ANOTHER SIMON SATURDAY
*Another Simon Saturday is written under the assumption that Jack Simon wasn’t killed until A.J. was approximately ten years old, as alluded to in the aired episode, Revolution Number 91/2, and based on a work of fan fiction entitled Journey Into The Past by Brenda A.
*This was the first fan fiction story I wrote, and was penned in 1992. It’s based on a challenge that appeared in the Simon and Simon letterzine, Brothers, Partners and Friends. The challenge was in regards to the small scar Gerald McRaney has beneath his left eye. We were asked to fictionalize that within the Simon and Simon world, and come up with a reason as to how Rick came by that scar.
Rolling thunder and the patter of a light rain falling against the bedroom windows woke Cecilia Simon on a Saturday morning in early November. She glanced at the alarm clock and saw it was four a.m. Jack's side of the bed was empty. He had left early Thursday morning on an extended weekend camping trip. This annual excursion included Jack's oldest brother, Will, their brother-in-law Jim, and three other family friends. It involved four days of fishing, hiking, and card playing. It was Cecilia's opinion that it simply provided the opportunity for six grown men to spend a few days acting like little boys.
Cecilia certainly didn't begrudge Jack his "boys’ club" weekend, as she teasingly referred to it. In fact, she felt he deserved a few days away. Jack put in long hours both at work and at home, and despite possessing a temper that often got the best of him, he was a loving, attentive husband and father. If Jack's free time wasn't being spent doing household chores and maintenance, then he could be found helping Rick scrounge junkyards for old bicycle parts, or seen in the backyard tossing a baseball with A.J.
As she began drifting back towards sleep, Cecilia wondered if the boys’ club members were staying dry, then scolded herself for her daydreaming.
I'd better quit worrying about grown men who can take care of themselves, and get a few more hours of sleep. Saturday or not, rain or shine, A.J. will be in here at six-thirty, ready to start the day.
Two and a half hours later, Cecilia was awakened by a repetitive ‘squeak,’ ‘squeak,’ ‘squeak,’ of mattress springs as a six-year-old bounced on her queen-sized bed. Normally on Saturday mornings, this was Jack and A.J.’s time to spend roughhousing. Until recently, Rick had been a participant in this mayhem as well, but had gone into retirement while telling his father, "I'm gettin' too old for that kinda stuff."
In light of that explanation, Jack extracted a promise from A.J. that he wouldn't have any more birthdays since, "Dad doesn't know what he'll do when there are no more little boys to wrestle with.”
Cecilia looked at the clock and saw it was six-forty.
"You're getting lazy in your old age, Andrew. You're ten minutes later than usual."
A.J. giggled as she sat up, poked him in the ribs, and gave him a kiss.
“How'd you sleep? Did you hear the thunder?"
A.J. shook his head as he made his final bounce. He landed on his bottom in the center of the big bed.
"No, I slept good, even without Dad here to protect us. I guess because I knew Rick was here, and he can protect us almost as good as Dad."
Cecilia crossed her arms over her chest in mock indignation. "So you don't think I can protect you? And what in the world do you think you need to be protected from anyway?"
A.J. sighed as he got on his hands and knees and crawled over the covers. He knelt beside his mother, looking her in the eyes.
"Mom, it's cruel world out there, and there's lots of things like burglars, and zombies, and werewolves, and Martians, who would come after a pretty lady or a little kid, and take them away to where no one would ever see them again. Rick says that’s why we need him and Dad."
"Andrew, I think you have quite an imagination, and you believe everything your big brother tells you, even when he's pulling your leg."
“Yes,” Cecilia smiled. “I do. So now that you and I have survived the long night without being kidnapped by zombies, are you ready for breakfast?"
A.J. scrambled to his feet, using the mattress as a trampoline again. "Yes, yes, yes!" he shouted, then bounced off the bed and landed on the floor.
“Andrew, I've told you more than once not to do that. You could break a foot or leg pulling that stunt. Don’t do it again, or you won't be allowed in here any more on Saturday mornings, do you understand?"
At A.J.’s nod, Cecilia asked, "I assume Rick's still sleeping?"
"All right, then quietly get dressed, wash your hands, and comb your hair while I do the same. Then I'll get breakfast started while you take Barney outside. We'll let Rick sleep until breakfast is ready, how's that sound?"
"Sounds good, Mom!” A.J. ran for the hallway. “Rick needs his sleep. He's probably tired from ‘tecting us last night."
Cecilia shook her head and smiled as her youngest disappeared from view. Twenty minutes later, Cecilia was in the kitchen with the sounds of big band music coming softly from the radio as A.J. entered dressed for play. He headed for the basement door to let the boys’ beagle, Barney, come upstairs.
“A.J., it's still drizzling out, and it's chilly. You're going to need more than a short sleeve shirt today. Go upstairs and get a long sleeve one, or put a sweatshirt on over that shirt. You have one hanging in the coat closet. You can put it on when you get your jacket."
"I don't need a jacket, too, if I put on a sweatshirt, do I?"
"Yes, you do. You need to have a hood on if you're going to be outside. Now put out your sweatshirt and a jacket please."
Cecilia heard grumbling from within the kitchen coat closet, but chose to ignore it, just as she ignored much of the male grumbling that when on in her home from time to time.
Holding his jacket and sweatshirt in one hand, A.J. opened the basement door. As usual, Barney was waiting at the top of the stairs for him. The two-year-old brown and white spotted beagle danced on his hind legs and greeted his family with kisses and barks. He tugged on the hem of A.J.'s jacket and playfully growled as the boy tried to get dressed. Intervention by Cecilia finally got this task accomplished. She attached the dog’s leash to his collar, then handed the looped end to A.J. Barney followed the boy out the side kitchen door.
"Get that hood on, young man!” Cecilia ordered. “And don't think I won't know if you take it off."
The woman walked to the patio doors to make sure A.J. had done as he had been told. He didn't look pleased, but the hood was on.
Oh well, I may not be voted Mother of the Year by A.J., but I'll have reward enough if I can get him through this winter without an ear infection or strep throat.
A damp little boy and dog entered the kitchen ten minutes later to the smell of pancakes and bacon. Cecilia handed A.J. a towel.
"Wipe Barney’s feet off. I don't want him on the carpeting all wet like that."
"Okay." As A.J. proceeded to clean each of the squirming dog’s paws, he commented, "Maybe I can teach Barney to wipe his feet off on the rug by the door so I don't have to do this on rainy days any more."
“You can try,” Cecilia said, while stacking pancakes on a platter, “but don't count on it. I've been attempting to teach Rick that trick for eleven years now, and I haven't been successful yet. And speaking of Rick, go wake him up and tell him breakfast is ready.”
As A.J. headed toward the living room with Barney at his heels, Cecilia called, "Whoops! You forgot to take off your jacket off. Give it to me so I can hang it back up. That way it will be dry when you want to go out again."
A.J. skipped back in the kitchen. "Jacket on, jacket off, jacket on, jacket off. I sure wish you'd make up your mind."
As A.J. turned away, his mother playfully swatted his bottom. "Don't get smart with me, Andrew Jackson. Now go get your brother." Raising her voice so it would carry around the corner where her son had disappeared, she said, “And tell him no goofing off! It’s time to start the day.”
Rick had been dozing on and off since he’d heard A.J. get up that morning.
"Rick! Hey Rick! It's time to get up, breakfast is ready."
Rick pretended to be asleep with the hope that A.J. would give up his efforts and return downstairs. Rick knew this ploy would buy him only a few extra minutes of peace. If A.J. couldn't rouse him, their mother would appear in the doorway demanding he get up. There was no way Rick could ignore her like he could his younger brother. Or least no way he could ignore her if he didn’t want to spend his Saturday confined to the house.
The room had grown quiet once again, and Rick had just convinced himself he would soon be hearing his mother’s voice, when that notion was erased from his mind.
A.J. made running leap and landed on top of Rick with a rebel yell.
"Wake up, Rick!” A.J. tickled his brother’s ribs. “Wake Up!"
Between is laughter, Rick threatened, "You better knock it off if you know what's good for you, squirt."
The tickling didn’t cease, but instead, increased.
"I mean it, A.J.! Stop it, or you'll pay the price."
