B. S. Pyle

"Boy with Frog"
Sarah Sammis

It would seem I am compelled to atone for my sins every Saturday.  That's when Ambrose B. Twerp comes to call.  He must be 12 or 13 years old now, and was born during one of the worst hurricanes the Gulf of Mexico has thrust upon Goat Island in my lifetime.  The kid has been a barb in my flank since.  He reminds me of how lucky I am to be single with no children to speak of. Observing this scourge of the sand dunes wend his way down the beach can be disconcerting because I know he's going to stop for a visit, and I had rather he didn't. His family has lived here for as long as I can remember.  It's a small island, and everyone has to get along.  So I suffer his impositions on my person in spite of my sentiments.

This particular Saturday I watched as he beachcombed his way along the shore in his ragged cutoffs, shirtless and barefoot.  His not-yet-faded summer tan still glowed in the temperate winter sun, and his blonde hair whipped about his head in the breeze.  The youngster bore a tow sack which bulged with his pickings, and it's my understanding he and his sister fashion trinkets with his findings for peddling to the tourists. He was exploring those precincts left wet and littered with seashells, driftwood, and man-made debris after the tide has receded.  If he has any motive for stopping at my place, other than his mission as an avenging angel, I don't know what it is.  If he weren't so insensitive to my feelings, he would perceive that I'd rather he just passed on by.

I was sitting on the porch in my preferred rocker, when he caught my eye and waved, grinning broadly.  He sprinted over to the foot of my steps as if overjoyed to see me. Leaving his tow sack under the oleander bush, and swishing his sandy feet in the pan of water provided for the purpose of keeping ones abode as grit-free as possible, he mounted the steps and sat at my feet, gazing expectantly up at my face, as if words of wisdom were about to spew forth.  I didn't know whether to scratch him behind the ears or kick him off the porch.  Either way, he reminded me of a puppy dog. I am always at a disadvantage with children, having nothing in common with them. However, being an adult and desiring to be an abstinent paradigm, I opened the conversation with "How's school?"

"Okay, I guess," was his terse response.

Getting a discussion out of a child is like extracting molars, so I angled for another opener. "Do you harbor any opinions about the ban on prayer in school?"

"What ban?" he queried.

"Well," I explained, "some years back, the Supreme Court ruled it's unconstitutional to pray in school."

"How do you keep someone from praying?" he asked.

"When I was a kid," I explicated, "we began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a group prayer."

"Oh," he responded. "We do the Pledge of Allegiance, but we don't pray out loud.  Doesn't keep me from praying to myself, though."

"What sort of things do you pray about?" I inquired.

"Lots of stuff," he stated, shyly studying his toes.

"Such as ...?"

"Well, for one thing, I always pray just before a test that I'll pass it."

"Good idea.  Anything else?"

"Well, you know, they don't have a school here, so the Goat Island kids take the ferry to the Mainland and go to the big school there."

"Yes, I knew that."

"Well, it gets scary sometimes.  Some of the city kids pack guns and belong to gangs and stuff.  So, I pray I'll get through the day without getting beat up or shot or something."

"Can't say that I blame you."

"Another thing I pray for is the teachers don't mess with me."

"What on earth do you mean?"

"Well, last year one of the teachers got himself arrested for molesting a student.  I'd hate it if that happened to me."

"That's terrible!"  I exclaimed, startled.  Thinking it wise to steer the conversation to another track, I quickly inquired, "Have you broken any other school rules?"

"I didn't know praying was against the rules," he said, "but I guess I have sometimes."

"So did I when I was your age," I interjected in a spirit of camaraderie.

His visage brightened and he beamed expansively, "What did you do?"

"Got caught chewing gum in class." I admitted, relishing the memory of my wickedness.

"CHEWED GUM IN CLASS?"  He appeared dismayed.

"Does that shock you?"  I asked, feeling smug about my misspent youth.

"Of course not!  Even teachers chew gum in class nowadays!  I'm just struck dumb that it was against the rules."

"Then what rule did you break?"  I wanted to know, deflated that my revelation fell short of the desired effect.

"I got caught with my knife in my pocket," he confessed, head lowered sheepishly.

"It's against the rules to carry a pocket knife?"   It was my turn to be shocked. "When I was your age, all the boys carried pocket knives.  How can a boy get by without his pocket knife?  It's just a tool!"

"I know," he replied. "I use mine for whittling drift wood and shucking oysters and stuff. Heck, it ain't big enough to do anybody any harm.  I had forgotten it was there.  I didn't mean to take it to school with me."

We sat reticent for a time, pondering our respective lapses into anarchy. . . him considering his pedicel digits, me gazing over the choppy winter gulf.  After a while he rose to his feet and started back down the stairs.

"Guess I'd better get going," he announced. "It'll be getting dark soon. I still have some territory to cover, and Mama doesn't like it when I'm late for supper."

"Try to stay out of trouble," I advised.

Ambrose B. Twerp retrieved his tow sack and continued his quest for that which the Gulf of Mexico spurns and regurgitates upon the beach. I was palliated to see him depart. His visits always leave me a tad disquieted.

As stated earlier, I'm not fond of children. We have nothing in common.

B. S. Pyle, who resides on Goat Island, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico is a regular contributor to Moondance. He writes a weekly newspaper column which appears in The Falfurrias Facts and Midlothian Mirror. Another of his short stories appeared in the fall issue of Satire magazine. His web page may be viewed at

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