When we first moved into our Chamberlain house, our mom and dad would tell us, "Hey kids! The first one who spots a rabbit gets a dime!" This was their way of getting time to themselves... smart move, guys! We lived up against a fire break, there were no houses beyond ours, just a tall brushy hill that led up to a famous art institute shaped as a sideways skyscraper. We would spend the whole day outside, running around the edges of the yard, then up and through the hole in the fence where we discovered we could explore the other side secretly, traipsing a little farther each day as we gained a bit more courage to push the boundaries. It didn't take long before we had climbed all the way to the top of the hill and found ourselves standing there looking down at our little house below. We'd yell down to our parents to see if they could hear us. We found that the acoustics were incredibly good- you could merely talk in a normal voice and the people down below could hear. This hill became our world. It was familiar and spooky all at once, because even though we were on it almost every day, there were still corners, valleys, rocks and trees that we had not dared yet go, and with those places lingered the possibility of dangerous animals, robbers, or just plain black holes that would swallow us up. The only terrifying thing we ended up finding, to the dismay of our mother, was poison oak. She was, and still is deathly allergic to the stuff. Matt and I could traipse around in it all day and not get a bump. We would strip down in the garage and throw our clothes into the washer for mom to do, and the next day she was covered in pustules that seeped white fluid for a week on top of the most horrible red rash, and skin that looked like it had been burned. My poor mom. I can still see her arm, miserable, and beyond hope for any kind of reprieve. We did that to her, we brought her that pain. I felt terrible. But, she did not yell at us. She only asked, covered in puss, that we don't go back. But of course, we did.
When my brother and I weren't giving my mom poison oak, we were rotating a plethora of other angelic acts into the mix. The fire break that we lived adjacent to had a huge sign on the fence: "BEWARE HIGH FIRE DANGER" It hadn't burned in over 80 years, so it was super volatile, and we were in a drought. Yet, what we must've seen on that sign instead was: "MATT! SHELLY! PLEASE BURN FIRES RIGHT HERE!" because that's what we did. We'd go right up to the fence line and sit Indian style facing each other, our legs making a diamond shape in the middle of which we lit fires, lots of fires. We found twigs, dried leaves, dead bugs, (live bugs), whatever we could, and then got a match and lit all of them up, slowly adding carnage to the pile to see how high we could get it before we had to jump back and stomp it out quickly, running back down the street.
Another favorite game my brother and I used to play was War. Not the board game kind. The real kind. We would find my dad's Marine Corp shirts and his massive Rambo knives (the ones with the camouflage grip handle and the compass on top that screwed off to hide our clever battle objects). My dad still has that knife. I saw it last month when I was at my parent's house in Laughlin. I reminisced with him about Matt and I and how I loved that knife when I was 7. Matt and I would suit up in our dad's Marine garb, and then define the rules of the day. Most of them favored my brother and not me, but I went along with them anyway cuz that's what little sisters do. We had watched movies where a bad guy would take a cloth soaked in methanol or whatever terrible liquid, and hold it over the mouth and nose of their captive until they passed out. We decided to make our own, digging under the counter through all of our mom's cleaning supplies to made our special concoctions. It never quite worked all the way, I mean, we never actually passed out, but it was an awful smell, and I would just submit myself to my captor and go limp so he would take it away and I could breath normal air again. Then, I would be tied up with rope, my hands behind my back, many times a bandana gag tied around my mouth, and I would be placed in the holding cell. This 'prison' was typically under our house. There was no floor, only cold dirt below and wooden beams above that jetted up in varying directions, just barely high enough for a 7-year-old to stand. It was cold, dark and cave-like, and spider webs adorned the corners of every wall. Black widow spiders, mind you, the deadly kind. My captor would then come torture and scare me until I would admit to being a spy... I loved it. Partly because I felt cool playing such a non-girly game, and then I guess just because I loved that my brother and I were doing crazy weird shit together. He always came up with the games. I think he knew I would go along with his schemes, so he didn't mind that his little sister was around all the time. I was the perfect toy.
Sometimes, my parents would come home in the middle of our war and find their sweet, blonde haired little girl screaming from down below. My brother would panic knowing he would get in trouble so he quickly untied my hands and shh'd me so I wouldn't tell. He'd offer to pay me a dollar and I'd accept. I loved my brother, and even though I loved to get him in trouble, most of the time I would go along with him when he sweetly asked me to act normal and pretend we were just playing nice. I would skip upstairs to greet them, but my face would be smeared with dirt, my hair nappy, and a dried tear in my eye with the gag hanging loosly around my neck. They would look over at my brother hard as steel and he would just stand there innocently like, "What??". The familiar cry came from my Mom's mouth..."Matthew Colbyyyyy!!!!!" I had no idea how tattered I really looked.