The Ruby

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: November 08, 2019

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Submitted: November 08, 2019

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THE RUBY

 

Most of the Summer before fourth grade, I was dumped at my older brother's little house onGloria Street in the San Fernando Valley. He was fifteen years older than I, and had already started on what would become a family of three boys. It seemed logical to my mom, a single mother, working two jobs as a waitress, ( breakfast and lunch at a coffee shop, dinner at an Italian restaurant that served ,chicken and called it veal,) that there really was no other option for her when it came to leaving me somewhere I would be safe.

Aside from free day-care and peace of mind for mom, my main purpose was to, in turn, be thebabysitter for my two nephews, The Shitty Babies. I did, however find some time to sneak awayfrom them to be with the neighborhood kids, Dave and Doug; my Summer friends.

Usually, it was so hot, we just sat on the curb in front of the house with our bare, dirty feet in the gutter, letting the warm, slimy runoff from all the sprinklers pool and eddy around them, trying to figure out something to do. The Shitty Babies were always close by, eating grass and God knows what else, probably worms and always being whiny and annoying.

It was around noon on one of these hotter-than-Hell days, when we were approached by one of the older girls who lived on the street. We saw her, and Dave, Doug and I braced ourselves for what was coming. It was always bad when an older kid bothered to come over to where you were. Her name was Crystal; a name reserved for thin, blonde, blue eyed girls; attributes of which I shared none.

She had on very short shorts and a bikini top, glittery blue eyeshadow and frosted white lipstick. I'm positive she thought she looked irresistible. I thought she looked like some sort of outer space thing. She looked down her perfect, perky nose at the guttersnipes that we were. It seemed tome that it was a struggle for her to keep from barfing on us and said, “You little brats don't even know, do you?”

“Know what, Your Highness?” I asked.

“There's a giant ruby across the street, in that field. A big ruby, it's worth a fortune and it's just sitting there. Waiting for anyone who has the guts to go over there and get it.”

“If it's so great, why are you telling us, Crystal? Why aren't you over there right now, grabbing it for yourself?”

She looked at me as if she were swallowing a slug.

“Oh, I'm going over later, you little wet back. With my dad. Because I have a dad, unlike some mpeople.” She twirled her hair.

“Get lost, Crystal. Go paint your nails or something.” I said it before I noticed she'd already done that, each one was a different color of glittery polish. She sauntered off, rolling her skinny ass and flipping her hair all the way down the street, back to her house, which probably had air conditioning. I hated her, but we giggled at her attempt to look alluring, in case any boys were watching from behind their curtains, I guess. Nobody else was out in that heat.

The three of us started to talk about what we'd do if we ever did find a giant ruby. Dave said he'd mget a Stingray bike with a sissy bar and a leopard seat and all the Hot Wheels ever made. Doug would buy a car-- a Mustang, dark blue. Not a bike, because with a real car, he could go wherever he wanted mand maybe, when he saw Crystal in the street with all her boyfriends, he'd run over her and she'd scream and crap her pants in front of of all the boys. We all cracked up at that, but in my chest, I felt a rush. What if there really was a giant ruby? Even after Dave and Doug took their cut, there would still be enough for me. Enough meant no more being poor. No more babysitting these godawful babies. No more screaming and throwing things and beatings from my mom. Maybe, we could even afford a decent place to live, rather than that dark, dank apartment on Kester Avenue; that no matter how much we scrubbed it, it sill looked the same. It was definitely worth a shot.

“Listen, you guys, what if we go over to the field and look for it before Crystal's dad gets home?

What if we find it first? We can sell it and split the money three ways!”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Doug. “Let's go right now!”

“Beaner, you are not taking those stupid babies,” said Dave.

“What am I supposed to do with them? Tie them up and put them in a closet? I'd get killed for leaving them alone. Besides, it's my plan. They're coming, whether we like it or not.”

