When I was growing up, I had a close friend we'll call Kitty for purposes of protecting the, umm, oh yes, innocent, that's the word I'm looking for. Innocent.
Kitty and I were friends from sixth grade on, our bond withstanding the upheavals of junior high, the interruptions of various boyfriends, and the time she slapped my face in front of everyone for daring to eat lunch with someone else. (Who says 6th grade isn't a cutthroat world?)
I loved Kitty.
I was afraid of her parents. Kitty was afraid of her parents. Everyone was afraid of her parents. They were old (in their sixties while other parents were in their forties), cranky, and apt to throw things at you if you stepped out of line.
At least that was the rumor.
One night when I was in high school, another friend (we'll call him Homer - not the poet, the Simpson) and I decided to visit Kitty after dark. This took considerable courage on our part (or showed an astonishing lack of common sense - take your pick). It wasn't very late - mabye 8:30 - but Kitty's parents were already asleep and we did NOT want to wake them up.
Kitty lived several miles from town on a street where cows grazed in people's front yards, orchards hugged the houses, and there was not a streetlight to be found. Approaching Kitty's house without detection by her parents required finesse that would do a Navy Seal proud. Her parents' bedroom was at the front of the house, facing the street. Kitty's room was at the back. In between were several daunting obstacles:
1. A long gravel driveway - very noisy when approaching by car.
2. A pond of monstrously large goldfish lurking somewhere between the driveway and the side yard.
3. Dolly the sheep chained up somewhere beyond the pond but close enough to the house to give you a scare and try to chew off a piece of your clothing.
Homer and I parked on the street and crept across the gravel driveway. We knew better than to speak. Kitty's parents had a sixth sense about EVERYTHING and we really didn't want her dad to run us over in his Peugot for trespassing. We were nearly past their window when a light came on.
I hit the bushes around the side of the house and melted into the shadows. (Okay, it was more like crashing into a very stiff and unyielding shrub and then hanging on for dear life but, as I've pointed out before, this is MY blog. I can sound like a super-agent if I want.)
Homer was less fortunate.
Homer hit the pond.
There is nothing quiet about landing in a pond full of toddler-sized goldfish.
Homer splashed his way out of the pond and joined me at the bushes just as Kitty's dad hit the front porch. We froze - me with my back pressed against a very prickly bush. Homer with his back pressed against me, dripping on us both.
Kitty's dad returned to the house, evidently deciding that when one was foolish enough to raise man-eating goldfish, one could expect to hear large splashes at night.
We resumed our clandestine journey around the side of the house. Walking on tip-toe through knee-high grass while dodging bushes and trees in complete darkness is quite a trick. We passed the middle of the house and could see a faint light shining from Kitty's window at the back of the house.
A false sense of security seized us and made us temporarily stupid.
We stopped creeping, stopped feeling our way carefully to the next step, and just walked freely. Then we heard it - an ominous rustling in the grass to Homer's left.
A "Baaaaaaaaah" ripped through the silence of the night and Homer said, "Not the shoes!"
Neither Dolly or Homer was quiet about it either.
A tug of war ensued between Dolly, who was apparently tired of eating nothing but grass and wanted a nicely used pair of Converse instead, and Homer who really wanted to keep his shoes.
We continued on with Homer now shoeless and dripping. We'd passed the gravel driveway, encountered the pond, escaped the wrath of Kitty's father, and paid our toll to Dolly.
We were in the clear.
We hurried toward the welcoming light from Kitty's window, sure of victory, never dreaming that a fourth obstacle, a booby-trap of ingenious design, awaited.
We turned the corner of the house and Homer took the lead. Five more steps and we would be at Kitty's window. Homer moved forward, stepped squarely onto the metal prongs of a discarded rake (in his bare feet) and the handle of the rake whipped up to snap him smartly in the middle of his forehead.
He went down.
I did what any good undercover agent does. I finished the mission.