It Happened On Harper Bridge Road

    Yes the year was 1971, probably one of the best of my entire life. The school year had gone very well in that happy little one room classroom right beside the main building. That was where we had the first and the second grades back then. My teacher was named Mrs McNeil, and she had to have been the very best teacher in the entire county school system. She was a medium-sized gray-haired lady who had a warm, caring personality, which could suddenly turn firm and strict. She had her own method of handling discipline, and later on I came to admire her very much for that.

    One example of Mrs. McNeil’s demeanor stands out above the rest. I can still remember the day well- the afternoon that a fellow student named Daryl threatened to attack me for disagreeing with him about the rules of a game that we called Chinco [1] . When I told her about this threat, and she simply said to me;

    “Well, you need to handle your own situations, since in real life you will be forced to deal with much more serious problems.”

    So I followed her advice. When Daryl tried to force me into playing with him, I protested in spite of his forceful demands. Needless to say, I was disappointed when instead of walking away as I had expected, he eventually attacked me for defying him.

    We fell by the bushes in the middle of the playground next to the nursery building. I will never forget it. We wrestled furiously beneath the shrubbery, where no one could ever hope to see us punching the lights out of each other. Before long Daryl had climbed on top of me, saying through tightly clenched teeth;

    “Now white boy, what are you going to do? I am your master, and I am going to tell you what you will do, and you will do just what I tell you to do, or else! Do you hear that? Do you understand?”

    I turned my head to the right, and closed my eyes tightly, fully expecting to take a solid punch into the side of the head. What am I going to do now, I thought, as I lie pinned into the earth by this fat black pig sitting atop my stomach?

    I prayed silently. Please Lord, get me out of this mess. I opened my eyes, and behold, the answer to my prayer sat right before me, tucked neatly away inside a small bunch of green grass. My eyes zeroed in on a foil pie pan and I squinted to discern a large snakelike pile of human fecal waste wound right into the very center.

    The idea struck me like a sword of light from the sky. Without pausing to think, I suddenly grabbed the front of his shirt with my left hand, and shook him violently, while my right hand smashed the bully squarely in the face with the loaded pan, just as he turned to see what was coming at him. Victorious, I rubbed the pan hard into his mouth and nose.

    Daryl collapsed from his perch upon the center of my breast, and rolled onto the ground, screaming, spitting, gagging, and crying. I jumped up immediately and backed off, so as not to give him the opportunity to retaliate. Daryl leaped to his feet and raced to the teacher, screaming with disgust and sheer rage.

    “Look what he has done to me! Just look what that white boy has done to me,” Daryl screamed to the teacher!

    “Now now,” spoke Mrs McNeil with a soothing gentleness. “Lets just go back to the classroom and get cleaned up, and then I will walk over to the main building to call your mother, if you want. Do you want that?”

    “Yes ma’am,” Daryl sniveled.

    “Who did this to you,? ” asked Mrs McNeil in a gentle voice.

    “He did,” replied Daryl, pointing in my direction. “That white boy yonder did this to me!”

    “Well, go on back to the room and I will be there very soon.”

    As Daryl made his way back inside, she walked menacingly toward me as I cowered in the distance watching the events unfold.

    “Did you do this, boy? ,” she inquired sharply as she grabbed me hard upon the biceps.

    “Yeah,” I replied. “I did it. He deserved it. He was on top of me trying to beat me up. Any way, I handled my situation myself, just like you said. I doubt that I will have anymore problems with him, ever again. Now, don’t you think?”

    Mrs McNeil simply stuck her nose up in the air and with a huff, stomped off toward the old school house in the wooded distance across the ball field. After recess the entire class returned back into the class room. An hour or so into our lesson, I saw Daryl’s mother appear at the door.

    “What happened? ,” she inquired, clearly concerned.

    “Well Daryl had a little accident,” replied Mrs McNeil with a warm patient smile. “Get him to tell you all about it on the way home.”

    So the two made their way out the door and into his mother’s big dark blue 1969 Marquis Mercury. I did not see Daryl again for at least a week.

    My ride home that day on the big yellow bus was a very happy ride. We made our way through the sleepy Mayville town settlement and puttered down old windingOak Roadtoward the brick, ranch style home where I lived at the time. As the bus exited from the Mayville city limits, a very pale slender girl with shoulder length dark brown, almost black hair, made her way toward me. She was not much to look at, but she had a pleasantly warm personality, the infectious kind that made any body that she spoke with instantly see the positive side of life. She was twelve at the time, a grown woman old enough to be my mother as far as I was concerned. Joy always seemed to bubble over within her. The very sight of me seemed to bring out a certain special happiness.

