by Jane Doe
For a few weeks dad arranged to deliver groceries when it was time for piano lesson, but soon that became too much bother and they let me quit the lessons until school started up again. This meant that I had seven more hours a week to play with Jane.
I never told Jane about the man in the park. The only difference she noticed in me was the change in my drawings. Now I could draw dirty pictures like the figure on the wall in the restroom. The summer proved to be a productive one for our stories. The ones we could write down, hoping the new teacher next year would appreciate them as much as Mrs. Cox did, so they could be read to the class again, gathered in a pile on Jane's bookcase. Behind the bookcase was a much smaller sheaf of "popular" works. And there were still the plots for frightening Marvin. Even though in the fall he would be going off to school like us, he still couldn't handle the gruesome tales we designed for him.
He was not the only one. Early in that summer, Eleanor Bates, who was in our class, moved into the house catty-cornered across the street from the O'Dells. Mrs. Bates and Mrs. O'Dell tried their best to push Eleanor into our friendship. Mrs. Bates hoped her daughter would finally have some friends who would shake her out of her lethargy. Some one to liven her up, to get her to do something besides just sitting. Mrs. O'Dell hoped Eleanor's quietness would have a taming effect on the two of us. My daily appearance at the O'Dells was not always welcomed. When I wasn't there Jane tended to be nicer to Marvin. Perhaps adding another person would change the balance of two against one.
Thus, late in July, when everyone was getting the hebbie-jebbies from so much of summer's expanse, Mrs. O'Dell laid down a new rule. I couldn't stay to play with Jane unless we let Eleanor join us. Resigned and resentful, we sat on the curb across the street from Eleanor's house, waiting on her, daring her to come out to play with us.
"What shall we play when Borry Norry comes over?"
"I dunno, she never wants to do anything we want to do."
"We could put on a show and let her and Marvin watch us."
"It's too hot to get dressed up. Besides those two are too dumb to see how good we are."
"I know. We can tell her stories like we tell Marvin."
"I don't know if she scares as easily as he does."
"We could add some parts about fucking and all that. That might get to her."
"Probably Eleanor would snitch on us."
"We could each take turns makin' up the stories, so we could add the gushy stuff and she could make up her parts any way she wants. If she threatened to tell, we could say she was telling stories too."
"Should we let Marvin listen? Then he can say he heard Eleanor making up stories just like us. We can't tell Marvin scary stories or he'll tell mom.
"We could use big words and change parts around so he wouldn't recognize them."
"Dopey, mopey Marvin won't understand the dirty parts anyway so we can use more of them."
"Sh. Here comes the slob."
Eleanor slowly came across the sun splattered street, avoiding with her bare feet, the sticky places in the asphalt where the sun had shone the longest. She sat down beside us on the curb without greeting. We were damned if we would speak first. One Jane and then the other laid back on the grass, their feet sticking out in the gutter. Eleanor looked stiff and out of place, sitting upright beside us. Yellow butterflies came seeking for flowers on our faded summer dresses. Ants crawled on us. Nothing touched Eleanor.
"Let's do something." I could not stand the silence any longer.
"We could lay pennies on the track and wait for the 4:30 grain train to flatten them.
"It's Thursday. I don't even have a penny."
"I don't either. I thought maybe Eleanor did."
No comment. At least she wasn't going to try to buy her way into our friendship.
"Let' do something. It's getting hot, here."
"We could go to the salt shed." Down behind the railroad station was a shed where the highway crews stored salt for the roads in winter. It was cool and dark in there. No one was around so we could climb the huge piles of salt, pretend they were snow and slide down them.
"My mother wouldn't let me go down there and yours wouldn't either if they knew where you were." Typical Eleanor. Wet blanket and right.
"Then you suggest something."
A silence grew with the length of the afternoon shadows. Finally, deep out of Eleanor's silence came, "We could talk about birthday parties." The two brown heads raised in disbelief. Talking about birthday parties was playing? For Christ's sake! Like a single inward-looking creature, the eyes of the two Janes met. That means Eleanor has a birthday coming up and she wants to impress us with the fact. She thinks we'll be nice to her in hopes of being invited to her dumb old party.
