It was just me and David Hirrell from around the corner at it again – David Hirrell was the biggest, meanest kid in the neighborhood and he had dark eyes that pierced right through you when he stared. Sometimes we’d have staring fights, both of us staring at one another for as long as humanly possible, me looking into his chubby face and perpetually big red cheeks, and him looking at me…only for me it was tougher because I’m blind in one eye. So he usually won.
David Hirrell wasn’t always a mean bully – only sometimes. He had a dog named Bandit and he was always nice to his dog, always. I’d bring my dog Nicky over to the greens which is a corner of Golden Gate Park tucked in close to Kezar Stadium, or what used to be Kezar Stadium – with delightful bushes, trees and a place that we called “the big bush” because when you walked inside, you felt like you were inside a cave of trees. Next to the big bush stood the strong oak tree that I dubbed, “my favorite tree” because I’d climb it often and spy on people from way up high – a lot of times, people didn’t know I was there – but David Hirrell knew. He always knew everything, like where I was and how to find me – he knew all of my secret hiding places.
At least I could climb the oak trees, not like those eucalyptus trees that lined one side of the Greens – so many of our kites got stuck in those trees and we could never climb up the slick bark with no branches sticking out to get to them, so once your kite was stuck, it was gone forever.
So David Hirrell was either my closest friend or my worst enemy because sometimes we’d get mad at each other – it was usually a disagreement over something really stupid, like I knew something about the Beatles that he didn’t, or he accused me of trying to “take over” when we’d play games such as being on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek. “I’m the captain!” he’d shout, his face turning even redder. “I’m the one who tells everyone what to do!”
Sometimes that really irritated me, but everyone else playing, even the Solis boys from up the street, just kept quiet because they didn’t want to get beaten up by David Hirrell. They knew he was bigger and stronger than him. But, see, I had one advantage. I could run faster, so when I’d mouth off to David Hirrell, I’d run as fast as I could, hoping that later he wouldn’t catch me as I was walking around a corner – something like that.
Yet sometimes David and me were the best of friends – it wasn’t serious, not really, but sometimes our hands would touch as we walked down the street, and our bodies would touch just a little, but nothing ever happened, of course. We were just kids. One summer he and his family went away to Ireland and I missed David and his little brother Barry terribly, and so did my brother and sister. They were our major playmates, our cohorts in crime – but at least we still had the Solis boys who lived up the street and never got to go anywhere during the summer – just like us.
When David Hirrell returned, we all got together and sat on our front porch – ours was the best because it was a wide porch with stoops on either side to sit on. David Hirrell always sat on the stoop to the left and no one ever questioned it. I ran outside the door one cold, foggy late summer day and there he was just sitting there on the stoop waiting for me – as if he knew I’d be running out the door right at that time. His dog Bandit sat by his side – he never needed a leash for Bandit who spent the summer with one of their friends.
“Hi, what do you want to do today?” he asked, looking at me with those piercing dark eyes, his daringly longish blondish brown hair hanging down to one side – boys’ hair was just starting to get longer back then. “Let’s go to the greens!”
We walked side-by-side towards the greens and David Hirrell opened up his hand – there was something in it.
“Ohhhh, what’s this?” I asked, kind of excited because none of the boys in the neighborhood ever gave me anything – I had to trade board games for time to ride the boys’ bikes – they had the stingray bikes with the banana seats and the big handle-bars.
“Oh it’s just a little something from Ireland – my mom made me pick out something for you.”
I smiled. Of course his mom made him do it. Why else would he have anything?
Somehow it was perfectly okay.
I opened up my hand and David handed me a small basket that fit in the palm of my hand. In the basket were two ceramic kitties and underneath the basket in tiny letters was a golden sticker that said, “Made in Ireland.”
“It’s beautiful! I love it and I’ll keep it always!” I said, holding the small basket with the ceramic white cats close to me.
David looked down on the cement. “Ohhh, it’s nothing,” he mumbled. “My mom…”
“Oh it’s okay! Thank you David. C’mon let’s go.”
We walked to the greens and I held that small basket with the ceramic kitties all day long. When I got home, I put it on my dresser and I still have that basket with the ceramic kitties to this day.