Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.
The original “The Hippety Hop Dilemma” posted back in October 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.
* * *
“Hi Mrs. C.,” Zack said, walking up to the end of our driveway. His strawberry blond curls the perfect cross between his mom’s bright red curls and his dad’s California beach boy blond. He shared his parent’s height, towering almost ten inches over me. He wore a worn black t-shirt with white printing, ‘Geeks ride longboards’. “What happened to you? I thought you swore off mountain biking?”
“I did. But I didn’t do this mountain biking,” I said, smiling, wincing from the pain.
“What happened that you’re all scraped up like that this time?”
“If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell my mother,” I said. I shot look number 163—from my mother’s arsenal: commanding secret keeping from a teenager with a glance—at Zack.
“Not a problem,” he said, laughing, “you’re mother scares me. What about your aunt?”
“You can’t tell her either.”
“You can trust me Mrs. C.. I’m good at keeping secrets from adults,” he said, winking.
Laughing, I said, the tone of my voice touched only by a hint of sarcasm, “I’m sure you are.”
“And I promise not to steal any of your Halloween decorations this year either.” He shuddered. “It’s not worth it.”
“Yeah, your mom told me about that when she returned them,” I said, laughing.
“So spill, how’d you get all scraped up and stuff?”
“There’s a reason people say history repeats itself,” I said, rubbing the bruise on my left elbow. “Have you ever tried something where you think nothing’ll happen to you when you do it, but it still ends in disaster?”
“Uh huh,” Zack said, tucking his strawberry blond curls behind his left ear the way his mother does.
“When I was a kid, Hippety Hops were all the rage,” I said, pulling the sleeve of my black and white rugby shirt away from the scrapes on my wrists.
“What’s a Hippety Hop?” Zack asked, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans, “I never heard of it.”
“It’s a large rubber ball with handles. You sit on it and bounced around.”
“And that’s supposed to be fun?” he asked, looking at me the way you do when you’re around a crazy person.
“Go with me on this one, will yah,” I said, smiling, wincing.
“Okay, you sat on a rubber ball and bounced around, got it.”
“One year for Christmas my parents gave my sisters and me a Hippety Hop for a shared Christmas gift.” I said, shaking my head. Running my hands through my short brown hair. “You know what I’m talking about, the kind of day where high gray clouds covered Western Washington, the wet pavement covered in fir needles. A light wind blew the needles down the empty street. Giant colored bulbs decorated the neatly painted houses lining the street. The red bow wrapped around the lamp post fluttered.”
Zak nodded his head, the curls dislodged from behind his ear. He tucked them back with a quick swoop.
Rocking on my feet, I said, “At 10 a.m. we poured onto the street, bundled against the cold and wet, screaming and yelling. Santa delivered and new toys fluoresced.
Lenora Jane carried a large orange and black Hippety Hop out to the middle of the street, Eleanor and I trotted right behind her.
‘Since I’m the oldest, I go first,’ she said, with authority. ‘Then you and El get your turns. I’ll time it with my Cinderella watch,’ she said, holding up her arm and pointing to white watch with matching white leather band and a picture of Cinderella on the face, for the entire neighborhood to see.
She climbed aboard the large orange ball with black handles, wobbled for a moment, then bounced down the sidewalk. She traveled to the end of the block. On her return trip Annie, Tim, your Uncle Larry, your mom, and your Uncle Mark fell in behind her forming a Hippety Hop parade.
‘We should race,’ Lenora Jane said, to the crowd. ‘From the end of our driveway to the Newman’s lamp post and back. The first one to cross the finish line wins. Fannie, you line us up and start us. El, you run down to the lamp post and make sure nobody cheats.’
Eleanor sprinted toward the Newman’s on two little legs bobbling like a Weeble.”
Zak’s forehead wrinkled chased by his thin eyebrows. “A Weeble.”
“A kid’s toy. They wobble, but they don’t fall down,” I said.
Zack shook his head.
“What on earth did you play with when you were little?”
“Legos, Mr. Potato Head,” he said, shrugging.
Rolling my eyes because my face hurt to much for any other expression, “Any way. I was lining up everyone on the imaginary starting line, an orange, two red, two blue, and a green Hippety Hop squirmed for position.
“On your mark, get set,’ I said, raising my arm in the air, ‘go.’
Breath steaming from their mouths Lenora Jane pulled into the lead with Tim and Annie on her heels, your Uncle Larry, mom and your Uncle Mark, bumping into each other like a belly bucking contest, fell behind. Eleanor jumped up and down waiving her arms, letting loose a high pitched scream in all the excitement.