"Were you at Bevin's party?" asked Jane, knowing well that Eleanor wasn't there. "We played a neat game."
"oh?" That "oh" with a small letter meant she was finally interested in something. "What was it?"
"Oh, it's really a neat game. Everyone sat around in a circle."
"Oh!" Sitting. Eleanor liked the game already.
"Everyone sat around in a circle. Mrs. Morse started a story, like "once upon a time..." and each person added to it. When you got to an exciting place you stopped and the person next to you had to continue. We could try it out now."
"I'm not good at making up stories." admitted Eleanor. At least she was honest.
"That does not matter. We'll teach you and then at your birthday party you can sit around and play this game and you will already know the good parts for your story."
With that we had her. We moved to our summer story place. When it was too hot to sit next to the tiles we had a place under the snowball bush where the ground was already worn hard and smooth with our tales. Eleanor cringed at crawling under the hairy, sticky leaves. Feeling the shower of tiny bits of browned flower parts our entrance made, she began to scratch while looking around apprehensively. Mrs. O'Dell inadvertently saved the day. When she saw us taking Eleanor into our lair, she felt we were making an effort to relax the limits of our friendship. She rewarded us by bringing out mason jars, the pint size, one for each of us, filled with Kool-aid with ice cubes in it. This was an unheard of treat owing to the fact Mrs. O'Dell always told us cold drinks on a hot day would make us sick or maybe even give us polio.
"Let's do one potato, two potato to see." We all held out our fists while griping our glasses between our knees.
"One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more. O-U-T spells out and you are OUT." It was Eleanor.
She began to whine. "I don't even know how the game goes. It's unfair if I have to start it." We thought she was going to go home, but she stayed sitting, sipping her Kool-aid the way goats drink water.
"Okay, Jane and I will take the first two turns. When it is your turn you must carry it onward. Since there are only three of us, we'll just keep going around until the train comes by. That decides when the story is finished.
Jane leaned her head at a slant on her neck, the way she did when she was thinking. Licking her red mustache again, she began: "Once upon a time, there was princess who lived in a big stone castle in the middle of a deep, dark woods. In this woods the sun shone only on the tops of the trees. Underneath on the ground it was like it
"Under the trees, in their big roots lived strange little old men. They had long gray beards, so long you couldn't see if they had on any clothes or not. It didn't matter much because it was so dark, human eyes could hardly see. The trolls, that's what they were, had huge, bulging eyes that shined so they could see to get around without bumping into each other or another tree. Sometimes the trolls would..."
"I can't think of anything to say!" squeaked Eleanor.
"You've got to make up something if you want to be in the game."
"Oh, help." she muttered, and fell silent.
"You've got to keep it going or we will forget our story."
"But, I don't have any ideas."
"Well, then just listen to us and when you finally think of something you can take a turn." Jane and I were already so into our story that we resented her disruption with non thinking. We were relieved to have her out. The afternoon was not turning out so bad after all.
"It's your turn Jane. The trolls were doing something." I said.
"Where did you the Kool-aid?" Marvin's voice tore like torpedo through the story.
"Mom gave it to us. Go ask her for some."
"We are practicing a game for birthday parties."
"Can I do it too? After I get some Kool-aid? Is it strawberry or cherry?"
"Wait for me."
We waited. We could afford to be patient. Everything was falling into place. Marvin came back with his Kool-aid, knocking more petals all over us as he crawled into place. "Go on."
"The trolls wanted to get the princess into the woods with fudge."
"Oh, yeah. But the one didn't think that it was a good idea because the rest of the trolls couldn't play with her if she was sick and throwing up big pools of sticky brown fudge all the time."
"You guys are just telling your icky old stories. This ain't no game for a birthday party."
"If you don't like it, leave."
"I am." He did, crawling over our hunched up legs and nearly spilling Eleanor's jar.
