The other day, Jesse called to ask if I remembered the summer we stayed with Chilton outside Oroville in a large house that Chilton and his girlfriend, Danielle, finagled because we kids would be visiting for the summer. I think it was the last summer I spent over there because I started high school that fall and had summer jobs after that.
Chilton and Jesse kept track of every game of Crazy 8s they played together that summer, using a piece of paper tacked to the wall as the tally sheet. As I recall, they ended the summer very nearly tied. I say “summer” but we were likely there only a week or two.
At the end of our visit I accompanied Chilton to the local high school to register Christopher for classes because he was moving to Oroville to live with Chilton and Danielle. That must have been his 10th grade year since I was about to start 9th grade myself.
I have a single photo from that summer, taken with someone’s instamatic camera. The wrist strap is draped across the lens so the photo looks like you’re peering past foliage or through a keyhole. I’m standing on the muddy shore of some lake wearing a tie-dyed tank top and a pair of white shorts instead of a swim suit. My favorite parts are my long hands and feet, welfare glasses, and sunny smile full of crooked teeth.
I bear more than a passing resemblance to another skinny, toothy, kid.
Jesse asked me if I remembered him hitchhiking alone into town to visit the local library but I don’t. I know that I spent a lot of time trying to protect Jesse when we were little so I imagine I did a fair bit of that when we were in Oroville together. I can’t really believe I would have let him out of my sight long enough for him to head into town on his own. After all, Jesse was probably only 7 years old that summer. But memory is fallible and Jesse’s memories are as valid as my own. So maybe he did hitchhike into town alone to visit the library. All I can really remember is the crazy 8s tally sheet, Chilton and Danielle drinking and fighting, and a vague sense that the house had a central room that we used for eating and playing cards.
Offering: a deck of cards