“Stay out of that damn pond!”
My mother was wrong as I released the screen door. The swinging wood banged against the doorframe as it answered her shout.
It was not a pond actually. It was a natural spring that bubbled up at the back of my parents’ property. Pond? Humph! Anything I could walk around in less than two minutes was considered a puddle in my mind. Since she did not say anything about jumping over puddles, I scratched the spring off my list of things not to jump over. I waved my hand at the house, knowing full well she could not see it, as I dismissed her warning.
So I took my eight-year-old self toward the back of the property. This was a summer day in 1983. Yet I wore long baggy jeans in all that heat. Despite the number of tadpoles I had deposited into the spring as they grew up into hungry frogs, on occasion I found a mosquito love-fest in the tall grass. Meanwhile, I passed by our three cows named Steak, Hamburger, and Rump Roast who mooed from grazing mouths.
Okay, we did not name the cows that. We never gave the cows names because they were beef cattle and even I knew at a young age to not name an animal I would be seeing again browned and smothered in dark gravy on my dinner plate.
Anyway, I walked around the cows and snuck by the decrepit antique car. I sighed while staring at the busted seat cushions and the crusty steering wheel, remembering the fun times I had while pretending to be a bank robber driving away from a heist. Pop-pop-pop had gone my imaginary tommy gun at the twenty dirty coppers hanging out of the one police car like in those old black-and-white silent movies. Unfortunately, just like the lake . . . I mean the puddle, my mother had forbidden me from playing in the car. That was a command easily obeyed as loud buzzing sounded within the metal framework. Bees. And this was not a little hive where some smoke would drive the stragglers away and put them to sleep. These were swarm-like, mutant bees hopped up on dandelion dust from the field - meaning they were extremely aggressive.
In the distance I spotted a figure by the ocean - er, puddle. My older brother ran down the slope of the hill, legs pumping wildly, and took the crazy leap over the water. He made it to dry land and stumbled with a harsh smack as he did a body-slam into the trunks of the birch trees.
Yet I remembered my mother’s shout. She hated when we jumped over the pond . . . um, spring. If we failed to make it across, the bottom of our jeans would get all funky from the human-swallowing mud lurking under the innocent water. So as I watched my brother hurdle over and the trees creak from his lumber-jacking efforts, I amused myself with finding my bath toys hidden under a stone overhang at the water’s edge.
I am sure everybody knows the types of bath toys I am talking about in this story. These were the old Playskool kind with the rounded plastic people who had no legs. They just had the round stump at the bottom with the holes up their rumps where they would rest in the round peg of the tugboats and cars.
I pulled out the toys and sent them away across the water, watching the tiny islands disappear when the boat approached as the frogs sank underneath. A long stick guided the tugboat around while I imagined the green alien water monsters below plotted the poor plastic people’s demise.
By the fifth jump my brother made, I had to try it.
Oh, I have tried before and never made it across the ocean/lake/pond/puddle. I usually ended up in the middle, calf-deep and sinking fast, as my brother would laugh until I threatened to soak him in the water. Then he would stretch a branch out as I would make a horrid SHUULUK noise when pulling out my ruined shoes. Yet I had learned three things from my teacher in elementary school.
1: If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again.
2: Practice makes perfect.
3: Girls had stronger leg muscles than boys.
Those three lessons guaranteed that I would make it over this time. My teacher had said so and everybody always told me to listen to my teacher because she was a very smart lady. As my brother sat on the lid of the toilet nearby to watch, I walked up the hill toward the barbed wire fence and took several deep breaths. Then I sat on my knees to fully rest myself (hey, this was not some little rinky-dink slope I had climbed). When ready, I charged down the hill halfway and took a second break to tie my shoelaces. Then foregoing another trek up the hill, I ran and jumped.
The first noise was my feet landing on the other side of the pond. Yes, it was a pond now because it made a better story to tell to all my friends instead of calling it a puddle. I hopped around on dry earth while pumping my fists and throwing victory signs at the air.
The second noise was when I gloated so much that I took one too many steps backward, lost my footing, and had one leg in the water. My pant leg became soaked/muddy/funky. My brother fell off the toilet laughing. My mother glowered at me when I went into the house and she saw my soiled clothes.
Karma always gets a person when they gloat.