When we had settled ourselves again in our peace, we watched as Eleanor scratched the scab off a mosquito bite. When we saw her looking at the scab like she might eat it, Jane said, "Back to the story. So another younger troll said, "I know how we can get the princess into out woods and be glad she came! We could kidnap the prince that lives
"... and carry her deep into the woods where she can't see what we do to her. The rest of the trolls agreed to this plan. Some went sent off to capture the prince, which wasn't hard as he often rode part way into the forest looking for animals to shoot. The other trolls
"The princess looked out her window and saw the prince. She waved to him but he couldn't wave back, so he blew her kisses. She blew kisses back to him, but didn't come down from her high tower. "We've got to do something to make her want to untie him.” Let’s start cutting parts of his body off. Maybe then she'll come. So one troll came out
"So he was surprised when the princess herself came dashing across the garden carrying a long, rusty old spear. She bravely ran up and smashed the spear through the middle of the troll so the point came out, dripping with lungs and blood, through his back. The other trolls saw this, rushed out and threw enchanting dust over both the prince and the princess. The trolls were mad that the princess had killed one of their own. They decided to punish her instead of playing with her. Between the legs of the trolls hung long rope-like things. When the trolls wanted, they could make these ropes stiff and strong so that they stuck up out of their bellies, reaching far over their heads. When they were angry their big ropes swayed and jerked over the top of their old gray haired heads like flagpoles without flags." I felt confident I was right with this section.
"To get even with the princess for stabbing their man, the trolls would stick their long ropes into the princess as far as they could. They took turns doing this. Some of the trolls would walk around with the princess stuck on their stiff things like they had apples on a
"I don't like your stories. I'm going home!" Eleanor plunged over our crossed legs and was out of the bushes before we realized what was happening.
There was only her nearly empty Mason jar lying on the ground. The last bit of red Kool-aid dribbling into the dirt seemed to remind us of something we had forgotten.
Now bored with the story, and having achieved our goal, we decided to see what Marvin was doing. Enough of the afternoon shadow had made a cool spot at the edge of the garden where Marvin had his "city." Where the early lettuce and radishes had been, Marvin played with his trucks and cars, riddling the yellow soil with tunnels and bridges.
Slam. We heard the screen door bang. In an instant Mrs. O'Dell was standing over us, her face twitching in anger. "Were you telling dirty stories to Eleanor? Her mother just called. She said Eleanor came home crying. She told her some terrible things you two had said."
"We were just teaching her a game we learned at Bevin's birthday party. Evidently she doesn't like birthday games."
"It wasn't no birthday party. They was telling their awful stories to her. I heard them."
"Did you hear all the story, Marvin?" Marvin shook his head like a
"They told about a princess that got sick eating too much fudge and
"Was that all?"
"That was the worst part. The rest wasn't interesting."
With a sigh, Mrs. O'Dell straightened her apron, turned, and went back into the house.
"The rat told on us."
"Yeah, but Marvin saved us."
"Let's go think.” We crawled back under the snowball bush. Ants were crawling in and out of Eleanor's overturned glass. Thoughtfully we watched the little brown spots zig-zag in glee over the sweet stuff on the side of the jar. Then Jane spoke.
"What if we filled that jar with ants and threw it onto her bed?"
"Where is her bedroom?"
"It's downstairs, right by the window that's always open in hot weather like this."
We could put the lid on the jar so loosely that when it landed under her bed the top would roll off and all the ants could crawl on her in the night."
"Where's a lid?"
"Marvin's got some in his city."
We hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to get ants into a jar. Every time we opened the lid to put new ants in the old ones tried to crawl out on our hands. Some of the ants were drowning in the bit of red Kool-aid, others were getting smashed when we tried to pick them up to drop them in the jar. We were about to give up with the whole idea. We thought of putting snails in it instead, but on a hot afternoon we couldn't find any snails.
Suddenly Jane had an idea. "What if we dipped pieces of string in our leftover drink and laid them on the big ant hills in the tile piles until they were covered with ants. Then we could quickly pick up several strings full of ants and drop them in the jar.
"Splendid idea. Marvin has a string ball hidden in the barn. We can borrow some of that."
The idea worked pretty good. Soon we had a bunch of ants, as mad as hops in the jar. I wanted to go right over to throw the jar in the window while I was still so mad at Eleanor for ratting on us. Jane wisely pointed out how it would be best if she did that alone when
Later, I found out that that evening Jane had gotten sick on all the too-cold Kool-aid, and had such a tummy ache she forgot all about the ants. They died in the jar.
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010