This has to be the hottest summer ever. I don’t mind it too much though because of the tree fort. Not just any old tree fort though. This fort was built by my Dad and all the kids say it’s the neatest tree fort they’ve ever seen. I’m not surprised because that’s how Dad does everything.
I remember the time he built a go-cart for me. Heck, the newspaper even wrote an article about it and everything!
There’s only one problem with the tree fort. You see, I can’t call it mine. I begged Dad to build it on one of the oaks in our yard but he said none of those trees were “just right.” The perfect tree was in this vacant lot right next door. Sure, this made for a perfect tree fort, but it meant that I had no say about keeping out the jerks like ‘ol Praying Mantis. That would be Stuart McGill to you. When God was handing out jerk, that carrot-topped guy got in line three or four times.
Early in the summer, Praying Mantis went away for about a week. I don’t know if his parents signed him up for jerk camp or what but I gotta tell you, it was the best week of the summer. Me and Barkel spent hours in the fort. We came up with club rules and Barkel thought of this cool secret knock that would keep out
Writer’s note: I have to stop for a moment. As I am writing this, I’m sitting in the garage, manning the garage sale. Suddenly, in the cool morning air a flock of robins has landed in the driveway. I’ve never seen them in flocks before. Amongst them is a single magpie who is bullying the robins around the driveway as he pecks at God-know-what. Whenever he approaches a robin, three or four other robins land close and the magpie gives up. Go robins!
…that would keep out the pesky 6th graders. I mean, they are so last year.
Barkel and I practically lived in the tree fort that week. We drank Orange Crush by the case and ate Atomic Sour Blasts until our stomachs hurt. Barkel brought a really cool Dracula cartoon/book that we looked at whenever we got tired of the girlie magazines he snuck out of father’s dresser.
Then, Praying Mantis came back. He must be some kind of lawyer or sumthin because he goes on and on about how we can’t tell him to get bent because the fort is on public property. What a dork. Unfortunately, he’s right my dad says.
Mantis says the rules we made up are stupid and he can do what he wants. He also kiped the Dracula comic.
So me and Barkel, we hatch a plan.
“What should we put in it?” Barkel is looking over the stew pot of baked beans.
“Well, the beans are a good start but we need something with some real fire power. I know, hey get the garlic powder out of the cabinet. It’s the one next to the stove.”
“Hehe. I think about three big ol’ spoonfuls oughta do it.”
“How long have the eggs been boiling?”
Barkel looks at the timer. “About 8 minutes.”
“Perfect! Four eggs each. Are you sure you didn’t eat anything today? This is going to be a lot of stuff.”
“No way. This is so going to be worth it.” Barkel grins at me.
I grin right back.
We put the beans in one of Mom’s tupperware bowls and Barkel gathers up the eggs.
It’s still kinda early this Saturday morning and there’s no one around as we climb into the tree fort.
“How long should this take to work?”
“I don’t know. I bet by noon though.”
“Do you think Mantis will show for the special club meeting?”
“I’d bet all my marbles on it, Barkel.”
We sat down and started munching away. I ate all of my eggs first, then started in on the beans. Barkel alternated. Beans, egg. Beans, egg.
Soon, we were stuffed to the gills. To our credit their wasn’t much left of the beans and we ate all the eggs.
“Now, all we have to do is wait for the musical fruit to do its magic!”
Snort. “Musical fruit. I swear, Gordie. You crack me up.”
“Ugh. I can feel it workin’. Hope he gets here soon.”
“Your wish is granted. Here he comes!”
PM is walking up the sidewalk, not a care in the world. This is gonna be so great.
“Hey Stewie. Come on up!”
Mantis climbed the boards that were nailed to the tree and clambered up through the trap door entrance on the floor.
“ Hey squirts. What’s this special meeting about?”
“Oh, you’ll sme – um, see in a minute.”
Skargel takes the hammer he was sitting on and pounds two of the six-penney nails into the trap door, sealing it off. He tosses the hammer over the side where it falls with a metallic “clump” as it hits the dirt.
“What the heck did you do that for, ya little dirt clod?”
Barkel looks at Mantis with this goofy kind of grin on his face. Then he puffs up a bit and lets the first one fly.
“Barkel! Man, that’s gross!”
Then he gets a whiff. I swear, his eyes started to water.
“Jeez-o pete! What did you eat? You need to see a doctor!” Mantis is trying to breath through the collar of his T-shirt that he’s now pulled up over his nose.
Barkel is now rolling on the floor of the tree house. He’s laughing and he does have tears streaming down his face.
“Uh-oh Mantis. SBD!”
The smell hits Mantis full force and now he’s hanging over the edge of the fort gasping for air.
Barkel manages to fire up yet another one and this time it’s too much for ol’ Carrot-Top.
“You guys are disgusting! Sick-os!”
He climbs over the side of the fort and shimmy’s down the tree, gaining a whole lot of bark rash on his skinny legs. He can’t get away fast enough.
Mantis is running down the street, holding his nose and calling us names.
That was the last time we saw him the whole summer.