I’ve been asked many times if the stories I write about our childhood growing up on Flamingo Street are really true, and if so, how I remember them. My answer is always the same.
It’s easy to remember things from childhood — especially when they only happened once. Just like this story. Welcome, Dear Reader, to one of the most unique days we spent on Flamingo.
It was a day that started with Mom sick in bed and ended with Twin Brother Mark fighting for his life after being squished by a giant bookcase. It all happened on the day Mom called in sick.
Mom always cooked us breakfast, and usually Dad had already gone to work before any of us even got out of bed. But on this particular morning, neither had happened. Dad walked into the kitchen, paused for a moment and announced, “Mom’s sick. Let her sleep. Don’t bother her unless it’s an emergency. Got to go to work for a little bit. You kids need to behave and help out ‘till I get back.” He walked out the door.
Leaving with him was any opportunity for him to cook us breakfast. As Dad drove away, we quickly realized, we were on our own. Not just for breakfast, but for the entire day.
First, someone had to cook breakfast. We all elected Big Brother James because he learned how to cook in the Boy Scouts. He cooked eggs and bacon at the same time in the same pan, poured us all orange juice and did a right good job burning the toast. We were gonna have grits too, but after a search in the refrigerator, we couldn’t find any.
The Sister “volunteered” to do the laundry, and we all learned a lot. First, we all learned what happens when you mix whites and colors in the same load. Second, we learned how important it is to check all the pockets before washing jeans. The first load had to be washed again after finding three dirt clods which had turned to balls of mud, two rocks, and one very clean frog. And third, once washed, dried, and somewhat folded, laundry doesn’t put itself away.
Don’t know if he was still alive, but we let froggy go outside, then it was time for lunch. We all made our own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mine dropped on the floor when Twin Brother Mark bumped into me. It fell jelly side down, and that’s how the food fight started.
Funny, the food fight only lasted ten minutes, but it took two hours to clean up because of all the soapsuds. After the food fight, the kitchen was really destroyed, and we knew it had to be cleaned.
Richard loaded the dishwasher and added the liquid soap he found next to the sink. He put in extra because our dishes were really dirty. In his defense, it was dish soap, just not the kind that can be used in a dishwasher.
The tsunami of soap suds all over the kitchen helped clean up all the sticky evidence of our recent food fight. After using almost every towel in the house to mop and dry the floor and walls, we took them straight to the basement and threw them into the dryer. (After all, they were already cleaned by all the soap suds.) That’s when Mom walked into the kitchen to get a cup of hot tea.
Sitting at the table sipping her tea, she thanked us for the excellent job cleaning the kitchen, “Y’all even did the floors.”
We told her we cooked our own breakfast, fixed our lunch, and did all the laundry, with the last load of towels in the dryer. After giving us each a hug of thanks, she said, “Your dad will be home soon. I’m going back to bed. Y’all stay inside the house and play.” She walked back down the hallway, and we went to the front room.
An hour later, Dad finally got home. He walked into the house just in time to hear me on the phone franticly telling the police that my twin brother was dying. Richard and James were screaming at each other while trying to lift the huge heavy bookcase in the living room off Mark, squashed somewhere beneath a ton of books. And the sight of blood streaming out from underneath the bookcase, collecting into an ever-increasing pool.
But that’s the story of the Great Bookshelf Climbing Challenge. A story that will have to wait until next week.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]