The next few days passed, uneventfully. I did not ride my tricycle around the block and I did not walk in the alley; I stayed close to home when I played. I played and I waited. I knew a time would come when I would "pay him back" for what he did. I could wait. He did not know I was waiting. When I had my chance he would not see it coming.
Opening the front door of our house on Elm Avenue I heard the noise of children playing in the empty lot next to the old lady who was our friend. I made my way passed her home and saw the lot with a lot of little kids in it. My teenage nemesis was there, too, swinging one of the children on the end of a rope. The children lined up to let him put a thick, rough twine-like rope around them. Then he pulled the rope tight and swung the child around in the air. The feet did not touch the ground as he twirled around with the child on the end of the tether. It was a lot like the "airplane rides" our daddy gave us except that we were on the ends of his arms, holding tightly to his hands. We were a lot higher in the air than the kid at the end of the rope. One-by-one the children had a turn, squealing and laughing as they watched the twirling little friend go 'round and 'round. When the big boy took a rest, the small crowd of children began to disperse. My younger sister was with me and this is why I think I might have been six when this event happened. She would have only been three and the boy would not spin her on the rope because she was too young. She was a thin three so he probably thought she was much younger than she was. Okay, so if she did not get a turn, she would just go home to play with the other kids making their way in that direction. But, not me; I saw the opportunity I had been waiting for present itself right then! I sat down on the ground near the strong adolescent boy.
"Can I have a turn?" I asked.
"You want me to swing you on the rope?" He seemed surprised at my request.
"Yes, please, I want to try it, too." Some of the children heard the conversation between us and turned around to rejoin the action they assumed would begin again. My sister did not come, though, because she already knew he would not swing her.
As he stood and reached for his rough-hewn rope, I came near and lifted my tee shirt.
"What are you doing? The rope goes outside, on top of the shirt." he said, questioning but also instructing me. I had hold of the rope and was putting it around my chest, just under my armpits.
"No, I want it here. It will make my shirt dirty and my mother would not like that. It will be okay," I protested as I waited for him to tie the knot.
"But, it will rub your skin if you put it there. Put it on top of your shirt." He insisted. I shook my head and the few children observing our interaction told him to just do what I wanted so that they could have another turn before their mothers called them home.
The teenager shrugged his shoulders and tied the knot securely around me. He tightened the rope and away I went, flying in the air. Around and around I went, gritting my teeth while still trying to smile. When I thought the rope had rubbed my skin enough to make a mark of some kind, I signaled that I was finished with my "ride". I sat on the ground with the other kids for a little while to catch my breath. I was staggering just a little after the ride at the end of the rope and I didn't want my mother to see me before I was ready. Mothers just seem to know things so I needed to be careful.
When a couple of the kids got up to head home, I joined them. When we reached the corner where our house was, I turned to head up the front steps to go inside. I needed to wait a bit longer because I could not see a mark on my skin yet. I do not remember what I did in the interim but, at last, my skin began to burn. I went into the bedroom where we had a mirror on the low dresser and checked on my chest. Sure enough, there it was! An angry red line the width of that rope ran all the way around my chest, under my armpits and across my back. Yikes, did it look sore… and it was, too! I pulled my shirt down and ran to show my mother. Lifting my shirt I called to get her attention away from her task.
"Mom, it hurts here," I wined, moving my shirt up as high as I could. Of course, it was a genuine cringe when I pulled back from her touch.
"What? How did this happen?" She was dumbfounded to see the beet red line all around my little body.
"It was the boy at the other corner," I told her. "He was swinging the kids on a rope."
"But, why didn't he put the rope on top of the shirt, then. Didn't he see it would hurt you if he put it there?" She questioned me, though not really suspecting that it was her own "little darling" who had insisted on the rope's placement.
"It hurts," I said again, not wanting to tell her it was his fault but wanting her to assume that it was. It did hurt, too, like having a hot branding iron wrap itself around me! She would do the first aid soon but first she was going to do what mothers everywhere would have done… she was going to march me right over to that boy's house and show his parents what he had done to her innocent little daughter.
The boy was not home but his parents were. Shyly I stood before them as my mother lifted my shirt. His mother gasped and his father groaned with his scowl. It was hard to stay neutral here and not just jump up with my fist punching the air saying, "Yes!" but I managed to keep quiet and just looked down at the floor.
"Did Bill*do that to you?" his father shouted out. But his father was so mad at his son, I did not even have to answer the question, for which I was thankful.
"Where is he?" he bellowed and left the room. The boy's mother shook her head and offered her apology to me and to my mother. She said that the boy's father would take care of it and thanked us for coming to show them.
I must admit, while I was glad that the boy would get a spanking from his father for this, walking away with my mother that day, I did feel more than a little guilty that I had let everyone believe that the wound I now displayed was his fault. He was totally innocent, though I guess he could have just refused to swing me if I would not have the rope on the top of my shirt instead of under it. In any case, I also had the satisfaction of knowing I had "paid him back" for what he had done to me that I could not tell anyone.
Later that afternoon I learned the results of my actions against the teenage boy. His father had taken a shovel to beat him. My own wound had been dressed by my mother and I knew it would be fine in a couple of days. I wondered if the boy would be fine in a couple of days, too. I also, wondered what he might do to me now that he had been beaten because of my deception. What would his revenge bring to me?
*Name changed, of course!
**** Closing Scene: The Price…. Coming tomorrow