“They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
–Margaret to Carrie, in Carrie
It’s deep water there in the middle of the bridge; it has to be deep enough for the boats to get through. As usual, we were all jumping in, including Johnny (who along with the Junkyard Dog and Rowdy Roddy Piper had tagged along uninvited.). Everyone’s having a good time, but after a while he notices something’s amiss:
“Where’s my clothes?” he asks.
We younger guys honestly didn’t know what had happened to them, but we had a hunch either Louie or Peter (or both of them) hid them somewhere and had some shenanigans up their sleeves.
“Come on guys, where’s my stuff?” Johnny asks.
We knew what was up, so we joined-in on the fun.
“Did you look up there on the tracks? Maybe the Junk Yard Dog and the Hot Rod hitched a ride on the train?” was one response.
“You sure you had clothes with you, I don’t remember seeing you with sneakers on,” was another.
“Is that them on the sand barge over there?” someone asked. “Go swim out there and check it out.”
So for about an hour, jokes were flying around with knowing winks, glances, and nods beneath hushed laughter.
Now, I don’t know exactly what our brothers had in store, but we were all about to find out. And, I doubt what actually took place was what they envisioned. We saw a boat on the horizon. The first draw bridge in the distance had opened up, and the one we were swimming at was about to open up too. ‘BEEP-BEEP’…, ‘CLANK’, it sounded-off as it began to rise. Then, it happened quickly: If you didn’t see it (I did) you certainly heard what happened next. One small ‘PLIP’ sound, quickly followed by another, and then a final, louder one: ‘SPLOOSH!’ In the water went Johnny’s things followed by a roar of laughter. Someone had hidden Johnny’s clothes up on the drawbridge and now they’re in the water. The jokes didn’t let up:
“Hey Johnny, we found your clothes. Hurry up, go swim after them! If you want them, you’ll have to swim for them!” one of us said.
“Better get in there before the current takes them out to Goose Island and then you’ll never see them again!” I heard said.
“No way they’ll make it to the island, they’ll sink before then. Hurry up and get in there before they sink!” one of us said.
Kids can be mean (as this story illustrates) and we were no exception. Of course, while we’re rolling, Johnny’s crying.
“My mom just got me those clothes and sneakers, she’s gonna kill me.” He whines.
“So hurry up and go get ‘em before the boat comes!” Louie or Peter said.
“I can’t swim.” Johnny cries.
“What? We saw you in the water swimming. What are you talking about?” we all say.
“I wasn’t swimming, I was just hanging on to the ledge there,” Johnny says, as he points to the network of wood-scaffolding below.
Well, I don’t know what the hell went through our brothers’ minds at this point. A lot of time had already passed by now and the boat is on its way getting closer and closer; the clothes are almost beyond the bridge headed-out to open water, to Goose Island. And none of us are expert swimmers or anything. And just to make it clear, calling it a boat was a huge misnomer (we called them all boats): it wasn’t a canoe, a rowboat, a speedboat, not even a tugboat. It was a cargo ship – a freighter at least a couple hundred feet long and at least about 50 feet wide. But they’re exchanging words, talking about jumping in after the clothes. No one’s laughing any more.
“Are you f****** crazy!? Screw the clothes! It’s too late now, you can’t jump in – the boat’s right there!” we plea. But our words fall on deaf ears. Both Louie and Peter jump in…