Since my mom was preparing a birthday party for me, she sent me away after our Saturday morning breakfast. I met Jonathon and Jesse at the bike jumps. It was great, all of us jumping on our bikes again.
Jonathon started off the jumping while Jesse and I watched from Tina Turner’s Tabletop.
“What do you think you’ll get?” Jesse asked me. “For a present.”
“Probably something useful.”
Jonathon screamed “Olivia Newton John” three times and landed his first jump. On his second jump he easily touched Ms. Universe’s underpants.
Jesse shook his head. “Birthday presents are always useful. I hate useful.”
On his third jump Jonathon almost reached Heaven. On his fourth attempt he made it. He could have never accomplished such a feat on a Huffy.
Later, we went to the gulch and stuck our feet in the water. I never wanted to leave the trees, the birds, the sun.
“This time next week we’ll be sitting in class,” I said.
“Not me,” Jesse said. “I’m running away.”
“I wish. Can’t afford it. My mom refused to give me my allowance until I start taking more responsibility around the house.”
On the opposite side of the gulch, Saula Sobinski, the toughest girl in school, appeared in the tall grass. She was catching grasshoppers and squishing them between her palms.
“Is that a Rocky Mountain hippo?” Jonathon whispered.
“She doubled in size,” Jesse added, in an equally low tone.
We laughed, but not loud enough for her to hear.
“I heard that Saula tears the heads from puppies and drinks their blood,” Jesse said.
We were watching Saula as she crept through the tall grass, carefully hunting six-legged prey. Her hair was pulled into two ponytails, high on her head, so that from afar, she looked like an Arapahoe warrior.
“That’s Ozzy Osbourne,” Jonathon snapped at Jesse. “He tears off the heads of puppies. Everyone knows that.”
“Okay. Well, I heard from Olivas Srinvas that Saula gets all the Mexicans to spit in a cup and then she drinks it.”
“God, you’re stupid. That’s Ozzy Osbourne too. He does that at concerts. And not just with Mexicans.”
“Everything I said is true,” Jesse protested. “You don’t know. You don’t know anything about Saula or Ozzy Osbourne. You’re the one who’s stupid.”
Saula heard us and looked up. With her left hand, she shielded her eyes from the sun and with her right she kept on squeezing grasshoppers.
“Hey jerk-offs,” she yelled. “You staring ‘cause you wanna buy something?”
We all shook our heads. Then we looked in different directions, all away from her, while she continued on through the grass.
“Let’s go to Albertsons and eat bulk gummy bears,” Jonathon suggested.
This was a fine idea, but as we pulled our legs out of the gulch, both Jesse and I almost fainted. We had leeches on our calves.
“Don’t tear them off,” Jonathon said as we started panicking. “You have to use salt.”
We rode to Jesse’s house with the leeches on our legs. I almost started crying because I knew they were sucking all the blood from my body.
“Slow down,” Jonathon yelled. “They’re bouncing all over the place.”
When we got to Jesse’s house, his mom threw wine on the leeches, but that didn’t do anything except stain the carpet. Jesse and I shuffled into the bathtub and Jonathon used a whole carton of Morton’s salt.
“When it rains it pours,” his mother said, rubbing her forehead.
Slowly the leeches started to bubble and fall. Blood was streaming down our legs. Jesse passed out and we had to carry him to the couch.
When I got home, my mom put me in the shower and then put Band-Aids on my legs. There was nothing better than sitting on the toilet while my mom fixed me up.
“Come have a piece of cake,” she said when she was finished.
“Isn’t it for my birthday party?”
“Lucky for us, I had enough batter for two.”
Grandma joined us, dentureless, gumming each forkful as if chewing cud. She and my mom had decorated the whole back yard with streamers and balloons.
“I’m going to give you your present now,” my mom said, taking our plates into the kitchen.
When she came back, she had a small box tucked under her arm.
“It’s not much,” she said. “I spent most of the money on your party.”
I shredded the wrapping paper, tore apart the box, and from the mess pulled out a bike chain and padlock.
“Did you get me a new bike?”
“Don’t say that,” my mom frowned.
I gave her a semi-convincing hug. I was glad that at least it wasn’t a book.
This is an excerpt from The Book of Samuel, by Erik Raschke.