There was a time in grade school that I was matched up with another boy who happened to be just as mischievous and ornery as I was. Because of the toxic nature of this pairing it was destined to be a short-lived relationship. We remained close for a brief period of time and then the alliance fizzled out; like a spent bottle rocket on Independence Day. What caused our separation isn’t definitive, but there are theories.
At school we were inseparable; me one step behind the teacher on the way to and from recess and Brad a close second. In class it was one or the other of us spending time out in the hall or sitting next to the teacher’s desk. On one occasion we became so creative, that our drawings of what resembled a cross between a wolf man and goblin were so realistic that when hung on the bedroom wall caused my brother to have nightmares.
Brad lived just around the corner from me and across the street from him was what we dubbed “the construction site;” probably because it was a construction site. We found that the large mounds of dirt overlooking the freeway gave us a bird’s eye view of the highway below. This in turn led us to question what would happen if we picked up a few of the dirt clods at our feet and threw them into the speeding traffic. We didn’t wait for the answer to the question and soon one dirt clod after another rained down on the road and exploded around the passing cars; the drivers unaware of the impending danger surrounding them.
If we somehow landed a bull’s eye, shouts of glee would erupt and the dirt clod throwing would increase in intensity. Upon hitting one particular car, right in the middle of the windshield, the vehicle came to an immediate stop and we ran; down the side of the dirt mound opposite the freeway. At street level we anxiously discussed the incident. “Do you think we’ll get caught?” Brad nervously asked. I was confident and answered, “How could we? The cars can’t get off the freeway until the next exit and besides, how would they know it was us?”
As we casually walked down the sidewalk, thinking we were in the clear, a car suddenly appeared on the street behind us; eventually pulling even and slowing down. We turned to look and recognized the car we had hit only moments earlier (it still had a large dirt spot on the windshield). It may be hard to believe, but the driver of this particular vehicle just happened to be an off duty policeman. As he loaded us in the car, he pressed us for our vitals. “Where do you boys live?” he asked to no one in particular. Brad, more concerned with wiping the incriminating dirt off his hands replied, “I don’t know.” True to form I lied (to a policeman no less!) and said, “Santa Monica?”
The previous incident didn’t end our partnership in crime, but came very close. It was after this that both of our mothers had similar and separate conversations with each of us. Brad’s mom pleaded with him, “Brad, you need to stay away from Ronnie. He’s a bad influence on you.” A few houses down the block, Mom was lecturing me in a similar fashion and beseeched me to stay clear of Brad saying, “Ronnie, I don’t want you playing with Brad anymore. He only gets you into trouble.” Of course, any such prohibitions only increased the odds of us seeking one another out; for rebellion sake alone. There would be one more incident.
One day, as the two of us walked home from school, we noticed a little kid playing in his driveway. He looked to be about two years of age. As we walked down the sidewalk and approached his house, we saw his mother entering the house and the boy walking toward us; alone! As he approached, we recognized that he had something in his hand. When he finally got close enough, we confirmed the unidentified object to be a cookie; chocolate chip (we knew it was chocolate chip by the brown smears around his mouth and on his chin).
The little kid then did something odd; he lifted the cookie toward us, as if he wanted us to have some, and repeated the word “Cookie.” It reminded me of the character on the Andy Griffith show, Leon, who often offered his peanut butter and jelly sandwich to Barney; who graciously declined. Brad and I looked at each other and the dare was on. As we mocked the little tyke, “Cookie-Cookie-Cookie,” one of us grabbed the cookie out of his hand and then we both took off running down the street. Afraid to look back we could hear the boy wailing, “Coookiieee!” and it incited within us delirious laughter as we ran.
Once home I quickly forgot the incident until the knock came at the front door. I looked out my bedroom window and recognized the lady at the door as the little boy’s mother. Sitting quietly, and for the moment, safely on my bed I could barely hear their conversation and when Mom came into my room I didn’t give her time to ask any questions and blurted out, “Brad stole the kid’s cookie!” Mom, after giving me one of those looks, returned to the woman and sent her on her way; explaining that I was innocent of all charges. As I sat in my room, I was relieved that the woman hadn’t brought the only eye-witness along with her; sure to identify me as the actual perpetrator of the crime.
The woman went straight to Brad’s house for further inquiries; where a familiar scenario unfolded. It seems that Brad told a similar story; only in his version I was the thief. I can see how either of us might be confused as to the exact details of the incident; everything happened so fast! This was the last straw and our two mothers hatched a plan to break us up once and for all. They realized that they couldn’t prohibit our friendship, so they decided to spread nasty rumors instead. Brad’s mom informed him that I had said he was boring and I no longer wanted to play with him anymore. Mom told me that she was told by Brad’s mother that Brad thought I was stupid and he no longer liked me. Whatever the exact words spoken, Brad and I no longer played together. Our friendship flame had burned out at age seven.