posted on Aug, 7 2012 @ 09:53 PM
I was 11 years old the first time I realized I was dead.
It was right in the middle of one of our friendly neighborhood Apple Wars. About a dozen and half kids, ranging in age from too young to be out of
the house unsupervised, to old enough to go to jail would descend on the thicket of apples trees that formed a natural border between the Combs and
A couple of the older, more aggressive boys would square off as captains, and pick gang members from among the motley group. We would divide into two
camps with little real objective, other than to pelt each other with as many apples as possible over the next few hours.
The war would usually end one of two ways: Somebody’s glasses would get broken, or someone would get hit in the stomach hard enough to get his
breath knocked out and run home crying.
There was also the time I got the bright idea of incorporating an aluminum bat into the festivities. I would toss the apples into the air, and
hammer them toward our competitors. I never hit anybody with an apple, but I did catch my buddy Jimmy in the privates with my back swing. Needless
to say, bat to junk marked the end of that particular war. Jimmy whizzed blood for a week.
Somewhere around Apple War Five or Six, we started getting greedy, and maybe a little bit too violent. We had figured out that the unripe green
apples at the tops of the trees made better weapons than the half-rotten reds that littered the mini-orchard floor.
I had always been a climber. Rope in gym class. Pole on the playground with a bell to ring at the top. 2nd story backyard deck. So I was the
natural choice to climb high up in the trees and procure as much rock hard fruit as possible. Jimmy would stand watch. As far as the property owners
were concerned, the apples that had fallen from the trees were fair game, but picking from the trees was strictly forbidden.
I’d like to say that a limb broke, but the truth is that I don’t know what happened. One second I was reaching for an apple 25 feet above the
ground. In an instant I had an awareness that something bad was happening but I couldn’t comprehend what is was. I only knew that I was going to
die. Then a thud. 4 feet 9 inches of gangly flesh and bones half crunching, half bouncing off the ground.
I knew immediately that I was dead, then knew almost as suddenly that I was not. I could smell Cal Bailey’s B.O. as he leaned over to check on me
then help me up. I refused his hand. Refused his help. I Jumped to my feet and swore that I was absolutely fine.
A couple of the older boys made me promise not to tell my mother or father what had happened. I happily obliged. I would have caught a beating for
picking that fruit, near death experience or not.
My fall and uncanny survival was reason enough to call a truce for the day. We lingered a while saying our goodbyes, and within a few minutes, my
accident seemed to be largely forgotten.
Honestly it all seemed so neat and tidy. I might have completely forgotten about it myself if not for a peculiar detail that woke me with a start
sometime around 2 a.m. that same night.
I had watched Jimmy Daly ride off away from the trees just six hours earlier. Watched and couldn’t put my finger on why I was so intrigued by his
bike. The bike that we had crucified all summer, jumping over tree roots and crashing into the creek. I knew the bike well, but for some reason on
this night it held my gaze in fascination.
At 2 o’clock in the morning it hit me. Just a couple of days prior, we had mauled the kickstand on one of our forays into the creek rock. Mauled
it to the point that Jimmy had to remove it to keep it from interfering with the back tire.
Just hours prior I had watched Jimmy, out of habit, swipe with his right foot at the spot where the now missing kickstand used to be. He had
disgustedly tossed his bike to the turf when he realized his foolish mistake.
So what my mind had gnawed on for the past few hours, and what had finally jolted me awake with the force of biblical revelation was this:
At 8 P.M., as I watched Jimmy pedal away from the apples trees, there was the unmistakable glint of the late summer sun reflecting off of Jimmy’s
bike…and Jimmy’s kickstand. The kickstand that wasn’t there when I had come crashing to earth just a few minutes before.