A Bottle of Bubbly

Should you stray from the path
(this is not a metaphor)
sliced through the tall weeds
alive in jumping, spinning insects
you stood the possibility
of badly fucking yourself
what we did taught
how easy children could be
deployed to wage low-tech war
sharpening sticks
digging pits
spike-bottomed booby-traps
pocked the field
ambitious boys marking territory
a game of fun and blood
but it didn’t compare to the rock
unearthed in a routine dig
a massive stone – ancient and epic
surely a cap set in place
over the entrance to hell
protecting the lumber town gone to seed
from all matter of monstrous horrors
mayhem, murder, sabotage, rape and torture
we set about to break the seal
it was hours of muscle burning sweat
stings and bites
pricks and scrapes
blisters raised on soft-skinned hands
it came slowly up out of the ground
leviathan rising
dirt tumbling off its sides
like water off a whale’s blue-grey back
and that’s the color it was too
as the late evening sun
struck stone
for what must have been the first time
in ageless eons, measureless
two shovels levering it out of the soil
just in time for supper
in under an hour we’d be back
armed with a wheelbarrow
ready to roll the rock home
and we were as dusk descended
picking carefully our way through
the treacherous field

it was gone

like that – vanished
only the faintest depression
in the wild grass remained
to tell tale of its being
theft, betrayal, hatred percolated
a vicious deep-knowing cut of injustice
our labors stolen
determined to exact payment
we patrolled the streets
looking for sight of our treasure
we found it
five houses down from mine
boldly set out on display
a prize like a grisly head mounted
“You want rocks, fucker,” I shouted
and let fling a handful of gravel
from the recent road repair
that got Mr. Hansen’s attention
he came for us
in his stained white undershirt
and stringy blue cut-offs
“Get a bigger one,” my friend said
and neighbors were set against each other
his front picture window shattered
we ran; he pursued
curses exchanged
parents conversed
punishments given
but the scales of justice
do not tilt in favor of children
we learned
against the adults we couldn’t win
so four months later
in the winter
we oversaw a sledding accident
we took the thief’s daughter
broke her ribs
and called it even
within a year
they left town

I’ve always wondered
if I had anything to do with that
their decision to move, uproot
gather no moss so to say
and how my actions
changed their lives
the people they met, befriended
school attended
such a big thing for a little boy
changing the course of history
waging war
uncorking hell like a bottle of bubbly

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