More songs about buildings and food
All of a sudden, although it still feels like summer, it looks like fall. It’s not one of those glorious falls where the alley of maples all burst into flame at once. It’s one where the viburnum leaves turn brown and fall off, one by one, almost as soon as they turn red. The heat has let us hold onto the hummingbirds a little longer this year. As I type this, there are two flirting with the basil and nasturtium flowers spilling out of a pot outside my kitchen door, their emerald green bodies looking even more exotic against the dying foliage.
AJ and I walked to school with The Boy Across the Street this morning. He’s been coming with us most days. He likes to walk, but his mom, who has to take his little sister to kindergarten two towns away, doesn’t usually have time. Frankly, it’s a pretty nice arrangement for all of us. TBAS’s mother doesn’t have to rush around. AJ no longer complains about being the only kid who doesn’t drive to school. And I get to listen to the outrageous conversations the two boys have.
TBAS is a story-teller. It’s not usually about lying to avoid something. I think he does it to impress and I also think he doesn’t really believe AJ will fall for it. But AJ is very gullible and he will believe the most outrageous things if they are delivered with appropriate seriousness. This morning, TBAS told AJ that he’d just been to Bl0ckbust3r (which sells P0k3m0n cards) and he’d seen the card AJ had designed (on a website) yesterday (AJ and TBAS spend a lot of time designing their own P0k3m0n). AJ was excited. Was the card on display? Was it in a package of cards? He wanted details. So TBAS supplied them. And, even though there were any number of good reasons why AJ should have questioned the story, he ate it up because it was something he wanted to hear. Then AJ asked if TBAS would come over to his house after the school and show him the card. TBAS said yes at first but then started to backpedal. Well, he hadn’t actually seen the card. It was still “in development” [this cracked me up entirely]. It would probably take a week or two or six for it to appear in stores. A masterful move, really, because he thinks that this way, AJ will probably forget about the card and he will be off the hook for lying. And the thing is, he is probably right. In any case, AJ nodded in agreement. Of course it would take more than a day. But it was in development! Still exciting!
AJ is a stickler for the truth. It’s his dedication to truthfulness that makes him so gullible. It just doesn’t occur to him that someone would be lying. And when someone does and he knows it, he gets angry and frustrated. TBAS surely wanted to avoid that.
With AJ and TBAS deep in conversation, we turned left on the road that leads us around the back of the police department and walked under the enormous honey locust. We were greeted with a shower of tiny yellow leaves. They covered us and the street like confetti.
“They look like little helicopters,” TBAS observed.
“No they don’t,” said AJ. “What are they?”
“They’re leaves. Look up,” I said. And all three of us stopped in the road and dropped our heads back between our shoulder blades, staring up as another gust of wind baptized us with a fresh crop of yellow.
AJ’s gullibility brings out all kind of emotions in me. I was the same kind of kid, exactly. I trusted implicitly that people would tell the truth. My father was the same way. We seem to have some kind of genetic predisposition to morality in our family. We all grow up dead certain that we know right from wrong and that knowing right from wrong is extremely important. To this day, I am a horrible liar, even when the situation might call for it. But to be gullible is to be extremely vulnerable. I know that TBAS means no harm. In fact, I think it’s his own insecurities, his desperation for AJ to be impressed with him, that inspires his stories. He wants AJ to look up to him. But I watch this happen and as entertained as I am by their conversation, part of me wants to protect AJ from it. I know better. I hold my tongue. But suddenly he looks more fragile.
After we cross over to the sidewalk that runs alongside of the school, AJ and TBAS always like to race. AJ is always frustrated because TBAS always manages to trick him into an advantage, a head start. AJ knows he is faster, but that’s not enough. He wants to beat him up the school to the playground. This morning, he was thinking about the race before we’d even left the house, before TBAS had arrived. It looked like he was going to have it. I started them on a crack in the sidewalk. AJ had taken a comfortable lead when his foot slipped in a pile of wet leaves — brown ones, not yellow — and he tumbled to the ground. He got up in tears, not because he was hurt, but because he hadn’t won. He finally had his chance and he hadn’t made it. TBAS kept running for a second. He hadn’t noticed what had happened until he passed AJ. He immediately stopped and turned around to check and see if AJ was okay. But AJ’s pride was hurt and he turned away.
But TBAS kept trying. “Come on, AJ. We don’t need to race today. Let’s just walk up together.” And hand in hand, the two boys walked up the hill and silently took their places in line. In silence, the lines filed into a single long snake of children. And as leaves shook from the crabapple trees, they walked into the school and the door swung shut.