Monday, October 24, 2011

Girl on Fire

The first memory I have of my cousin Luke is from when we were toddlers.  My parents went on a canoe trip with friends and family leaving my elder brother and I with Luke's mom.  Luke was fun but I remember his mom getting on to him quite a bit and feeling shocked when he deliberately disobeyed.  I was shocked yet drawn to the behavior because it was the total opposite of me.  He was fearless and unpredictable; I knew this even as a 4 year old.

After warming up to one another, Luke, my brother, and me were playing nicely in the backyard when suddenly, Luke dropped his pants, whipped around and peed all over us.  I stood there horrified as he laughed and laughed and continued to pee.  Suddenly I was whisked into the house by Luke's mom, drenched in urine.  All the while, my toddler brain was thinking that my parents must be playing a joke to have left me in a situation where some kid would pee on me, for no reason other than to laugh hysterically while doing it.  After a quick bath, I had to sport Luke's little brother's clothes until mine were washed and dried.  Luke was banned from playing the rest of the day.  I was glad and a little sad.  Something about that kid was captivating. . .but terrifying.

And so, our relationship commenced.  I lived in Kansas City and he lived in Arkansas but when my family would visit once or twice a year, Luke was the first cousin I sought out.  I was always careful to watch for signs of a pee attack, but luckily he never tried that again.  He did, however, live to prank me.  Prank is probably the wrong word.  Torture and terrify are more accurate descriptions of our time together.

Once, when were nine, we went floating down a creek on a blow up raft with my brother and cousin, Sarah.  We were all city-kids so Luke paddled the raft.  "Have any of you ever rafted off a water fall?" Three nervous "No's" were spoken in unison.  "It's really fun!"  Luke paddled faster and faster toward the waterfall and gave us instructions, "Now, when we go over the edge hold onto the raft really tight.  Can you guys swim?"  We tried convincing Luke that it wasn't a good idea, told him we would get in big trouble.  My cousin Sarah and I then started yelling, "Let me off!  Let me off! Right now!!!"  He did.  He paddled over to the muddiest part of the bank he could find and dropped us off.  We immediately sank, thigh-high, into the mud.  The more we struggled to get out the further we sank.  The situation was made worse when our jelly shoes were sucked off of our feet in the struggle and we just knew we were going to be attacked by snakes.  Luke laughed and laughed and paddled away with my brother and yelled, "I wasn't really going to take you over the waterfall!"

When we were 16, he drove his jeep out onto a frozen pond and did donuts.  I was imprisoned in the vehicle and calmly tried to talk him out of it, justifying that if we lived in Alaska this might be acceptable because it's much colder there but there was no telling how thick the ice really was on this Arkansas pond. "Ohhh, it's fine."  So, I resorted to my nine year old tactics.  "Let me out!  Let me out!  Right now!!!"

With Luke, I have army crawled across snow covered fields, rifle in hand, to avoid a farmer, whom Luke claimed would shoot at us if he caught us on his land.  I still don't know it that was true, but I army crawled anyway.  I have been chased by a bull, barely clearing a barbed wire fence into safety.  I have walked across an icy log over a raging creek, while on the brink of having an asthma attack.  I've been pushed off of cliffs, shot at with a homemade bottle rocket launcher, and ended up reaping the consequences when Luke's mom came home and found us shooting rifles at targets outside through an open window in the kitchen. 

Needless to say, over the years, Luke has desensitized me.  He's less terrifying to me now and I still sort of crave the adventures of hanging out with him.

A few weeks ago, sitting around a bonfire with family, Luke started hitting the left side of my chest.  It didn't phase me.  I continued talking to my other family members thinking, "Really, Luke?  We're nearly 30!"  Then, my family members started yelling FIRE! and some of them jumped up to run toward me.  Confused, I slowly realized the reason Luke was hitting me was to smother a large ember that had escaped from the bonfire and landed on my hoodie.  When he did, it scattered and burst into flames.  I decided to continue to remain calm and let him beat the fire out until someone yelled, "Her hair!"  At that point I started yelling too, "Get it off!  Get it off!  Right now!!!"

Everything ended up fine, my hoodie was a little melted and I had a few small burns near my neck, but it mainly resulted in a good story.  It's funny how the person who makes you think you could die at any moment is the one who saves your life, or in my case, my face and hair.  It's a good thing he relentlessly attacked the fire because if he would have just yelled, "You're on fire!"  I would have rolled my eyes, "Whateverrrrr" and would now have a half melted face and burnt hair.

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