I quickly learned to ride my tricycle a long way. My dad would take me out on what he called “adventures”. I liked it because he let me pick which way we would go and I could go as far as I wanted. But if I went a long way, it would be a long way back too. I also liked it because he would hang behind me or walk in the street, so I felt on my own and could pretend what I wanted to. He did come closer to make sure I looked both ways for cars before I crossed the street. On this day there were clouds, but the sun was out between them, and the air was cool and full of plant smells and energy that got inside me. I was ready for a big “adventure”.
I told my dad I wanted to see if Molly could play, since she had gotten a tricycle too. She and I got a lot of the same toys. While my dad waited out on the sidewalk by the street I walked up and knocked on the front door of her house. I was expecting her mom or dad to open the door, and I was all ready to not be shy and ask one of them if Molly could play. But it was Molly who opened the door. She said she saw me coming through the window. Her mom said it would be “perfect” if she came along, that Molly was “restless” anyway and needed to get out. I kind of knew what that word “restless” meant, and that was a good way to say how everything inside and outside of me felt too.
I told Molly that my plan was to go in the direction that my dad said was east. She agreed that was a good plan and ran and got her tricycle.
“So you go first”, she said, and then bit her thumb while she was thinking, then finally taking it out. “But let’s pretend that we are flying.”
Molly had a television in her basement and she liked to watch a story called “Sky King”, which was about flying airplanes. I had watched it with her and I liked it too. I really liked the beginning part showing Sky King’s plane flying over mountains while the voice said, “Out of the clear blue of the Western sky comes Sky King!” Where that “West” was I did not know, but I guess it was in the other direction, because we were heading east today.
“You and I are Sky Kings”, Molly explained. “I don’t want to be Penny because she doesn’t fly. She just rides sometimes and gets saved”.
That made sense to me, since Penny was Sky King’s friend who was always getting captured by bad guys. Who wants to get captured by bad guys when you can fly and get those bad guys instead.
As I started to pedal down the sidewalk I made the plane noise and imagined I was taking off. I heard Molly behind me make that noise and take off too. My dad, walked to our left out in the street, where we didn’t really notice him when we were pretending. When we came to a street, my dad had told me I had to stop, turn my head and look both ways for cars before crossing, and then get off my tricycle and walk it across the street. Molly did the same thing. It kind of messed up the pretending, but only until we got to the other side. It was like when they stopped the story on television to tell you to buy something.
“Look at that giant mountain!” It was a house with an upstairs like Molly’s house. I got that we were pretending the houses on either side of us were mountains.
“Be careful. Stay on course!” I did not recognize that last word but I figured out what it meant.
“I’m right behind you Sky King!”
It was easy to pedal because we were heading a little downhill, so it felt more like flying. I had never been in an airplane, but I had dreams where I was flying and I imagined everything looking small below me on either side.
“See any bad guys?”
“Not yet but keep looking!”
A bad guy could be anything one of us decided to pretend was so. In this case it was a barking dog behind a side gate of a house we rode by.
“Watch out for that bad guy!”
“Got it. Roger!” That was the word they always used, “Roger”, when they wanted to say yes.
We broke our story to cross another street, then started it again and continued. We finally got to a really big street and my dad was out in front signalling with his hands that the two of us should turn right.
“Right turn. Roger.”
This block was uphill. I felt the strain in my legs.
“Yeah but we can do it!”
We came to a place where two big streets crossed and there were big metal poles with hanging lights way above us that changed colors to tell the cars when to stop and go. My dad had told me that at streets like this you watched for the light to turn green but still also looked both ways. He stood in front of us and pointed up at the light hanging from wires way above us. The red light at the top finally turned off and the green light below it turned on. We walked our tricycles across the street between two white stripes. On the other side of the street was the tall silver metal fence of the football stadium. I recognized it from remembering being there a long time ago, though today there were no other people around. The gate into the stadium was open and we flew in.
Inside the fence was a big open area that was more like sidewalk than dirt. My dad sat by the gate and opened a book he was carrying and started reading. I knew that was a signal that we could do whatever we wanted as long as he could see us and we stayed inside the gate.
Molly and I rode in circles around each other making loud airplane noises and saying, “Watch out!”, when we got close to crashing into each other. I could feel my legs getting tired, but the energy in the air kept us going.
My front wheel got caught inside one of her back wheels.
“Uh oh, crash!” Molly yelled out and tumbled off her seat to the ground with hands in the air and and mouth and eyes wide open. I followed and tumbled off my tricycle as well next to her. The ground felt hard and rough but didn’t real hurt me. My dad looked up from his book momentarily but went on reading. Molly and I were now lying close to each other on the ground.
