Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
Okay… so I haven’t always been “honorable” in my relationship with Amy.
I grew up in a family that enjoyed torturing you for entertainment. In fact, we still torture each other for entertainment. It’s good fun to trick someone you love… or just mess with them and watch them squirm.
Being a teacher is an added bonus… I can basically lie about anything and use my authoritative tone to have anyone believe it.
And so… I often put Amy into situations that may cause us both harm… and Amy… loving soul that she is… always gives me the benefit of the doubt.
And after over 16 years of friendship… I’m not really sure why.
This time, we were no where near the El Dorado Nature Center, but we were in an environment that looked quite similar: Catalina Island.
We had gone away for the weekend on a “spiritual” retreat, with a large group of program people: AA, Al-Anon, etc… where we were to stay at a Christian Camp, only accessible by boat.
Now, I love this area of the island because it is truly wild: Bison, mule deer, antelopes, fox, shrews, and my favorite… the feral pig. Aka…. wild boars.
As we were settling into our “woodsy” cabins, I had tried to warn the people sleeping near my bunk, that wild boars would come into the cabin and eat their candy bars, toothpaste, brown sugar bath and body lotion, chewing gum, and therefore, please keep that shit wrapped up tightly and a way from my sleeping area.
I felt bad taking chocolate away from people who needed it over alcohol or chewing gum over cigarettes but… I also knew that if they woke up with a 300 pound boar rifling through their bags that all hell would break loose in the cabin and I’d have 12 crazy mentally unstable people to deal with… myself included.
I did not tell them at this time that wild boars can be quite aggressive… meaning… they won’t just eat your toothpaste they’ll give you a nasty tumble and maybe even quite a nice bite on their way back out of the cabin… and I’m sure you are wondering right now… why I didn’t tell them this?
Well… because I wanted them to be cautious… not terrified for the entire retreat. I felt it wouldn’t really be productive for their experience, strength, and hope if they were worried about being chased down by a wild boar the entire time, unless someone wanted to walk away with this type of experience and find “growth” through strength as they ran away to “hope”fully escape.
I paused for a moment and smirked… I felt sly… If I really wanted to be evil I could use my family strategy of “torture to entertain” and make this a really fun weekend for me. But… I stopped… I chose to take the higher moral path… to follow the principles in all of my affairs, and went back to unpacking my bag instead of fantasies of terrorizing my program buddies.
That night, after a day of meetings and meals we were all back in our cabin ready for our first night of tranquil island sleep.
I looked up at the ceiling, my top bunk dangerously close to a Black Widow spider, and thought, “To hell with this” as I grabbed my sleeping gear, jumped down to the floor, and headed out to sleep on a paddock by myself.
I watched as a dozen little Al-Anon faces peeked out from the cabin windows.
“What are you doing out there?” someone said.
I threw my gear down on the paddock and started arranging it.
“What about the wild boars?” someone else whispered… as if a boar might hear them and suddenly show up on the scene.
“I’m perfectly safe!” I shouted back. “Would I be sleeping out here on this paddock if I wasn’t?”
That’s when I saw Amy’s little head pop up. “Are you sure D.D.?” she asked with her big innocent, trusting eyes.
Now… I love Amy.
She has been one of my best friends forever… but I couldn’t tell her the truth… and you know why… because I wanted to get my way… like the spoiled Big Headed Baby that I am.
I wanted all of those little Al-Anons to come outside and stop being pussies and sleep with me under the stars.
“Amy,” I said with disgust. “Seriously, would I be sleeping out here if it was a problem?” I paused and pointed towards the steps of the paddock. “Do you really think wild boars can climb these stairs?” Then I rolled my eyes to add emphasis before going back to my work at hand and listening, as the Al-Anons took a hushed Group Conscience and then all scurried out to the platform to sleep with me.
I was pretty pleased with myself.
My ability to convince others to follow my direction, only shadowed by the power of my older brother’s persuasion, was pretty damn good.
I watched as they all placed their sleeping gear on the paddock, a little group of hens deep in the task of nesting.
