Gladys and Kenny
If my house was the center of the universe, then this is how the other buildings circled around it: The church was on the corner, then along our back yard, was the green duplex. From our yard, I could see both back doors, on the right side lived Gladys with her husband, and on the left side, Kenny with his parents. In some ways, they were both my best friends.
Gladys was my own personal, dark headed version of Ethel Mertz. She always had a ready smile and she always made me laugh. She let me hang around in their back yard a lot. I can see her face perfectly in my mind, but her husband is a fuzz. Was he like Fred? I don’t remember. Their lawn furniture was those green metal outdoor chairs that kind of bounce a little when you sit in them. They had a small garden and it was always neat as a pin. Gladys was a safe place and she gave lots of hugs. They were the first to move away.Kenny lived next door. I don’t recall his parents at all, at least, not by image. But I know I spent a lot of time in their home. Until I went to the other school, we walked to School #10 together. His family had a TV and in the mornings we were allowed to watch Captain Kangarooo and Mr. Green Jeans until it was time to leave. The Captain was our Mr. Rogers.
We got ourselves in trouble quite a few times, mostly for going everywhere together (including one time we were caught in the bathroom – honest, it was totally innocent – we just had lots to talk about), or running the pipes at the construction place, or staying out until it was very dark. When it was hot and steamy, we would sit on his porch and play “I Spy.” We were indeed best friends.
So, it’s hard for me to replay that day I lost my friend because of a whim, a miscalculation, an accident. He didn’t die, but things were never the same. And soon afterwards, they moved away. Surely, that wasn’t my fault too?
Here’s what happened in a nutshell: We were talking across the fence, the picket fence the church had constructed on their easement from the alley. And Kenny decided to climb over into our yard. Easy peasy, we did it all the time. But for some reason, as he put his foot on the horizontal support, I thought it would be funny to make him fall backwards. But he didn’t fall backwards when I knocked out his foot. He fell straight down on the picket. They took him to the hospital.
I still look for Kenny Noe sometimes, online, on Facebook, places like that. Did he ever believe me that I was truly sorry? Did he forgive me? Did it even matter in the end? Did I ever forgive myself? It’s a scarey business to hurt someone you care about.