In the summertime, when I was a child without the schedule of school, I inhabited stories. Sometimes they were spin-offs from books I was reading. In our front yard, a grove of trees made a perfect railroad car so we could be the Boxcar Children. Sometimes we made worlds for the peg people from the game of Life. Sometimes a fallen tree became a ship––and gave us all poison ivy by crushing the plants and releasing their evil juices. But the strangest of all these inventions was our relationship with Jabberbox.
In reality, Jabberbox was an old wheelbarrow that had long ago lost its wheels and handles. It had been abandoned, upside down, in the woods behind our house for such a long time that a hole had rusted in the center. And so of course the wheelbarrow became a monster who had to be fed.
I can remember tiptoeing up to Jabberbox, my small hand clutching a few dead leaves, or maybe, if I felt really bold, a slimy worm. You had to stick your hand completely inside Jabberbox's gaping maw. If you weren't careful, you'd get bit by the jagged, rusty edges of teeth around its mouth.
What sort of game was this? Certainly I would never have let my own daughter go near such a tetanus trap. I'm sure my parents had no idea of what a risky game we played.
But there it was. The abandoned, dangerous object. A ravenous creature, who constantly needed to be fed. A jabberer, a profligate word waster, a scold.
We worshipped Jabberbox.
And what, dare I ask, does that say about me as a kid?