“Like this D.D.?” They asked as they put their blanket inside of their sleeping bag.
“Sure,” I nodded.
“Is it okay to be close to the edge?” Another little Al-Anon asked.
“Oh of course… ” I said as I brushed a leaf off of the paddock. “No problem. Totally safe.”
Soon, they all settled down… trusting little souls… smiling at their own bravery of stepping out from the confines of the cabin into the big bold world… and now… they were sound asleep under the Catalina stars safe in the knowledge that their “Group leader” would never, EVER, lead the flock astray.
I have to say… I was pretty pleased with myself… and actually continued to be pretty pleased with myself, until about 3am when I woke to a 400 pound male feral pig grazing next to the paddock as he scratched his back roughly against the hard wood shaking the entire structure.
I felt my eyes grow large in the dark as the enormous bulk… the actual size of such a beast, registered in my brain and the realization of the danger I had put my little group in flooded like fear across my body.
I lay there watching him grunt and scratch and claw at the ground praying that my crew wouldn’t wake up… but of course they did… I could feel each body become rigid and alert, the way a parent knows when a child is truly asleep or just “faking it.”
Luckily, their terror kept then silent and still….
“D.D.” Amy whispered. “D.D.?” she said again.
“Yes,” I whispered back.
“They can’t climb the stairs right?”
Now… there is a moment in everyone’s life when they realize they should come clean in regards to a lie… but this moment was not one of them.
“Of course not,” I whispered loud enough for all the little Al-Anons to hear. “You guys are totally safe. Go back to sleep.”
And because my voice always radiates authority… they followed direction without question and nodded off at what I felt was quite an alarming pace considering the situation.
I stayed awake for well over an hour, watching as the giant boar made his way around the entire paddock… eating roots, acorns that had fallen from the tree, and watched as he climbed half way up the stair steps, sniffing at the bottom of Amy’s sleeping bag in hopes of finding something worth eating.
I prayed to God that he wouldn’t put his back legs on those steps…. I knew that if he climbed all of the way up… Amy was toast.
I don’t remember what I used to bargain with for God’s salvation at that time… but I’m sure I’m still paying for it.
Finally, the feral pig put his front legs back on the ground, and trotted off in the direction of the men’s cabin… hopefully, where someone had told them to remove their snacks and perfumed after shave from their space.
I waited a few moments… expecting to hear a ruckus, and then relieved that there wasn’t one, fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
I was the last one to wake on the paddock that morning and when I opened my eyes I noted the change in my Al-Anons immediately…
My little group felt like they were the “bad asses” of the world for braving the wild and sleeping outside with the feral pig.
They were walking around the camp… shooing the wild Bison away… as if they were cowboys out on the open range.
I watched as Amy, over by the men’s cabin, clap her hands together three times and shoo a group of wild bison away from their cabin door… leaving the men in awe at her bravery and the power she obviously wielded over the wild beasts.
She turned, a pleased smile on her face, radiating confidence as she walked over to me shaking her head in disgust, “Fucking Al-Anon men,” she said and her swagger was fantastic.
I thought about coming clean… but who was I to take away their new found freedom and power?
And so… I chose not to tell the truth to my little party.
I did however, several years later, find enough strength to come clean with Amy while we were walking the Nature Center one day.
“Dick!” she said in total disbelief before walking on ahead of me, her stride fast and furious.
But I could still see her cheeks, curved up in a big smile as she turned the corner of the trail… and so… I listened for her laugh to ring out from the path ahead.. the sign that I was truly forgiven and of course…
It wasn’t like I planned to break the law.
I’m a Nationally Certified public educator for Christ’s sake but… sometimes, my inner “I Love Lucy” mixes with my former “Punk Rock Persona” and creates some type of alter-ego that I imagine has a name like, Frankie Smith, who sports wild red hair, drives a 1969 Fastback Chevelle, and has a tattoo of a large sacred heart branded across her chest with the slogan, “Jesus loves you but he’s still working on loving me.”
