Skating to the storm drain

Published 10:39 pm Friday, July 21, 2017

When I was a kid, one of our favorite pastimes was street skating. We’d race or pretend to be in the roller derby. I wasn’t the best skater, or even a good one, but I had brand new skates the summer that I was six, and I loved them. They were metal and looked like the skeletons of shoes. They strapped on my feet right on top of my Keds, and came with a little key that would allow me to stretch them if I grew.

One day the gang figured we’d stop skating for a while and just hang out. We ran and played and wrestled and showed off for one another, until we heard a whispered, “Uh-oh” that seemed to echo across the neighborhood.

One of my shiny new skates had somehow landed in a storm drain.

A hot, dry wind swept down the street as I stood, struck silent by the loss. Everyone knew that alligators and wharf rats and a strange alien race of cannibal humanoids, bleached pure white from lack of light, lived in the world beneath our little street.

Brother, who had a serious case of hero worship for his older sister and a big crush on one of the neighborhood girls, decided to kill two birds with one stone and impress us both by going after the skate. He crawled into the storm drain while the rest of us were arguing over who was responsible for the skate-flinging, and the first thing we knew of it was when we heard a sad little toddler voice calling out, “Heeeeeelllllpppp!”

I leapt into action. I had all the kids organized in seconds, and we formed a human chain. All we really needed was someone to reach into the drain and grab Brother while someone else held her feet, but everyone wanted to be involved in the rescue, so we made a chain. I scrunched my front half down the drain and grabbed first the skate that Brother was holding up to me like a trophy, and then his little hand, and hollered,  “Pull!”

Out he popped, hale and hearty. I’d saved the day!

Mama and Daddy didn’t see it that way. They were second-hand horrified that their baby had been wandering around the bowels of LaGrange and were not relieved at all when I told them of my heroic rescue operation or that it wasn’t really anything but a big box down there anyway, no cannibals in sight. I had somehow shirked my big sister duties. I was grounded for the day, and Brother got a giant bag of M&Ms for not dying. The worst part was, they took my brand new skates away!

Pepper Ellis Hageback is a resident of LaGrange.