In 1973 I was nine years old. It was a time of banana-seat bicycles, The Brady Bunch, and that bad, bad Leroy Brown. I remember the latter especially because Tracy Shapow and I would play the song over and over again on her portable record player in her garage and take turns “singing” the lead. Tracy Shapow lived just across the street from me. We would ride our bikes half a mile up Studor Drive and cross a very busy two-lane highway to get to the Seven-Eleven and buy candy. And our mothers didn’t even worry.
I would play outside on summer evenings until dusk would tip-toe up on me from behind and suddenly throw a blanket of darkness over my head. An acceptable answer for a mother inquiring about the whereabouts of her child in 1973 was, “Oh, somewhere around the neighborhood.”
To the best of my knowledge there was no fence around the playground at Thomas White Elementary School. At recess we would scatter to corners of the school yard that seemed quite a distance away and certainly not meant to be a part of the official playing area. There was the pavilion where my sister married Henry Ozeritis in the sixth grade (much could be accomplished during recess). We were well out of the teacher radar range there, but somehow we always managed to know exactly when to head back to school in order to beat the bell.
In one isolated spot on the playground, there was a large round cement section like builders use for underground sewers, or so I assume. It was about six feet long and tall enough for a nine-year-old to walk through. If you crawled up on top, there was a metal pipe that had been somehow inserted into some sort of hole and was bent just right and just long enough for a fourth grader to leap out and grab and swing from. Some days this was more popular than walking across the top of the monkey bars. Other days it was deserted. As it was on that day.
On that day, I leaped and swung, leaped and swung, and then just before leaping again realized that I was completely alone. The closest person was well outside of hearing range. I hesitated, looked all around me in a complete circle to make sure no one was there, and then I said it, almost as a whisper. “Fuck.” And then louder, with more authority, and for the second time in my life. “Fuck.”
And leaped and swung, and leaped and swung, and leaped and swung.