My Friend Andy

 My friend Andy was eleven years old. He lived in an old, old house on Bearss Avenue in Tampa. Bearss was properly pronounced ‘Bears’ but some folks drew out the second ‘s’ until it sounded like Bare-ass. When things were slow at Andy’s house and we were bored, when it was raining and we had to stay indoors so we wouldn’t run in the puddles that dotted the backyard and track mud all over the floors, Andy would utter the words “bare-ass avenue” just for something to do. We would both crack up, and roll around on the bare floor by the TV set, laughing hysterically, and bumping into the Formica coffee table until Andy’s mom, the bearded lady in the Ringling Brothers Circus, called from the kitchen where she was making supper, “What are you boys up to?”
“Nothing, mom,” Andy would answer.
“Nothing, Mrs. Carson,” I would add.
“Well, I don’t know. Boys are always up to something. You’d better be behaving.”
“We are, mom.”
“We’re behaving, Mrs. Carson.”
“Well, you’d better be.”
We’d lie on our stomachs, smiling at each other, mischief in our eyes, and whisper, “bare-ass avenue! bare-ass avenue! trying to make the other laugh. After a while, after we had wrung all the fun that could be had out of bare-ass avenue, and after our elbows and knees were red from lying on our stomachs on the hard floor, we’d grab the pillows from the sofa and lie on our backs and puff our cheeks out and make silly noises at each other through our noses and our throats. When making silly noises lost its thrill, Andy would get the phonebook and we would leaf through it for funny names. Ida Hooker was a favorite. We could spend an hour imitating Ida Hooker and her probable boyfriend, Uda Pimp. Mrs. Carson, hearing us laughing and carrying on, would call out,
“You boys behave. And make sure you don’t get the phone book dirty.”
“We will, mom,” Andy would say while looking at me with a lopsided grin on his face.
“We won’t, Mrs. Carson,” I’d answer.
“What was that?
“We said we’ll behave, and we won’t get the phone book dirty, mom”
“Okay, then.”
After a while it would stop raining and Andy would ask Mrs. Carson if we could go outside and play. “Go ahead,” she’d say, “but be sure not to get your feet all dirty.”
Andy and I would run outside, barefoot and shirtless, and splash through the puddles dottingthe backyard. The sun would peek out from behind the cumulous clouds that float majestically by after a Florida downpour, and we would hop on the old rusty Scrambler that used to travel with the Carnival, and pretend it was whipping us around and in and out and spinning us and twisting us and making us dizzy, and then we would pretend to throw up hot dogs and french fries on girls. Then we’d sit in the kiddie train, the seats of our cutoff jeans soaking up the rain water, and make believe we were roaring down the railroad tracks, shooting at Indians who were shooting at us.
Andy’s dad would drive up and call us and we would go into the house and clean up for dinner. We would show our hands to Andy’s dad and then sit down at the dinner table by the backdoor, the screen door letting in the afternoon breeze. After Mrs. Carson sat down at the table, we would join hands and Mr. Carson, the alligator skin man in the Ringling Brothers Circus, would say grace, and we would eat dinner.
I could smell the wet grass from my seat at the table, and the left over ozone smell of the rain, and the damp soil. And I could see the old rusty carnival rides that littered the back yard, and I would be impatient to go out and play some more before it got too late. Mrs. Carson would call us in after a while and fix us a snack. We would eat our snacks in front of the television, sitting close enough so one of us could fix the rabbit ears or turn the horizontal hold knob when Mr. Carson asked us to. Later, around eleven o’clock, Mrs. Carson would bring in blankets and pillows, kiss us both good night (her beard always tickled me), tell us to “behave now” and she and Mr. Carson would go to bed. Andy and I would watch the late late movie until we fell asleep.
     Andy was my best friend. His mom was the bearded lady in the Ringling Brothers Circus, and his dad was the alligator skin man. The only thing Andy had going for him was the karate chops he would give you when you woke him up from a sound sleep.

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