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Opening Day in a Small Connecticut Town
By Donald Hubbard
The intrepid youngsters swerved their bicycles around Hale’s streets and lanes even during austere biting February, so certain of their talents that they defied scared car drivers to swerve around them. Occasionally one of these daring young men, and they were always youthful males, struck an ice patch or swerved into a snow bank, but generally their gallantry went unrewarded.
By late March or early April, even the over-protective parents let their children switch their sleds and toboggans for their Schwinns, figuring if they forced the kids to don Day-Glo Easter suits and dresses laid out on their beds, there had to be some trade-off somewhere.
Parents largely let their large families out to play in the morning or after-school, only requiring them back for evening supper. Some hollered for the kids by name from the back porch while others used bells or horns. The tough kids often had to be found by their parents after driving from block to block, but the cold kept kids close to their homes.
But by spring, the equation had changed because even a shoddy bicycle allowed one the ability to travel miles, to do what you wanted. Still, one generally did not venture too far, and even during junior high, Hale housed every earthly delight and form of recreation and excitement in creation, like playing basketball with turtles or smoking cigarettes behind the high school.
Opening Day, the first day of April, brought us together. Youthful bicyclists darted into the street, picking up friends and acquaintances along the way, until a decent crowd had gathered about 20 yards away from 615 Sherman Avenue, the home of Jane and Ceri Millar, two of the hottest girls in town history.
And while the crowds congregating outside the Millar house were predominantly male, a host of females always joined the group, letting down their kickstands and either leaning on their bikes or sitting on the grass. Some of the bikes creaked with rust or had flat tires, while others, Christmas presents waiting for their maiden excursion, comfortably drove their drivers past 615 Sherman Avenue to a safe reconnaissance area.
Three years ago, Freddy Pulaski had sped by their house late one afternoon when he swore he saw Mrs. Millar, brandishing a rolling pin, screaming and chasing her husband, the hen-pecked Randy Millar. The Millars ran around and around the house, hundreds, maybe thousands of times, with some witnesses insisting that Mrs. Millar had a knife.
“Not a rolling pin?”
“No a knife, I know the difference between a knife and a fucking rolling pin!”
“But Freddy Pulaski said she had a …”
“I don’t give a shit what Freddy Fucking Pulaski saw, he wore glasses. Plus, he’s moved out of town.” Moving out of Hale relegated one to the ranks of non-kids. You were never seen or heard of again and nothing you did mattered or possessed any credence.
“It was a knife.”
This Opening Day, we waited until the sun set, leaving disappointed. Nobody witnessed Mr. Millar trying to escape from the clutches of his beloved, though we all heard the Millars staccato-ically bickering back and forth. My peers flicked on their bicycle lamps and departed in a single file procession away from that home, down through Main Street. I remained, waiting and hoping to see something and tell everyone around the schoolyard the next morning about pistols going off or flames shooting from the unhappy home. But I only saw the faces of Jane and Ceri looking out their bedroom window, wishing they could play with their friends and maybe spy on someone else’s house, just not their own.
We were wrong for making sport of other peoples’ misery and I was wrong for leaving that night, because as soon as I did, the Millars no longer had to concern themselves with witnesses as they strategically bruised their girls’ arms and legs and backs.