I had two great friends in the first grade. One was Tommy who I’ve already told you about. My other best friend was named Craig.
Craig’s mom was our first grade teacher which was just weird. I would go over to Craig’s house and there was my teacher getting us snacks. This can’t be right. Teachers aren’t real people, are they? Turns out they are and so I saw Mrs. Lily more than my own mother.
It wasn’t long after I met Craig that he and I were in competition with a first grade femme fatale named Rebecca. The three of us were consistently at the top of all the tests and the tests in our school were tough. In first grade we were doing multiplication and division. We were reading at third and fourth grade levels so the competition was fierce. Kids who could handle it were encouraged to move forward as fast as they could and Craig, Rebecca and I were killing it. If I remember correctly (and I’m sure my mother will correct me if I’m wrong) the school asked my parents about my skipping a grade. They didn’t think this would be a good idea and so I remained with Craig and Rebecca.
The three of us were separated from the rest of the class by moving our desks off to the side. We had separate assignments from the others and despite the competition, we were friends. It annoyed me when Craig or Rebecca (usually Rebecca) would beat me at something. I would then work even harder. I seem to remember an early report card saying something about my not sharing well with others. It was true then and it’s still true today. It all goes back to wanting to beat Craig and Rebecca.
Craig and I used to watch movies on their tiny black-and-white television set until his mother would yell at us to go outside and play. We screamed at The Crawling Eye when dead bodies started appearing on a Swiss mountainside. We hollered at Steve McQueen in The Blob, and we shivered in terror at the alien robot named Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still. In case I might need it someday, I memorized the three words that could be used to deactivate the deadly robot. Klaatu barada nikto. Klaatu is the name of the alien, and he tells Helen, the only human who believes in him, to say these words to Gort and the world will be saved. I still remember them, so if you happen to see an alien landing near your house and a giant robot named Gort pops out, give me a call and I can deactivate him for you. You're welcome.
In the woods behind Craig’s house we made awesome forts. When you’re five, a blanket over a tree limb completely qualifies as an “awesome fort”. Since you can’t have a fort without weapons we laid in a mountain of pine cones that we could toss as hand grenades to annihilate the approaching enemy hordes. So great was our supply that we rarely lost. Besides, if we had lost against our imaginary enemies, it would have been very embarrassing. We spent many, many hours in those woods exploring every part of them. We knew every short cut and where to hide in case the Boogey Man was looking for us. I don’t know about you, but Craig and I knew he was real. That’s why we collected all of those pine cones!
About a half mile from Craig's house was a small farm where Rebecca lived. When Craig's mom would throw us out of the house, we’d scramble down the hill through the woods and hide behind trees so we could spy on the farm. If we were lucky, we could see Rebecca riding her horse around the corral. Yes, Craig was fascinated by her as well. Quite the six-year-old femme fatale. The interesting part is that while I remember these things clearly, I have absolutely no memory of what Rebecca looked like. I don't even remember if she was a blonde or brunette. What I do remember of those days is that she was on my mind a lot, and I wasn't even sure why. It certainly wasn't sex—it would be years before sex tried to ruin my life. She was just different. She was really smart and really funny. We just liked hanging out with her, and that's still what's important to me in a woman.