Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gang of Three

When Linda and her brothers were little, they were a gang of three. Linda was the big sister followed by Augustus and Timothy, Gus and Tim for short. In the early years, they lived in a tenement house in the ethnic ghetto of the Midwestern city where they grew up. Next door was a trucking firm where large trucks that hauled big cargo trailers were parked on the weekends. It was fun to sit outdoors on the front stoop of the tenement house and watch the eighteen-wheelers pull into the lot as Friday afternoon marked the beginning of the weekend, and the truck drivers went home to their families.

Linda would often watch the truck drivers maneuver their big cabs into the tightly packed spaces and wonder where they had been during the week and what they were hauling. At five years old, Linda was too small to read the lettering on the sides of the trucks to know whether the trucks carried household goods of people moving to a new home in another city or whether they carried groceries that would supply a big supermarket in the suburbs. She only knew that the trucks were big and noisy, and Mom said not to walk past the trucking company’s driveway.

As the big sister, Linda was responsible for keeping an eye on four-year old Gus and the baby, two-year old Tim, when they were allowed to play outside for a little while before it was time to come inside for supper. The boys usually played together, chasing each other around and around in silly baby games like tag and racing to the corner to see who ran faster. Linda preferred quiet solitary games like sitting on the sidewalk and watching the ants crawl up and down her arms and legs.

Linda’s brothers were noisy just like her older cousin Mikey, born only two months earlier than she. When Linda visited Grandmother’s home in the big city, she and Mikey would play cowboys and forts, and Mikey always made a lot of sounds like horses, rifles shooting and cannons roaring. Linda, however, would imagine elaborate stories about the cowboys and townspeople including the wives and children, and she would tell herself long, involved stories in her head. Each person in her stories had a name, and they had jobs and interests that were different from the other townspeople’s activities. Linda’s stories were like a chapter book, continuing from one day to the next as she played quietly beside her cousin Mikey.

One Sunday afternoon, Linda, Gus and Tim were outside for a long time, figuring out new games to play as they waited for Mom to call them inside for supper. The trucks next door to the tenement house were beckoning to Linda, and she dared her brothers to come with her on an adventure. Leading the way, Linda climbed onto each of the big truck cabs parked neatly in rows, pulling Gus and Tim up after her. Back then, Linda was what was called a “tomboy,” a girl who acted a lot like a boy, loving adventures, climbing and running fast. Pretty soon, the gang of three had as many windshield wipers as they could hold in their small hands without dropping any. The first wiper was hard to get off the truck, but Linda and the boys figured out how to remove the wipers quickly after the first tricky one.

What a wonderful treasure hunt they were having, when Mom came downstairs and hollered for them to come inside and wash up for supper. Oops, what to do with all those windshield wipers? Linda figured Mom wouldn’t let them keep all of them, and so she and the boys dropped them in the corner of the truck parking lot as they ran home for supper. That was the first of many adventures that the gang of three would have over the years, but those are stories for another day.

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