Memoir, Writing

Summer Sleuths

The summer I was ten, my best friend Terry and I read the collection of Nancy Drew books her parents had bought her. Naturally, we then fancied ourselves girl detectives and were ever vigilant in our quest for a mystery to solve. On the corner, at the far end of my street, was a massive hedgerow along the length of the property. In its midst, we discovered a hollow place, big enough for the two of us to hide in and observe the strange goings on in the neighborhood.

On any given day, we might see a suspicious white-haired woman (or was she?) pulling home her foldaway shopping cart full of groceries (or were they?) We also spied an alarming number of boys on bikes circling the block, obviously up to something. We easily decoded snatches of clandestine conversation as pedestrians passed us unaware. No mystery was too small or too big for us to handle.

Then one day, we hit the jackpot. After our usual bologna sandwich and Kool-aid lunch, we hurried to our lair. I crawled in first, while Terry stood lookout. Even before I reached our spot, my nose reacted. By the time Terry reached my heels, I was gagging.

“Gross,” she said, “what’s that stink?”

With my heart pounding, I raised a hand and pointed. “Bones,” I said.

We crawled backwards at a pace you wouldn’t believe possible and quickly decided my dad was the go to guy … not for any reason other than it was faster to run to my house than hers. We arrived breathless, stammering out the news that we’d found a dead body … or at least a piece of one and begging him to come see. And right NOW! He gave us a look that said he was 99% sure we had not found a body and issued a warning this better not be a joke.  With our assurance of the severity of the situation, we set off for the scene of the crime. Walking. Slowly.

Our stroll gave me time to think. I scripted what I would say when they interviewed us for the six o’clock news. And then it hit me! Terry and I would be on screen together. Think. Okay, yes, I would do the talking, but make her stand mostly in front of me, closer to the camera, that way she would look more my size than her too cute, petite self. But I would definitely do the talking. Then, my heart sank. I saw myself, frozen like a popsicle and not able to squeak above a whisper when we’d performed our skit for the school talent show.  Girl detective or not, I’d end up looking like a big stupid oaf on TV.

Still … we were going to be famous!

My father didn’t bother crawling into the hollow, he just strong-armed the shrubbery aside and peered in. For an eternity—or at least thirty seconds—he froze. Then he knelt and thrust a hand forward. When he stood and turned toward us, he held forth a massive bone with putrid flesh attached. Saucer-eyed, Terry and I recoiled.

“This,” he said, “is a cow femur. A soup bone, left here by a dog.” He flung it back toward the hedge and stomped off toward home.

Terry and I stood side by side, watching his retreat. “Wanna go to my house and make fudge?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. We’d just witnessed the death of our sleuthing career. Why not drown our sorrows in sugar?

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