    “Well hello there, you good looking thing,” she said as she eased into the seat beside me. “Are you my little boy friend?”

    I smiled as I felt the heat move up through my face. I could have melted into the seat, but my victory over Daryl had me feeling very manly, so I merely nodded my head up and down.

    “Yeah, I thought so. I got you a nice present,” the girl said, as she handed me a fat slice of freshly made chocolate layer cake bound tightly inside a piece of plastic wrap. “You like that?,” she wondered as she gently kissed my blushing cheek “See how nice it is to be my boy friend? See the good things that I can do for you? ,” she whispered into my ear. I could not help but to smile very broadly, my mouth watering at the sight of the chocolate treat.

    She straightened up beside me. “Well, how is school going now for you?,” she asked.

    “Going well,” I replied.

    “Oh really? You haven’t gotten into any trouble, now have you?”

    “Well, sort of, but not really,”  I confessed, “it all ended well, it seemed to me. So it must all be well.”

    “Well….what happened?,” my companion asked with a smile and a sudden laugh.

    So I proceeded to tell her about the incident with Daryl. I told her about hitting him right smack-dab in the face with the pie pan full of poo. She just about fell onto the floor of the bus with laughter…, chortling for what seemed like an hour.

    “ I cannot believe that you did that to him. How could you be so mean? What did your teacher, Mrs McNeil, do?,” she wondered.

    “Nothing, just sent him to the room to get cleaned up and called his mother.”

    “That’s so funny! I have never heard of such a thing before,”she laughed.

    “What on earth will your dear Mum say now?”

    “Nothing, since I won the fight. Had I lost, she would have whooped me for sure then,” I lied jokingly.

    The girl who soon introduced herself as Sony, continued to laugh as the bus soon approached the narrow dirt road that made its way toward her house. The mailbox at the end of a long dirt road soon came into view, and the brakes of the vehicle squeaked as it slowed into a stop. Deep inside, my heart sank to see her go, and I wished dearly that she could come home with me. If you had known her, you would have felt the same way. She was such a warm jolly person, that nobody could help but to be overcome by her presence.

    “Well now, love, I guess I gotta go. You’ll still be mine in the morning, won’t you?, ” she joked.

    I must have grinned like a Cheshire cat, feeling my face burn with heat as I nodded my head up and down. I silently hated the fact that she did not whisper those words into my ear, and instead spoke them aloud so that everyone on the bus could hear.

    “Bye now,” I said with a shy wave.

    She exited the bus with her tight cutoff jeans hugging her slender thighs, dancing away as she walked. I gazed down the dirt road after her. I wondered in the thick woods where her house could possibly lie. The path extended the road ahead straight into the distance for a hundred yards, then curved sharply to the right, disappearing into the tall hardwood timber. Every morning for the rest of that year Sony sat with me on the bus ride home. I sometimes pretended not to want her to sit with me, but in secret, I loved having her there.

    “Yeah, you’ll pledge yourself to me one day. I will win ya over,” she would say. I would shake my head rapidly from side to side. “Yeah you will! Yeah you will! You’ll see! You’ll see,” she laughed with a pleasantly convincing smile.

    For many a day we laughed and talked about animals, parents,  school, and our friends. Soon days turned into weeks and weeks into months, until the day arrived that I could sit beside her completely unafraid of being teased by the other kids on the bus. I did not even care what they thought any more.

    “What are you doing today at lunch recess?,” she whispered into my ear one warm spring day, when the wisteria, the tulips and the azalea were in full bloom.

    “Nothing,” I replied.

    “Can you meet me behind your classroom at lunch time today? You won’t see me until you step into the edge of the woods. Don’t let anybody see you, ya hear now?,” she warmly whispered.

    “Yeah…, sure…Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”

    My heart raced in anticipation, and it seemed like lunch time would never arrive. What did Sony have planned? Had she slipped in another piece of decadent desert as she was known to do? Or had she finally swiped her grand father’s pipe and his pouch of tobacco? I could hardly sit still with wondering. When lunch time rolled around, I went into the cafeteria inside the main building and pretended to eat, nibbling at my food before giving the remainder to a classmate named Marvin who was overweight and always hungry.

   I slowly walked through the huge glass double doors into the outside, and tried to appear as though I was not heading anywhere in particular. I turned right then I made my way passed the old phys-ed supply room, and on around the corner. In the hazy distance I saw the old wood-framed classroom, sitting quietly beside the baseball field on the edge of the woods. The old school house felt strange without students milling around. I shot one last glance over my shoulder to see if anybody was watching, but everyone appeared to be absorbed in their lunch. Convinced I had made a smooth getaway, I slowly headed toward the one room classroom.

