Wednesday, November 6, 2013
It was the same curse every summer. The curfew. We distanced ourselves from the laughter, stood to wean our bodies from the heat of the bonfire. The older kids with cars, and beers, and what seemed to me the perfect age of freedom, stayed. Someone supplied the fire with another log and jokingly quipped, "Beware of the MelonHeads..."
The story remained untainted from the year to year telling. We were use to the idea of large headed, small statured humans lurking behind trees, waiting for a stray child to steal. We could shrug it off.
We clumped together, my brothers and three others. We said it was the chill. Instead of weaving ourselves through the Birch forest, a shortcut, as we had hours earlier, we slugged the shoreline to the parking lot, then stayed to the road. It was two miles of tar and dirt strips, over hills that we ripped down in the winter on sleds. My brothers and I had the farthest to walk that night.
It was deep woods black. A few stars glinted in the exposed sliver of sky over the tree tops, the moon was errant in its aid for light.
On the flat near the beach, our group became smaller as our first summer friend parted and fled for her porch light. I could tell she was relieved to be home.
We briskly climbed a long hill, our lights bouncing dully off the pavement. We laughed at the newest kid. He was a tall freckled redhead, and looked like a lobster from a day of water skiing and sailing. The tops of his feet had peeled off, exposing raw skin. He walked barefoot, carrying his sneakers. He laughed with us, and then asked the question that made us shrink. About the MelonHeads. We ignored him.
We rounded a corner and came to a stretch of dark woods.
My oldest brother turned his flashlight up to his face, glowing, he screamed, and with a grievous look, he flipped it off. Then he ran. We all sprinted. We did not want to be left behind.
Chests heaving, we stopped when we came to the next set of house lights. Another of our friends left us. We had one more stretch of dark road before home.
The unanswered question still hung in the air.
All of our flashlights were on, with varying degrees of brightness. The erratic beams streamed across branches, rocks, shoes and pavement. We moved fast and quietly, pack-like, in the middle of the street, until we heard something big crash in the woods. Without hesitation, without words, we fled, my brothers and I, leaving the new kid behind to face the MelonHeads on his own. Some secrets are tradition.