So, at midnight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving morning, my cousins and I slipped away from the house and crept down the road. We knew that our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles had all come to expect this thing to happen, it was a very well known tradition, but it was more fun to sneak out than to ask for permission. It was chilly outside, frost had appeared on the ground every morning for the past few weeks, covering the stiff grass with a layer of crystals that melted in the late morning sunlight and faded away without a trace in the warmer afternoons. We were all praying for a white Christmas, as we prayed every year, with childlike anticipation of mounds of white fluff, perfect for building snow forts and snowmen.
My cousins and I crept down the street; the walk seemed endless, though it was only a few blocks. Finally, finally we reached the church, and there sat the bell in all its glory, the sharp image of black metal stood out starkly against the surrounding darkness. We stood and stared at it, fascinated, our breath puffing out in clouds, illuminated by the soft ethereal light of the moon.
We exchanged conspiratorial grins as we stared at our goal. Then with excited whispers we scrambled up and stood next to the bell. We paused for a heartbeat, reveling in the mounting excitement and danger of the moment, and then we grasped the wheel and began to turn the bell.
We had become experts at this over the years, and we knew that someone had to make sure that the clapper did not hit the side of the bell as we turned it upside down. Kim was in charge of this and Gayle and Wendy and I were in charge of turning the enormous wheel. Slowly, ever so slowly we strained to turn the bell upside down. Finally, it was in position; we paused, listening to the silence, as the night seemed to hold its breath in anticipation. Then we let go and dashed towards the grove of pine trees that stood on the corner of the church property. We huddled there, shaking with suppressed laughter as the bell swung back and forth, clanging over and over again, its deep, clear tones ringing out and disturbing the quiet Morenci night.
“Let’s go home,” Gayle said quietly, when the bell had finished ringing and silence had once again enfolded us in her arms.
“No!” I whispered in agitation, “This is our last childhood adventure, we will never have this time again. If we leave now, we will regret it for the rest of our boring adult lives!” I can be very persuasive when I want to be, and although all three of my cousins were older, wiser, and more mature than I, I knew that they were still children at heart as I was. I also knew that they could not argue with my statement, illogical as it might have been.
Gayle’s argument weakened as Kim joined my ranks, “Come on Gayle,” she said teasingly, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” Wendy nodded, but did not vocalize her agreement.
Gayle finally grinned, “What can it hurt?” She asked.
I stopped myself from letting out a cheer. Together, the four of us crept back up to the bell and repeated the process. If anything, we were all a little more on edge. We turned the bell upside down and then scattered, only this time, we ran around towards the back of the church, intending to loop around and run home. However, before we had gotten more than five steps from the bell, we heard an ominous noise.
SLAM! The door of the pastor’s house swung open with a violent crash, and then we heard a dog begin to bark ferociously. Then, panic ensued. We all dashed away in different directions, terrified. In the darkness I lost my cousins, but I kept running as fast as I could, without knowing exactly where I was going.
As I fled, I wondered what had happened to Kim, Gayle, and Wendy. I did not know what had happened to them, but all I could think of was that a dog the size of the Beast in the movie Sandlot was chasing us. I had visions of my cousins being devoured in one enormous bite by the vicious, drooling monster who by now must be coming after me, I could hear its heavy footsteps coming closer and I could feel hot breath on the back of my neck. I ran and ran, my feet pounding the ground, keeping time with the frenzied thumping of my heart. Suddenly, I saw the grove of pine trees and leapt for it in desperation. I made it to safety, and found myself surrounded by all three of my cousins. I was relieved to see that they were all alive and well.
Before we had a chance to calm down, the beam of a flashlight blazed into our eyes and a gruff voice said, “I guess you think you’re pretty cool, don’t you?”
Wendy, the oldest by ten minutes, stepped forward and spoke in a quavering voice, “I’m sorry sir, but we’re Roger Porter’s grand-daughters and ringing the bell is kind of a tradition.”
The pastor suddenly seemed embarrassed, and he lowered his voice and said grudgingly, “Well, you really scared my wife.”
“We’re really very sorry,” we all chorused, our hearts beginning to calm.
Then the ferocious barking began again and we all recoiled in terror as the pastor’s huge beast jumped out at us.
“Oh, don’t worry,” the Pastor said kindly, “Pixie won’t bite.”
We stared at him, and then we stared in shock and embarrassment at the growling beast, that was actually a tiny miniature poodle with bows on her ears. The Pastor turned and went back inside, and the four of us dashed back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house as though we had a raging forest fire chasing us. When we got back, we related the story to our parents, who laughed at us; it was somewhat upsetting that they found our terror so amusing, but within a few moments we were laughing with them. We had gotten our “last” adventure, and what an adventure it was!