Rick arched his back and rolled away from his sibling. He reached up and grasped A.J.'s wrists, putting an end to his little brother's fun. With A.J. still sitting on his stomach giggling, Rick tried to look as stern as possible.
"That's a horrible way to wake up. You're gonna pay for this, A.J."
"No, I'm not. Now get up, Rick! Mom says breakfast is ready."
A.J. started climbing off his brother, only to have Rick flip him on his back. The older boy pinned the younger to the bed and another round of tickling started. Barney barked and started pulling on the bed covers with his teeth.
“I'll teach you to tickle me, short legs. You better remember who the big brother is around here."
"Rick, stop! Stop!" A.J. begged with his legs and arms flailing. “Mom said no goofing around. Stop, Rick!"
With a thorough tousling of the blond hair, Rick finally let A.J. go. He tore out of the bedroom calling over his shoulder, "I'll race ya' down!" A.J. pushed himself off Rick's bed and sprinted out of the doorway after him. Rick bounded into the kitchen with A.J. and Barney at his heels.
"Good morning, sweetheart." Cecilia ruffled Rick's dark hair as the boys took their seats and she began dishing up breakfast. “It sounded like World War III had broken out up there. What was going on?”
“Nothing,” Rick shrugged.
“Nothing,” A.J. echoed.
Cecilia didn’t question the boys further about the roughhousing she had heard. They were fiercely loyal to one another, and would rarely complain or grouse over the typical day-to-day happenings that came with being siblings.
The family watched the rain splash against the patio doors while they ate.
“Boy, I bet Dad’s gettin’ wet,” Rick said, as he speared another mouthful of pancakes. “Wish I could have gone with him.”
“Someday you’ll be able to,” Cecilia assured.
“When? And don’t say when I’m older.”
The woman smiled. “What if that’s the answer.”
“Then I don’t wanna hear it, ‘cause I think I’m old enough now.”
“Yeah,” A.J. agreed. “And I’m old enough, too.”
“You’re both getting older faster than I want to acknowledge,” Cecilia said,” but you’re not quite old enough to go on a camping trip for grown men only. The time will come soon enough.”
“I don’t think so, ‘cause I’ve only been in the sixth grade for two months and it seems like a hundred years.”
Cecilia laughed as she stood. “I’m sure it seems like that to your teacher, as well.”
The boys began clearing the table, a job that was theirs after every meal. When the last dish had been brought to Cecilia she issued the same instructions she did every Saturday morning.
"Go upstairs and brush your teeth, then get your beds made. Rick, clean out the junk from under your bed that you've been putting there all week you think I don't know about.
“A.J., please bring me down the dirty clothes in the hamper, and then feed Barney and give him fresh water. Rick, all the garbage cans in the house need to be emptied. You can do that while your brother’s taking care of the dog."
"Jeez, Mom, is there anything else after that, or are the slaves free?"
"Don’t tempt me, young man. I'm sure I can think of plenty more to keep you busy all day if I'm put in the right mood."
Grabbing the front of his brother’s sweatshirt, Rick pulled A.J. toward the doorway. "Come on, we better get while the getting’s good."
"You boys check with me before you disappear anywhere! And comb your hair again, A.J. I don't know what your brother did to you, but you look like you've been caught in a tornado."
"It was Rick Simon's champion wrestling hold, Mom!" her eldest called back.
Cecilia shook her head at the boyish nonsense as she began doing the dishes.
While A.J. brushed his teeth, Rick changed from his pajamas into blue jeans and a flannel shirt. The two boys made their beds, then A.J. worked diligently at picking up the toys that were scattered around the room. While the six-year-old was doing that, Rick poked his nose under his bed. He pulled out a hot rod magazine, sat on the edge of his bed and leafed through it. The blond boy sidled up to his big brother.
"What are you gonna do today?"
Rick glanced up from his magazine. "I don't know. Carlos is grounded this weekend, and Mike is away at band camp, and I guess if it keeps raining like this nobody will be at the park playing football. What about you? You headin' over to Danny's after your work is done?"
A.J. plopped down on his stomach on Rick’s bed and propped his chin up in his hands. "Danny’s not home. His mom and dad had to go somewhere, so Danny and his sisters are staying at their grandma’s.”
"Oh," replied Rick. "Well, what about the Taylor twins?"
"They've got the measles. Their Mom man says they're comical."
"Comical? You mean communicable?"
"Yeah, something like that. Anyway, there’s no one to play with.” A.J. thought a moment, and then brightened. “Hey, Rick! “If you're not gonna be with the big guys today, let's play together, huh?"
"I'm gettin' kinda old to play," replied Rick with all the self-importance he could muster.
"Well, then,” A.J. said as he sat up, "let's have an adventure. Yeah, it's a good day for an adventure, Rick."
"A.J.," Rick sighed, "you can't plan an adventure. Adventures just happen."
"No, you're wrong. Remember when Mom and Dad were at the Kremlins’ that Sunday a few weeks ago and left you in charge? I said, "Let's have popcorn," and you said "Okay" and then when the popcorn started popping you said, "Hey, A.J., let's pop the popcorn with the lid off!" and there was popcorn all over the kitchen, and it was real neat, and that was an adventure, Rick, see?"
"Yeah, and I also remember I got in a lotta trouble for that adventure, too."
“Oh. Yeah. I forgot about that.” The six-year-old craned to see over his brother’s shoulder. “What are you looking at?"
Rick held the magazine up so A.J. could see the photograph the older boy has been admiring.
“Look at this guy, A.J. He jumps over cars with his motorcycle. That’s so cool. There's twelve cars here he's jumping over."
"How does he do that?"
"Well, he gets his motorcycle goin’ real fast, and then takes it up that ramp, and then jumps over the cars."
"That's neat,” A.J. agreed, as he climbed off the bed, “but please can we do something together today?"
With one final glance at his magazine, Rick also got off the bed. He rolled the magazine up and put it in his back pocket.
"Okay, kid, I’ve got an idea of something just you and me can do, but we’d better get our work done first. Since you're almost done with your chores, how about helping me with mine? That way I'll be done sooner."
"Sure, I'll help you. After all, it's only fair. Ever since you explained to me about how you being five years older means you had to do twice as much work until I came along, it only seems right that I should help you."
Rick tousled A.J.'s hair. "You're a good brother, A.J."
Boy, this kid has got a lot to learn, Rick thought, while watching A.J. get down on his hands and knees in order to get the toys, dirty clothes, and comic books from beneath Rick’s bed. It's a good thing A.J.'s got me around to teach him how to handle himself, or someone would take advantage of him.
When their assigned tasks were completed, Rick and A.J. stood at the top of the basement stairs. Rick called down to their mother, who was folding laundry, "Mom, we've finished our work! Me and A.J. are gonna be out in the garage."
Cecilia came to the bottom of the stairway and looked up at her boys. "It's A.J. and I, Rick, not me and A.J. What are you going to do out there?"
"I don't know," shrugged Rick. "Maybe build something with the scrap lumber Dad has."
"All right, but be careful. Don't use any power tools, and remember to put things back where you found them."
“I know the rules,” Rick assured.
"All right then. Put jackets on, both of you. And, Rick, keep an eye on your brother. Don't let him get hurt using any tools."
"I know, Mom!” Rick called from the coat closet. “I always watch him."
Above this conversation Cecilia could hear A.J. calling for Barney.
"A.J. leave Barney in the house, please! He doesn't need to go out now, and it's too wet for him to be roaming in the yard."
Cecilia heard a faint, "Okay, Mom!" as the back door shut. Barney soon appeared in the basement beside Cecilia. He looked up at her as if to say, "The boys are gone. Now what am I suppose to do?"
The woman reached down and patted the little dog’s head. “The boys will be back in soon enough. Lunch is only a couple of hours away.”
Cecilia resumed her work, knowing the two hours of peace and quiet she’d now have would go by fast.
As the boys entered the garage, A.J. asked, "What are we gonna do out here?"
"You start looking through Dad's scrap pile. Look for some thick boards while I get those two sheets of warped plywood from out back that Dad was gonna burn."
"Okay, but what are we gonna do?"
"Remember that picture we looked at in my hot rod magazine? The one with the guy jumping over the cars on his motorcycle?"
