J.P. was my next door neighbour and a boy. He was two years older than I was but didn’t act it. He wore suspenders all the time because his pants were too big for him. Like me, he was the baby of the family and therefore the lucky recipient of the hand-me-downs. We agreed that there was at least one good thing about hand-me-downs; you didn’t have to worry about getting your clothes messed up, they already were.
His family had a garage for their car. We didn’t. In the summer, his dad kept the car out on the street so that everybody could see his big and shiny Chevrolet Impala. J.P. would make the garage his headquarters. He would hang an old tire with a big cord from the ceiling and I was often invited to swing on it. I think he wanted to impress me and I was, especially the day his pants went on fire.
It was one of the first days of summer, when the smell of warm earth tickles your nose and happiness is an empty school yard and a purple popsicle dripping down your knuckles. J.P. was in his headquarters putting his swing up for the season.
« So…you gonna come for a swing this summer? » he inquired, proudly knotting the cord around the tire.
« Maybe… » I answered nonchalantly. It was this thing we did. He would ask, I’d say maybe and we both knew that I would eventually be swinging my heart out asking for my membership card to be renewed.
Later that day, Sonia and I were playing hide-and-see in my backyard where my Dad had just planted some new trees. Sonia always had trouble finding places to hide. You could always see a piece of her no matter where she was. Being Sonia was inconvenient when the trees were so small.
Suddenly, Sonia and I both heard a ripping sound followed by a few pops and a scream. J.P. was running down the street holding his rear end, smoke coming out of his back pockets. J.P.’s cord had let go.
We never kept firecrackers in our back pockets anymore.