Most of my childhood summers on Martha’s Vineyard were times of fun and safety. My friend Lisa used to say that the Campgrounds almost seemed to have a force field bubble over it that protected us kids from harm. But, there was one summer when my friend Reed and I were living dangerously.
It all started innocently enough. One day, Reed and I were down at Sunset Lake feeding the ducks. Nothing special there; we’d done the same more times than we could count. And then, along came a group of kids we didn’t know – maybe about four of them, all roughly our age. As I recall, we tried to be friendly, but they were just plain mean. When one of them tried to push me down the slope so I’d end up right in front of a swan; we left!
Reed had an idea for getting back at them, even just a little. Once we were on the other side of the lake, he walked down to the water’s edge and called out to them. He sang a little limerick he’d come up with. Nothing dirty, mind you, but insulting. I was in hysterics; I was almost on the ground, I was laughing so hard. One of the kids started to run after us, but when he saw that the others were just standing around, he went back to them. Clearly he was explaining what the words had meant and then they all came after us!
Reed ran, and I followed. As the kids were not residents of the Campgrounds, they didn’t know the cottages, the roads, and the little alleys and paths that meandered through the area. We easily slipped down a narrow path, climbed a trellis, and were lying on a rooftop long before the kids appeared. They searched and searched, but couldn’t find us.
We were safe!
Ah, but now we’d made enemies, enemies who knew where we lived, and that we liked to go to the lake. After that, we had to be careful, whenever we went there, and this was not something we were used to.
About a month later, Reed and I were at the Flying Horses. We rode the carousel and then played some pinball games. Yes, pinball games; this was back in the Dark Ages. At one point, we were standing behind some teenagers, waiting our turn to play a game, when we saw them slip a key of some sort into the machine. Suddenly, it registered a bunch of free games for them! Wow, that was some key. Then we looked at each other, and realized that they had something that let them cheat the machine. We also realized that they had seen us.
We elected to beat a hasty exit.
Moving up Circuit Ave, we soon realized that we were being followed. Yeah, it was the teens. Fortunately, as we were small and they were tall, we were able to weave and move through the crowded sidewalk with ease. We reached the Arcade, dashed down the tunnel entrance to the Campgrounds, and came to our bikes. We had left them there, chained up. Yeah, the island was always a place of safety, but even we weren’t naïve enough to leave our bikes sitting around unsecured, at least downtown. I dropped to my knees and spun the dial on the lock. I felt like a safecracker trying to break into a bank before the guard made his rounds. Reed kept a lookout, and urged me to hurry. Finally, with a click, our bikes were free, and we just about burned rubber getting out of there.
Now we had two groups looking for us!
A most stressful summer, it was, a summer of living dangerously. Yet, it all turned out okay; we never saw any of the kids again. Still, I was glad to never have such a summer again.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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