“Let’s pretend we are in a hospital now getting better after the crash!” Molly said, on her back looking up at the sky. “How are you?” she asked.
“No you’re not… you’re in the hospital silly! I’ve got a broken neck.”
I had never had a broken neck or seen anyone with one, but adults were always talking about it as if it was a big problem. And she was right, since we had a crash and I was in the hospital I must have something bad.
“I broke my leg.”
Still looking up at the sky, she nodded. “We are going to be stuck here for a while.”
“Yeah, it was a bad crash.”
“At least we’re together”, she said, turning her head to look at me.
She was right, and I had been thinking the same thing, but had felt shy to say so.
“Yeah”, I said, looking back at her. Who cared how long it took to get better. We were together!
Time passed and we said nothing. My dad continued to sit against the fence and read. Looking up at the puffy white clouds moving slowly in the sky, I felt like I was floating, though the hard ground below me would remind me that I was not. I did not need to think or do anything, just watch the cloud move slowly. I felt Molly’s energy next to mine. She and the sky were everything, and it was okay if nothing ever changed.
Suddenly s dark shadow zoomed over us. The sky was still blue but the sun was hiding, and my skin felt cold without it shining on me. Molly and I said nothing, but I knew she was feeling it too. The energy in the air was changing. The smell was changing too. Still sweet, but not like flowers. Different, like the smell of the pipes in the basement. Still lying with our backs on the hard ground, we looked at each other with big eyes that told each other we felt it. A cool breeze tickled my nose and made little bumps rise on the skin on my arms. I noticed them on Molly’s arms too. Something was happening.
I stretched my neck so I could see my dad. He was still reading. Did he not feel it?
I looked at Molly. “We better get better soon!”
Molly nodded slightly. “We better.”
We waited. The shadow zoomed away in the opposite direction as quickly as it came upon us. I felt the warm sunshine on my skin return. But the energy was still changed. The smell in the air was still different. The wind was blowing a little harder. Something was coming.
My dad was now up on his feet. The fingers of his hands reached through and gripped the metal fence and he pulled it towards him as he looked out into the distance. I sat up and looked too. Molly did the same. Though the sun was still bright in our eyes in the blue part of the sky, amidst the white puffy clouds, there was a wall of dark gray clouds below it in the distance.
“A storm’s coming”. Though his voice was always steady, I could hear the feelings of excitement underneath the steady part.
Molly and I looked at each other. So that was what we had been feeling. My dad didn’t seem worried, so we weren’t either. Molly and I moved up to the fence next to him and put our fingers through and gripped it the same way, looking off into the distance. No one spoke. We just watched, smelled and felt it coming. The gray clouds were getting higher in the distance and the wind was getting stronger. With my dad quiet and excited like us, he didn’t feel like a grownup anymore.
We all waited silently as it became, under the still shining sun, what it was going to be.
A jagged bolt of bright light split the gray wall. I knew what it was. “Lightning”, I called out. Molly’s eyes glanced at me for just a second and returned to look off in the distance.
My dad had started counting in a whisper. “One Mississippi, two Mississippi…”, all the way up to fourteen, before a low rumble came from the wall of clouds.
“The storm is three and a half miles away”, he said, seeming like a grownup again. I could tell Molly was shivering with excitement like me.
We waited. Another bolt. Another count. Just three miles, though the sun still was shining above the growing mass of gray. I understood numbers and counting down, but “miles” really did not have much meaning to me other than being a long way.
My dad sighed and squeezed his face with his hand, a thing he did sometimes when he was thinking, like Molly biting her thumb.
“I don’t think we have time to get home before the rain hits. And this is a thunderstorm”, he said.
Thunderstorm. Molly and I, still standing side by side gripping the fence, looked at each other. Our excited eyes said “thunderstorm” to each other, we didn’t have to speak. I remembered other storms with lightning and thunder, but I’d always been inside or in the car. But here we were outside, where the storm was in charge.
“Come storm, we’re ready!” I thought to myself. Molly nodded like she could hear me thinking.
There was the biggest bolt of lightning so far, jagged and thicker than the ones before, splitting into two parts at the bottom. My dad counted to eight this time.
“Just two miles, we better get under cover.” The giant stadium was behind us. We could stand in the tunnel that went around under the stands and be out of the rain.
I was thinking that, but it shocked me that Molly had actually said it. She was going against what an adult had just said we should do. I liked her courage, but still.
My dad looked at her, and there was surprise in his face too. I wondered if he would get mad at her. But his eyes softened and then sparkled.
“Okay”, he said, “We’ll wait until the thunder is four seconds after the lightning.”
