KID’S STUFF (Pieces of time)
The cool air felt as if we were running into a refrigerator, but the damp musty basement smell was quickly becoming overwhelmed, by an ammonia odor similar to a giant mouse nest. This was not a basement we had run into it was a cave. We both could now hear the chirping screeches of the bats, but there was no turning back, because we were being chased or hunted. Nothing had ever seemed so real to me from the pounding of my heart, the sounds of our labored gasps for each breath, and even how our gym shoes slapped on the stone and dirt cave floor from each step. With the shock and exhilaration, the very sound and every action was more than real as thoughts of escape routes raced through my mind. I had never felt so alive. What had brought me together with this place at this point of time? Oddly enough, as we scampered through the cave, memories surged like waves.
I remember looking out the car window as we pulled away from my house. I saw my friends waving as we left. A summer in Mexico City was something my parents thought would be good for a fourteen year old boy. My grandmother thought it would be good to spend time around my cousins, because, I was not socializing well by her standards and I seemed depressed. I had no idea how I would change from this point of time. My friends Kenny, Bill and Greg stood in a cluster, also known as the tough Murphy boys. Off to the side Rick stood my rich friend and Julie the girl next door in front of all of them. The Murphy's all smiled but Rick looked worried and Julie looked as if she was going to a funeral. I could not figure why this memory came to me at this time, maybe it was going to turn out to be a funeral. The flight had gone well, and I had gone with my older sister. We were staying with various aunts and uncles in their nice houses for the summer, but this weekend was with my moms cousin's kids.
The day started as always. We woke up ate and went out looking for something to do. The house was built on a hillside in a fancy housing addition, in apart of Mexico City that is known as the American section. My mom's cousin was a lawyer who specialized in getting Americans out of jail. He had two sons who were named Jimmy and Hector. We walked the cobble stone streets and brick sidewalks sticking firecrackers in holes in the stone walls that encapsulated the houses that framed those sidewalks. Once in awhile, a stone or brick blew out of one of those walls but usually just the bang then we would run, laughing and bragging as we went. All of the houses were brick, stone or cinder block. Some homes had stucco facing and a lot of cast iron railings, iron doors and window shutters that looked like cages. The kids in the neighborhood all seemed to gather, many of them were spoiled rich Americans whose fathers were business men. On the other side of a tall brick wall running the length of the addition was a military base. This base was the subject of many conversations between us. Many of the kids had climbed the wall and their claims of a target range, and an exploded tank reeled us in. They also said if we were seen or caught we would never get out. "Yea right! Shoot kids as spies. Bull shit!" I said. At that point someone said "Lets go!", so we did.
On the top of most of the brick wall set a crest of cement with shards of broken glass sticking out. An array of fragments of pop, beer, and hard alcohol bottles had been used to arm this wall, but we found a weak spot and conquered the obstacle in little time. The air was hot and dry with a slight breeze that blew dust through the brown grass, thistles, and scrub trees as we wondered around the grounds. We all were high on adrenalin during our adventure, or maybe it was a quest. "Hey! Over here!" One of the guys yelled and we went running. There it was, in the deepest recess of the pit an exploded half tract armored jeep. The pit was more or less a trench chiseled into the side of a hill with a gunnery range at the end. After a few minutes of our inspection we started back, looking at the orange colored squares that were the barracks at the bottom of the hill as we walked. Like most boys of our age, as we made our way back, we jokingly talked and acted like we were shooting things.
A long and winding road traversed the terrain winding down the hillside to the barracks. Suddenly there was a jeep heading up the hill towards us carrying two men. The two men were Mexican soldiers in camouflage military uniforms. The barracks was probably a mile from us, leaving the wall a quarter mile away and across the upper part of the road. So, we ran. I wondered if we could make it before they got to us. The oldest boy was probably sixteen years old and the youngest was about nine, and he was the oldest's little brother. I remember the oldest, which I no longer remember his name, yelling "Run!"so we did. Now we could hear one man yelling at us "Alto ninos! Alto!" as we ran. Rocks seemed to be jumping off of the ground and flipping all around us. Then, I heard the popping cracks of a riffle firing. From a half mile away, a Mexican soldier was shooting at us from a moving jeep. It finally occurred to me that the stories, which I had dismissed before, were true. Yes, we might not get out of this place, but we would give it our all, some running on fear and others adrenalin. The soldier was still telling us to stop in English and then in Spanish. As he fired his riffle at us while he and his buddy laughed. The sixteen year old made it to the road well before the rest of us then ran and scaled up the side of a dirt cliff. This small cliff was only seven feet high dug in the reddish dirt hill cut out for the road. One after another of the boys ran up that hill but I had fallen behind because of the nine year old that had been left to fend for himself. He could not keep up with the rest of us, so I grabbed his wrist and drug him behind me as we ran, so then we fell behind.
When we reached the hill on the other side of the road we did not have the speed or the strength to scale the cliff. By this time the jeep was coming around the corner of another hill that was less than a quarter mile from us, so, I pulled the kid behind me into the drainage ditch. Bullets were flying all around us when we found a large drainage tile beneath the road. We raced through the four foot high cement tile that was two inches deep with stagnate sewage water that splashed on our shoes and pants. At the end of the tile was a pit that smelled like an outhouse and my foot went ankle deep as I helped the kid get over the pit. We ran through scrub brush towards what seemed to be a cave. Looking down the hill we watched the soldiers shooting in the drainage tile and laughing while yelling come out boys. As we made it in front of the cave they saw us and started to shoot our way, therefore; we entered the cave in a hurry. At the mouth of the cave the ceiling was around four feet high and the farther we went the lower it got. By the time we had started crawling the soldiers had made it to the cave entrance yelling "Come out or we will shoot! Boys ninos!." Everything had become black and the wind was blowing to our faces. Echos of gun clip sliding came from behind us. Then to my left was a dim light so we turned and kept moving. Bam! Bam! Bam! Zing . Ping. zing. The guns were ringing loud now and the bullets were bouncing off the walls. To my left I could see a dim light in the distance, but my mind was not on this moment. Memories ran through my mind as we made our way to the light, now the cave was becoming taller again while the light grew brighter. Sounds of gun shots and yelling faded as we neared the light of the outside world. The smell of fresh air, free of the stench of bat urine and mold, greeted us as we crept out of the cave. Looking down the hill side we could see the soldiers scratching their heads as they looked in the cave. They were only probably four hundred feet away, but did not see us. In the opposite direction was the wall and sitting on the wall were the other kids. The kids sat on The wall as if it were a base in a baseball game, they seemed completely safe. Winding through the underbrush we made our way to the wall totally obscured from the soldiers vision. The wall was alive with more kids on it than were when we left. They were cheering and hooting as we reached the wall. The soldiers heard the kids, and flipped all of us off. They then climbed into the jeep and headed back down the hill. The older brother lifted his little brother over the wall first then he gave me a hand up. "Thanks man." was all he said.
For the rest of the weekend I would like to say that was all we talked about, but unfortunately we would get shot at again. Some how when I started my trip my life had made me timid and unwilling to take risks. Afterwards, I had regained confidence I had not had for years. Perhaps after that summer I took to many risks, but live and learn I guess. The reasons for the choices we make in life always change us, and that is the cost. Our choices make us who we are. All these years later I still remember these pieces of time.