My neighbor Austin and I are the same age, and we are real friends.
We do everything together. We go to the movies together, we skipped school together and together we brought a cat into the classroom and it caused a scandal.
When the teacher asked, who did this, I honestly said: "It was Austin."
And Austin pointed at me and said: "It was him!"
Because we are real friends.
My father was changing our drainpipes. The old one was lying in our backyard waiting to be taken away.
It was a hot day and soon the outside of the pipe dried and we climbed up on it. We were sitting there for a while, then Austin suggested: "Let's go through the pipe!"
"Why?" It was so hot, I felt sleepy and did not want to move anywhere.
"Let's go!" Austin jumped down. "I bet I'll do it faster than you!"
A challenge? All my drowsiness was gone at once. I got down too, and peeped into the pipe. The air inside was much cooler than outside and the walls were still wet.
I went first. I crept while Austin counted aloud. I got outside on the count of: "Thirteen!"
"My turn! My turn!" Austin exclaimed, and rushed inside.
I counted until sixteen.
"That's not fair!" Austin frowned. "You counted too fast! Count again!"
He went into the pipe again. I counted until fifteen.
"It's so cool!" Austin guffawed, when he got outside. "No, really, it is cool inside!" He was laughing boisterously. He laughed and laughed, and looking at him, I started giggling too.
Our school pal Devin, riding a bike, passed the house. He heard our laughing and stopped.
"What's so funny?" he wondered.
"We are creeping through the pipe!" I explained. "I made it at count thirteen, and Austin did it at fifteen!"
"Let me try!" Devin said eagerly, and went into the pipe. He came outside at count eighteen. We laughed: "You are a turtle!"
He got offended, and rushed into the pipe again. He was sweaty, when he came out. We still laughed.
"How long did it take?" panted Devin.
"Sorry," I answered. "We didn't count."
"What?" he became angry. "Did I crawl through the pipe for nothing?"
He went into the pipe again, and came out, when we said: "Sixteen!"
"You see," Austin patted Devin's shoulder. "You're getting the hang of it!"
And cheering up, Devin went into the pipe again.
This time he was there for a long time. We counted to twenty-two.
Devin did not believe us, and wanted to go again, but I pushed him away: "Give someone else a go!"
Inside the pipe, I hit my head, then I pricked my left hand with something. It really hurt. I crept and crept, and I was thought I would never reach the end of the pipe.
I got outside, and heard the boys saying: "Thirty-four!"
"We thought you were gone for ever!" Devin snorted.
"Now it's my turn!" Austin went into the pipe.
We counted until forty, then looked inside. We could not see the light from the other side.
Suddenly Austin came out, but from the same side he went in. To our surprise he was moving with his head forward, not backward.
"How did you turn around?" we wondered.
"Barely..." he took a deep breath. "I almost got stuck in there!"
"Wow!" we were delighted.
Suddenly we saw my dad. He parked his truck, and looked at us with a smile.
"Did you have a nice time?" he asked. "Was it fun inside the pipe?"
"How do you know we went into it?" we said astonished.
He shook his head, and without a word put the pipe into the truck and drove away. We looked at each other.
Loam, slime, mold, pieces of mustiness covered us from our heels to the tops of our heads. Our dirty faces made us look like Indians preparing for war.
"I am your Chief, White Eagle!" I pronounced solemnly. "Let's get some scalps of the pale-faces!"
And we started playing, and forgot about the pipe.
My friend Austin and I watched a movie about mountain climbers. Great movie: explosions, avalanches, crevices, fissures... we were delighted!
When we got home, we ran to the neighborhood playground. This winter was very snowy, and snowdrifts were as tall as houses. We started to climb up, pretending we were mountaineers.
An unknown girl was playing nearby. I noticed her, but Austin did not indicate if he saw her or not, so I pretended I did not see her either. Anyway, she did not look at us.
Soon, the game captured us, and I really forget about this girl.
"I'm the king of the hill!" Austin exclaimed, and pushed me. I kept my feet, but I was not in the mood for fighting. I recalled the movie.
"Let's fall with style," I suggested instead. "Give me some points!" And I jumped down. I fell, slid, and rolled down. When I reached the foot of the snowdrift, I looked up.
"Sixty points!" Austin shouted to me.
"Out of what?" I wandered. Austin thought for a while.
"Of... fifty..." he said uncertainly. "No, I mean of eighty..."
"Let's use one hundred," I climbed up to him. "It's more easy to count."
"Okay," Austin did not argue. "Then I give you seventy-five points!"
"Oh, yeah?" I was not satisfied. "I'll see how you're gonna do that!"
Taking my challenge, Austin jumped down, and rolled along the slope.
It looked very showy. I was a bit upset. But I was always honest with my friend. When Austin climbed up to me, I forced myself to say: "It was great. Eighty... Eighty-nine points..."
"Yes!" Austin did not notice that I was upset with his success. "Your turn!"
I looked around, and chose another, steeper slope. I rushed down.
I realized at once that it was too risky. I rolled, slid... I felt as if some giant hand led me down. The falling seemed endless. I panicked, and I tried to stop. I did not care anymore, how it would look. Desperately, I clung to the slope, but the snow moved with me.