A shadow rushed towards us along the ground and the clouds covered the sun. Suddenly it was dark and cold, and the wind whipped across my body and made Molly’s yellow hair flutter then fall back down over her ears. We faced and felt the energy of the coming storm.
Two bolts of lightning this time, one on either side of the gray part of the sky.
“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…”
There was a loud crack of thunder that made Molly and me jump, and then a rolling rumble that shook the ground.
“Time to go!” It was Molly again.
“Yep”, my dad said and then he laughed like he was having fun. This was an adventure, and he was having it with us.
The clouds were overhead now. The wind was starting to blow drops of water against our faces. Dark spots of water were showing up on the ground around us.
“Let’s go!” Molly’s eyes flashed, and she pushed herself away from the fence, hit me on the shoulder, and I watched her from behind running as fast as she could, arms and legs everywhere towards her tricycle. I ran after her, feeling bigger drops of rain hitting my face and arms. My dad was behind me. Molly was on her tricycle now, pedaling as fast as she could toward the entrance of the stadium. I got on mine and did the same. It seemed to take forever, and big drops of rain were smacking against me all over my body. Finally we made it under the overhang and the water stopped hitting us.
We turned back and looked at the storm just in front of us, but not able to quite get us. We were just behind the line on the concrete floor that was still dry. Big drops of water smacked the ground and exploded just in front of us. On either side of us was the curving corridor that circled the stadium under the stands, lit only by the light coming in from this opening and others farther down. I thought of Tom Sawyer in the cave, and wondered if there were bats here.
I felt the strength of the giant quiet structure, unmoved by the storm. “Na, na, na, na”, I thought at that storm, “You can’t get us!”
There was a huge flash that lit up everything outside, and either side of the curving cave inside as well. Then the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard, echoing through the corridors on either side of us. Molly screamed. Without even knowing it I grabbed my dad.
Then everything was back to just the roar and splash of the rain. Still holding on to my dad, feeling a pounding in my chest, I looked at Molly. She was sobbing and gasping for breath. I was scared and did not know what to do, so it felt good to hear my dad’s calm steady voice.
“Molly, are you alright?”
His voice wasn’t scared like Molly’s mom at my birthday party when Molly fell off the merry-go-round, before she started crying. Molly looked at the two of us in each other’s arms and her breathing slowed. The pounding in my chest subsided. My dad and I let go of each other and he rubbed my head and looked into my eyes.
“You okay Cloob?”
“I think so.”
“You okay Molly?”
She just looked at the ground and said, “I want to go home!”
“Okay”, my dad said, “But we need to stay here and wait until the rain lets up.”
Molly nodded but was quiet and looked down at the ground.
“That was scary!” I ventured, trying to let Molly know she wasn’t the only one who got scared. Molly nodded again, and bit on her thumb, leaving it in her mouth and not saying anything.
I could tell my dad was worried about Molly’s feelings and wanted to make things better, like grown ups tried to do. There was another flash of lightning and a big boom just seconds after it that echoed through the big empty corridors.
My dad looked at us with a serious face. “You know both of you, that being in this stadium is about the safest place we can be in a storm like this.“
Molly, thumb still in her mouth, looked around with big eyes.
“You two want to ride around inside while we wait for the rain to let up?”
“Okay”, I said, “It’s like we are in a giant cave.” Again more saying my words to Molly, still biting on her thumb, than to my dad. She looked up at the tall slanted ceiling and sat on her tricycle and looked at me. She didn’t say anything but I knew she wanted me to go first.
I got on my tricycle and started to pedal down the corridor. Molly followed behind me. My dad waited a moment and then walked behind Molly. As I rode, the noise of the rain outside slowly got softer, but then got louder again as we approached the next opening to the outside. There was more lightning, but it took longer for the thunder to come, and it was more of a low rumble than a crack. I looked back at Molly and caught her eyes for a moment, but then she looked down.
We got to the other side of the stadium before the big drops of rain stopped making noisy splashes on the ground. My dad looked out one of the openings to the outside.
“Looks like the storm is passing over. Let’s wait a few more minutes and then head home.”
Molly stopped her bicycle. I noticed her so I stopped too. It seemed like the only thing she wanted to do was go home, so now she would wait until we were ready to do that.
I thought about Tom Sawyer and the cave where he got lost with his friend Becky. There were no adults around to help them, but Tom figured out what to do by himself. I wanted to be like Tom. Still I was glad my dad was here with us.
Just now light came in from the outside, lighting the corridor on either side of us. I could tell it was the sun.
My dad smiled but squeezed the bottom of his face with his hand, thinking.
“Okay. The rain stopped. Let’s see if we can get home before more comes.”
