my family moved to a neighborhood
that sprouted up during the post-war period,
around an elementary school
that was built in 1953.
the expansive playing fields of the school
were our dominion.
street hockey until the first snow,
nerf football before class and at recess,
whiffleball nearly year round,
baseball after the Little League season ended.
occasionally, a kid from the neighborhood
would forget a baseball glove on the playground,
which would still be there the next day.
i’m sure a certain bicyclist regrets
that allowed a particular bicycle
to be left behind.
it was a lazy autumn afternoon at the playground.
other than my brother and me, there were only
two other kids there that Saturday.
the Judson brothers were notoriously
known as “mischievous.”
under no circumstance would we accept
an offer of a Friday night sleepover,
much less ask our parents for permission.
we were halfheartedly competing
at the tetherball court; the Judson brothers being fairly
inept athletically. during an interruption in play, one of the Judson’s
noticed a single bicycle, at the bike rack,
“hey, is that bike unlocked?”
my first thought was that he wanted to steal
the bike, which seemed to be a disastrous position
to take. even though i was only in the 7th grade, the implications
of such a crime seemed inescapable.
“let’s show them a lesson! let’s make them
never leave their bike behind again!”
a consensus was reached to
vandalize the bicycle,
under the stairs at the back
of the gymnasium.
i knew this endeavor was wrong,
in spirit and letter,
and yet i followed my brother
and the Judson’s slowly rolling
the bike up the incline
to the dank, dirt floor cave
below the gymnasium’s concrete steps,
beer cans and liquor bottles
the school janitor hadn’t caught up to
after an early 80’s teen summer.
the bike was propped up
on it’s kickstand
when the kids went to work.
i stood in silence, afraid to confront them
which might result in them turning
on me, in a similar manner in which
they were unleashing unbridled violence
onto this inanimate object.
a loose brick deflated the tires
and mangled the spokes and rims.
a broken bottle shredded
the soft foam seat,
metal cans scraped at the factory paint.
i did nothing to stop it.
my bus stop in seventh grade was at the end
of Overlook Drive, at the junction of Capstan Avenue.
the Judson’s house was within sight at that corner.
the Tuesday after the bike incident, at 8AM,
while i was waiting for the number 7 bus,
i watched as two Town police squad cars
pull into the Judson’s driveway.
i quickly surmised there were two possibilities;
one would be defined by police evidence,
that the Judson brothers were guilty.
the other was they were going to blame it on me.
in the two hours between getting on that bus
and hearing my name over the intercom,
i had thought through every possible
“Ms. Rogers, could you please
excuse Ellery Twining to the Principals office?”
“Yes, of course.”
the gaze of my classmates was intrusive
and inescapable, as they were in disbelief that “little Ellery”
might face disciplinary action.
i, however, knew something that
they did not.
there would be police officers
in that office
when i arrived; slack shouldered.
when i arrived at the small
cinder block office, with industrial desks
and battleship swivel chairs,
my mother was waiting for me.
“get your fucking ass in the car…..”
her tone suggested an equivalent definition of her anger,
were we not in public.
my younger brother was already in the VW Bug,cowering
behind the driver’s seat.
“i get a phone call at work from the Town police?
at work? on a fucking Tuesday?!?
the goddamn police
called me at work
because of YOU TWO!”
i knew intrinsically
what YOU TWO meant.
i was the guilty party.
i should have stopped it.
i should have never let my brother
the entire episode;
it was obviously my fault.
as we entered the police station,
a uniformed officer guided us into the
proper interrogation room.
there were four people present-
my brother, my mother, the
“we have already questioned the Judson brothers,
so i need you to tell me the truth. ok?”
“i was there, and i didn’t do anything to
stop it.” i replied.
“so, you personally did not damage
the bicycle in question?”
“no, i didn’t. but i didn’t stop them either…”
“does that imply that your brother was involved?”
“i didn’t stop him….”
“ok, we’re done here for now,
but i don’t ever want to
see you again.”
“you will not” i replied
following my step-father’s funeral,
family secrets were revealed.
“do you remember Mark from Montville?”
“mom, what did the police tell you after
the bike episode
with the Judson brothers?”
“they knew you were innocent, that your brother
and those kids initiated it.
but they wanted to scare you, and you were
such an easy target.”
that lesson taught me the value of invisibility.
because i wanted them to destroy the bicycle.
i wanted to witness the event.
i wanted to punish the kids who could afford
to forget their bike at school.
as the blows from the brick
were applied to the tires,
i was fully aware that this was the definition