    There appeared no signs of activity around the building at all, but I remembered Sony’s whispered instructions to step into the edge of the woods. Like a spy on a mission I glanced around again, and having reassured myself that no one had followed me, I gingerly stepped into the thicket. I neared a huge ancient live oak tree ahead with its massive drooping limbs that surely measured some four or five feet in diameter at the trunk; as I eased around it, this slink vixen silently eased around from the opposite side in my forward direction, grasping me with her sinewy arms and kissed me warmly in my ears.

    “So I see that you did not deny me after all. You’ll be glad that you did not,” Sony whispered with a warm, soothing smile. “You know what I mean?”

    “No,” I shook my head from side to side.

    I glanced around for a bag or box, still awaiting the anticipated surprise.

    “You ever been kissed ?,” she purred with a strange glazed over look in her eyes.

    Before I could answer, she continued in a low, gasping tone.

    “Here…, let me show you.”

    Her warm lips gently caressed mine. I felt that warm surge of heat move from the pit of my stomach up into my face.

    “It’s like this…,” she instructed as she kissed me again. “I’ll christen you yet. The other boys will be jealous and will not know what to think… If they ever knew…. You …, You will have tasted the fine red wine…, and they only be able to imagine what it is like…..”

     I was incredibly confused, but I liked the sound of a super secret oath, and I was enjoying the feel of her soft lips that were naturally beautiful in an alluring way, strangely reminding me of blood red Hydrangea for reasons that I could never explain. The air about her eerily bore the heavy scent of yellow jasmine in the cheerful spring air.

    “I’ll never tell,” I snapped!

    “Not even to your best friend, Fish?”

    “No, not even to my best friend, Fish,.” I promised.

    “What about to your best friend C.L?,” she asked as she kissed my lips deeply, with much more passion.

    “No, not even to C.L.,” I struggled to say in between her heavy, gasping embraces.

    Gently Sony took my left hand and led me a few yards on the other side of the huge oak tree. We eased into a clearing surrounded by thick bushes on three sides. The oaks massive trunk and its heavy out spreading limbs fenced in the fourth side. In the middle of the empty space I saw a six by six baby blue blanket lying flatly on the ground.

    “Come here,” she whispered with an air of great anticipation. “I fixed a place.”

    She embraced me again, still kissing me passionately. My heart raced with excitement sprinkled with just a pinch of fear. We gingerly eased ourselves down in our embrace, making our way onto the blanket.

    “Let me be the one…,” she whispered while continuing to kiss me warmly.

     Her right hand eased upward, gently unbuttoning the top most button of her elegant homespun dress, working its way downward, finally her small breasts were exposed. She did not wear any bra.., and I was to not know the difference until many years later.

    “Do you like what you see?,” she cooed. “Now…What you are supposed to do is to kiss them, if you want to be a real lover now.”

    So I did so…, very slowly.., just like she told me to, being very careful to caress each tender nipple with my throbbing hot tongue.

    “That’s right…yeah… that feels so good. I love it when you do that,” she purred with a light giggle as we embraced.

    She gingerly seized my left hand, placing it between her thighs.

    “Rub gently, but firmly, like this,” she commanded, as she moved my hand up and down in her firm grasp. “Yeah, that’s right… That’s right…”

    Then I felt her hand move slowly toward the center of my thighs, and the movement caused those surges of heat and excitement to rise until I felt as though I would explode.

    “Yeah, I can see that you want me, but you learn fast. You learn so very fast…..”

    Sony’s hands then moved to slowly pull down her silken underwear.

    “Do you like that? Let me show you,” she offered as she eased my own cotton briefs down. I struggled to get them over my brogans, but somehow I managed .

    “Yeah,” she whispered. “That’s right… Now take my hands. Come here, to me…, here…”

    I eased on top of her, feeling her snug pulsating body beneath mine…, enjoying her warm breath in my face.

    “That’s right,” she would whisper. “Just allow everything to fall into place all on it’s own. That’s right… Oh… that’s right… Oooooh… That’s right now….. You’ve got it….Just go with the feeling now,” she  whispered in a series of quick gasps.

    Well…,spring turned to summer, and after a grueling summer away from Sony, it was once more again the start of another school year. I couldn’t have loved Sony more than I had the previous year, and I looked forward to seeing her again on the bus. We had spent hundreds of times together behind the old oak tree by now. She said that I loved like an old hand, and she finally pronounced me an expert in the field of love, a master of the craft. She even constructed a really nice cardboard crown covered with golden gems of inlaid felt, proudly dubbing me King O’ Lovers!  She was funny like that at times, sometimes pretending to want to stick me with the needle that she used to give herself insulin…. Truth be told the needle scared me…. I trusted Sony, but when she brought out that evil looking needle, I did not dare push my luck.