We followed him on our tricycles out into the area outside the stadium and then out a different gate to the sidewalk by the big street. He looked up the street to where the lights were hanging from the wires, where we had crossed before we got to the stadium.
“Usually we would cross up there at the light, but we are in a hurry to get home so…” He looked at the two of us. “Get off your trikes, and I will carry them across the street. You two hold hands and walk in front of me. We’ll all cross right here when I say so.”
We both nodded and got off our tricycles. Molly did not say no this time. She reached out her hand to mine and I grabbed it. Her hand was warm and holding it felt good. It made us feel even more together. My dad moved us so we were standing just in front of him. He picked up one of our tricycles in each hand.
A car passed by. It’s wheels spraying the water that flowed down the street.
“Wait until I tell you to walk and then walk fast, but don’t run and don’t let go of each other!”
Molly and I waited, hand in hand. I watched the water flowing down the edge of the big street. Her hand squeezed mine. I squeezed back and looked at her. There was a little smile on her mouth and her eyes flashed like they usually did, not that empty look she had after she got scared.
Another car came by but there were no more after that.
“Okay, let’s go!”
Hand in hand Molly and I jumped over the flowing water and started to move quickly across the street. My dad was behind us carrying our tricycles, looking back and forth in either direction as we made our way across. Molly and I jumped over another stream of water by the other edge and then were on the sidewalk. My dad came behind us and put down our tricycles and had a big smile on his face.
“Okay”, he said, “Now do the two of you know which way is home?” We both pointed down the street that headed away from the big street.
“Okay. Lead the way!”
“I’ll go first!” It was the first words Molly had said since she got scared. She got on her tricycle and started to pedal and I followed her. Up the street there was a car that looked familiar honking its horn. When it got close to us it pulled over and stopped. Molly’s mom got out.
“There you three are! I was worried when that awful storm hit!”
“We are doing okay”, my dad said, “We stayed safe and dry under the stadium.”
Molly’s mom seemed a little bit angry. “Eric, I finally got in the car to look for you. There are pay phones in the stadium. Why didn’t you call? I would have come and rescued you!”
“Well”, my dad looked uncomfortable and maybe a little angry himself, but his voice stayed calm. “You know, we were safe under the stadium, and the kids liked watching the storm come. If it hadn’t passed over as quickly as it came I would have called.” He didn’t say anything about Molly getting scared. I wasn’t going to say anything, and I don’t think Molly wanted to either.
Molly’s mom turned her attention to the two of us and bent down to look more closely.
“You two don’t look too worse for wear!” Her voice was more relaxed. She ran her fingers through Molly’s hair fixing it. “Just a little wet perhaps. But how about we put your trikes in the the back and I’ll drive you three home?”
I wanted to say no and keep on riding with Molly, but she just nodded, so I nodded too. Molly’s mom opened the door and we climbed into the back seat. My dad put our tricycles in the back part of their car and then sat in front across from Molly’s mom.
As she drove, Molly’s mom looked back at us. “So you two rode your trikes all the way to the stadium, and crossed all those streets!”
“We looked both ways!” Molly called out. She seemed finally to be feeling better.
“They looked both ways”, my dad repeated, “And they waited for the light to turn green at Main before walking their trikes across the street at the crosswalk.”
“We watched the storm come!” Molly continued to tell the story, “And Coob’s dad counted for the thunder after the lightning.”
“He counted”, Molly’s mom repeated, smiling and looking at my dad.
Then she stopped smiling and was thinking. She looked at my dad again. “So Molly calls Jonathan ‘Coob’? Is that a nickname? I haven’t heard it before.”
“Well yeah”, my dad tried to laugh a little and looked uncomfortable, “It’s Molly’s version of one of several nicknames Jane and I made up for him. It’s short for Clubius, which of course is another nickname.”
The car stopped. We were in front of Molly’s house.
“It’s a long story”, my dad continued.
“I bet it is”, said Molly’s mom, looking at my dad, “You two want to come in for cocoa, maybe coffee for the grown ups?”
“Cocoa sounds good”, my dad said. He liked everything that was sweet.
We all got out of the car. My dad took the tricycles out of the back and put them by the side of the house. Thinking some more, Molly’s mom asked, “Is Jane home? She should join us if she can!”
“She’s at a doctor’s appointment”, my dad said.
“So how far along is she? She’s starting to really show!”
“Six and a half months. She’s due at the end of June.”
I figured they must be talking about the baby inside my mom that was making her look so big in her stomach. My mom had sat me down and told me that a baby would come out of her and it would be my brother or sister. It didn’t seem possible. Where could it possibly come out of!