Mama and Daddy were working in the fields, picking cotton, and of course Rick and I went with them. We had things to do to keep us busy, such as pencils and paper to draw on, playing games and taking naps on a quilt spread in the shade of a large cottonwood tree. We could see our parents if we looked for them, and sometimes Rick would carry a big jar of water to them just for the company.
Rick was five years old, a year older than me, and he was hot and thirsty too, but he tried to come up with new things to do so I wouldn’t cry.
"Lookie, Ree! Look what it does when I touch it!" he said.
I squatted beside the tire of our black car; and listened to the hiss of air as he pushed down on the valve.
“Oh,” I giggled, “let me do it!”
"You have to use a stick. Push on that thing, right there."
"Rick, I did it, listen!" I held the stick on the valve until the whistling stopped.
"Rick, it don't work anymore. I want to do it again!"
We ran to the other tires and let the air out of them too, all four! Then the fear set in. We knew we were in trouble, and sure regretted doing it. Just looking at those four flat tires took all our fun away.
"Mama and Daddy will be here pretty soon, Ree, see how long the tree shadow is? When they get real long, it's time to go home. We're goin' to get a whipping." He added solemnly, and needlessly.
Scrambling into the car, we sat there quietly, discussing the possibilities. My stomach twisted until it settled into a steady, sharp hurt.
"I hope they don't see the tires."
"Maybe they'll think the air got out by itself."
"Are they comin' yet, Rick? Can you see them?"
By stretching his neck as far as he could, he could see over the seats and out the front window. "Yeah. Quick, sit back, and be quiet!" He hissed.
Well, they noticed. They stood in one spot and just stared, then Daddy walked slowly around the car, and looked some more. He removed his old Stetson hat, ran his hand back over his hair, and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. I could see his lips moving, talking to Mama, but my ears were making so much buzzing noise I couldn't hear the words.
Rick and I were trying to make our small bodies even smaller. We were barely able to see out of the window but we watched, waiting for his eyes to settle on us; hoping they didn't.
After a few minutes, Mama reached down to pick up the quilt and shook the dirt off before placing it in the trunk. She gathered up the things we left scattered around the ground in our rush to disappear.
It's a good thing Daddy had an air pump in the car. They didn't say a word about the flats, in fact, they didn't speak at all. They did look at each other kind of funny; strange is probably a better word, nothing was funny right then.
Rick and I looked at each other with big, rounded eyes, each reflecting the fear of the other. Oh, we knew we were bad and we felt awful. We knew what a flat tire was. We also knew we were going to get it when we got home. No one needed to tell us that. The fear was almost unbearable and my eyes began to burn.
Finally, having aired the tires, Daddy began the drive home.
It was Daddy's habit to stop at the store on the way home to get us all a soda pop. We looked forward to it, because we were all hot, tired and thirsty. We had spent a long, boring, miserable day in that 'ole cotton patch.
No words were spoken by Rick and me, we just glanced at each other now and then. As we got closer and closer to where Daddy should be slowing to turn into the store though, he wasn't. We were becoming even more anxious, if that were possible. We knew we were getting near the store.
That little country store had ice cold bottles of soda pop of every kind and flavor. I always got Orange Nesbitt. I was just tall enough to peer over the edge of the box, if I stood on my tip toes, and I liked to stretch my hand down into the icy water and pull up my own bottle, the coldest one I could find. I liked to open it myself with the built-in bottle opener which was part of the ice box, tasting that cold, orangery, wonderful drink before it ever reached my mouth!
But Daddy was not slowing down.
I looked over at Rick, telepathically telling him to remind Daddy about stopping at the store. The look that Rick returned to me said, 'I’m not gonna tell him nothin', and you better not, either.' as he shook his head slightly. I understood that look. I was very disappointed and thirsty.
Desperately working up my nerve, I asked in a small, squeaky voice,
“Daddy, are we goin’ to get a soda pop?”
I guess I must have spoken too quietly, cause he just kept on going. I decided to try again.
"Daddy, you forgot. You passed the store!"
He just wasn't hearing me, but Rick did. He punched me in the side; when I looked at him to complain, he shook his head again. I only frowned at him. I wanted a soda pop, so again I spoke.
"Daddy? I'm sorry. I won't do it again! Daddy! You passed the store! Rick, quick, say you're sorry! Hurry!"
Rick looked disgusted at my stupidity. Mama glanced at Daddy with a smile only in her eyes, but I could see it clearly. I was sitting behind Daddy and could only see the back of his head, and a little of the jaw line. His jaw was quivering like it does when he wants to laugh, but has to hide it. My stomach ache began to go away.
I raised my eyes toward Rick again; we knew we had just been taught another lesson by the master of teachers. It was a most important one. 'Every action has its consequences, and we were awfully lucky this time.'
This was published in a real paper and ink magazine a couple of years ago. That doesn't mean it's perfect - it means I was very lucky. I was proud and humbled.