Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Charity of Night....Cashing in on the Friday Night Lights

Just after the sun went down tonight, and as the sky quickly darkened I caught a glimpse of the moon out an upstairs window. It was only a sliver of silvery light and it was fast sinking to the horizon. By the time we were on our walk, it was gone, but a million stars were lighting the night sky. There is a charity of night; a stillness where, with less sounds to contend with, each sound that does venture into the darkness finds it's rightful place without having to clamor for attention. A dog barks a few times in the distance. Another one, a mile in the other direction, responds, and then the "stage" of the night is ready for it's next willing player to step from the wings. Sometimes none come.

As I mentioned a couple weeks back, my older brother Alan was the young entreprenuer. When I was about 11 he took me into his confidence in sharing a lucrative weekly cache of coin during the fall months when the lights of the nearby high school stadium made our Friday night front yard glow, and the sounds of the band and a cheering crowd echoed down the street. We were close enough that we could hear the scores announced if we sat on the front porch.

If I decided to go to the game, it usually wasn't through the front gate. It was magnanimously more exciting to sneak in. During the days we would occasionally make a circumspect inspection of the very large cyclone fence that enclosed the track and field. By doing so, we had a pretty good idea where we could slip under, hidden by the tall pines lining the fence; a little bit dirty, or going through a "tear" in the fence; sometimes snagging. If we were terribly adventurous in the manner of Steve McQueen, we would climb over, but this was showboating, and a little more dangerous. The sound of the fence ringing could alert a watchman, or worse, some ruddy-faced sophmore who, now that he had left the rank of freshman far behind, was bent on taking a little revenge on an underclassmen.

After a successful "invasion" we stayed long enough to see who won, play on the monkey bars a bit, and oogle the cheerleaders from a safe distance.

The next morning was when we would return to the scene of the crime make our haul.

We would get up early, before dark, before anybody in the world, as far as we could tell, was up. With the possible exception of the man driving the streetsweeper, the boulevard was usually clear, but we were cautious none-the-less. This was a mission. A pair of car lights rounding a corner and we became mere shadows slipping behind a tree or a parked car for safe concealment. When we got to the school we'd have to slip our slender bodies through the gap in a gate, or use the same hole we'd manuevered under the night before. We went early to beat the Saturday morning janitors who too knew what treasures awaited them. With "D" battery flashlights in hand we'd make a beeline for the home bleechers first, closest to the school. This was the first place the janitor would go, so it was mandatory we beat him to it before heading across the field.

Under the stands we would carefully go, square by square, careful not to bump our heads on the metal cross-bars, and kick through the sand, eyes peeled for the glint of coin....lost treasure, adolescent bounty. And we would find it; coins, Cracker Jack prizes, unopened candy bars, assorted items that could easily slip from a pocket during an idle time in the game's action.

Time was of the essence for in our silent work we always kept our ears peeled for the sound of a big ring of keys clanking against a parking lot gate. When we heard that, we'd make a scramble across the field, keeping low in the faint morning light, to start our scavenge again on the far side un-beknownst to the janitor raking the same sandy dirt we'd already scoured.

By the time the sun was starting to filter through the pines, and our pockets were hopefully much heavier, we'd take our leave, satisfied we'd done our best. A good haul would merit a swing by the beacon of light that was the local Winchell's donut shop. A warm chocolate glazed and a cup of hot cocoa at a table by the window, the sun would come up and fill the little white room with light, the smell of fresh donuts intoxicating, as we counted our coins. When all was finished and our bodies buzzed with sugar and burned adrenaline, we'd walk bleary-eyed home and sleep for a few precious hours while the rest of the town began it's day.

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