Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to Break an Ankle, Part 9

Although Bim sold insurance for a living, most of his friends had real-man jobs: policemen, firemen, career Marines. He took me to their weekly poker game for some cigar smoking and whiskey sipping and gambling, although these guys played with nothing but pennies. Sorry, but it's not so impressive when the motorcycle cop in a muscle shirt and flat-top pushes a stack into the pile and says, "I raise ya 15 big ones," and a hush falls across the table, even though he's talking about 15 cents.

It was this group of he-men who taught me to play Indian poker. This came late in the evening, when they had had too much to drink and were acting silly. In Indian poker, everyone gets a card that he holds against his own forehead so that everyone can see the player's card except that player. It's a game that seventh-graders find hilarious; for drill sergeants and San Diego's Finest, it's pathetic.

Bim let me ride his motorcycle around the neighborhood, and he promised that he would borrow a friend's bike and the two of us would ride out into the desert and spend the day. But when Saturday came, his friend did also, and I found myself riding passenger on Bim's bike, which was more than disappointing; it was mortifying, because there is nothing so pointless as being a passenger on a motorcycle. It's like watching someone eat a good steak while your jaw is wired shut.

Nevertheless, the day was enjoyable, exploring wilderness which today's is probably a housing development or a shopping mall. Bim's friend pointed to a cliff from which a trickle of water fell smashing on the rocks below. He said that he had seen a girl standing at the top of that cliff two weeks earlier, stark naked except for a string of beads around her neck.

For a young man in 1969, that was an exciting thought. I kept my eyes peeled for naked women, but we saw almost no one the whole day. Exploring around the base of that cliff that afternoon, I found a bead necklace among the wet rocks and put it in my pocket. Years later, I would take that necklace out of a box of mementos and recall that vision of unclothed beauty, that vision that I never experienced other than in a tale told under the canopy of tall aspens on a hot Southern California day.


Suisun city, CA said...

Mr. Burroughs,

I so enjoy reading your column every morning! It's been 17 years since moving from PA; but you are still hilarious!

I remember my grandmother telling me a story about losing a necklace; but she was AT LEAST 60 at the time... ;)

Park Burroughs said...

I'm trying to follow the logic of your comment. Do you mean that the longer you live away from PA, the less hilarious I get? So, in a couple of years, I won't even arouse a chuckle, and by the time you're 60, I'll be so unfunny that you'll want to strangle me with your necklace!:0
Thanks for being such a loyal reader. I still laugh out loud sometimes when I think of the antics of your younger brothers.