The Water Wars

Jeff’s mom thought he smelled like feet and skin and unwashed hair, but she leaned in anyway for a sweaty hug. “Do not leave your book bag there.”  He spun back, snatched the bag and took off to his room. Just minutes before, Michelle had tucked the final t-shirt into Jeff’s drawer and now? Well, now, noises of destruction were echoing down the hallway while she practiced her inside voice. Jeff was a good kid and Michelle was a good mom. Their Springwood Drive house held all the trappings of quintessential boy fun. It was June 7 and the last day of fifth grade. She reveled in his elementary stature, the tone in his voice, his energy and interesting facial expressions. He grabbed a handful of pretzels and headed for the garage. She watched him drag the hose out to the street and then, one-by-one: three water guns, water balloons, the green slide and the pool noodles, all of which he put in a pile at the curb. The boy was shiny, standing there in the Florida sun before racing across the street to Sheppard’s house.

Sheppard had two older brothers and a stepsister. He never knew if she was the oldest, but she acted like it so he just assumed. Their house on the odd side of Springwood Drive did not have a mother, or snacks, or sweaty hugs. His back was red from stronger, older brother smacks that replaced the usual pats. He didn’t care. Sheppard, or “Shep” as his friends called him, was a strong kid with the muscles of an eighth-grader and an older attitude to match. Most of the other mothers looked at him from the side of their face. Still, Shep didn’t mind. His allegiance to his friends was fierce and everyone knew it. He answered the door after telling his older brother to piss off. The two boys shoved each other across the grass and back out onto the street. They headed three doors down to fetch the nerd.

“Terd, the Nerd,” whose real name was Ted, was glad they hadn’t showed up fifteen minutes earlier. Ted was in the habit of enjoying his bathroom time between school and play, frequently bringing up to twenty Marvel Comics in with him at each visit. His dad worked from home and begrudgingly answered the boys’ calls from inside the screen door. Ted’s dad, Nathan, was a researcher, and not a very good one at that. He always got bogged down in the details and moved too slowly to be paid much. He despised anything physical and watched his son amble out the front door with a suspicious grunt of a sound that was enough for Terd, the Nerd to know that only an hour of freedom was allotted to him on this day. He followed the other two back up the street to a house on the even side. Fancy Clancy was already in sight.

Fancy Clancy earned his name by refusing to use the third grade restroom, complaining that it hadn’t been cleaned since 1972, a whole six years of filth. He told the other kids, his teacher, even his principle, that he overheard the cleaning lady telling the maintenance guy that she refused to go in there because of a terrific stench that made her not want to eat. Despite his stomach cramps and pinched up gait, the staff could not convince him and the other kids laughed and called him, “Fancy Clancy.” In reality, Clancy had a sour stomach and passed more gas than a water buffalo (at least, that’s what his mother told him). He carefully arranged himself throughout the day, just watching the wall clock, poised for a quick exit. He chose to walk the five blocks home, airing his grievances the entire way. On this day, two years later, he was just Fancy Clancy and that was alright with him.

Five more boys were already in the cul-de-sac when Jeff, Sheppard, Terd the Nerd and Fancy Clancy ambushed them. The Water Wars of Springwood Drive happened for one more summer in that year, 1980.


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