It wasn’t the snow that woke me. That part was quiet.
And it wasn’t just his voice. Something was up. Something was different. I opened my eyes to find Johnny’s face in my face. Climbing up to my bunk, he had his body bent over my headboard, his face upside-down, hovering. I could almost taste the urine drenching his pajamas.
“Johnny. You wet the bed?”
“Look outside.” He slid back down the to the floor, and headed to the window. I looked at the back of his pajamas, totally soaked. Dad was gonna be pissed.
“Johnny. You wet the bed.”
“I can’t help it, Jake. By the time I know I’m goin’, it’s already too late.”
“Well, you’d better hide your pajamas before one of them sees you.” I jumped down to the floor and headed to the dresser to get him some clean stuff.
“Okay, Jake, but you gotta come see outside!” I dropped the pajamas back in the drawer and slid the floor along the length of the bed, over to the window. Our pajamas had no-skid feet in them, but Johnny and I had already rubbed off the white rubber bumps on Mom’s hand-polished hardwood floors.
Snow! A picture of our neighborhood on blue paper scratched with a white crayon. There were no streets, only wrinkled ribbons of white satin. Almost all the cars were missing. Probably eaten by the same goofy marshmallow beasts that had swallowed Mom’s new trees. All the roofs were cut sheets of vanilla icing, and our yards were squared platters of frosted whipped cream.
“Jake? Do ya think Mommy’ll let us go outside?” Johnny opened our bedroom window half way, and threw a wooden Disney block outside. We watched it sink down through the snowy peak that didn’t quite reach the top of the brand new picture window on the first floor. Our bedroom was right above the living-room.
“It’s a school day. We have to get ready. You know we can’t play till after.” I readied a few more blocks on the windowsill.
“We won’t play; we’ll just go out and look at it.” 8 years old, and Johnny was already looking for loopholes.
“Okay, but we gotta be real quiet.” If we got caught, I was already prepared to tell Mom it had been Johnny’s idea. “But first you gotta change your clothes.”
“You boys up?” Mom.
“Yes, Mom, we’re gettin’ dressed for school.” I piped up just as she opened the door.
“Mommy! It snowed!” Johnny just couldn’t be quiet. He stood there dripping in pee, but he had to make sure Mom looked at him.
“Goddammit, Johnny. Did you wet the bed, again?”
“I couldn’t help it, Mommy.”
“Strip your bed, right now. And take a bath.” Then she looked at me. “Jake, you fill the tub for him, and take his pajamas down stairs before your father gets out of the shower.” She looked back at Johnny, then to his bed, and then to the window. “I doubt if you boys’ll be going to school today.” She glared at us like it was our fault, and slipped back out the door.
No school! We both looked at each other. I ran into the bathroom and started the water. “No school. We can make snow forts!”
Johnny and I slept in what was supposed to be our parent's room. I guess they figured it was better we played here than in Mom's kitchen. Besides, this way, we had our own bathroom. Close enough to Johnny's bed, maybe they hoped he could make it there in time.
“Jake?” I could hear it Johnny’s voice - An idea.
“What?” I came back into the bedroom. I was already game.
“I bet if we jumped out the window, the snow would catch us.” Johnny was butt naked, the whole top half of his body hanging out the window.
“It is pretty close.” I took another look with him. Between the drift and our house lay 3 of the 7 blocks Johnny had dropped out there earlier. “But we’d need to jump way out, cause if we miss, we’ll bump into the house.” Our house was built of brick.
“Go take your bath first. Mom’s gonna be mad if you still smell like pee.” I took his wet pajamas and his sheets and stuffed them in the hamper. Johnny got in the tub and started cleaning up. And I hurried to put new sheets on his bed.
There was about two feet of floor between our bunk and the window, and it was that window the headboards were centered on. When we needed an extra room for the Bed Fort, we’d close the window down on one side of a blanket, and drape the other side over Johnny’s headboard. The dresser was butted up against the footboards, and Johnny would use it to boost himself up onto my bunk.
The head and foot boards, weren't really boards at all. They were made of metal. Every year, Mom would spray paint them a new colour. This year, they were black. Rectangled metal frames, they had a quarter-inch metal tube zigzagging from one side to the other, making triangles inside the open space.
Except for my headboard. My headboard didn’t have zigzags anymore. And the rectangle part had been filed smooth by my dad. The zigzags had been removed so we could rescue Johnny.
He didn’t always bend over my headboard to talk to me. He used to stand on the dresser and stick his head through, between the zigzags. Till one day when he got stuck. I’d tried for a long time to get him out. I pushed on his head and I pulled on his body, but I couldn’t get him through. His ears kept getting in the way. I finally had to get Mom.
She tried putting vaseline on his ears and his face but we just couldn’t get Johnny’s head back outta that triangle. Mom finally called the fire department. They tried to use vaseline, too. After a couple of hours, the firemen told Johnny they were gonna have to cut off his ears. But they just cut the metal tubing instead.
Poor Johnny. His face was all red and scraped, and he had big globs of vaseline all through his hair and in his ears. He kept touching them to make sure they hadn’t been cut off. That was 2 days after New Year’s, when Johnny was still 7. I could hear him sucking his thumb that night when he went to bed.
So, anyway, it was when I was making Johnny’s bed, I found the matches.
This story concludes here...