"Well, I think we can build a ramp like his and use it for something."
"Use it for what?"
"I'm not sure yet, just look for those boards. okay? Jeez, you ask too many questions, squirt."
Rick turned and disappeared out the door. A.J. rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh as he poked through his father's scrap lumber in search of the requested material.
An hour and a half later, a ramp near completion stood in the middle of the garage floor. Rick had done the actual construction, while A.J. had been assigned various tasks by his ‘foreman’ such as getting more nails, lumber, and holding pieces of wood together while Rick pounded, sawed, and drilled.
A.J. returned the drill to his father’s workbench for Rick. He still wasn't sure what they were going to do with the ramp. They didn't own a motorcycle, and even if they did, A.J. doubted that their mother would let them jump over cars with it.
"A.J.,” Rick summoned, “I need you to hold something for me."
"Hold these two boards together like I've got them. They keep moving when I try to do it myself."
The boy skipped to the center of the garage floor and did as his brother requested.
Rick pounded in several nails, when the force of his hammer caused the boards to slip in A.J.'s grasp. Rick heard a loud "Ouch!" above the pounding. He looked up to see A.J. dancing from foot to foot while cradling his left hand in his right.
"What's the matter? Did I hit you with the hammer?"
"N...no," the boy stammer while trying hard not to cry. "I got a sliver in my thumb. It really hurts, too."
"Here, let me see." Rick reached for his brother's hand and held it still. He peered at the small appendage. "You don't just have one sliver, kid. I see three. I'm really sorry about this."
"It's okay," A.J. sniffled, as a tear ran down either side of his face. “You didn’t do it on purpose.”
Rick pulled A.J.'s head to his chest and patted his back.
"Come on, let's go in the house and take care of those. We've got to get ‘em out of there."
Rick laid a hand on A.J.’s back and ushered him for the side door that entered into the kitchen.
Cecilia was upstairs dusting the master bedroom when she heard the back door slam.
"Mom! Hey, Mom!"
"Just a minute, Richard, and I'll be down! Let me finish my work up here, and then I'll get lunch ready."
"We're not in for lunch!” Rick’s voice grew closer as he climbed the stairs with A.J. at his side. “A.J.'s got some slivers in his thumb."
Cecilia laid her dust rag aside and headed for the bathroom down the hall. She found Rick holding A.J.'s thumb under warm water, and A.J. with the markings of dried tears streaked on his dusty face. She rested a hand upon his head.
“How'd you manage to do this, sweetheart?"
"I was holding some boards for Rick and they slipped." A.J. sniffled, then added, "But it wasn't Rick's fault. He was being careful. It was an accident."
Cecilia smiled at A.J. and his emphatic defense of his big brother. "I know it was an accident. Now let's get the tweezers and get these out. They don't look like they’re in too deep. Rick would you get a clean hand towel from the linen closet along with the Band-Aids, please?"
Rick did as his mother requested, while Cecilia washed both of A.J.'s hands with soap and water. After drying his hands with the towel Rick gave her, she sat A.J. down on the closed toilet lid and knelt in front of him. Holding the tweezers she had retrieved from the medicine cabinet, Cecilia gently extracted the offending slivers.
Rick knelt beside A.J. and tried to distract him with small talk while their mother rendered the necessary medical attention.
Within a minute’s time the slivers were out. Amidst some additional tears and three loud protests, a few dabs of iodine were applied to the wounds. This procedure was accompanied by several "Ouches!" supplied by the wounded member of the Simon family, along with a sympathetic “Ouch” given by Rick, and a high pitched howl thrown in by Barney, who had followed his family into the bathroom. This last event caused Cecilia and the boys to laugh, and helped dry the remaining tears.
Cecilia finished her first-aid procedures by placing a Band-Aid on the thumb, and using the washrag to clean A.J.'s face. Kissing the top of his head, Cecilia said, "There you go, Andrew, as good as new. Now, how about some lunch?"
At Rick's enthusiastic, "Yeah, we're starvin’," Cecilia headed out of the bathroom door with final instructions to her oldest son.
"Wash your hands and face too, Rick. You boys look like you've been rolling in dirt. And don't wad the towel and washcloth up in a ball when you're done. Hang them back up on the towel bar."
A.J. stayed in the bathroom while his brother washed. “How does she always know, Rick?"
"How does who always know what?" Rick asked, while hanging the towel and washcloth up like his mother had instructed.
"How does Mom always know you're gonna leave the towel and washrag thrown on the sink before you do it?"
"I don't know. I guess it's that thing she has that Dad calls women’s intuition. Whatever that is."
"Oh," A.J. with a shrug of his shoulders. And with that final bit of conversation regarding the mysterious ways of women, the Simon brothers headed to the kitchen.
Rick and A.J. ate peanut butter sandwiches and vegetable soup, which was the exact meal the boys deemed appropriate for a chilly, fall day.
Cecilia slowly ate at her own bowl of soup, enjoying the chance to sit down after her morning of housework. "What are you boys going to do this afternoon?"
"I don't know," shrugged Rick. “I guess we'll go back out to the garage. Our ramp is almost finished.”
"What are you building a ramp for?"
"Just for something to do."
"Are you going back outside with your brother, A.J., or are you getting bored being his helper?"
Cecilia wasn't surprised at her youngest son’s answer.
"No, I'm not bored. I wanna go back out with Rick. The slivers were just an accident."
"I know that," Cecilia reaffirmed. "I just thought if you wanted to stay inside, that you and I could play a game, or color in one of your coloring books."
"No,” A.J. said as he and Rick cleared the table of their dirty dishes. “I’ll go back out with Rick.”
Not for the first time, Cecilia was proud of her two boys and the close relationship they shared. Yes, they did their share of bickering and teasing, and occasionally that bickering and teasing got out of hand and escalated to the point that adult intervention was necessary. But for the most part, Rick and A.J., with guidance from their parents, were learning how to work out their own problems.
As Cecilia opened a book she had setting next to her, she saw Rick disappearing around the corner.
"Where's Rick going? I thought you boys were headed outside."
"We are." A.J. ran to the coat closet for his jacket. "He went upstairs to get his hot rod magazine. There's a picture in it he wants to look at."
Had Cecilia not been distracted at that moment by Barney whining to go outside, and with giving A.J. instructions to keep his jacket on, and then the phone ringing, she might have investigated as to why Rick reappeared with his magazine rolled up in his back pocket, and why is was necessary for that magazine to go outside with him. Cecilia's attention was elsewhere, however, so with final instructions to her boys of, "Don’t wander off without telling me," she answered the phone to the sound of the kitchen door slamming.
Once in the garage, Rick picked up his hammer and put the finishing touches on his ramp. A.J. stood beside Rick with his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets, watching the activity and again wondering what they were going to do with this ramp. He contemplated questioning Rick once again about this, but kept quiet and let Rick work. Although Rick generally possessed a fair amount of patience when dealing with his little brother, A.J. knew Rick found it annoying to be continuously questioned when he was working on a project. So, in deference to this, A.J. kept his peace.
Ten more minutes passed. A.J. could now see that if this ramp had a purpose, it would soon be revealed. Rick gathered the tools he’d been using and returned them to his father's workbench.
Rick turned from the workbench. "Pretty good lookin' ramp, don't ya' think, A.J.?"
"Yeah, it looks great," A.J. nodded. He smiled at Rick as his brother came up behind him and put an arm around A.J.'s shoulders.
The boys looked over their craftsmanship for a few moments while Barney scampered in and out of the garage.
"Yep,” Rick said while surveying the ramp with a critical eye, “this is one terrific ramp built by Simon and Simon. Now all we gotta do is see if it works."
"How are we gonna do that? We don't have a motorcycle like the one in your picture, and even if we did, Mom and Dad would kill us if we jumped it over the car."
Rick laughed. "A.J., you're somethin’ else sometimes, you know that? I know we don't have a motorcycle. Besides, even if I somehow got a hold of one, I’m not dumb enough to jump it over Dad's car."
"You're not dumb, Rick!" A.J. declared. "Mom says you just do things without thinking. That's not the same as being dumb."
Rick put his brother in a loose headlock and playfully wrestled with him. "Yeah, well some people think I do some pretty dumb things, but you're always in my corner, aren't you, kiddo?"
