On the small cul-de-sac that I grew up on, there were only nine houses. However, in those houses there were two Brians, myself, and a girl named Ryann.

That introduction doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the story. I just always thought it was kind of cool.

One summer day I was over Brian #1’s house shooting some hoops in his driveway. Brian #2 was also there. For some odd reason, both Brians thought it might be fun to light a small fire in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house. I continued shooting baskets, not really having the same kind of pyromaniacal obsession that the Brians did (especially #2).

The fire started to spread into a large circle. Quickly. Brian #2 started to panic, attempting to stomp out the fire himself. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he was going to need some water to put this fire out, so he asked Brian #1 for some. But for some reason that, to this day, I can’t figure out, Brian #1 said, “Not from my house!” He was refusing to provide the water to put out the fire that was starting to spread towards his own house.

After a few more seconds of yelling back and forth, Brian #1 agreed to provide Brian #2 with water. But only “a little bit.” I kid you not, he handed Brian #2 a bucket with a half-inch of water in the bottom. Needless to say, that little bit of water did very little to aid in putting out the fire.

I was still shooting baskets, refusing to get at all involved with something I knew was going to get these guys in trouble.

Basketball and Fire

I didn’t do anything. I was just shooting baskets.

The panicked yelling back-and-forth continued until Brian #1’s mom came out of the house. When she saw the fire, she flipped, running back inside to call 911. Within a few minutes, we had two firetrucks and several police officers on the scene. And by this time, Brian #1’s mom had hooked up the garden hose. I guess she didn’t mind using her own water to put out the fire.

The fire never got fully out of control, though it certainly would have if it had burned for much longer. The fireman gave us all a lecture about the dangers of fire. Oddly, one of the fireman was Gerber’s grandson.

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Gerber was one of the legendary men that everyone knew about but nobody had ever seen. Among kids, the common question was “Wanna go to Gerber’s land?” He lived deep back in the woods behind our development and had NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere. It was a rite of passage to be able to say that you had been on Gerber’s land. His land was especially popular during the winter because, supposedly, it had good hills. Even my dad told me a story one time about when he jogged on the trails in the woods and accidentally wound up on Gerber’s property. He was chased off the land by Gerber’s infamous dogs. Gerber’s grandson appended to his speech to us, “And by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever been back there, but don’t trespass on my grandfather’s property.” (End sidetrack moment…)

Brian #1’s mom was pissed with Brian #2, but I think she almost expected something like that from him…

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Brian #2 was pretty notorious for getting in trouble. One time in fifth grade, we were standing in the hallway when our principal Mr. Learn walked by. Mr. Learn was a large redheaded man with a pretty high-pitched voice. He was always even tempered, except when he dealt with Brian #2, his archenemy. As Mr. Learn passed, Brian attempted to show us that he had big time balls and said, “Hey, Learn” just loud enough so that we could hear him but so that Mr. Learn couldn’t. Or so he thought. Mr. Learn stopped in his tracks. He turned around, his face beet red and steam coming out his ears. He stomped back towards Brian, who was standing right next to me looking terrified, and picked him up by his neck, off the floor, and slammed him against the wall. “Don’t you ever say that again!” he yelled like I had never heard before. He dropped Brian and walked away. Brian was in shock. I don’t know how that incident was ever resolved, but I know that his parents eventually did get involved. (End sidetrack moment…)

… but she was ultra-pissed with Brian #1 for being such a dumbass. The fire could have easily been contained with a quick spray from the garden hose, but Brian #1 was being stingy for a reason I still can’t comprehend. She was also annoyed with me for not having played mediator between the two Brians and just continuing to play basketball during the whole event.

The large black circle in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house reminded all of us for a long time exactly how stupid three kids can be. We were Monkey See, Monkey Do, and Monkey Who Won’t Give Up His Water.