BY SARA PALMER
Based on the suggestion: Truth
There she was, tongue stuck to the frozen metal tetherball pole, and it was entirely my fault. Just moments prior I had pretended to lick the frozen pole a few feet away from my cousin Jill, then yelled, “Look! It didn’t work!”
Before the exclamation point could drop on the end of my sentence, she had believed with every fiber in her, what I had said. I know this because of the amount of tongue that was now stuck to the dirty, frozen tetherball pole located in the middle of the park, three blocks from her house.
It was a cold day in Watertown, South Dakota, the grown-ups were sitting around the table talking and my cousin and I, the two youngest, were bored. “Let’s go to the park.” Suggested Jill. The slides were fun in the winter, especially if they were icy. We would pack a little snow on them, then cheer at the level of speed the rider achieved as they grappled for footing at the slides end. Breaking old speed records seemed like the perfect cure for the current state of boredom, so I was all in.
We bundled up in snow pants, snow boots, puffy winter jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, earmuffs, and anything else we could find in the metal buckets installed in the hallway closet. The buckets from top to bottom contained hats, gloves, scarves, wool sox, ski masks and any other miscellaneous winter wear one might need during a bitter South Dakota winter. We bundled up good knowing we wanted to be outside for a while. So good in fact, we could hardly communicate with just our eyes peeking out between the hat and scarf. We looked like a couple of tiny, multicolored State Puffed Marshmallow Men. This may have just been the reminder of the Christmas Story movie I needed to prompt my pole licking genius scheme. We told the grown-ups we were heading to the park, they seemed less than concerned and we were off. There we were a couple of puffed out ninja stars romping through the snow filled sidewalks, excited for the adventures that awaited us.
It wasn’t long before I was headed back on this trail of snow filled sidewalk. Only this time, I was alone. I couldn’t believe she bought it. I thought for sure she would call my bluff. I’m the worst cousin in the world. These thoughts swirled through my head as I ran back to the house as fast as I could. I opened the door and ran up the stairs with an emphatic sense of urgency. I yelled to the grown-ups, still sitting around the table, “Jrrrllls sterck tehdeh phooool!” Not one of them turned around. I pulled the scarf down from my face and tried again, “Jill’s stuck to the pole!” The grown-ups all casually turned toward me. “I pretended to lick the pole and then she really did lick the pole and now she’s stuck!” I shouted, avoiding the more incriminating part of the story.
My uncle turned his chair toward me slowly and unaffected by the urgency of the situation told me to grab a cup of water and pour it where her tongue was stuck. “That should do the trick.” He said. Brilliant! I thought as I grabbed a cup of warm water from the sink and headed out the door.
Running with a cup of water proved to be a greater challenge than I had ever expected. I tried several techniques before deciding to just take giant steps with my gloved hand over the top of the cup. It seemed like an hour before I arrived back at the park. I turned past the chain-linked fence with one soaked glove and about a third of a cup of water. Just then, a sense of joy filled my little ten-year old body. Jill was off the pole! As I grew nearer, the joy began to slip away from me as I noticed her crouched forward and holding her gloved hand over her mouth. Realizing I didn’t need the water anymore I ran toward her and yelled, “how’d you get away from the pole?” She didn’t answer. I turned and looked at the pole and to my horror a small layer of taste buds stared back at me. I freaked, “why didn’t you wait for me? I brought water.” Raising my now empty cup at her. “You should have waited for me!” I looked back at the taste buds on the pole as they sat there taunting me. Look what you did, liar, they seemed to say. Oooohhh, you’re gonna be in soooo much trouble, they continued. Fear swept over me, what had I done? I just wanted her to yell at me, but talking proved to be too painful. I felt even worse.
It was a long, quiet walk back to the house with my cousin that day. Once inside, I stood in front of the table of grown-ups and told them what I had done. My cousin’s tongue was raw and ice cream seemed the only medicinal solution. I sat down feeling deflated and defeated by the trick I had pulled.
Incredibly and thankfully, it only took a few days and several bowls of ice cream for my cousin’s tongue to heal, but the memory has stayed with me ever since.
To this day, not a winter goes by where I don’t think of this situation and wonder, why didn’t I just grab a cup with a lid?
Sara Palmer is a an improviser-writer-storyteller based in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Share your ideas for her next blog in the comments below.