"You bet." A.J. squirmed out of Rick's loose grasp. "Now tell me what we're gonna do with our ramp."
"Well, I've been thinkin’ that we could get a few garbage cans and line 'em up on their sides, and then I could ride my bike up the ramp and jump over them."
A.J.' s eyes grew rounder and rounder as he listened to his brother, and began shaking his head. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Rick. You could get hurt, and you just got your bike for Christmas last year. If something happens to it, Mom and Dad will sure be mad at you."
"Don't ya' think I know that? Jeez, give me a little credit here. I'm not gonna use my new bike. I'll use the one Dad and I built out of those old parts we got at the junkyard. The frame's a lot heavier than my new bike, and besides, I paid for all those parts with my all allowance, so if something gets broken it won't be a big deal to Mom and Dad."
"I don't know, Rick. Are you sure Mom and Dad won't care?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Just look at this picture, this is so neat." Rick pulled his magazine out of his back pocket and the boys studied it together. "I know I can do this. All I've got to do is get goin’ fast enough, and then get the front wheel up in the air once I take off the ramp like the picture shows."
"But look,” A.J. pointed at the picture. “He's gonna land on another ramp after he jumps over those cars, and we don't have another ramp."
"I know. I already thought of that. We don't have enough plywood to build another ramp, but I don't think we'll need one. I won't be goin’ nearly as high or as fast as this guy, so one ramp should be okay. Don't worry, A.J. This will be great."
"Okay, if you say so. I guess it’ll be fun, but I get a turn too."
At the negative look on Rick's face, A.J. pleaded, "It's only fair, Rick. I helped build the ramp, too. I even got three slivers, and you said we built it - Simon and Simon - that's what you said!"
Rick could tell he would have to do some persuasive talking to get this idea out of his brother's head. He didn’t blame A.J. for wanting to try the ramp, too, and he knew how much the kid hated being told he was too little to do some of the things Rick did. But the fact of the matter was, A.J. was too young and too small in stature to try jumping his bike off the ramp.
Rick crouched down in front of A.J. "Look, A.J., you aren't gonna be able to try this." A.J. started to protest again, so Rick hurried on. "You just said yourself that Mom and Dad would kill me if I used my new bike for this. Well, you got your bike new last Christmas, too, so you know they wouldn't want you using it for something like this either. I'd let you use the old one I built, but it's too big for you. You can't even reach the pedals."
“It's not fair! I don't just want to watch you, Rick. I want to jump, too. I hate always being the youngest!"
"Well, there's nothing you can do about bein’ the youngest, so there's no use getting’ upset over it. This is just something you can't do. You're my little brother, and I watch out for you. Don't you think I'd feel awful if I let you do something I knew you shouldn't be doing and you got hurt?"
At A.J.'s soft, "Yes, I guess so," Rick continued. "I've got some other ideas of important things you can do to help me get ready for the jump. Stuff that's just as important as the jump itself."
"Like what?" A.J. questioned, his eyes brightening a little.
Seeing they were past the crisis, Rick replied, "I'll tell you in a little while. It's quit raining, so let's get the ramp out on the sidewalk before it starts up again. Then I’ll have to find some garbage cans."
As the boys each took a corner of the ramp and starting dragging the structure down the driveway, Rick was busy thinking of just what ‘important things’ he was going to come up with to keep his brother busy and satisfied.
Having placed their ramp on the sidewalk in front of their house, Rick and A.J. were now lining six garbage cans up on their sides in front of it. Fortunately, garbage pickup had been the previous day, so several neighbors still had their empty cans sitting out by the curb. The boys used the two their own parents had, and Rick then sent A.J. down the block to Danny’s home to get one. Rick took the two from the neighbor next door, Mrs. Witt, whom he had seen leave in her car that morning. The brothers crossed the street together to walk down several houses to a favorite neighbor of theirs, Mr. Robers, to retrieve the can Rick could see still sitting out.
The garbage cans were lined up on their sides and adjusted several times by the oldest Simon until he pronounced them perfect. Rick headed back to the garage, A.J. and Barney following.
"I'm gonna get my bike, A.J. You get yours, too."
"Are you gonna let me jump?"
"No. We already talked about that."
"Look, you need your bike for one of those important things I was tellin’ you about."
“What am I gonna do?"
"I need you to do two important things for me actually. The first thing is to pace me."
"Pace you?” A.J. asked, as the boys wheeled their bikes out of the garage. “What’s that?"
"I’m gonna make some practice runs riding my bike real fast up and down the street, so I’m gonna need you to ride beside me as fast as you can so I don't slow down. That'll help me get the speed I need for my jump. Then when I’m ready to jump I'll need an official starter - someone to say ‘ready,’ ‘set,’ ‘go.’ That will be you."
A.J. smiled up at Rick. "Yeah, those are important things. I can do them.”
“I know you can.” Rick climbed on his bike as they reached the desolate street. “Now come on and pace me."
A.J. struggled to straddle his short legs over the bar of his bike, but once he was on he pedaled after his brother. Barney raced along on the sidewalk, not sure what his playmates were up to, but deciding this new game looked fun.
The boys rode up and down their street. Had anybody been watching them they would have laughed at the sight of little A.J. pedaling as fast as his legs could go with Rick riding beside him, long legs turning his own bike pedals at a more leisurely pace. A.J. looked over his right shoulder and shouted, "Come on, Rick! Faster! You gotta go faster. You'll never be ready if you keep riding that bike like a grandma!"
Rick finally understood a comment he'd heard his father make many times in regards to A.J. No matter what Andrew is doing, he puts his heart and soul into it and always does the very best he can. Watching his little brother pedal his bike furiously down the street, Rick could now see what his Dad meant by that.
A.J. looked back again to offer Rick encouragement and goad him into going faster. Rick couldn't help but smile and pick up his speed.
A few minutes later the boys came upon their own driveway again. A.J. pulled over and stopped his bike. His face was red and he panted hard with exertion. "Tha...that's enough, Rick. We. . .we...we don't want to wear...wear you out before your jump."
Rick stopped beside A.J., barely needing to draw in a breath. "Yeah, you're right. I've had enough pacing. I'm ready for the jump now."
"Okay, but wait a minute. I'll be right back." A.J. laid his bike in the front lawn and ran up the driveway toward the garage. Barney watched him go, but was doing too much panting of his own to trail the boy.
Rick once again inspected the placement of the garbage cans and ramp while he awaited his brother’s return.
A.J. came back carrying a piece of wood the size and width of a ruler. A large red cloth was tied to one end of it.
"What's that for?"
"It's a Starting Flag. Like what we saw at the races last summer with Dad. This way when I say ‘ready,’ ‘set,’ ‘go’ - on the word ‘go’ I'll bring the flag down and wave it like this."
A.J. demonstrated the movement for Rick.
"Only I guess it should be a white flag, but this red blanket scrap was the closest thing I could find in the rag box. Well, I did find an old pair of your underwear Mom put out there, and they're white, but I didn't think you'd want me to use those."
"Good thinkin’, kid. I don't think I want you wavin’ my underwear all over the neighborhood. Besides, it doesn’t matter what color the flag is. We can pretend it’s white.”
Rick pushed his bike down the sidewalk toward the head of the ramp. "I'm gonna take a few practice rides up the ramp, but I won't try the jump yet. I'll let you know when I'm ready."
Rick rode up and down the ramp a few times, getting a feel for what he was about to do. He turned around and raced up and down the sidewalk three times, then applied the brakes and stopped by his sibling and their dog.
"You stand right here, A.J." Rick motioned for A.J. to stand at the side the ramp, well off the sidewalk on the front lawn. "I'm gonna ride my bike down the sidewalk a ways so I'll be able to get up enough speed. When I get down there, I'll wave to you, and you yell for me to start."
"Okay.” A.J. grabbed Barney’s collar and urged the little dog to come with him. “I'd better practice with my flag. Don't go until I say so."
"I won't," Rick assured his brother as he rode his bike down the sidewalk and came to a stop. He waited a few moments, then yelled, "You ready, A.J.?"
"Okay, little brother, give me the start signal."
A.J. took his role as Official Starter seriously.
