With a frantic, off-balance jump, I launched up and out across the water. Last thing I remember before leaping off the sandy bank was a line from one of Preacher Jim’s sermons, “Faith is believing in something you can’t see, but you know it’s there nonetheless.” Sailing through the air, I was certain of only one thing: I certainly couldn’t see anything.
I knew a few things about our late-night predicament. I knew Down the Street Bully Brad and his gang of three were chasing my three brothers, Bubba Hanks, Goofy Steve and me. I knew we all had run as fast as we could downhill to Cripple Creek. I knew I was the last to jump — jumping as far out into the black night as any kid possibly could with my arms flailing. Trying to grasp onto the darkness to somehow pull myself across. And, even though I couldn’t see it, I believed the far bank was somewhere in that cold darkness.
What I didn’t know was whether any of us would make the jump across the creek and escape to the safety of the bamboo forest on the far bank. Truly it was a leap of faith.
Most grand adventures on Flamingo didn’t go as planned. In the darkness, we had never been more frightened. Fear has a way of shutting down the human body, depriving it of life-sustaining air while playing tricks on one’s mind. Breathing became difficult, then almost impossible.
The best solution was to run from what was pursuing us through the brush and live to fight another day, as the saying goes, but therein lay the problem. When you’re stuck waist deep in mud, you can hardly move — much less run. But we weren’t just scared; we were in fear for our lives.
We all hoped it was just mud, but we couldn’t be sure. The moonless night provided the much-needed cover for our clandestine mission but had also transformed the woods on either side of Cripple Creek into light and dark shadows, four of which were now slowly moving our way. Guess the best way to explain the situation we found ourselves in would be to start at the beginning – about twelve hours earlier.
Over a breakfast of Mom’s cathead biscuits, oven-roasted maple bacon, and steaming cheese grits, washed down with chocolate Yoo-Hoo, our plan came together. My brothers and I had thought of a foolproof way to finally fight and defeat Down the Street Bully Brad. But we couldn’t pull off the surprise attack by ourselves.
After breakfast we walked up the street and recruited the biggest kid who ever lived on Flamingo Street, Bubba Hanks. We also needed the best dodgeball dodger: Goofy Steve. He could dodge anything thrown our way.
Our plan was genius in its simplicity. We spent the day making an arsenal of water balloons, placing them in six large buckets. Strategically, we hid the water balloon-filled buckets along a zigzag pathway from our house to Bully Brad’s. The rest of that Saturday was spent playing and riding our bikes up and down Flamingo, while keeping a sharp eye on our buckets of water balloons.
Before breaking up for dinner, we agreed to meet at our mailbox after sunset when darkness overtook Flamingo. Our plan was perfect. Nothing could go wrong. It wasn’t, and something horribly did. Seems Bully Brad had a plan of his own.
During the day, he’d noticed the placement of our buckets. We went in for dinner; he and his gang went to work. When darkness descended, they were ready.
Armed with a water balloon in each hand, we met at our mailbox and started a methodical march towards Bully Brad’s house. Passing our last bucket full of water balloons, a cold wind chilled us as we paused for a moment. Suddenly it started to rain … dirt clods from the sky.
Bully Brad and his gang appeared out of the darkness, cloth bags full of dirt clods tied to their waists. It was an ambush! We had brought water balloons to a dirt clod fight. Luckily, we had lots of water balloons.
Tossing what we had, we retreated to our first bucket to reload, but when we reached into it, we came up empty-handed. All the water balloons were broken, leaving only water behind!
We ran back towards the next bucket to again find only water. Getting pelted by dirt clods, we kept running away, finding only buckets of water.
Chased all the way down to the bottom of Flamingo to the edge of Cripple Creek, there was only one option. Our only chance of survival was to do the impossible … jump across – something none of us done before.
That’s how we found ourselves in the middle of Cripple Creek, stuck up to our waists, struggling to get free from what we thought was mud. Helpless, we watched in horror as Bully Brad and his gang stomped through the brush straight towards us. Or at least we thought.
To find out what happened during our grand (mis)adventure, please return to this column next week.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]