Cody Sizemore loved the feeling of being finished with a job. As he stepped off of the Wilson’s front porch he looked over the long lawn and admired his own handiwork: neat, even courses where the mower had run, all the cut grass raked and dumped into the back compost pile, the edges at the walkway nicely trimmed. And now he had cash money in his pocket and still an hour of daylight on this summer evening. Others complained about the heat, but a strenuous job in the sun and a good sweat seemed to stretch and finally relax his young muscles, so he walked easy down the alley.
Home was the other way, but he had discretionary spending capital right now and his mind was on some kind of treat from Tebay’s Dairy. He wasn’t sure about his choice. Maybe a milkshake. Maybe a soda. But something cold, sweet and creamy would do him fine. It was over a mile to the store if you walked on the paved road, but Cody was used to cutting straight down the hill through one of the last stands of woods left in the little town. The path was overgrown this late in the summer, but the prospect of immediate refreshment inspired him to push his way through the weeds and brush. It would not be his first time doing that.
When he was halfway there he saw John and Robert in the big oak They were holding their balance with one hand and hammering two by sixes between branches with the other; the beginnings of the first girders of an epic tree house.
Well. Look here. If it ain’t Mr. Sizemore.
He continued on the path until he was standing under the great tree.
Cody. You see that box of nails there. John pointed to a spot on the ground. Can you toss them to me.
Cody bent and took the box and underhanded it up to the boy in the tree.
What do you think of this project, Sizemore?
Looks good. It’s gonna be pretty big, looks like.
Of, yeah. Biggest around here for sure. I’ve seen some bigger in California, though. This is going to be one fine hangout. One fine hiding place. You want in?
Yeah. Yeah, I do.
We stole almost everything you see here. Everything except the tools. We can’t let just anybody in. There would be too many people wanting it. We’ve got to keep this thing quiet and be selective. What can you do for the cause?
I can pound nails. Saw boards. Anything.
Well. That ain’t gonna do it, Cody. This is an outlaw club. The hammering and sawing is too easy. Anybody can do that. We’d have to let everybody in that way. What should we make him do, John? To be in with this all the way.
Well. We’ve got a bit of an axe to grind with Miss Ireland.
The teacher? Cody asked.
Yeah. She flunked old John here on a test. His mom and dad got to go meet with her now. They’re fit to be tied and making things pretty rough for old Johnny. We were thinking about giving her a scare tonight. You know where she lives?
Well, it’s a yellow house with green shutters and it backs up against these woods. You just head that way there and you’ll come onto it. We’ve got some M-80’s for you to put in her mailbox. It’s on the wall beside her front door. You don’t have to worry about getting caught. She’s there by herself. No man would have her. We’ll give you a cigarette for a fuse. You just stick the M-80s in the mailbox, ring the doorbell and run. All there is to it. And you’re in. You got the nuts for that?
Course I do.
Robert finished hammering the nail and descended and dug the silver cylinders out of a bag at the base of the tree and lit a cigarette and handed it to Cody Sizemore. I know this smoking is against your religion, but it won’t give you cancer just to carry it in your hand.
Cody Sizemore took the materials and nodded to his friends and started into the woods in the direction Robert had indicated. When he was out of sight he put the M-80s in the crotch of a hickory tree and screwed the lit cigarette onto the stiff red fuse and changed direction and ran through the woods and down the hill toward the dairy.