"Today we have an exciting event for you! Rick Simon, the daredevil bike jumper, will jump six garbage cans with the help of a ramp made by Simon and Simon right here in San Diego! Rick has jumped his bike lots of times, but this will be the first try ever by anyone to jump so many garbage cans! Are you ready, Rick?"
"Yeah, A.J., I'm ready."
"I'm not A.J.! I'm the Official Starter."
"Oh, sorry! Yeah, Mr. Official Starter, I'm ready!"
Pacified, A.J. raised his right hand so his starting flag was straight up in the air.
On the word ‘go’ A.J. brought his arm down and waved the flag with all his might.
Rick’s attention was focused on the ramp ahead of him. His legs rotated in furious motion as his bike flew down the sidewalk and up the ramp amid A.J.' s cheers and shouts.
For just a few moments Rick was airborne, loving the feeling of flying high above the ground. But within seconds that feeling left him, as Rick realized he wasn't going to clear the last garbage can.
It ended as quickly as it had started. The garbage can went in one direction, Rick's bike went in another direction, Rick tumbled head over heels in yet another direction, and poor little A.J., who had watched from the sidelines, didn’t know what direction to go in.
As soon as everything came to a halt, A.J. ran toward Rick calling his name. Rick unfolded himself with a groan as A.J. came up beside him, taking in the skinned hands and torn jean legs with skinned knees beneath them. A.J. finally looked at Rick's face and saw blood running down it.
"Rick, you're hurt!” A.J. tugged on his brother’s arm in an effort to get him to stand. “Come on, let's go in the house."
When Rick didn't move as quickly as A.J. desired, he said, "I'm gonna get Mom. I'll be right back!"
“No, I'm okay. I just had to get my breath."
"Rick, you're bleeding bad by your eye. You've gotta come in the house."
Rick gave into his brother's wishes and pushed himself to his feet. It was then that Rick decided A.J. didn't have such a bad idea after all. As A.J. held onto his arm and led him toward the house, Rick realized he really didn't feel okay. His hands and knees stung, the cut A.J. said was by his eye throbbed, and he could feel blood running down his face as the boys made their way to the back door with Barney leading the way.
Cecilia was sitting in Jack's study reading when the back door slammed and she heard A.J. call, "Mom! Mom, where are you?" She could tell by his tone, which bordered terror, that something was wrong. Setting her book aside, Cecilia hurried to the kitchen.
The boys were standing on the throw rug by the door. Rick’s clothes were torn and tattered, and he cupped his left hand high on his left cheek near his eye. Blood seeped under his hand, running down his face and onto his jacket. A.J., flushed and upset, clung to Rick's right elbow while Barney barked and ran circles around the kitchen table.
Cecilia hurried to the boys and guided Rick to the kitchen sink. She turned on the tap and instructed her youngest, "Run to the bathroom, A.J., and bring me some towels and a washcloth."
A.J. rushed off while Cecilia gently pulled Rick’s hand away from his face so she could take a better look at the wound.
"How did this happen, honey?"
"I was riding my bike and I fell." Rick replied, grateful that his mother’s further inquiries were cut short by the reappearance of A.J. with his arms full.
"I have the stuff you wanted, Mom."
Cecilia took a washcloth from A.J. and had him set the towels on the counter.
"Jeez, A.J., you brought enough towels to take care of an entire platoon wiped out in battle," Rick observed.
"You're bleeding a lot Rick. Mom might need these towels. I don't want you to bleed to death."
While tending Rick's cut, Cecilia assured her younger son, "Rick's not going to bleed to death. Now scoot a chair over here by the sink so Rick can sit down."
Cecilia did her best to clean the deep, tender cut by Rick's eye. With Barney calmer now and sitting quietly beside them, Cecilia had A.J. hold a hand towel folded double on the facial wound while she tended to Rick's scraped hands and knees.
Once these wounds were treated, Cecilia stood and observed the cut by Rick's eye was still bleeding steadily.
"Rick, we need to go to the Emergency Room and have this cut looked at. You might need stitches.”
Over Rick's protest of, "No, Mom, it'll be okay. I don't need any stitches!" Cecilia instructed A.J. to run up to her bedroom for her purse and the light blue jacket she had hanging in her closet.
"Yes, Rick, I think you do need stitches. Either way, we're going to have that looked at."
When his mother used this tone Rick knew further protest was of no use, so bit back the additional arguments he wanted to offer.
Cecilia called for Barney and led him to the basement stairs. “Go on, Barney. Go downstairs.”
Barney trotted down the stairs to his bed next to the dryer. Cecilia shut the basement door as A.J. ran into the room with his mother’s purse and jacket. She slipped into the jacket and put her purse strap over one shoulder, then picked up several towels from the counter.
"See, Rick, I guess it was pretty smart of me to bring all those towels," A.J. boasted as he again took his place at his brother's right elbow.
Cecilia ordered Rick to continue to hold the towel on the wound by his eye, as she and A.J. led him toward the door and out to the car.
Upon reaching the big Buick, Cecilia opened the back car door and spread a towel on the seat. "Get in and lie down on the towel, Rick."
"I don't need to lie down.” Rick said as he got into the car. “I feel fine.”
"Yes, you do need to lie down. If you sit up, the blood will keep running down your face and onto your jacket. I want you to lie down and let it run on the towel."
"Mom, it's hardly even bleeding."
"Richard Lawrence, I'm in no mood for a problem from you. Now do as I say."
"Okay, okay," Rick sighed, pacifying his mother by doing as she ordered.
"A.J., get in beside your brother and hold that towel by his eye for him."
"Okay." A.J. scrambled in beside his brother and took hold of Rick's towel.
Rick scowled and closed his eyes, disgusted over his mother treating him like a baby, and fed-up with A.J.’s fussing. It wasn't until he felt A.J.'s hand on the uninjured side of his face that he opened his eyes again.
A.J. bent low and whispered, “Are you okay?”
Rick smiled. "Yeah, kiddo, I'm fine. Don't worry."
Cecilia backed the car down the driveway, coming to a halt when she spotted two garbage cans in her path. She put the car in neutral and pressed on the emergency brake. She got out to move the cans, and saw the boys' ramp on the sidewalk with four other garbage cans lined up in front of it. To her right in the Simons' lawn was Rick's bike. The handlebars were twisted, the frame was bent, and the front tire was flat. Cecilia, using that women's intuition she possessed, concluded that there was more to Rick's story than, "I was riding my bike and fell."
Returning to the car, Cecilia released the brake and put the gearshift in reverse. She continued backing out to the street, deciding there would be plenty of time later to question the two innocent looking young men in the back seat about the afternoon's activities.
The Emergency Room of the local hospital wasn't too busy for a Saturday afternoon. After just a twenty-minute wait, during which time the injured Simon tried to convince his mother they could go home, a nurse led Rick into a trauma room.
The same nurse reappeared a few minutes later to let Cecilia know Rick would be getting stitches, and that the doctor would talk to her when he was done.
Cecilia passed the time waiting for Rick’s return by questioning A.J. regarding the afternoon’s happenings. A clear picture of the events unfolded as A.J. explained everything. He started with the photo the boys had observed in Rick's magazine that morning, and then told his mother about the ramp they had decided to build and what Rick has ultimately used it for. At the end of A.J.’s tale, Cecilia didn't anything other than, "We’ll talk more about this at home."
A.J. sat on the couch next to his mother and strained to see down the long corridor. "I wish I could be in there with Rick. I hope he's okay."
"Rick's fine, honey. He'll be out in a little while. Just be patient."
“I don’t wanna be a patient, ‘cause then I might get a shot. I just want Rick to come out.”
Cecilia fought not to laugh at her youngest son and the way he could turn a phrase.
“He’ll be out soon.” The woman reached for Golden Book from the pile sitting on the coffee table. “Here, I’ll read this to you while we wait.”
That gesture on Cecilia’s part seemed to take A.J.’s mind off his big brother. They had just finished the book, and A.J. was reaching for a second one, when a young sandy-haired doctor approached.
Cecilia stood, while A.J. pushed himself off the couch as well.
“Yes. I’m Cecilia Simon.”
The man held out his right hand. “I’m Doctor Sayer. I just finished treating Rick.”
“Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. The cut by his eye needed seven stitches. In addition to cleaning that and suturing it, I also cleaned the scrapes on his hands and knees. He had a few small stones in the flesh of one knee that I extracted with a pair of tweezers, but I don’t foresee him having any problems as long as the wounds are kept clean until they heal.”
“They will be,” Cecilia assured.
"Have Rick put ice on the area around his eye when you get home. It’s tender and swollen, and may swell more before the evening is over. He’ll probably end up with a black eye before all is said and done. You can also give Rick two children’s aspirin when you get home. Continue with the aspirin tomorrow if he complains of the wound giving him pain. You can bring him back next Friday. One of the doctors here can take the stitches out if you don’t have a family doctor."
“We do have our own family doctor - Bob Barton. He’s on a camping trip with my husband this weekend, or I would have phoned him when I realized Rick’s eye needed attention."
"That's fine, Mrs. Simon. Rick should be all right until you can make an appointment for him with Doctor Barton. In the meantime, if Rick has any major complaints tonight or tomorrow, bring him back here.”
"I will.” Cecilia extended her hand to the physician. “Thank you for your help."
"You’re welcome,” the doctor nodded as he shook Cecilia’s hand. “The nurse is bandaging Rick's wounds. He'll be out in a few minutes." The man turned to walk away, and then turned around to face Cecilia again. "Oh, by the way, there's no reason Rick can't go to school on Monday. He tried to get me to excuse him for the entire week."
"That doesn't surprise me, Doctor. That sounds just like my Rick.”
The doctor laughed, then proceeded down the corridor. Less than a minute after he left, the trauma room door swung open again, and Rick stepped out with a young blond nurse at his side.
A.J. ran to Rick and hugged his waist. "I'm glad you’re okay, Rick!”
Rick ruffled his brother’s hair. As A.J. pulled away from his sibling, the nurse said, “You must be the brave little brother who helped take care of Rick when he got hurt.”
At A.J.’s shy nod, the woman smiled at him and pulled a cherry sucker from her pocket.
“I have it on good authority that this is your favorite flavor. Today, not only are we giving all brave patients suckers, but we’re giving them to brave little brothers, as well.”
A.J. smiled while accepting the sucker and offered the woman a quiet, “Thank you,” which his mother echoed.
"You have a very interesting son in Rick, Mrs. Simon. I wish all my patients were as enjoyable to talk with, and behaved themselves as well, too, I might add.”
"Thank you," Cecilia smiled. "If there’s one thing our Rick is, it's interesting. I appreciate you taking such good care of him."
"My pleasure," the nurse smiled back before looking down at A.J. again. "Now, handsome, you see if you can't keep your big brother away from bicycles and garbage cans, okay? We don't want to see him here again."
"I will," A.J. vowed. "I knew it wasn't such a good idea in the first place.”
Rick made a face at A.J., while Cecilia and the nurse laughed.
"Bye, Rick. It was nice meeting you. Now you take care of yourself. No more daredevil stunts."
"All right, Miss Hoffmann. Thanks for takin' care of me."
Nurse Hoffmann entered another trauma room, while the Simon family headed toward the exit. Cecilia had one arm around Rick’s shoulder, while A.J. held his hand, as they stepped out into the gray drizzle and jogged for the Buick.
It was four-thirty when Cecilia pulled the car back in her driveway. After collecting the discarded towels from the back seat, she ushered the boys into house.
"Rick, go upstairs, change your clothes, and wash up. Then come back down here and we'll put ice on that cut."
"Why do I gotta change and wash up now?"
"Because, son, you're filthy, and I don't want you sitting on the couch in those dirty clothes. Make sure you wash a thoroughly as possible. With those bandages you have on, I'll let you skip a bath tonight if you come down clean."
Rick sighed and headed upstairs.
"A.J. follow your brother and bring me his dirty clothes so I can soak them. Make sure he washes like I told him to."
"All right," Cecilia's youngest replied as he ran around the corner and up the stairway. The woman knew she count on A.J. to nag Rick until the eleven year old had done what he’d been instructed to.
Cecilia put together an ice pack for Rick, and then rummaged around in the refrigerator for a package of hotdogs. Any thoughts of making a well-rounded meal were gone. She was tired, and decided something easy that both boys liked was the best plan for this evening.
A.J. returned with Rick's dirty clothes and followed his mother to the basement. She ran water in a laundry tub so she could soak Rick's bloodstained jacket.
"Rick's washing good, Mom," A.J. reported, while he crouched down to pet Barney. "I told him he'd better, ‘cause we’re in enough trouble all ready."
Cecilia hid her smile from her son. "That's very wise of you, A.J. When I'm done here, you and I are going to clean up the sidewalk. Where did all the garbage cans come from?”
"Two are ours, two are Mrs. Witt’s, one's Danny’s, and one belongs to Mr. Robers’."
“A.J., Danny's family isn't even home. Did you boys just go and take his parents’ garbage can?"
"Yeah. Mrs. Witt and Mr. and Mrs. Robers aren't home either. Their garbage cans were still sitting out, so we borrowed them."
"Son, you don't borrow someone else’s things without permission."
"But we were going to put them back when we were through, and anyway, no one was home to ask. Besides Danny's Mom and Dad won’t care, and Mr. Robers really likes me and Rick. He says we remind him of him and his brother when they were little boys."
"That's not the point, Andrew." Cecilia got down on her knees and faced A.J. "You never borrow property that belongs to someone else without asking first. What if Mr. Robers has come home, and needs to throw something away in his garbage can and it's not there? He'll spend time looking for it and wondering where it is. You don't like it when Rick takes something of yours without asking first, do you?"
A.J. shook his head no.
"See, that makes you angry, which is why you can’t do it to someone else. Do you understand why what you and Rick did was wrong?"
"Yes. From now on we'll ask before we borrow anything. I wouldn’t want Mr. Robers to be worried about his garbage can."
"Neither would I,” Cecilia smiled. She headed back up the basement stairs with A.J. and Barney following behind her. "Remember what I said, and after we're done returning everything you can remind Rick why we don't borrow property that doesn't belong to us without asking permission."
Cecilia could hear the T.V. as she reached the kitchen. She walked to the freezer and pulled out the ice pack she had made. She set it on the counter while she poured a glass of water and got two children’s aspirin from a bottle in the cupboard.
Walking into the living she found Rick lying on the couch with A.J. and Barney sitting on the floor beside him.
Cecilia held out the aspirin and water to him. "Rick, sit up and take these aspirin."
"Mom, I don't need those. I feel okay."
"Rick, don't argue with me. The doctor said to give these to you; now take them. Does your face hurt?"
"A little I guess," Rick admitted with a shrug while pushing himself to a seated position. He took the aspirin his mother handed him into one hand, while grasping the glass of water with the other.
Cecilia knew if Rick admitted this much, that he was hurting more than he was letting on. Her oldest kept so many of his feelings to himself. She ran her hand through his dark hair and took back the empty glass he handed her.
Cecilia held out the icepack. "Now lie here and keep this ice on your face. A.J. and I will be outside cleaning up the sidewalk and returning those garbage cans."
"I should be doing that, Mom,” Rick admitted, “not you."
"You're right, you should be. But right now I want you to rest with that icepack on your face. You can make it up to me tomorrow. After Sunday School, you and A.J. will dismantle that ramp and put all the lumber back where you got it from."
The look his mother gave him caused Rick's only reply to be a downhearted, "Yes, ma'am."
"Come on, A.J., get your jacket back on and let's get the sidewalk cleared up before dark." Cecilia turned from following A.J. into the kitchen. "Oh, and, Rick, when we come back in, A.J. is going to have a talk with you about borrowing other peoples possessions without asking." At Rick's puzzled look, Cecilia added, "Garbage cans, to name a few."
A heartfelt sigh was heard, followed by another, "Yes, ma'am."
Having returned the last of the garbage cans, Cecilia and A.J. were walking toward home from Mr. Robers in the fading November light. A.J. held his mother’s hand, while Barney scampered ahead of them.