It was a school night, probably what is referred to as Indian Summer on the East Coast and “Santa Ana Wind” weather on the West. Amy and I were walking in the park after hours. This is something that people are allowed to do but, the Nature Center, a sort of wild life preserve within the park, home to coyotes, opossums, bunnies, snakes, and a slew of water turtles, is gated and locked and off limits after five pm every evening.
We were on the road that meanders next to it… the wind blowing warm… the street lights every hundred yards or so punctuating the silhouettes of the big beautiful trees as they swayed wildly in the wind.
Amy and I were prattling on about something when one of us… I’m not sure who but I would bet money Amy would say, “It was you dork.” Thought it would be a good idea to climb the six-foot chain link fence, break into the Nature Center, and walk the trails through the forested area at night, alone, believing that it would be lovely to have the paths all to ourselves.
Actually, now that I’m writing this… I can say with 100 percent surety that I was the one that came up with this idiotic plan.
But we have been friends for many years and Amy knows how persuasive I can actually be…. and our antics do always end up as really great stories later, so… there’s my justification.
We wandered off the road and walked into the brush by the fence that borders the flood canal. We started to climb the chain link several times but stopped each time we heard a small group of bicyclists passing by us.
Maybe we were paranoid.
Maybe we were having second thoughts.
But by the fourth time of jumping down and squatting in a bush I finally shouted, “Fuck it,” and hustled my ass over the fence and landed cleanly on the other side.
Amy’s face registered a mix of admiration at my clean climb and complete despair when she realized we were actually really going through with this. I stood and waited for her to climb up and over all the while feeling a childlike sense of glee. I had ALWAYS wanted to break into the Nature Center since I was about thirteen-years-old. So many of my friends had already done it in junior high or high school. Some… to make out… some to get high… and some to actually fish the ponds. I felt as Stephen Chbosky once wrote “Infinite” not taking into consideration that I was NOT 13 and “Infinite” but 40 and “finite.”
As soon as Amy jumped safely to my side of the fence, we ran through the brush to the trail and giggled like idiots at our stealth sneakiness. We were criminals. We were law breakers. We were suburban commandos. Seriously? We were idiots. Who the hell does shit like this in their 40’s?
We walked the back path, the one that takes you by what we call “the lake” but actually is about the size of a large pond and watched as the sun began to set right before we came up to the area we called: the pine forest.
Now, the pine forest area is actually quite creepy even during the day time. There is something about it that is reminiscent of the 70’s slasher movies where young “stupids” are often ambushed while walking, or skipping, or chattering lamely through the brush.
Amy and I were no different than these characters. Actually, I think we even commented on how we “felt” like characters in Friday the 13th as we passed the lake and headed to the forest.
We were just turning the bend in the path, that would lead us right next to the woods, when we saw something that will forever stick in my memory as the moment when I thought I would actually die of a heart attack just from viewing something. A large man, dressed entirely in black with a ski mask on, stepped out of the woods, stood firmly on the path, and stared us down before… without a word… he took one step back into the treeline and disappeared.
I’m surprised Amy and I didn’t just simultaneously shit our pants and then pass out.
My mind instantly calculated how fast we could get to the front gate and the security phone and would we be fast enough to defeat our attacker.
I mean come on…. no one survives in the slasher movies. They believe all the way up until the bitter end, even gloat about it, which we all know is the kiss of death, that they got away and then next thing you know Kevin Bacon’s throat has an arrow sticking through it.
It took me barely a split second to look at Amy and scream, “RUN!”
We booked it down the service path, cut across by the bramble bush tunnel, ran past the meadow, over the two bridges to the front gate in what seemed like a moment. Our breathing was rough and raspy, our hearts pounding, unable to keep up with our bodies. Even when we arrived at the well lit, neatly trimmed area by the front office, we still couldn’t stop from turning around and watching our backs sure that we would look across the front pond and see… well… the iconic photo of Jason emerging out of the woods of course.
Now, we knew once we picked up the security phone, the rangers would be there in a matter of seconds, their office we could view across the street but… I didn’t want to call. I could just see the local newspaper headline the next day, “Popular high school teacher arrested for breaking into the Nature Center. Is this the type of Public Servant we want shaping the minds of our children?”
