Nancy Was Here

The rosemary scented air was humid on that summer day. Nancy my best friend and riding buddy, asked me if I wanted to go and have a smoke. Of course I said yes. I was up for anything in those years, it was nineteen seventy-one. She snuck into her older sister Sue’s stash and stole two Marlboro cigarettes and matches. We knew where Sue kept all of her personal belongings, including her paperback erotica. She had one book called “Love Thy Neighbor”. We read it voraciously when their parents weren’t home. Nancy shared a bedroom with her older sister Sue. They had fuzzy-felt psychedelic posters adorning their bedroom walls. “Keep on Truckin’” was tacked up over her bed. Cherry incense was wafting around that bedroom constantly. A green bottle of herbal essence shampoo with the goddess standing there in the label, they’d turned me on to. Our thin blonde hair held the redolence of its perfect garden scent.

The empty house across the street was for sale for what seemed like months. The front door had been left open. It was our smoking house for then. All we had to do in order to have privacy was run across the street. We went into the back bedroom and lit up. Nancy informed me that if we ate a banana that nobody would smell the cigarettes on our breath, and then like the wizard that she was, she produced a banana from her shirt. We would be sharing the banana she said. What could I say? We lit up and smoked, feeling cool and adult. She showed me how to blow smoke rings. Our lower jaws making small O’s like fish, we perfected the art of smoke rings, blowing them by two’s and three’s. Soon I was dizzy from all of the smoke and nicotine. We smashed our cigarettes onto the wall, pulling them down the white wall and making a long black sooty line.

Nancy announced that she needed to take a crap. I didn’t know what we could do, unless we were to leave and go across the street to her house. She said she couldn’t wait. She promptly pulled the closet door open, stepped in and shut the door again. I couldn’t see what she was doing, but I knew she was shitting. “Do you have to go?” she inquired upon stepping out of her temporary outhouse. I said I didn’t. We left sneaking back out the door, looking up and down the street first. Nobody saw us.

The next day Nancy and I and four of our closest friends who lived in houses up and down the street, were riding our bicycles down to Hobo Junction for fun. Hobo junction was an area around our neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley; it was a huge olive orchard that seemed as if the trees were over one hundred years old. Evenly spaced a few yards apart, there were hundreds of these trees. All of the branches were heavy and weighted down with black olives and their tiny green leaves. The trees formed a canopy of branches, so heavy that the orchard created a shelter from the rain as we galloped through it on our horses. Sometimes we played hide and seek on horseback. The olive trees were so thick you could sit atop your horse and be invisible behind any of them.

Hobo junction was next to a place we affectionately named “Cherry Flats”, that was where cherry trees were growing abundantly, stretching up a hill that was next to the Juvenile Hall that had been recently abandoned after the earthquake. In our gang of friends from the neighborhood, it was said that some of my friends had seen hobos living in the orchard. But recently some construction had begun in our riding area there. And on weekends the construction crew would leave their huge, monstrous, yellow tractors and landscape movers parked unattended. We didn’t like this idea of buildings being built in our territory.

The previous weekend we’d already been down there, and when we saw those tractors we couldn’t believe it. Outrage made us come up with a plan of action. My friend Nancy said she’d shit on their tractors, and write her name in shit on the side of the biggest one. Yeah, we liked that. We’d show them! And she proceeded to complete her creation of shit, shitting, writing her name with a stick, “Nancy was here”. I can only recall thinking that Nancy had balls. It was classic. We joyously rode our bikes back home, laughing hysterically all the way.

The next Saturday we rode back down there again, on our bikes. There were a few more of us this day, because we’d put out the word of our shit plan. Some more of our courageous crew were wanting in on the action. We troublemakers took our route down to Hobo Junction, riding with no fear. It was Nancy, Wendy and I and a few others too, and I think my brother Jay- Jay was with us.

Cruising along the trail that was usually used for horses, on our bikes and next to the rows of olive trees, we heard a rustling sound. Four men came running out of the trees, taking us, grabbing our bicycles at the handlebars. One of them said loud “are any of you kids here named Nancy?” We froze. I said “no why?” (As I was the bravest one in our group… verbally, just not brave enough to shit on property). They were still holding onto our handle bars with their thick muscular arms. We all looked at each other. I said “she’s Angela”, pointing at Nancy. And then Nancy began reciting fictitious names and pointing at each of us, to throw them off. “Why, what happened?” I said again. “Some kids vandalized our equipment”, said the head construction man. I was holding in my laughter, smirking, “what did they do”? “They just vandalized it”, he puffed in anger. “Oh” I said shyly, using my acting skills and opening my eyes wide. They let go of our bikes. And we were free.

When we got out of earshot we all burst into laughter, putting our feet down and stopping the bicycles in the middle of Bradley Street. “We shit on your tractors”! We screamed over and over hysterically, as loud as we could. We were sitting on the bikes, looking back down the street to the green leafy trees. Nobody was there any more. Just a round tumbleweed bouncing high into the air and then down, away from us. Then we were riding and pedaling fast all the way home. Our long hair flying behind us, the water in our eyes coming out the sides as the wind whipped up all around us.