(Anybody following my serial novella “Falcon,” please click here for the massive 3200-word 10th post)
Back in the late 1970’s, recycling aluminum cans became a popular pasttime in our hometown. Chris and I liked the idea that we could collect and turn them in for $0.25 per pound. Thus began my first hard lesson in never mixing business with pleasure.
We hatched from our elementary school minds a plan to walk four miles down the mountain highway into town, and then combine our loot with what we had stored in our respective garages. Our parents okayed the plan and supplied us the garbage bags. I dreamed of ways to reap the benefits of our windfall. I could buy more Star Wars cards, or an action figure. Obi-Wan would be cool.
We walked on opposite shoulders of the road, open garbage bags in hand and more folded in our pockets, careful to watch for any cars careening out of control. There were many tight curves, and the big one had seen numerous tractor-trailer rigs tip over. We trudged down the hill in the hot sun, which turned me red while only deepening the brown of Chris’ dark complexion. We collected those beautiful, shiny metal vessels all by ourselves.
Then we called our mommies to come pick us up. Financial independence has a price, and that was a big hill. We added the cans to our existing stashes and hit paydirt downtown at the recycling center.
Chris and I talked on the phone that night, spending much time divying up the money in our heads.
“I get half and you get half,” I said.
“No, that’s not fair. I should get more than half because of all my dad’s beer cans.” Around that time, Chris’ dad went through a beer-drinking phase. Pabst Blue Ribbon, if memory serves.
“I brought cans from home, too. We don’t know exactly how many there were before we started,” I said.
Our error was obvious, but the dollar signs dancing behind my eyes kept my brain from forming the right image. I would not let myself believe that I deserved any less than half the money. Although Chris was right, I did not acquiesce.
Then our mommies stepped in and made things right. From then on, we didn’t mix money with friendship.
By the time fourth grade rolled around, one of those mommies had exited stage left. Chris’s parents divorced and his mom moved down the road about 40 miles to further her education. Meanwhile, he and his Dad moved to a house several mountainous miles away, completely cutting us off from each other via bicycle.
In sixth grade, my interest in girls ramped up considerably. I started hanging out more with the boy who became my second best (but not second-best) friend. Jason was into girls, too, and I got a kick out of his joking glances at the first girl in our grade to develop breasts. We nicknamed them “Fred and Barney,” and he and I developed quite the little perverted sense of humour. We spent a lot of weekend hours at the skating rink, on double-dates with two girls who also were best friends.
I don’t know what happened to Chris and me at that time. Maybe he wasn’t interested in girls as soon as I was. I suspect I was more likely to fall in with the next person who seemed interesting (within reason), while Chris didn’t tend to sway with the wind. He and Jason were friends, too, so I know he was still in my life. Although most of my memories from that period are of Jason and girls, I know Chris and I remained good friends.
Then, the summer after my sixth-grade year, my parents divorced. Always eager to try something new, I opted to move away with my mother. I saw Chris and Jason sporadically for the next year and a half. Social circles formed, and on weekend visits back home, I often fell in with the popular kids playing spin the bottle behind the local video arcade. It gave me a quick and pleasant introduction to kissing girls.