Cecilia was grateful none of the neighbors whose possessions were borrowed had returned home yet. In reality, she knew A.J. was correct. Danny's parents and Mr. Robers wouldn't have minded that the boys had borrowed their cans, but Mrs. Witt was another story altogether. Cecilia was not in the mood to deal with her this evening. The woman seemed to take great pleasure in spending most of her time watching the neighborhood goings-on from her front window. Cecilia found that in itself to be annoying, but what she found infuriating was the fact that the woman was a horrid gossip who thrived on keeping track of Rick. Granted, Rick was a mischievous boy who was always up to something, but he never did anything malicious or destructive. Today’s event was just an example of a typical Rick Simon adventure. Had Mrs. Witt been witness to it, no doubt the stories would have been flying around the neighborhood about, "What that Rick Simon is up to now."
Looking down at the little man holding her hand, Cecilia's thoughts switched tracks. "A.J., if you knew what Rick was doing this afternoon wasn't good idea, like you said at the hospital, then why didn't you come and tell me what he was up to?"
A.J. shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I told Rick I thought it wasn't such a good idea at first, but then it seemed like a good idea later. Besides, Mom, if I would have come in and told you then I’d be a tattletale, and we're not allowed to tattletale."
"Sweetheart, there's a big difference between running to tell me every time Rick teases you, or won’t let you be the Roughrider, and coming to me or Dad when Rick is doing something that could cause him to hurt himself."
"But Rick didn't hurt himself on purpose, and he really did think it over. I wanted a turn, too, but he wouldn't let me have one. He said I was too little and would get hurt. He didn't use his new bike, either."
"That's good that Rick thought of those things, and I’m happy to know that Rick was concerned about your safety, but Rick needs to think more about his own safety from now on. Do you understand what I'm saying? If Rick wants to do something like this again, and won' t listen to you when you tell him not to, that you need to come to me or Dad."
"I don't know,” A.J. scrunched his face in thought, “it still sounds a lot like being a tattletale to me."
"I'll tell you what, you think about what I've said for a few days and I'll try to come up with some better examples. When Rick is at his Boy Scout meeting on Tuesday night, you and I and Dad will talk about this some more, okay?"
"Okay." A.J. let go of his mother's hand and ran on ahead of her as they neared their home.
By the time Cecilia caught up with him, A.J. was putting his bike in the garage. Cecilia picked up Rick's bike and pushed it in that direction, as well. The handlebars wouldn’t straighten, and the front wheel rubbed so badly against the fender that Cecilia could hardly push it.
"Rick's sure going to have a project fixing up this old bike again."
"Yeah, but he likes doing stuff like that. Can we eat now?”
"Just a minute. Let's pull the ramp up by the garage. You boys are going to take it apart tomorrow."
As mother and son reached the garage with the ramp in tow, Cecilia heard A.J. mutter, "Gee, all that work for nothing."
"I don't think it was for nothing. You had a fun day being with your big brother, didn't you?"
A.J. smiled. "Yeah, I did."
“Then that’s what counts, don’t you think?”
“Yep,” A.J. agreed, as he and Barney raced each other to the house. Cecilia followed at more leisurely pace, marveling at the boundless energy of one small six-year-old and one small dog.
Supper was served on paper plates so cleanup was easy. After the meal was over, Cecilia and the boys sat at the kitchen table eating popcorn while playing Old Maid. By seven-thirty A.J. was yawning, and by quarter to eight his mother could tell he was fighting to stay awake.
Laying down her cards, Cecilia announced, "I'm going upstairs and start your bath water, A.J. I'll call you when it's ready."
When no protest of, "Just a little while longer," was given, Cecilia knew just how tired her youngest son was.
As their mother headed upstairs, Rick went to the cabinet where the games were kept and got out a deck of regular playing cards. He and A.J. began playing War.
"How's your eye, Rick? Does it hurt bad?"
“I wish you and Mom would quit asking me that. I've told you about a hundred times that I'm fine."
"I'm sorry to keep bugging you. I'm just worried, that's all."
"I know that, A.J. I didn't mean to sound angry. It’s just that you don't have to worry. I'm fine. Really."
A.J. focused his attention on the table. "I'm sorry you got hurt. It's my fault."
"Whatta ya’ mean it's your fault? It's not your fault, A.J. It's nobodies fault. It was an accident."
"Yeah, but I didn't think it was such a good idea to begin with. I should have made you stop.” A.J. looked across the table at his sibling. “I should have watched out for you better. You always watch out for me, and I should watch out for you, too, ‘cause we're brothers."
"Look, A.J., you do watch out for me real good. Remember today how you told me I shouldn't use my new bike to make my jump?”
"Well, that was watching out for me. And then when we got home from the hospital you told me to make sure I washed up good, because we were in enough trouble already..."
"Well, that was watching out for me, too. And last week when I forgot my lunch at home and you gave me half of yours, that was watchin’ out for me. And that time you heard some of the kids saying that Billy Brummel was gonna wait for me in the park and beat me up when I met the guys to play football, you ran all over the neighborhood looking for me in order to tell me about it. So see, you watch out for me real good, just like a brother should.”
“I guess so,” A.J. agreed, though to Rick he didn’t sound too convinced.
"What happened today was just an accident. I really could have made that jump. I've been thinkin' a lot about it, and if I'd have just started with five garbage cans instead of six, everything would have been okay. None of it was your fault though, so just forget about it, all right?"
“If you say so."
"I do, and I’m the foreman and you’re the worker, so what I say goes, right?"
A.J. nodded again. "Right, boss.” With a grin he added, “Sometimes.”
At that moment Cecilia's voice drifted down from upstairs. "A.J., come on up and get your bath!"
A.J. got up and scampered out the doorway, only to return seconds later. "Hey, Rick, we really did have an adventure today, didn't we? Just like I said we could."
"Yeah,” Rick acknowledged. "We really did have an adventure just like you said, and it was a great one, too."
"All right! We had an adventure and I planned it."
Rick stared at the space where his brother had just been, not quite sure as to what had just transpired, and why it made A.J. so happy.
Oh well, as long as I live I'll never understand six-year-olds.
Cecilia returned to the kitchen a half hour later to find Rick still seated at the table and now playing solitaire.
"I thought you were coming right back so we could play cards while A.J. played in the tub."
"He was so tired I was afraid to leave him in the tub by himself. I didn't want to make another unscheduled trip to the hospital," Cecilia replied as she put the popcorn bowls in the sink. "I got him washed and into his pajamas, and tucked him right in bed. That little guy was so worn out he didn't even ask for a story." Cecilia sat back down at the table across from Rick. "By the time I had cleaned the bathtub and picked up the bathroom he was asleep."
"Yeah, he looked like he was trying pretty hard to say awake," Rick acknowledged. "I'll deal the cards. What do you wanna play, Mom?"
"I don't care, you decide. But just one game, and then you're going to bed, too."
"Mom, it's only eight-thirty!”
"And by the time we finish the game it will be at least nine, if not after. I'm tired, and whether you want to admit it or not, so are you. It's been a long day for all of us."
"But, Mom, nine's my bedtime on school nights, and this is Saturday!"
"Richard, that doesn't make any difference. It's been a full day. Now, are we going to play cards, or are you going to bed now?"
Rick understood his mother’s hidden meaning in that last sentence. He stifled any further arguments for an extended bedtime and dealt the cards.
A few minutes into a cutthroat game of gin rummy, Cecilia looked across the table and asked, "What do you think about what happened to you today, Rick?"
Not exactly sure where his mother was going with this topic, and not exactly sure he wanted to partake in it, caused Rick's answer to be evasive. "Whatta ya’ mean?"
"Do you think building the ramp and jumping your bike was a good idea, or a bad idea?"
"I guess I think building the ramp was a good idea. It was a fun thing to do, and I could have made the jump if I'd only used five garbage cans. Using six is what caused the problem. I should have started out with less, and worked my way up." Rick took the final plunge and asked his mother what he had put off since the accident happened. "I suppose I'm in a lot of trouble 'cause of this, aren't I?"
"No, Rick, you're not in a lot of trouble. I think the stitches you've got will help remind you that jumping your bike wasn't such a good idea after all. Having to take the ramp apart tomorrow afternoon is punishment enough, don't you think?"
"Yeah, me and A.J. put a lot of work into that ramp."
"Now, what I really wanted to talk to you about, is the fact that you need to think a little bit more before you act."
