*Lily is younger than me and lives on the opposite side of the street, but at the end, near “the creek”. The creek winds its way through its banks and a few trees that we call “the woods”.
I’m not exactly sure what Lily’s dad does for a living, but I do know he wears a white shirt and slacks to work. I know this because one day I ride with Lily and her mom to pick him up, from his office. Another thing I know about Lily’s dad is that he brings home free samples to his family. In fact, the cabinets in their basement kitchenette are stuffed with samples, as are the shelves lining the walls and down the center of another room.
One day, we’re playing a 45 record—a Beatles’ song, on the record player, in her basement. John Lennon is my favorite Beatle, she chooses Paul McCartney. At some point, Lily decides to show me the shelving in the next room, brimming with samples. Inside the room, I stand amazed at the assortment of foodstuffs.
Lily’s voice breaks through my trance as she becomes the tour guide and calls out names of products, sometimes touching the item and sometimes just pointing. She pulls one box from a shelf and names it sugar.
“Our sugar doesn’t look like this.” I challenge her.“It’s sugar cubes.”
I feel confused, but curious about the box she hands to me. “What’s a sugar cube?”
Lily grabs the package back from me and opens it, folding back the wax paper lining, and pulls out a tiny white cube that sparkles a little. “It’s sugar—that looks like a cube,” she says, popping it in to her mouth. Then she pulls another cube from the box, grabs my hand and drops it in my palm.
I turn the cube over again and again, investigating its squareness.
“Eat it.”When the sugar cube hits my tongue it’s gritty, but soon dissolves into a sweet crunchy mass, begging my teeth to bite down and finish it off. “Can we take these with us—outside?”
Lily thinks about it, then says, “We’ll have to sneak them out. Mom won’t be happy if she thinks we’re eating a box of sugar.”
Willing and eager to become the smuggler, I pull up my shirt and slide the box between my skinny belly and an elastic waistband. I pull my shirt down over the box. The rectangular outline is obvious so I cross my arms over it, partially to hide it and partially to hold the box in place.
The summer sun is bright and hot when we escape the basement and run to the sparse woods, beside the creek. After we find a stump to share, we sit beside each other and pop one sugar cube after another into our mouths to satisfy our sweet cravings until we eat half of the box of sugar.
Being the sugarholic that I am, I say, “Let’s hide the box and eat the rest tomorrow.”
Lily says yes because she doesn’t want to return a half eaten box of sugar to her basement.
We look around us for a suitable hiding place, but there is none where we're sitting. Then through the sparsely spaced trees, I see a familiar old tree. The tree’s two limbs jet upward, causing a fork, but out from there grows a canopy of limbs covered in leaves. Beneath the fork is a dark hollow that will hide our sugary prize. There’s only problem with my idea, the field is a pasture for a flock of sheep and a cantankerous ram.
At one time or another, by dare or by accident, nearly every kid in our neighborhood has been chased out of the field by the ram. Lily and I know this about the ram, but decide to use the tree to hide our sugar. The guard ram is a bonus.
At the fence, we look for the ram, then carefully part the barbed wire and help each other through. On the other side, we run to the tree and shove the box of sugar cubes deep inside the dark hole. It’s then we see, running across the field and in our direction, the charging ram tossing his head around. We know we haven’t much time to escape and run back to the fence and climb through.
It is the next weekend when we meet up again and decide to retrieve the box of sugar for a post-breakfast treat. Outside the fence, we scan the field for the bully ram, but he’s nowhere in sight. Feeling safe, we climb through the wire and run to the tree. I can barely see the top of the box, but I thrust my hand inside the hollow to get it. As I grab hold of the box and pull it out of the black hole, pricks of pain cover my hand.
When my hand surfaces, I see the source of my pain is a swarm of ants clinging to my hand and fighting for the box of sugar cubes that I hold. As their attack increases, I realize the sugar war is over, and I let the box fall to the ground. Shaking the remaining ants from my hands, I surrender our box of sugar to the ants and leave with Lily.