine. A produce truck overturned there the night before and left a slowly rotting pile of zucchini blocking part of the path. Smack in the middle and to the left — making it impossible to get through — was an old Ass firmly rooted in the dirt (a donkey, for those who need clarification). While the teacher was desperately trying to figure out what to do, Bully One (ugly Ed) and Bully Two (fat Eddie) decided to challenge our young hero, Sam, by declaring he was way too “small and puny to live!”
Feeling like Dr. Bruce Banner feels before he looses control and turns into The Hulk, Sam realized that surviving to elementary school was contingent on immediate, aggressive and decisive action. After spending seven agonizing seconds (an eternity) assessing the situation and shoring up his courage, he grabbed a bunch of zucchini and headed, chest out and head high, towards the beast. The Ass gingerly snatched one especially rotten zucchini from his hand and proceeded to move in for more.
As he was climbing up the side of the ravine to get the Ass out of the way, Sam slipped and fell face down, zucchini fanning out around him like a green and brown sunflower. The Ass, being old and very farsighted, mistook his slight neck for fresh food and dug in. It was fortunate our Ass used his well-endowed, rough and thorny lips (usually used to get food into his mouth) to grab the neck, accounting for Sam’s survival and with relatively minor physical injuries. A series of painful tetanus shots in the belly later, he was back in the swing of things with a new reputation of the “dumbass that was bit by an Ass” (The Ass, naturally, got off scot free).
Thirty years later, at a dinner party/impromptu kindergarten reunion, Bully One and Bully Two — now bald, fat and tired — fondly reminisced on the good old kindergarten days, remembering his embarrassing adventure with the Ass as an act of bravery. Surprisingly, it made him feel really good.
And of course, that puny five year old, was me.
Photo credit: Flickr / Spider.Dog