We lived on a hill in a refurbished Victorian house, once of ill repute, overlooking a campground. Sally and I loved to run wild around the dusty unpaved track on the days Mother helped us clean our room. Oval-shaped, dotted with wooden electrical posts for campers, the track spun in our minds like a wheel of chance. Beer and pee perfumed the autumn air.
On the other side of a fence loomed Oak Meadows, a home for mentally handicapped children. Billy, an overgrown sapling of a twelve year old, fled from it once a week wearing a scratched white football helmet to protect the shunts in his head, crashing head first into a nurse’s stomach like a linebacker. In his mania, he would hurdle the whitewashed slats separating us from them.
Another tuna potato chip casserole Tuesday and we knew we’d see Billy. He leapfrogged over his wooden prison wall. On cue, Sally and I jumped on our battery-powered motorcycle, and he charged us with grizzly fury. I looked back to see him icy-eyed and gaining. Two trips around, we abandoned our ride and ran up our hill, voices squealing. A cascade of leaves, amber and goldenrod, kissed our heads, and we stopped to twirl in them. Billy reached us, touched the fringe of my long, sunny hair; the orderlies pulled him into their rusty bear trap grasp. I gave Billy the copper kiss that Sally had pressed into my hand.