When I grew up in Leaside in the ’60s and ’70s, I was never what you would describe as a “bad kid.” In fact, the rougher boys in our Bessborough School class would have put my twin brother Tim and me squarely in the goody-goody-two-shoes category. But one day on our morning walk to school, we busted out and took a walk on the wild side. Here’s how it all went down.
As we often did, Tim and I were walking with our good friend from down the street, Mathew Zaleski. We all lived around Parkhurst and Donegall, so our route to school took us along Parkhurst, down Cameron, and then left on Sharon to the school. Halfway down Cameron, I picked up a Macintosh apple with a bite out of it that was lying in the gutter. I don’t know why I picked up a partly-eaten mushy apple. I wasn’t hungry. My brother pointed and said, “I dare you to throw it at that door.”
Nicky Nicky Nine Doors — and yes, that’s apparently how it’s spelled — was all the rage back then. The house was ideally suited to receive a speeding projectile apple. There was no glass outer-door (I wasn’t ready to venture quite that far on to the dark side), and there was a hedge along the driveway that would obscure our hasty post-throw escape. There was also a large tree on the front lawn, but I thought I could still reach the door given my supreme arm and pinpoint aim.
Mathew and Tim were relentless in their encouragement. I’ve always tried to please people. So I reared back and hurled this Macintosh apple with terrible velocity towards the very inviting wooden door. What else was I to do? Given my aforementioned throwing prowess, the apple hit the door dead-centre, exploding into a fragrant cloud of apple-sauce and making a louder noise than I ever thought possible. By their gaping yaps, I don’t think Mathew and Tim ever expected I would do it. Frankly, I never thought I’d do it either.
Rather than taking frantic flight, the three of us just stood there on the sidewalk, transfixed by the apple entrails still settling over the area. We were just regaining our faculties and preparing to flee when the front door began to open. The older woman who lived there must have been standing just inside her front hall, primed and ready. There was nowhere to go and no time anyway. All three of us acted on instinct. Mercifully we all had the same idea at the same instant. It was the only possible option.
All these years later, I still can’t believe it, but the woman never saw us. While she surveyed the entire area from her elevated front porch, what she didn’t know was that the three culprits — okay, one culprit and two abettors — were stacked up against one another in perfect single file behind the trunk of the tree right on her own front lawn. We were so close to her I swear I could hear breathing. It had to be her respiration, because I certainly wasn’t breathing.
Tim and I were very skinny back then and that may well have been what saved our bacon that morning. We waited a good five minutes behind that tree after we heard the homeowner go back inside. Then we sprinted the rest of the way to school. On the way, I renewed my membership vows in the goody-goody-two-shoes society and didn’t play Nicky Nicky Nine Doors for, well, at least for two weeks. That’s what passed for bad behaviour in the Leaside of my childhood.
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis is the award-winning author of five national bestsellers, including his most recent, Poles Apart, all published by McClelland & Stewart (M&S). His sixth novel, One Brother Shy, will be published by M&S in May, 2017.