I ran into the house to get a bag to hold the baby bottles and another to hold the ruby. My little girl mshorts didn't come with pockets, so I folded the brown grocery bag and stuck it down the back of my pants. After all, we couldn't just stroll down Victory Boulevard carrying a giant ruby! That would be nuts! I was feeling lightheaded with excitement. We started down the street, me carting one baby on my hip and dragging the other by the hand; the bag down my pants making crinkly noises and scratching my behind.

By the time we reached the field, my feet in their thin soled sneakers,were burning and it was so hot, we could barely speak. As we got closer to the fence, we saw that it was not chain link, it was barbed wire. I pointed and nodded at the fence; it looked like there was enough of a space where we could go under it. We started digging like terriers, nobody saying a word. The babies sat silently on the sidewalk, too hot and tired to make a sound. The traffic zoomed by and nobody payed us any mind at all. We held up the barbed wire for each other so we could scrabble under. I pushed the babies through, snaked under and we were in. We stood up and looked around. The flat deserty vastness ofthe place took what little breath I had left, completely away for a moment. I thought I might faint. The boys and babies looked like I felt. What now? When I was finally able to draw a deep breath, I realized that the only way we were going to find that thing was if there was a huge flashing neon sign over it with an arrow saying, RUBY HERE! Still, we'd come this far and weren't ready to give up, Notso fast.

The heat made everything look like it was moving and there were puddles and lakes of watereverywhere. Mirages, I realized. They were all over the place, which made it awful because werealized we hadn't brought anything to drink except the now-curdled milk in the baby bottles. We would have died of thirst rather than touch it.

After a fruitless hour of searching under the blazing sun, we were ready to accept defeat. Deflated,our dreams crushed, our heads down, we started to make our way back to our hole under the fence,when we heard the voice of God: “Hey! You! What are you doing? Stop! Halt!”

We froze like rabbits. Men in uniforms started jogging over. They had guns.“RUN!!!,” We all screamed at the same time. We tore across the the field and slithered under thebarbed wire and through our hole. Dave went first, and I threw a Shitty Brother at him. “Eeew,gross,” he complained. “Deal with it,” I screamed at him. Then Doug went and he caught the second Shitty handily.Next, me, all the while hearing the pounding of galloping soldiers getting too close. Once on the other side of the fence and we realized the men were no longer chasing us, we just laythere on the sidewalk, panting from the heat and shaking with fear.

“Shit,” said Dave. “It's the army base. I'm gonna kill Crystal.”

“I'm gonna kill you if you breath a word to Crystal,” I told him.

The babies started to whimper and then let out full blown wails. “Shut it,” I snarled at them and crammed the bottles of what now looked like cottage cheese into their mouths. We started back downVictory. There was a liquor store on the other side of the street. We jay walked, okay, jay ran acrossthe busy boulevard and into the store. The clerk gave us stink eye as we staggered over to the Cokemachine. We emptied pockets and shoes to see if we even had enough change for a Nesbitt's creamsoda to share. No luck-- we didn't have enough. We left, dejected, and continued dragging ourselvesdown Victory, back to our gutter and at least we knew we could get some water from the hose. Verywarm water, but at least it was wet.

Then, I heard it: The crack-shatter of a bottle that had been hurled from a “62 El Camino pick-up.The broken glass flew with the force of a bullet and hit me on the inside of my right leg, mid-calf.

By the time we finally made it back to Gloria Street, the blood had run down my leg and into mysneakers. I could here my foot squishing with every step. Dave and Doug said, “Seeya,” and trailedoff, back to their houses. I went into the house, which was still blessedly empty, wiped the brothersdown and put them in their cribs.

I went into the bathroom to look at my leg. I wiped off some of the blood and realized there wasa piece of glass stuck in my leg. I would have to dig it out. I didn't want to-- I knew it was gonna hurt.I squeezed the wound and pulled the glass nugget out of my leg. It looked like a piece of a Nesbitt's bottle.

It lay there in my palm, covered in my blood: glistening like a ruby in the afternoon light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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