Georgie licked the copper penny, enjoying its metallic taste that reminded him of the doorknob leading into the attic.
"What you doing, Georgie? That's not gold!" Andréa said.
"I know it ain't gold!" Georgie replied. "Wanna lick?"
"No thanks. I got a pickle sucker. See?"
"Yep. I've seen them b'fore. They should'a made it shape like a pickle."
"Hey! Andréa! Wanna see my buried treasure?"
"You're not a pirate!"
"I am too a pirate! I'm Captain Long John Silvers! Wanna see my treasure? It's good! C'mon!"
Andréa stood for a second pondering the new adventure, and then ran after chubby Georgie across the playground filled with giant oaks and jumping boards, merry-go-rounds and monkey bars. She soon caught up with him and jogged alongside him, his face already red and sucking wind in and out like her cat Rollo when he got a hairball caught in his throat.
Georgie Porgie puddin' pie!
the familiar rhyme-turned-taunt rang out from at least seven elementary mouths bobbing up and down on the swing-set, three prone to back-talking and general troublemaking, four or five prone to following blindly the first three, the desperate need for coolness already vital to the fourth graders.
Kiss the girls an' make them cry!
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away!
But Georgie paid no attention to the still-half-innocent gang and took his girl Andréa by her soft moist hand and swung her onward in swashbuckling ecstasy toward the empty jumping boards and his secret treasure.
"Where is it? Here? What's that smell?"
"Just a old dead bird. A bluejay. Must have got bit by a hawk an’ then he didn’t know what to do so he just fluttered down and died.”
Georgie pointed with his stubby finger to the corner where the chainlength hurricane fences met, and Andréa squealed like the sun when it plummets into the hot open sea.
"Stop hollerin'!" he said, hissing. "You'll make Miss Dithers come over here an' then she'll know!"
"Sorry!" Andréa whispered. "I just... don't like death..."
"Keep a watch while I dig, okay?"
Andréa held her nauseous tummy tight with her hand, but in a moment the wave left her, the bird was gone from her world, and she was fine. She hopped onto one of the jumping boards in front of Georgie and began bouncing up and down, up and down, all the while watching for their teacher with one eye while with the other peering into the wet hole that her friend was hurriedly making in the dark loamy sand.
"Can I lick your penny now?" she asked with sudden sorrow in her voice, as if she would not truly be a part of the piratical account if she didn't go through the necessary initiation she had so flippantly put off for a mere pickle. No. Not even a pickle. Just the taste of a pickle.
"Not right now. I'm almost there," Georgie replied as he breathed heavily. And Andréa's tears were almost there, too, when she saw something shiny glisten up from the black dirt.
"Yep! It's gold! We're rich, lassie! Rich, I say! Har-har-har!"
"Oh, Georgie. Is it real?"
"You betcha, my sweet," Georgie replied as he pulled his father's pocket watch out of the dirt. "Tonight we'll fly together to yon hillcroft an' be married by streamin' moonlight!"
"Why's it not ticking?"
"Keep hoppin' please! Hop!"
"It's a treasure from Spain!" Andréa said with a screech as she hopped on the pliable board, and Georgie popped up and shot a grimy hand over her perky lips. Her emerald eyes widened and the ready tears cascaded down over his fingers.
"Miss Dithers! She'll hear you!"
"Pthoo! Pthoooo!" was the only sound Andréa made as she spit, wiped and sputtered, trying to get all the sand out of her mouth.
"I'm sorry Andréa." And he really was. She could hear it in his voice. He hadn't meant to be so hot-blooded about their secret.
Both children were surprised none of the others had followed them over, and really happy that Miss Dithers had gotten herself preoccupied.
"Can... I lick your penny now?"
"Sure," Georgie replied as he pulled the wheat penny from his pocket and handed it to her as if it were God's own medicine. "But you hafta get it with the tip of your tongue, or it don't work right."
Andréa puckered in expectation, and when she reverently lifted the coin to her mouth, she liked very much the weird burning sensation. Well, not quite burning, but sort of electric. Her eyes closed behind long dark lashes, and Georgie saw this and knew he loved her.
"You like that?"
"Yes. I do." She took a little white silk purse out of her pocket, deposited the burnished copper into it and handed it back to Georgie. He stood motionless, and then stuffed the bag into his loose khaki trousers. Andréa knew he thanked her for the bag, and she was glad to be a part of his world.
"Notice something funny, Georgie?"
"Not really. What?"
"Notice none of the kids has come over to see what we're doing over here?"
"Hmmm... you're right. That is weird. Usually mean old Bobby Thompson comes over. Or Eric Richardson. Or Tommy Tucker. Or that mean girl that trips you and pushes you down the stairs into trees. And..."
In that one conjunction lay a heaviness which made Georgie start and let the watch drop on its golden chain, there swinging back and forth like a hypnotist's disk, the ivory fob caught between his silver spoon rings.
"And what, Andréa?" He was very scared now. But why?
"Georgie. I'm... wearing a dress."
"So what? All the girls wear dresses. It's how they're supposed to dress." He coughed. He was nervous. His friend's eyes had turned dark and foreboding like the Gulf of Mexico before a storm.
"Look, Georgie..." she replied as she took his face in her hands and moved his sharp grey eyes across the playground. "The girls on the monkey bars... They're wearing pants..."
"Woo! If Miss Dithers sees that!"
"It's not... it's not Miss Dithers. And she has seen it. And..."
"Hey! Andréa! She's wearin' pants too!... Hoh?"
Andréa was crying very hard now and moving close to Georgie, her head swaying from side to side very slow in frightened disbelief. He instinctively hugged her tightly as he held back his own tears. But they quickly burned and sprayed out like a warm fountain all over the back of his girl's orange polyester knit dress, sprinkling the calves of her black vinyl boots. He suddenly turned his gaze to the crossroad just over the fence, watching for the very next car. Just the very next one. He tried to hold himself very still, but he was shaking as if he had a high fever. He fell to his knees, dragging Andréa with him, when the vehicle that drove by looked like something out of a science fiction movie...
Mobile, Summer 2004
Scathe meic Beorh is an author and storyteller whose antecedents are piracy, storms, and joyous laughter. His literary influences are many and varied, and include William Blake, Arthur Machen, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, and George Mackay Brown. First a writer of poetry, he has most recently worked in other forms. He is the author of the Dark Fantasy novel The Place Where Infinity Blooms (The Irish Lore Trilogy, Book One, Cogwheel Press) as well as a number of out-of-print books. His stories, poetry, and essays are often found in anthologies and magazines worldwide. He presently resides on the Atlantic Coast with his wife Ember, also a lover of graveyards, wide oceans, whispering leaves, warm hearths, espresso, and cobblestone lanes.