by AW Partin


It was summer, 1985.
We were imprisoned indoors
while the Virginia rain splashed the windows
and raised the Chesapeake.
No swamp adventures for us, that day.
No hunting spiders in the aluminum tool shed.
No luxurious hours in the pee-filled
community pool.

We flipped and flopped
on the master bedroom waterbed.
We flipped through the channels
on my friend’s parents’ mini TV.
We flopped our dusty-knee, sunburned legs
and laughed about farting and my pet ducks
and the haunted house down the street
that really wasn’t haunted,
but the marshes encircling it were spooky enough.
Then we fell silent and staring,
hoping for sunlight.

But if “necessity is the mother of invention,”
Boredom is its wicked step-father.
That afternoon, Boredom struck my little brain
with a bolt of creativity and I evolved
from a pony-tailed kindergartener
into a trouble-making wunderkind.

I looked at my friend.
She looked at me,
a glitter of curiosity creeping into her eyes.

“Let’s make potions,” I said.
“Potions?” She was wary.
She had not forgotten my past antics
of soaping up her parents’ bathroom with shampoo,
hunting water moccasins in the woods,
burying toys in the back yard
(and not being able to find them again).

“Yes,” I said. “Magic potions.”
The word “magic” sells anything.
Especially when you’re five.
She was sold.

We sneaked down to the hallway bathroom.
We shut the door with a giggle.
We snapped on the light and crouched to explore
the forbidden, under-the-sink cabinets
that held a bounty of assorted bottles.
(We ignored the Mister Yuk stickers.
They were a poor diversion.)
My friend found two orange plastic buckets
imprinted with pumpkin faces.

I smiled at my friend.
She smiled at me.
With the zeal of miniature Shakespearean witches,
we added each ingredient:

Sprinkle of Comet.
Glug of Listerine!
Spurt of minty toothpaste
and a splash of Mr. Clean.
Pine Sol (just a cup),
Spritz of cheap perfume.
A hint of strawberry bubble bath
(Would surely seal our doom!)

Our potions were thick and foamy and green.
The noxious fumes were titillating.
Toxic bubbles swelled and popped.
We shrieked with demented glee.
The magic had gone to our heads.
And then…

we hoisted the heavy, fizzing buckets
and brought them to our lips.
For just a sip.
Just a wee chemical burn to the tongue,
the throat and esophagus.
My friend gave me a blunt look.
“My potion doesn’t taste very good.”

The bathroom knob turned.
The door flung wide and we were found guilty,
cloaked in a fog of cleansing fluids.
My friend’s older brother stood frozen in the doorway,
one hand still gripping the knob
the other poised in mid-air,
unsure of its next action.
His mouth fell open in a red ‘o’ of horror.
His eyes goggled and as he fled for the stairs,
he hollered, “Ohhhhhhhhh….I am telllll-iiiinngg!”

He had saved us, sure, but he was also greedy for revenge.
He remembered my past antics
of shoving his soccer ball pillow into the toilet,
stuffing his sports trophies under the sheets of his bed,
being blamed and shamed for my pee
in the community pool.

“Get rid of it! Get rid of it!”
I flung my potion into the shower drain.
It gurgled in a snail trail of escape.

My friend poured hers into the toilet.
A clog!
It regurgitated with every frantic flush.
“I’m gonna get in trouble!” My friend choked
on her despair as the dooming vibration
of her mother’s footsteps ascended the staircase.
Her brother galloped behind,
hooting with delight.

In a panic, I fled the scene, knocking bottles helter skelter
and found shelter beneath my friend’s bed.
I quivered between naked Barbies and dust balls,
stifled a scream when my eyes met the soulless stare
of a stained Teddy Ruxpin.
My heart thack-thacked against the carpet
and then I heard it.

The sound of a mother who had discovered
the worst of the worst of the worst.

She shouted my friend’s first, middle, and last name.
She commanded the mess be cleaned.
She demanded to know my whereabouts.
Of course, the brother ousted me
with a leer and pointing finger.

“Come out!” I was ordered. “You’re going home!”
I rolled out from under the bed
and my clammy hand was caught
in an iron fist of maternal justice.
I was led furiously out of the room
and down the hallway.
I glanced back into the bathroom as we passed.
My friend was howling sadly over the toilet,

plunging up and down, up and down, up and down.
Her magic had worn away,
most likely from the corrosive properties of our potions,
but there was no time to be sad about her fate.
Or feel guilty.
I had my own worries.

Just across the street, I would face my committee
of familial judges.
I feared a reddened behind.
Perhaps the loss of watching Scooby Doo for a month
(or, God forbid, Reading Rainbow).
Of course, no punishment was a match for the week
of retching,
bed-ridden delirium
that mystified our mutual families.

“How have they both fallen ill?
What had they been doing besides mixing a myriad
of chems at the bathroom sink?
You don’t suppose they took a dr— no.
They know better than that! We think….”

We never told.
Well, not until we were older.
When time had made our deadly mischief
tolerable. A head shake.
A nervous laugh. A weird and darkly comedic
memory frescoed with the emerald vapors
of a creation so wickedly imaginative
only a child could have come up with it
…and then believe it was edible.

Yet, we recovered. Slowly.
And rose from our beds
wan and purply-lipped, ready
for swamp adventures and hunting spiders
in the aluminum tool shed.
Ready for luxurious hours spent in the pee-filled
community pool.

We flopped our dusty-knee, sunburned legs
and laughed about farting and my pet ducks
and the haunted house down the street.

It was summer, 1985.
I’m still alive.

But the summer of 2020 is coming.

My own daughter will be five.
I can already tell from the shining blue
of her wide eyes, the fairy dimple
in her left cheek, the syrupy laugh
running from her rosy gums
and the way she tilts her blonde head
with terrifying, imaginative genius,
that she will fall silent
and staring, hoping for sunlight on a rainy day.


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