    “You’re the best! You know that, don’t you?” she told me one day when I tried to evade her kisses and explore the woods instead. “ Several men visit me from time to time, but none have the up on you, honey, cause I trained you right! I got you broke now, boy!,” she giggled. “You ain’t just the little boy from way over on Beaver Ridge any more…. Please don’t be mad now, just come on back over here…. There is no reason for you to fear.”

     When the bus halted at Sony’s stop on the first day of school, the other girls, Patricia, Michelle and Crystal got on, but there was no Sony.

    “Where is Sony?,” I asked.

    “ We don’t know,” they collectively replied. “Maybe she’s sick or just didn’t feel like coming to school. Why.. Why are you so anxious to see her?” They all looked at each other and exploded into hearty laughter.

    Monday turned into Tuesday, and Tuesday into Wednesday, then Friday finally came, and still no Sony.

    “Where is Sony?,” I inquired once more.

    “We don’t know, but that is strange for her to miss a whole week,” her friends confessed. “We will walk down to her house after school and let you know, come Monday. Ya hear? Can you wait that long?”

    They all laughed out loud as they exited from the bus.

    All weekend long I sat and worried. Finally Monday came, but no Sony.

   “The whole community is worried about that girl, no body can find her,” the girls told me.  “We don’t know anything as of yet.”

    When the following week ended, I rode the bus home that day feeling more alone than ever. Loneliness turned into fear upon my arrival back home. My mother asked me;

   “Have you heard the news about that little girl from way over there on Harper Bridge Road? She is lost and the police are looking for her. She’s been gone about two weeks now, and they still can’t find her.”

    I thought the news of Sony’s disappearance would be the worst thing I would ever hear, but a few days later I would change my mind. I will never forget my mother’s words when at last, the mystery was solved.

   “Well, they found that poor little girl today,” I overheard her telling my father. “ She was discovered dead in an old abandoned tenant shack not very far from the first bend in the dirt road way over where she lived. She was severely diabetic, you know. They done a test on her… And found out that she was seven months pregnant! The parents didn’t even know it. Can you believe that? This girl was only thirteen years old, and pregnant! My oh my, just what in heaven’s name is this world coming to? The pregnancy caused her to go into a diabetic coma.

    “They don’t even know who the daddy of the baby is, is that not a crying shame? They first thought that it must have been somebody in the family, but that turned up negative. Then they thought that it just might be somebody from the Scuffle Town community, a Lone Star mile or so up the road, but that proved negative as well. Now they think that it may be somebody from the Witch’s Cross neighborhood, an hours walk from where she lived.

    “They have found a trail of footprints leading to the tenant house through a thick cover of woods, but they have no suspects. The trail split about a third of the way from the Witch’s Cross Road community, then dead ended at the Black Sand Creek. Judging by the footprints, the police suspected a man around twenty or so, but several suspects that fit the profile were questioned, and none were a match up. So the book on the case, for now, is closed. I hope they catch that older man. Goodness knows, he knew better than to take advantage of a little girl like that, meeting her inside an old, run-down tenant shack of all places, for crying out loud!”

    Today the rain is pounding the window pane where I now sit, lost in deep contemplation. It has been a virtual lifetime ago, and even though the pain has long since fled from my heart, deep inside my mind Sony still holds a special place all of her own. Even though the adults who had questioned the serious case aloud are now long dead…, I still cannot bring myself to ever tell the story…. To speak the truth aloud, as I recollect those crystal clear images and passionate feelings buried for so many ages …

    Thus I sit silently in this leather bound chair, forever feeling the presence of her invisible spectrum with each flash of blue lightning. On irregular occasions in the midday darkness of the tempest,  I behold her comforting phantom face in a flicker of brilliant sapphire light. Amid the haunting sound of distant rolling thunder and a creaking puff of turbulent wind, my tears are reflected in the rain soaked bay window before me….; and a little bit of my soul pours from the glass pane and splatters onto the ground, with each drop of April rain.

[1]  51 split sticks made from reed. One tossed an amount on the ground, by sight or glance his opponent told him how many, and how many he held in his hand. If he miscounted, the person who held the reeds had to immediately respond with the correct number. Bets were placed in the initiative, the toss and response were near instantaneous. The loser of the bet was the one who miss counted.

H.L. Dowless is a national & international academic/ ESL Instructor. He has been a writer for over thirty years. His latest publications have been two books of nonfiction with Algora Publishing, and fictional publications with combo e-zines and print magazines; Leaves Of Ink, Short Story Lovers, The Fear Of Monkeys, and Frontier Tales.