I was going to write an entry on how I became a born again Christian and how I unbornded myself, but I realized that in order to tell that story, I first needed to tell the story of my friend, Dawn.
During the summer of fourth grade, I remember waking up one morning and my father telling me that there had been a murder in town. This was MAJOR NEWS! in our little hill-locked burg and it was all anybody could talk about. A man had been stabbed to death in his sleep by two intruders who knocked his wife out when she woke up during the horrid act. Fortunately, their four children (ages 11 through 5) had been sleeping in the Winnebago parked in the driveway.
I don't know if it was out of morbid curiosity or a deep-seated desire to befriend people who shared the rarity of a dead parent with me, but I made it my first order of business to find out about these kids. How could I not know them? Through my best friend, Tiffany (yeah, bad name), I discovered that they went to Doudna Elementary School (while we went to Jefferson). She told me they all had red hair and the oldest was a girl, Dawn, who was 11, one year older than me. Tiff had been to Dawn's birthday party the previous year, and I remember thinking she was incredibly cool for having such intimate knowledge of this celebrity family. Trying to be nonchalant, about a month after the murder, I asked if we should invite Dawn over to my house. She set it up.
The first visit was incredibly awkward. First, Dawn's father was buried directly across the street from my house. She literally had to step on his grave to get out of the vehicle which delivered her to 481 E. 8th Street. And then there is the fact that pre-pubescent girls (always prone to drama and overweening emotion) really aren't very good at negotiating the nuances of first-time meetings. I think the first thing I said to her was, "I just wanted you to come over because I know how you feel." I don't remember her reaction but I'm sure she was uncomfortable. We did end up having fun: I had a six-foot deep freeze full of ice cream and we had HBO -- 'nuff said.
Dawn, Tiff and I became thick as thieves almost immediately. The best thing we had in common was very little parental oversight. And we made the most of it. Sleepovers were always at my house because my father worked nights a lot. Tiff's grandmother lived next door, so there was that to be aware of, but we pretty much did as we pleased. We taught each other how to smoke like movie stars and how to dance like Olivia Newton John. Dawn introduced us to the extra thick application of goey, clumpy jet-black mascara at which she had become an expert to cover her bright red lashes. We walked the cemetery at midnight just for the thrill of it, and, of course, stayed up all night talking about boys: Tiff loved Chad Albaugh, Dawn loved Mike Rizner, and I loved Kevin Knause. Good times.
Dawn's mom, finding herself in possession of $60,000 in insurance money (double indemnity is a wonderful thing!), promptly bought a large house on "our side" of town, which meant Dawn would now be attending Jefferson with Tiff and I. The other thing she did with her money was develop an addiction to BINGO. She would travel the state with her friends, her ink marker and her table toys, leaving her youngest children with Dawn, Tiff and I, now aged 12, 12 and 11 respectively. It was the best school year ever. Her mother would be gone for days at a time, leaving her new Chevy Chevette in the driveway. It was too tempting to resist. We would cram ourselves and two kids in the car, leave the next oldest home alone and go driving for hours. We also loved to repeatedly douse Dawn's Linda Ronstadt poster, proudly displayed on her bedroom door, in Aquanet hairspray and light it on fire. We watched Grease no fewer than 20 times on her mom's waterbed. The house was a nightmare. With 5 cats, one of whom was always pregnant and miscarrying on the children's beds and the endless piles of crap and junk food her mother purchased, the house was literally a cesspool. It smelled horrible. We didn't care.
And of course, there were boys. Not just Chad and Mike and Kevin, but also Kirk and Jared and Robby and Ralph and Gary and Mark. It sounds lurid, but we actually (and unbelievably)remained relatively innocent. Games of spin the bottle abounded but it never went beyond kissing.
And this is where my stories meet. One night, as three unsuspecting girls made out with three equally unsuspecting boys in three cat-hair-covered lazyboys, one very suspicious father made one very short trip to one very dark and quiet house. We scrambled like cockroaches when the front door opened, my father catching fleeing boys by their shirt collars and unceremoniously hurling them out the front door. Tiff and I were forced to return to my house, in complete shame and fear. Dawn remained at home with her siblings to await her mother's return.
The consequences were as follows: I couldn't go to Dawn's anymore, although she was still free to come to my house. Tiff was grounded for a month and also banned from the house of sin. My father never told Dawn's mom, probably figuring it would make very little difference to her. My final punishment was the worst: I was being sent to Montana to spend the summer working on my aunt's Morgan horse ranch. And that's where I found Jesus.