"But, Mom, I did think. I didn't use my new bike, and I wouldn't let A.J. do the jump because I knew he was too little and he'd get hurt for sure. I studied the picture I had for a long time. It looked so easy."
"All those are good points, sweetheart. I'm glad you thought enough not to use your new bike, and I'm very proud to have a son who cares so much about his little brother that he won't allow him to do something dangerous. But you need to think more about yourself, Rick, when you decide to do something like this, and ask yourself if you could get hurt doing it. Don't just do something because it looks like fun if it's going to endanger your health."
"You mean like that time last year when I jumped off the garage roof with the umbrella to see it would work like a parachute?"
"Yes, like last year when you did that and broke your ankle. That's exactly what I'm talking about. Do you understand?”
Rick nodded. "Yeah, I guess so. Sometimes I do some pretty stupid things. I can be pretty dumb when I wanna be."
"Rick, you're far from dumb. Yes, sometimes you do things on impulse, like you did today, but that doesn't mean you're dumb."
"Yeah, but I don't do good in school like A.J. does, and it seems like I'm always doing stuff that doesn’t turn out the way I planned it, like my ramp today."
This was the first time that Rick had ever compared himself to his brother – or at least by expressing his thoughts out loud, and never before had he made reference to things not turning out the way he planned for them to, while using a tone of voice that indicated to his mother he thought of himself as a failure. Now, something Cecilia had long suspected appeared true. That beneath all that bravado and independent spirit, was a young man who harbored some insecurities he kept well hidden.
"Honey, I've got some things to say to you, and I want you to listen real well, okay?"
"First of all, you're not dumb. You're a very intelligent young man. The reason you don't do well in school is because you don't apply yourself. You're always daydreaming about some adventure you've got planned, or you're thinking about what you're going to do after school, instead of listening to your teacher. That's why Dad and I get so upset at report card time when you show us C' s and D's that we know could be A's and B's. We know how smart you are, and that you could do so much better if you wanted to.
"But, we've talked about all this enough in the past, so what I want you to know tonight is that nobody in this family thinks Rick Simon is dumb, or does dumb things. Rick Simon is an intelligent boy who possesses a great sense of fun and love of his family. He's an imaginative and creative boy, who also cares very much about his younger brother and isn't afraid to show it. You don't know how proud that makes your Dad and me, Rick."
“Yes, it does.” Cecilia straightened the cards in her right hand. "Rick, all I'm asking is that from now on you think before you do things, and listen to your brother if he tells you what you want to do is dangerous. And remember that your Dad and I love both of our sons equally, no matter how different they are. It wouldn't be any fun to have two boys who were carbon copies of each other."
"Yeah,” Rick grinned, “you wouldn't want two like me, would you, Mom?"
Teasing him right back, Cecilia said, "Rick, no mother deserves two like you. Now remember what we've discussed this evening, all right?"
"All right," Rick promised, while continuing the card game. After some time of silent playing, Rick looked at Cecilia. "Mom, we don't have to tell Dad about today, do we?"
"Just how do you plan to hide it from him? You have seven stitches in your face, not to mention a black eye that's swollen half shut."
"I figured I'd just tell Dad you got mad and hauled off and smacked me a good one," Rick teased.
Cecilia shook her head at her dark haired. "Richard Simon, you're something else, you know that? Even if I thought your father would fall for that story, he'd never get a chance to hear it. I guarantee you that A.J. will be waiting for him by the front door tomorrow evening. Dad will know about the entire adventure before you and I even realize he's home."
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“I know I’m right. Regardless, we'll just tell your father the truth. He isn't going to be angry. He's going to be upset that you got hurt, but not angry. You and I have resolved everything else, so that's the way we'll leave it."
"Dad would have been angry if I'd have used my new bike, I'll bet."
Cecilia played her last card. "It's a good thing you're the smart guy you are, because that's one predicament I couldn't have gotten you out of. Now pick up these cards and then go to bed. I'll be up in a little while to say goodnight."
Rick did as his mother requested, while Cecilia put a leash on Barney and took him outside one final time.
After settling Barney in his bed in the basement, and washing the bowls and glasses in the sink from the evening’s snack, Cecilia shut off the downstairs lights. It was nine forty-five and the end of a long day as far as she was concerned.
After putting on her nightgown and robe, Cecilia walked down the hall to the boys’ room. The lamp was on that rested on the nightstand, and the boys were asleep in Rick's bed. A.J. was sprawled on his back with Rick on his side next to him. Even in sleep, A.J. still clutched a children’s storybook in one hand.
Cecilia wormed the book from A.J.’s grasp and laid it on the nightstand. She then bent down to pick up her youngest son and carry him back to his bed. Rick's voice stopped her.
"No, Mom, leave him there,” Rick said softly. “He's okay."
"Rick, A.J. has his own bed he should be sleeping in. Besides, he's such a wiggle worm that I'm afraid one of his hands or elbows will hit your face."
"It's okay. If he starts wiggling around too much I'll get up and move him back."
Cecilia moved around to the other side of the bed and sat beside Rick. "You're sure it's all right?"
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
"How did he end up in your bed anyway?"
"He woke up when I came in and asked me if I wanted him to read me a story. He's been feeling bad about everything that happened today, so I said sure. He came over here to share my bed while he read to me. He got through about three pages before he fell asleep again."
"Oh, so that explains ‘Looking For My Dog Charlie’” Cecilia said, referring to the book she had removed from A.J.'s hands. “Not exactly your taste in reading material anymore, is it, Rick?"
"No, but it's one of only about four he can read and that's his favorite, so that's the one he picked out. Actually," Rick grinned, "I was kinda glad he fell asleep before he could finish it. I've read it to him so many times that I know it by heart."
When Rick struggled to shift positions Cecilia said, "These twin beds aren't made for three, so I'd better say goodnight."
"Believe me, these beds aren't even made for two. I think A.J.'s got all the room here, and he's half my size."
"It certainly looks that way. Why don't you let me move him back for you."
"No, just leave him. It's been a bad afternoon for him too, so if this makes him happy, then it's okay."
Cecilia brushed Rick's bangs out of his eyes. “What has he said to you about it?”
"Not a lot, but you know how A.J. is. He just worries too much, that's all."
"Yes, I know how A.J. is. It hurts your brother to see someone he loves hurting."
"Yeah," Rick nodded his agreement. "He's a good kid."
Rick laid a hand on A.J.'s shoulder as his mother said, "Yes, he is." She bent down and kissed A.J. on the forehead, then did the same to Rick.
"I love you, Rick. Always remember that. No matter what, my love for both of you boys is always a given."
"I know, Mom," Rick acknowledged as his mother stood. She turned off the bedside lamp, meaning the room was now lit by just the shaft of light coming from the hallway.
When Cecilia reached the door she grabbed the knob. In the act of shutting it, she said, "Tomorrow after church you, A.J., and I can go out to lunch and then see a movie.
"That sounds great!" Rick whispered. "But you said A.J. and I had to tear apart our ramp."
"That can wait until next Saturday. That ramp's not going anywhere until then. I think we need to have some fun tomorrow."
Rick was surprised at this turn of events. Usually his mother didn’t veer from a course of punishment she’d set.
“Mom, I think today's been too much for you. You'd better get a goodnight’s sleep."
Cecilia laughed. "I think you're right, Rick. Goodnight."
She heard his soft "Goodnight," and an even softer, "I love you," as she closed the door.
While making her way back to the bedroom she and Jack shared, Cecilia's mind reviewed the events of the long day she had finally put to rest. So many times Cecilia was of the opinion that her boys were growing up too fast, and she wished she could keep them small forever. A day like this Saturday had been, though, made her look forward to the future.
As she climbed in her own bed, Cecilia thought, Someday Rick and A.J. will be grown men Jack and I will be proud of. They’ll work normal, every day jobs, living normal, every day lifestyles. The adventures will be over, and I won't have to worry about them anymore. As much as I hate to wish for the years to go by, after a day like today, I can't wait until that time comes.
Little did Cecilia Simon know on this particular Saturday night in 1955, and on all the other Saturday nights when she had these same thoughts, that the adventures were far from over. In fact, they were just beginning.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~