Lenora Jane, three years older than her nearest competitor, turned around first and hopped back toward the finish line. Tim grabbed his older sister’s hair pulling her backwards. Annie punched him in the arm knocking them both to the ground, followed by a melee of arms and legs as they wrestled. I ran out to stop Annie from killing Tim. Your Uncle Larry, your mom, and Uncle Mark bounced around us with syncopated movements heading toward the finish line.
Lenora Jane crossed the finish line. Parents poured from the houses to sort out the screaming, yelling, and punching.
Two weeks passed before either Eleanor or me rode the now confiscated Hippety Hop.
When not in use, it hung on a hook in the garage out of reach except by the aid of a parent.
That March, my parents decided to add wood paneling to the den. My father, the king of do it yourselfers, moved the mobile land yacht to the driveway, converting the garage to his workshop.
Lenora Jane volunteered to help my mother with chores and watch Eleanor thus by default volunteering me to help my father with the paneling project. To sweeten the deal, he said I could ride the Hippety Hop around the garage to bring him tools.
We carried two saw horses to the middle of the garage setting them about four feet apart. Two stacks of wood paneling lay on the floor of the garage next to the wall under the much-coveted Hippety Hop. On the opposite wall sat the highly polished black Craftsman work bench. Next to the work bench, sat a new Craftsman table saw.
My father pulled out a new bag of white shop towels and a bottle of Jubilee polish. With the passion of a maestro conducting a favorite symphony, he polished the table saw. After ten minutes the table saw gleamed in the incandescent glow of the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
‘Fannie,’ he said, rocking on his feet, tugging on his belt, ‘always remember, if you take care of your power tools, they will take care of you.’ Patting the saw, the light bulb reflecting from his equally polished horseshoe hairdo, he said, ‘You can’t get anything better than a Craftsman, lifetime warranty.
He removed the Hippety Hop from its hook and handed it to me. ‘Go put this in the corner, out of the way for now.’
We moved the first sheet of paneling to the saw horse. He opened a box of nails and set them on the edge of the bench next to his hammer. Reaching for his measuring tape, he knocked over the box of nails scattering them over the bench sending several to the floor.
His shoulders slumping, he said, ‘I’ll pick up the stuff on the bench if you’ll get the stuff on the floor.’ His voice trailed off with the nails on the floor.
I returned twenty-two nails to the box on the bench.
Taking the measuring tape with him into the den, he measured the height of the wall. Starting in the corner he read, ’96 inches.’
I recorded the measurements on the pad of paper he gave me.
He moved down the wall one foot and measured again. ’95-1/2 inches.’ We repeated this process around the room discovering the ceiling sloped down one and a half inches from the outside wall to the door on the opposite wall.
‘Measure twice, cut once,’ he said starting over from the beginning. ‘We are going to double check each measurement including the outlets and switches.’
After finishing our archaeological survey of the den, we returned to the garage to cut the paneling.
Using a carpenter’s pencil, my father drew the lines for his cuts. He walked over to the garage door and opened it about two feet to let in some air. We carried the panel over to the table saw. The blade ate through the wood the way I would eat through a fresh baked cinnamon roll. Using a punch and a hand saw, he notched out the hole for the light switch.
We carried the panel into the den. He nestled it up to the wall. ‘Fannie, I want you to lean against this until I get a couple of nails in it.’
After it was secure, we returned to the garage for the next panel. While he measured the next set of cuts, I rode the Hippety Hop around the garage.
‘Fannie can you bring me the hand saw?’
I bounced through the saw dust to the bench. I retrieved the hand saw and bounced back to my father.
‘Set it on the panel for me,’ he said, ‘oh, and I need the punch as well.’
I bounced toward the bench. I heard a loud pop. Catapulted through the air in the manner of a human cannon ball in a seated position, I cleared the wood paneling and saw horse, but missed the ceiling. On my way back to earth, the garage door arrested my forward progress with a loud thud, my legs shot through the opening under the door. Gravity dumped me on the floor.
I sat stunned for a few moments. A dull pain radiated from my hips, up the trunk of my body and into my arms. The sound of my father’s laughter filtered into my brain as the fog cleared.
After he stopped gasping for breath he ran over to me. ‘Fannie, are you all right?’ he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes. Leaving trails in the sawdust which covered his face. Well the sawdust covered pretty much all of him.
‘I think so,” I said. The room still moved.
