Monday, February 06, 2006

Mothers Know...


ast October, I went to school to administer an exemption exam for a student who studied abroad in Japan last year. The exam, which he passed, will give him credit for one year of advanced Japanese. I've had students who have actually had very good Japanese after coming back and still took the class, saying that there is still a lot to learn. And, indeed, being rather advanced allows them to focus on the finer points of the language that make them even better at reading Japanese. But if a student studied a year in Japan, they are entitled to test out. Don't want to punish anyone for working hard. All they have to do is prove to me that they can read Japanese texts and I'm fine with that.

Anyway, soon after I got to school, I got a message that KM called. KM is a friend from long ago and someone I met at our class reunion back in July--has it already been six months? Well, KM was in town and we decided to get to gether for a few drinks--yes, yes, I was supposed to be working on my paper which was terribly overdue, but old friends don't always visit, and I'm not the sort to put work before family and, in this case, friends. We had a few drinks in town at our local dive--the Red Lion, then we moved to Ballston in Arlington, VA, to have a few more at Rock Bottom, a place that brews its beer in-house. We had a very pleasant time.

Talking to him brought back many old memories. KM used to live down the block and we hung out together, but when we first met outside of school, he still lived in downtown LA on Main Street. Yes, back then there were still families living in hotel suites with long term leases, like an apartment, but it was rather unusual for a guy like me from the suburbs. On that one occasion when I went to his home, it was the day his father took us out to the LA Police Academy in Elysian Park. There, we mostly hung out at the shooting range collecting shells. I was about nine or ten years old and had never seen a gun or bullet before, so the thought that we could just pick up spent shells and take them excited me. Juding by the color I presuemd they were made of copper. I put a bunch into a clear plastic bag and took them home. My mother had a fit. She didn't want me having bullet shells in the house--as if they were going to go off. I tried to reason with her, but she would have none of it. She said to throw them away in the trash can out back.

Reluctantly, I stepped out of the kitchen door with the bag of shells and sat on the concrete steps of the back porch. I took out a dusty shell from the bag and held it between my middle finger and thumb, turning it around, admiring it, wondering who had shot it, what it might look like with an actual bullet in it. I threw it back in the bag with the other identical shells and shook them in my cupped hand. As I listened to the clinking sounds, an idea struck me. I'll bury them. Mom'll be none the wiser. So I got a small hand shovel and went to the corner of the backyard patio and, as if burying a pirate's booty, I began to measure my steps: three steps forward, turn right and walk towards the wall. I dug a hole about a foot deep next to a bush, rolled up the plastic bag with the shells in them, and buried it there.

When I went back inside, my mother asked if I had done what she had asked, and I said I did--I was such the liar back then.

"Why are your hands so dirty?" She asked.

"Well, mom, since I was in the back, I thought I'd clean up the yard too."

This undoubtedly aroused even greater suspicion, but she did not show it and did not pursue it any further, only telling me to wash my hands. Wow, that was easy, I thought to myself, relativley sure I had pulled one over my mother. .

About a week later, I thought I'd go back to see how my treasure was faring. But it wasn't where I had buried it. I went back to the corner of the patio and retraced my steps twice, but each time I returned to the empty hole I had just dug up. Did it wash away in the rain? Did our dog, Cleo, dig it up? I was perplexed then and continued to be perplexed for years... seriously. I would occasionally recall that bag of shells and retrace my steps once more, only to confirm what I had already known--They were gone.

I do not know this for a fact, but I'm pretty sure now that my mother knew what I had done and had disposed of the shells. You can never fool a mother...

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