I knocked a large metal trash can over and up-ended it. I shoved it next to the fence and told Amy to hold it while I climbed. Now, to this day, I’m not sure if Amy just didn’t “hear” me say, “Hold the trash can while I climb” or if Amy was feeling a bit passive-aggressive after I convinced her to break into the Nature Center, and then forced her to run from Jason, and now, I was making her wait to be the last person out, expecting her to hold the trash can for me when really… the heroic thing to do on my part was to let Amy climb first, but either way… as I threw my right leg over the fence, Amy did not hold the trash can and the weight of my body pushing up and over, knocked the large green can sideways and sent me tumbling down with it. I was fine until my right ankle, bashed against the rounded rim of the can and then rolled the rest of the way across it as my weight bared down upon it.
I knew immediately that it was broken. It wasn’t broken in the “your ankle is hanging off your foot,” or even “your bone is sticking out of your skin” type of way… but it was definitely inoperable.
I don’t remember if I yelled at Amy… but I probably did…. I was pissed. Mainly at myself but ready to take it out on anyone for that matter… In fact… if I could have walked then… I’m sure I would of picked up a LARGE stick and hobbled back to beat the holy hell out of that guy who scared the shit out of us in the first place.
I had a feeling it was most likely, one of my own high school students anyway, playing paint ball or smoking pot… or forest tag with his friends… and I imagine when he stepped out of the forest, trying to terrify what he assumed to be one of his own cronies and came face-to-face with MY GOD… Ms. Wood my Period Three English teacher… actually shit himself, passed out, and upon awakening ran to the back fence where due to his young age, was able to leap it clean without the help of a trashcan and was probably sitting in the 24-hour Jack in the Box, eating 99 cent tacos and bragging to all of his friends how he got away from “The Man.”
My imagination running wild was actually causing me to become infuriated.
I got up, no help from Amy, (who I shall note one time ALSO let me fall off one of the exercise apparatus at the park stating, “It was too funny not to. You looked just like one of the guys in the Matrix… falling all slow motion and shit”) and rolled the trash can to another gate which had a wide gap at the top and was used as a service truck entrance.
I knew if we could climb up the trash can to the gap, all we would have to do would be to slide through and then use the chain that connected the lock as a foothold on the other side to get down. It worked beautifully and soon we were back in the warmth of the mini-van.
I drove directly to Stephen’s house, my new man at that time, who looked at the state of our clothing, our worn faces, and my ankle which was now twice it’s normal size, completely black and blue and said, “What the hell were you thinking?”
How do you respond to a question like that?
Hey Stephen, well… I was thinking with my 13-year-old brain that breaking into the Nature Center was a GREAT idea!
Or… I was thinking I’m 40 if I don’t do it now… when will I ever do it?
Or maybe.. I was thinking, what a great way to fuck up my friend and my ankle all at once. Hooray for me!
Everything I thought about saying sounded absolutely stupid as I sat on the couch with even his dog looking at me like I was a complete moron before I finally mumbled, “I don’t know.”
Stephen went off to the kitchen to get me an ice bag and Amy started laughing uncontrollably, in that way you do when you know you aren’t supposed to laugh and so you try to hold it in but it just keeps coming out in silent bursts of nervous energy.
I had to go to the doctor the next day of course and yes… I did have a hairline fracture in my ankle which took over two months to heal and about a year and half before it even stopped hurting.
I’m now 46 and yes I still walk in the Nature Center almost daily… and once in awhile as I pass the forest I think of that night where I let myself be deviant and failed.
I can’t lie, it has become a good story… and I feel sorta “outlaw” when I think about it. And I’m glad that Amy was not injured due to my stupidity. But there is something in me that still wishes I hadn’t run… think if I had just convinced Amy to start acting completely insane, and we ran wildly through the forest, middle-aged “Ophelias” gone insane and Mr. Ski-mask could have been the one screaming and running… the idiot falling off the green trash can, in the bright light of the front gate.
It could have been brilliant.