"It's an avalanche!" I thought with horror. I forgot that these were not real mountains.
Suddenly I fell into a crevice, and stuck, with my head down. I hit my face, and felt my nose and lips start to bleed. I wept, and struggled to get out. Somebody helped me. I thought it was Austin, but it was that girl, and I stopped crying. My friend was standing on the top, and probably did not see that I hurt.
"Are you okay?" the girl ask with worry. "You're bleeding!"
"I'm fine!" I wanted to push her away; I was ashamed. But she helped me, and I thought I had to be polite. I took some snow and washed my face. The girl stretched out a napkin.
"I always have Kleenex with me," she explained to me. I took the tissue, and dried my face. There was no more blood, and the girl smiled.
"It was a fall worth one hundred points!" she said, slyly, and I realized she had been watching our game. I was taken aback. The girl climbed up, to Austin.
He pushed her, but the girl kept her feet, and pushed Austin down. My friend disappeared behind the snowdrift.
"I'm a queen of the hill!" she declared. I climbed up, and Austin did the same.
"We just moved here yesterday," the girl explained to us. "My name is Irene."
"Welcome to our town!" Austin pushed her down. She fell, slid a few feet down, and sprang up. Laughing, she rushed at us, and we all started to play together.
I was ready to go out to play with my friends when I saw a card on the kitchen table. It looked like a credit card. I was curious, and took it.
Usually, the given name on the card is printed completely, but on that card there was only an initial. My name started with the same letter as my daddy's name and a new idea came upon me. I wanted to trick my friends. I planned to get back home before my dad would come home from work.
At the playground I showed the card to my friends. It was Irene, Austin, and Devin.
"I've got my very own credit card!" I pronounced with pride.
"It's impossible," gasped Austin astonished. "You have to be fifteen, or even eighteen to have a credit card!"
"He's 21!" giggled Devin.
"This man is eighty years old," Irene sang. "Despite his age he's strong and bold..."
My friends passed the card to each other a few times, and finally returned it to me. I put the card to my pocket, and we started to play.
This playground was in the middle of the town park and soon a lot of children, some with parents, some without, arrived. We played for a long time, and then I recalled that daddy would be home soon, and I needed to return the card before he would find out about trick. I thrust my hand into my pocket, and froze with terror: the card was gone.
"What happened?" Irene asked with worry, and Devin and Austin came close to me.
"The credit card..." I mumbled, shocked. "I lost it..."
My friends exchanged glances, and we all started searching around. We crept on all fours, looking for the card. We checked every corner. We turned over every leaf. We dug into the sawdust and dirt. We could not find it.
I felt despair. The playground seemed to me as big as a whole town or forest, or even another planet. Children, babies, some teenagers were playing and running. They walked around, jumped over us, and almost stepped on us. We coughed with dust, our hands were hurt with small rocks and sawdust, we all were dirty as pigs, but my friends did not give up. They did not leave me, and I was very thankful to them for that.
Bits of paper, chewed gums, lost buttons... We found a few pennies, and a keen-eyed Irene had found two quarters.
And it was she who finally called us: "I think it's here..."
However, her voice sounded very strange. Irene pointed at a baby boy. He was siting in the sandbox, and dug the sand with the card, using it instead of a shovel.
Austin flung himself at the boy and tried to take the card, but the child did not release it. He started cry, and his mother looked at us, and I pushed Austin away.
"What?" wandered Austin. "Let his mommy make a deal with her baby! This is your card!"
"No," I explained. "She can talk to my dad. It's his card."
"I knew it!" Devin snorted, but Irene and Austin even did not smile.
"Let's try to exchange the card," suggested Irene, and we all squatted near the child. We showed to him all our stuff that we had in our pockets. We had buttons, color bits of papers, candy, marbles. But those treasures did not impress this baby. He pressed the card to his chest, and from time to time he sucked it, plunging me into horror. I was afraid that the card would have some teeth marks on it.
Suddenly the child stretched his arm to Irene. "Mekkie!" he said.
We gazed at Irene, and she looked over herself. She touched her necklace. It was a very beautiful, and probably an expansive necklace. Of course, Irene even did not think about offering it as a toy.
"Neckie!" confirmed the boy. Irene hesitated for a second, and resolutely took the necklace off and gave it to the child. The boy grabbed the necklace, and dropped the card, and I quickly picked it up.
"Irene..." I was touched with her act. "How about you?"
"You need to get home before your dad!" she glanced at me, and looked at the child again. "I can wait... Or I'll ask his mother... a little bit later."
"Thank you so much!" and I ran home.
I was just in time. I had just put the card on the table when I saw my dad enter the kitchen. I pretended I was looking for some food in the refrigerator, however I was still stealthily watching him. My dad sat at the table, took a newspaper, and started to read.
I waited for a while, but could not stand the tension any longer, and I carefully asked my father: "Dad... What is that card?"
"Ah," he said, not bothering to put his paper down. He moved the card toward me. "It's a membership card. I did not ask about it. Some firm sent to me. A usual commercial action. You can play with it."
I was listening him, and all events of this day ran through my head, and I thought about Irene.
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Lily's Story List And Biography