Falling Off a Log
The ride to Scott's house wasn't long - about ten minutes, but I must have had about a full year's worth of thoughts go through my head along the way.
Scott was my best friend, my only real friend. We'd always gone to school together, but being perhaps the two most bashful boys in town we never got to know each other very well, or anyone else for that matter.
One hot summer day about four years ago I'd gone to my favorite spot. By the road, there was a large pond that used to be a public swimming place. There was still a beach, but swimming was no longer allowed due to pollution. It was backed by an elevated highway and an old rail spur went under the highway through a short tunnel. On the other side, through the tunnel, the pond continued on until it kind of disappeared into a swamp. It wasn't a mucky swamp, the pools of water were crystal clear and the bottoms were pebbles. My brother Sam first brought me here looking for arrowheads. There must have been a native settlement here at one time, as they were fairly plentiful even hundreds of years later.
There was one spot where a huge, smooth tree limb had fallen over one of the deeper pools. It was only about three feet above the water, and I loved to go out there and lay on it, just staring down into the clear water and dreaming my dreams.
I was doing that on this particular day. Sam's friend Ira had begun showing me stuff on the guitar a few weeks earlier. I was lying there trying to remember everything he had shown me so far. It was hot out. One of the things he'd said was that once I got my first chord change down to where I could do it without thinking or looking, the rest would come easy as falling off a log.
I was staring into the water. It looked so clean and inviting. I was sweltering. I figured I'd find out just how easy falling off a log would be. I slowly let myself roll to the left until there wasn't enough log to keep me up, then plunged sidelong into the water. It was great! Nice and cool. I splashed to the top, then climbed out of the pool. I was greeted by laughter.
"Haha, Haha - that was funny! Wudja, fall asleep?"
I looked up to see this kid Scott from my school straddling his bike. He was giggling now.
"I didn't fall asleep - I did it on purpose!"
"Sure ya did."
"I did! I just wanted to see how easy it was."
"Falling off a log. Y'know how they always say something's as easy as falling off a log?"
He was going to say something, but somehow he lost his balance and fell over sideways with his bike landing on top of him. I climbed out of the water and ran over to where he was. He was crying a little, like he'd gotten hurt. I helped him get disentangled from the bike, then pulled him to his feet.
"Sniff .... I guess so. I landed on something hard." I looked where he'd fallen and it was basically roots from a big tree.
"Logs are easier," I said.
"Logs are easier. Than bikes. To fall off of."
"Oh. OH! I get it. Haha, Haha. You're funny!"
"Try it from the log. The water'll make you feel better."
"I don't know ...."
"I'll go first, then you can try. Just don't land on top of me." With that I climbed back on my log and slowly rolled off again, this time to the right. As I splashed up to the top of the pool, Scott was already laying out on the log.
"What do I do?"
"Just roll a little to one side or the other until you fall in."
He rolled left and went down, flailing his arms. It did look pretty funny.
He came up laughing. "Whoa! That WAS fun!"
"But was it ..."
"Easy! YES, very easy. I wanna do it again!"
We spent the next half hour falling off the log, taking turns at first, then making up more involved stunts, with both of us going off the log together in increasingly ingenious ways.
After a while, it got tiring. We both climbed back on the log to dry off. I went out backwards so we could see each other, and we were laying there almost nose to nose.
"So, what are you doing out here, anyways?" I asked.
He looked a little sheepish. "I .. ah .. I followed you."
"I don't know. I saw you riding your bike through the tunnel and just followed you. When I got to this side I couldn't see where you went, so I just kept looking around. When I saw you it looked like you were sleeping, so I just watched until you fell into the water."
"I didn't fall, I ..."
"I know. Did it on purpose."
"So, why'd you follow me?"
"I don't know. I know who you are from school. I don't have any friends 'cause I'm so shy. I think you are, too, because you look kinda lonely all the time. I thought maybe we could be each other's friends or something. That's all."
"That's nice. So what do you like?"
"Animals, I guess. And I like to sing. How about you?"
"I'm just learning to play the guitar, so I guess that. And riding my bike."
"The guitar? Cool."
"I'm just starting - my brother's friend is teaching me. I've got two brothers and a sister. How about you?"
"I've got two brothers and four sisters."
"That's a big family! How's your Dad feed you all?"
"Well, we live on a farm so I guess that helps. You wanna come over?"
"I guess. Is it far?"
"It's right up the road."
"Let's go then. If we both go left we'll land on different sides."
"Huh?" Then he got it, and we made one final splash before getting on our bikes and riding up the road to his house. I can't tell you how it felt to think I might finally have a friend who was a friend just because we wanted to be.
All this was going through my head as Dad drove us to Scott's house. Dad had known Scott's family like forever, but I still couldn't figure how Scott fit into the current mystery. Parts of it were there. He lived on a farm. His Mom, I knew, used to be a nurse. He had a big family. But his Dad? That piece certainly didn't fit. His Dad was a farmer. A big guy with a crewcut and glasses. Who never listened to music, unless it was me and Scott. A farmer. With a tractor. He raised vegetables. What possible connection could he have to @@@@@? A brother? A cousin? And how could Scott know about this and never mention it to me, whatever it was? We did everything together. We told each other our most private thoughts. Was it hidden in a faraway corner of his mind that he'd been warned never to go near?
"We're here. Screw your head back on, Joey."
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