Broken glass, a torn shirt, and lots of blood. There was no denying it. What just happened was bad, and we were all in big trouble.
With Twin Brother Mark’s agonizing screams, our indoor baseball game came to an abrupt halt. Even before the last of the broken glass from the china cabinet finished cascading down upon Mark’s head, we were rushing over to survey the carnage.
Big Brother James, Older Brother Richard and I — we’d all been hurt before. We’d all had our share of torn clothing. And we’d all had been bloodied by some foolish thing we shouldn’t have been doing, but this? This looked to be way worse than any of those incidents.
After examining Mark, we exchanged worried looks. It was really bad … what were we going to do?
At that point, only one of us knew, and the three words whispered weren’t a surprise. Over the years we’d all said them at one time or another. They were the words we were all thinking. It was just surprising who said them.
Neither a demand nor a plea, but more of an unspoken promise – a bond between all those involved in the unfortunate bloody incident that now lay at our feet. “Don’t tell Mom.”
For those seven years growing up on Flamingo Street, I can remember those words being spoken only about a dozen times. On each occasion, an adventure of ours had just gone seriously wrong, resulting in injury to my brothers, The Sister, or me.
All had one thing in common: we were doing something Mom had warned us not to do. Here are just two examples, but you be the judge, Dear Reader. Would it have been easier just to do what Mom said? Or for all who were involved to comply when one of us uttered, “Don’t tell Mom”?
Mom had warned us jumping our bikes would eventually cause one of us to crash and get hurt. She was only half right. We did get hurt, but the person jumping wasn’t the only one.
Early Saturday morning, we’d set up a wooden ramp in the middle of the cul-de-sac at the bottom of Flamingo. After each of us kids made successful jumps, it was time to up the excitement. And what better way to make things more exciting than to make something dangerous even more so?
Twin Brother Mark was the first volunteer to lie on the ground on the far side of the ramp. We all took turns jumping the ramp and sailing over Mark. Right after lunch, Bubba Hanks, Neighbor Thomas and Goofy Steve joined us and, with each successful round of jumps, we added one more person lying next to Mark.
We had gotten up to five kids lying side by side before Richard’s jump came up short — crashing down upon James, the last person on the ground.
Even before he had finished tumbling into the curb, the rest of us said, “Whatever you do, don’t tell Mom.”
Richard and James both went to the hospital that day and received five stitches each. My brothers and I also received something else: a stern lecture and our bikes taken away for a month.
Seems Old Mrs. Crabtree, our third grade teacher, had witnessed the entire carnage unfolding out in front of her house and called our parents when we got injured. She wasn’t bounded by the “Don’t tell Mom” promise.
The indoor baseball game wasn’t our idea. We kids knew better. That Saturday, Dad was watching us for the afternoon so Mom could get her hair done and do some shopping. After lunch, she left and the rain started.
It took less than an hour before Dad was tired of us arguing because we had nothing to do. His solution: an indoor baseball game using plastic bats and whiffle balls. He said it would be safe. “Ever seen anyone get hurt when hit with a whiffle ball?”
Pushing and tripping each other, my brothers and I fought our way to the basement to retrieve bats and balls. This was a real treat; Dad was letting us do something Mom had told us never to do.
Meanwhile, he set up throw cushions as bases in our living room. Everything went fine for half an hour — then James hit a long fly ball to outfield (our outfield was the far side of the dining room table.)
Twin Brother Mark leaped for the ball, made a spectacular catch, stumbled and crashed into the china cabinet. Then he fell to the floor in a broken glass and bloody heap. That incredible leap landed him in the Flamingo Street history book as the only kid who had to get rushed to the hospital for catching a whiffle ball.
And so, as we looked down upon a bloody Mark lying awkwardly twisted on the floor that afternoon, which one of us kids said, “Don’t tell Mom”?
It was none other than the biggest kid and coach of our indoor baseball game … Dad.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]