‘You should have seen your face, that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,’ he said, laughing. Becoming sober, he said, ‘You pinky swear to me you’ll never tell you mother even under torture.’ His face darkened and his eyes narrowed.
‘I swear,’ I said, still shaken. I held up my pinky.
‘It will be our little secret,’ he said, sliding his large pinky into mine.”
Zack laughed. “That doesn’t explain how you got the road rash now. You looked fine when I saw you on Saturday.”
“Zack, I want to make sure you understand why you can’t tell my mother.”
“Uh huh,” he said, “it may cost you.”
“It will huh, let me finish the story, then you can decide,” I said, shifting my weight to my lesser bruised right leg. “You remember we picked up your parents on Saturday for the swap meet out at the Star-Lite. Did your mom mention what we found there?”
“No, but they were acting really weird at dinner that night. She and Dad would look at each other, he would hum this tune, I think from a Bond film. They would bob their heads then laugh. It was unnerving.”
“Glad to know I could provide the entertainment at dinner,” I said, laughing, my lower lip reminding me not to smile. “Remember me saying history repeats itself?”
Zack nodded. He shoved his hands back into his front pockets.
“We arrived at the swap meet, and paid our entrance fee.
Rows of booths filled the former drive-ins parking lot. Tables displayed merchandise of every description. Not far from the entrance a couple sold used DVDs and CD’s. Richard and your dad, stopped at the table to pour over the collection.
While they shopped, your mom and I moved to the next booth. It contained vintage toys. Sling shots, Etch-A-Sketches, slinkies, a Toss Across, stacks of board games. And in the corner sat a faded red Hippety Hop with the words ‘Space Hopper’ emblazoned on the front.
‘Clarissa, they have a Hippety Hop,’ I said, dragging her into the corner. ‘Do you remember the year we got these for Christmas?’
‘That was a great Christmas,’ she said, laughing. ‘Didn’t Annie give you a black eye?’
I crossed my eyes at her. I grabbed her arm. My palms sweaty. ‘Do you think they would let us try it out?’ My voice shook.
‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ she asked, looking from me to the Hippety Hop. She tugged on the string of her blue hoody with her free hand. Shaking her head, her curls freed themselves from her ear. ‘Remember what happened the last time you rode one.’
‘That’s ancient history,’ I said, waiving her off, ‘come on, like that would happen twice in one lifetime. It couldn’t hurt to ask.’
‘Why not,’ Clarissa said, tucking her red curls behind her left ear.
The vendor listened to us. She offered Clarissa the Hippety Hop. ‘Go ahead, give it a try.’
Clarissa climbed on board. She hopped over to the both where Richard and Devon stood.
“Hey you two, you have to come check this out,” Clarissa said, bouncing on the giant ball.
Devon held a CD in his hand. He looked at his wife, laughed, and said, ‘just a minute honey.’ To the vendor he said, ‘I’m interested in this CD, could you play it for me?’
‘Sure,’ the man said. He put the CD into his boom box. Duran Duran sang, A View to a Kill.
Clarissa hopped back to the booth. ‘Okay Fannie, it seems safe enough, it’s your turn.’
I climbed onto the Hippety Hop. Bouncing up and down filled me with nostalgia. I hopped toward Richard who towered over Devon—both wore their black Rainman Triathlon sweatshirts. They now watched with an unobstructed view.
“. . .Until we dance into the fire, that fatal kiss is all we need. . .”
POP. I launched into the air feeling like a bottle rocket, a human cannon ball, the stone meant to take out Goliath, or a person who should know that history repeats itself. Throwing my arms out in front of me, the world slowed down. I could hear Richard, your dad and mom all yelling, ‘No.’
Using my arms and face as a brake I skidded to a stop at Richard’s feet. My left hand landing on his right tennis shoe.
‘Oh god, Fannie, are you all right?’ Richard asked, rolling me over.
Blood oozed from the scrapes on my face, hands and arms.
‘I’ll be all right. It’s nothing a little peroxide and Neosporin can’t fix. But I’m gonna to be sore tomorrow,’ I said, groaning.
The vendor from the toy booth came out. She cringed. ‘I’m glad to see you’re all right, but now I’m out one Space Hopper.’
Your mom and dad looked at each other smiling.
Devon nodded. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.’ To the guy selling the CD’s, he said, ‘I’ll buy that CD.’”
Several emotions flickered across Zack’s face. Laughing, he said, “Don’t worry Mrs. C., your secret’s safe with me.”
* * *
How about a little Duran Duran, here’s A View to a Kill.