I don’t remember what I did when I was little to make my sister Chris so suspicious of me.
Sure, I walked her, blindfolded, into the occasional tree. I got distracted and forgot that she was blindfolded. The tree seemed so obvious to me. How could she not see it?
After that, we weren’t allowed to play the blindfold game any more so she never had a chance to retaliate.
I also dropped boards on her head. I don’t know what I was thinking there. But I was only about five or six. Can we please stop talking about this now?
I don’t think I ever lied to her.
OK, I did have a fairly active and vivid imaginary life. Where most children would invent an imaginary friend, I came up with an entire community. And once threw my family into a tizzy while we were on a walk by insisting that this house, right here? Is where my friend Toofer lives and she’s expecting me for a visit, so let’s go ring the bell!!!
There was a tense stand-off while my poor mother racked her brain trying to figure out when I could have gotten out of the house unnoticed and walked four blocks over to meet the people who lived there.
“Have you really been here before?” she asked worriedly as I insisted I had.
They had a pool. I wanted it to be true and thought that insistence would make it so.
OK. So maybe the rest of this story is starting to make a bit more sense.
Because the morning we were up in our bedroom reading and feeling bored and I looked out the window and said, “Huh. Mum’s watering the Essie’s garage,” she didn’t even look up from her book. It was the middle of summer vacation and apparently, I had floated one fantasy too many past her and she was not going to bite this time.
Except that my Mum really was watering the Essie’s garage.
I had no idea what could have gotten into her. She liked to hose down the sidewalk, blasting bits of crud out from the cracks. Occasionally she would sneak a blast at the first crack either side of our house if she could do it without leaving the property. But this, standing at the top of the neighbour’s driveway, across the street from our house and brazenly hosing down their garage, was a complete mystery.
Mr. Essie ran out on his porch, baggie pants with suspenders hanging down, sleeveless undershirt on. He shouted at my mother.
She shouted back, flailing the hose and pointing at the roof. Mr. Essie ran back in the house.
“What’s she doing now?” my sister asked with a mixture of amusement and boredom.
“She’s shouting at Mr. Essie.”
Chris turned the page.
Neighbours started to gather at the bottom of the driveway. More shouting, more flailing and pointing on Mum’s part.
Mr. Essie ran back onto the porch and shouted at Mum again.
Mrs. Essie followed in her white hair and flowered house dress. One of the neighbours started to pull them off the porch. Mr. Essie resisted. Someone ran into the house and returned with a kitchen chair for Mrs. Essie to sit on. They moved over to our side of the street.
“It’s getting really interesting out there,” I told my sister. “The Essie’s are out on the sidewalk in chairs. Mr. Essie’s in his undershirt. There’s a whole bunch of people.”
“Uh-huh,” said my sister. “And what’s Mum doing?” she asked in a tell-me-about-your-picture voice.
“Still watering that garage. She just won’t quit.”
Distantly, I heard sirens.
One of the neighbours tried to take the hose from Mum, but she waved them away, back to the end of the driveway. Finally, I saw what she had seen, what had sent her up the driveway for the hose. A curl of smoke from the peak of the roof.
“There’s smoke!” I shouted.
“Sure there is,” Chris mumbled.
“No, really. And here come the fire trucks!”
I turned back to watch the excitement as she put down her book and leapt off her bed, having finally heard the sirens.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE ESSIE’S GARAGE WAS ON FIRE???????” she asked, shoving me aside to get a better look.
“I thought I had….” I mumbled.
There were now two big fire engines slewed across the road. Neighbours in lawn chairs. The Essie’s in a place of honour on the sidewalk.
And Mum, still hosing down the garage.
One of the firemen approached her and attempted to take the hose away. She waved him off, but he stood firm. An argument ensued, but eventually, Mum was convinced to hand over the hose and let herself be escorted from the scene. It was clear, even from where we stood that she didn’t want to go.
They said I did a good job,” she told us happily over dinner that night, recounting the story for Dad. “If I hadn’t grabbed the hose and started watering, the Essie’s might have lost their garage!”
She enjoyed a kind of neighbourhood acclaim for the rest of the summer, responding modestly as people complimented her quick thinking and abilities with a garden hose. I think she may have even fantasized about joining the fire department.
She would have really enjoyed driving the truck, especially if they had let her run the siren.