“Hi Mrs. C.,” Zack said walking up to the end of our driveway. “What happened to you, I thought you swore off mountain biking?”
“I did, but I didn’t do this mountain biking,” I said smiling and 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 looking at him.
“Not a problem, you’re mother scares me,” he said laughing, “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, “I’m sure you are.”
“And I promise not to steal any of your Halloween decorations this year either. 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. 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 nodding his head.
“When I was a kid, Hippety Hops were all the rage,” I said smiling and rubbing my elbow.
“What’s a Hippety Hop?” Zack asked, “I never heard of it.”
“It’s a large rubber ball with handles you sit on and bounced around.”
“And that’s supposed to be fun?” he asked looking at me like I lost my mind.
“Go with me on this one, will yah,” I said smiling.
“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.
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. At 10 a.m. children 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 ball, wobbled for a moment, then bounced down the sidewalk. She traveled to the end of the block. On her return trip Annie, Tim, Larry, Clarissa and 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. Lining up 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, Larry, Clarissa and 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. Larry, Clarissa and Mark bounced around us with syncopated movements heading toward the finish line.
Just as 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.
In 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 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 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, “always remember, if you take care of your power tools, they will take care of you.” Patting the saw smiling 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.”
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 like 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 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 like 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. 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, covered head to toe in sawdust.
“I think so.”
“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.”
“I swear,” I said holding 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. “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. “Remember me saying History repeats itself?”
“We arrived at the swap meet, paid our entrance fee and joined the swap meet.”
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 CDs. Richard and Devon stopped at the table to pour over the collection.
While they shopped Clarissa and I moved to the next booth which 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, do remember Annie and Tim getting into the fist fight during the race?” she asked laughing. “And Eleanor shrieking so loudly all the parents came out to see what was going on?”
Laughing I asked, “Do you think they would let us try it out?”
“Are you sure you want to do that?” she asked looking from me to the Hippety Hop. “Remember what happened the last time you rode one.”
“That’s ancient history, come on, like that would happen twice in one lifetime. It couldn’t hurt to ask.”
The vendor had been listening to us, she walked over and 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.
Devon held a CD in his hand. He looked at his wife and said, “just a minute honey.” To the vendor he said, “I’m interested in this CD, could you play it for me?”
“Sure,” said the man behind the table.
Taking the CD he put it into his boom box. Duran Duran sang, “Meeting you, with 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 and Devon who 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, Devon and Clarissa all yelling, “No.”
Using my arms and face as a brake I skidded to a stop at Richard’s feet.
“Oh god, Fannie, are you all right?” Richard asked rolling me over.
“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. “I’m glad to see you’re all right, but now I’m out one Space Hopper.”
Devon and Clarissa looked at each other smiling and Devon nodded.
“. . .Dance into the fire, when all we see. . .is the view to a kill. . .”
Devon said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.” To the guy selling the CDs he said, “I buy that CD.”
Laughing, Zack’s face rolled through several emotions. He said, “Don’t worry Mrs. C. your secret’s safe with me.”