Most of the families I grew up with were Catholics. Several households had eleven or more children. We played lots of street games, hot box, tag, touch football or tackle especially if it was Sunday and the Chicago Bears or Notre Dame was playing on T.V. In the winter, someone would hose down a patio so we could play ice hockey. Everybody walked, ran, or biked to school. Buses were for field trips into the city of Chicago, to visit The Science Museum, China Town or watch a Cubs game.
Telescopes were used to look through neighbors’ windows after dark. An ice cream truck would stay idle in front of your house while you ran to find a dime for a push-up, the cheapest thing on the truck. In the heat of summer, the firemen would let the hydrants flow and half the neighborhood kids would strip to their underpants to cool off.
But never the Pooles. The Pooles did not ice-skate or play ice hockey on frozen patios. They did not buy ice cream from the ice cream truck. They did not play in the fire hydrant spray in their underpants. Their children were driven to school. On Saturday afternoons they rode bikes together. Even Mrs. Poole. They ate outside on their patio on weekends.
Mrs. Poole answered the door with a dress and white apron, low heels, and pearls. They mowed their grass every Saturday, kept their hedges trimmed, and used an edger near their driveway and sidewalks. They shoveled their walks in winter and opened the drapes to their large picture window every day. They also loaded their station wagon up every Sunday morning with their three boys. The youngest one was David. The mere fact that they owned a station wagon with just three kids was a testament to their status in our neighborhood of used Ramblers.
They drove to the Lutheran Church. It was not even in the neighborhood, instead it was across town. They drove past us, never waving. Heads turned away from us. Myself and my brothers and sisters would watch them while we walked to Catholic Church. Kleenexes and doilies bobby pinned to our heads. We were not allowed to miss Mass. It was a mortal sin.
I regularly beat up David, or as we called him “Mule ears Poole.” I suppose I did it because I could, but mostly I wanted what he had. Mrs. Poole would come out and stand on her front stoop with her hands on her hips, watching me. As soon as I caught sight of her, I would drop Mule ears to the ground and run away as fast as I could. She never said a word to me. I cut through the tall hedges in the back of their yard out to another street to avoid having to see her face to face.
One summer morning before it was too hot, we had gathered enough kids together to play baseball. Josh, one of my older brothers, hit a line drive right into the Poole’s picture window. He threw the bat, and rather than round the bases, he ran the opposite direction. I followed him, racing past our own home down to the busy street. Barely stopping to look, we bolted across to the back alley to the empty overgrown field that us kids called Kelly’s field. Josh stopped and sat in a bed of dandelions. No one had chased us; I was sure of that. “What are we going to do?” I panted.
“Nothing, it wasn’t us; we were at Kelly’s field, remember?”
That night, our father, not the one who arted in heaven, but instead the one who ate dinner with us every evening, commented, “The Poole’s picture window is cracked to smithereens, what do any of you know about that?” None of us kids spoke. Our mother choked a bit. Even though, she looked like all she did was sit at the kitchen table and chain smoke, she seemed to know everything.
In bed that evening, sweating and listening to the cicadas screaming through the open, breezeless, window, I wondered if Mrs. Poole would call the police on us. She did know for sure it was us. I wondered if I should implore the heavens and light a nickel candle or say an extra Hail Mary.
Mrs. Poole never did come after us. A few days later, a repairman in a big white van came to their house and fixed the window. Thank God, the Pooles were not Catholics. We didn’t have to see them at church. Instead, we could kneel behind tiny curtains and confess to the priest who didn’t know Mule Ear’s family.
The next weekend we refrained from our ball game in the street. After Sunday nine o’clock mass, Mrs. O’Leary, from the end of the street, the fireman’s wife, she’s the one that told us. She stopped us at the bottom of the church steps, “I heard you smashed the window out at the Poole’s house, your mother told me.”
Edgy Sack writes short personal essays and memoir pieces from her home in Kansas. Her work has been published in Months To Years.