Monday, October 15, 2012

Ricky Smith and the Apple (October Theme) by Bob Krech

"You better knock it off, you stupid hellion!" Ricky Smith's mother was yelling at him again from their porch. Ricky was keeping a safe distance. He was poking the dirt with a stick and not looking up at her at all. At age nine, I didn't know exactly what a "hellion" was, but since it had the word "hell" in it and was preceded by "stupid", I knew it meant she wasn't holding him in high regard at that moment. As I remember, he had just dipped his little sister's hair in some of the hot tar from the road work on our street. Ricky did stuff like that.

Ricky moved in next door to me when we were both nine years old. I think his family was originally from Texas, but had moved around some, and had landed in New Jersey due to his dad getting a job in New York. He was tall and wiry with dirty blonde hair and a constant grin. Ricky and I got along well, exploring the woods and the creek, building stuff out of scrap wood and old nails, and playing some baseball. He was a pretty daring kid and would climb way higher in a tree than I would and also enjoyed pelting his sisters with mud balls and chasing his little brothers around. He had a bit of a wild side to him, which was a little scary to me, but at the same time, he was never dull and we were neighbors.

The Halloween I was ten, Ricky and I went out trick-or-treating together. We started early and were all over the neighborhood. It was one of those warm Halloween nights and it must have been a Friday or Saturday because I remember I didn't have to be home till ten, which was crazy late back then. We were both hobos, the easiest of Halloween costumes, but one you could also get a little creative with. Ricky had used some kind of makeup from his mother to give himself a beard, a black eye, and a long jagged scar. I did the same. We were looking and feeling pretty rough. We started out at dusk and made our way around the neighborhood, filled our pillowcases once, dumped them out on our kitchen tables and set out again. My table was covered with Snickers, Mounds, M&M's, Milky Ways, Three Musketeers, PayDays. It was an unprecedented haul. We repeated the process, and then took off again for one final round. We were giddy with the sheer magnitude of it all.

Our final round was a little slower. Some people had started turning their porch lights off, indicating they were out of candy or had gone to bed. There were less pickings. It was almost ten when we stopped at a corner house at Glenn Avenue and Royal Oak Road. It was a two-story house, brick with pale yellow siding. We went up the steps, knocked and stood back. A very regular looking dad opened the door. We gleefully yelled, "Trick or Treat!" He handed us each an apple. I popped mine into my sack. Ricky held his apple in his hand. He squinted at the dad and said incredulously, "An apple?"

The dad did not reply. He just closed the door. Ricky and I wandered across the street. "An apple," Ricky repeated. "What a cheapskate."The next thing I knew he was rearing back as if he were going to throw it. Then I was watching it sail through the air. Ricky had a pretty good arm. I remember thinking in some prescient way, what if it hit a window? Window glass shattered. The front door swung open the dad emerged on the porch yelling, "Hey!"

We flew down the street. I never looked back to see if we were being pursued or not. I didn't want to waste valuable seconds. As we ran, Ricky began to giggle, then outright laugh. I was right alongside him, my heart pounding, fearing for my life, freedom, safety, everything, but the laugh and his nutty, wild spirt was contagious. I couldn't help laughing too. I knew it was wrong, but there I was, his partner in crime, swimming along in his crazy wake. We hit our corner and sprinted up our lawns and slammed into our houses. I waited for the doorbell to ring, but it never did.

I remember thinking the next day in the rational calm of daylight, how it would be a good idea for us to go back to the guy's house and confess and offer to pay for the window. When we met on his lawn later that day, I asked Ricky if he planned to do anything like that. He gave me his squint, just like he gave the dad. The squint that meant you had just done or said something completely ridiculous. Completely wrong. Like giving Ricky Smith an apple on Halloween.


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