The Red Button

by Jeb on 05/11/2009

in Creative

Post image for The Red Button

It was a typical SoCal day, which is to say it was sunny, warm, and not all that interesting. Sitting on the roof of my elementary school made it better, of course. Being up high and doing something you know you probably shouldn’t always seemed to make things better. I used to wonder why it was so easy to get up there. I mean, even at 9 years old I knew kids and roofs and public property didn’t fit together real well.

And yet that block wall intentionally had blocks missing at intervals that almost - no - that absolutely begged a child to use it as a convenient ladder to the roof. So that either meant that adults wanted us on that roof, or their world was so unbelievably different from ours that they couldn’t even imagine a kid wanting to climb up there. As a child of 9, I couldn’t imagine the latter being true, so we were on that roof all the time.

Brian and I were pretty harmless when you considered how much trouble we could have gotten into. I take credit for that, mostly, because between the two of us, I was always the one too chicken to step past that imaginary line. But we still thought we were pretty hot shit…Brian because he was willing, me because I hung out with Brian.

“You wanna jump off?” Brian asked me as we sat on the edge of that roof with our feet dangling over the side.

“Yeah right, like you would,” I said.

I kinda thought he would, actually, cause making smart decisions wasn’t exactly his strong point, ya know? But even among close friends I put on my game face from time to time, self-confidence not being my strong point.

“I will if you will,” he said without hesitating, donning that goofy grin of his while he popped his fake front tooth in and out, in and out with his tongue.

Crap, here we go again. This is just the kind of thing he always did, pushing us beyond our (my) comfort zone, daring me to say ‘okay’ just one time. I don’t know if he actually wanted me to go along with it, or if he’d come to rely upon me to keep him in check.

“You’re lying dude, there’s no way you’d jump off this roof, you’d break your leg,” I shot back, pretending logic played a role here.

“Sean and me did it the other day, it’s easy,” he lied.

That dang tooth, it always did a number on me ever since he knocked it out skateboarding and got a fake one attached to a retainer. It was like a car wreck, one minute all is fine, the next minute it’s, well, a car wreck. That was Brian and his tooth. One minute he’s looking at you smiling, looking like your every day all American boy, the next he’s popped that tooth out and he looks like he belongs in the back woods of West Virginia.

I’m not trying to sound mean, but have you ever seen someone you know well lose one of their front teeth? It just doesn’t look right…didn’t look right on Brian, anyway, and I couldn’t help but stare. Worse, he knew it, and messed with me on purpose.

“You’re lying dude, your bro is too chicken to jump off here,” I was starting to sweat. In truth, Sean was even less inclined to beg off from the prospect of something dangerous than Brian was, but I was grasping at straws here, and I felt the game face begin to weaken.

“Besides,” I said, “there’s probably a teacher here today and if she sees us, we’ll get kicked out of school.” Two weeks of Summer left and there’s a teacher here? Yeah right, but it wasn’t the first, and nowhere near the last, self-deluding half-truth I would tell myself as I traveled the perilous terrain of childhood.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Evelyn Lim 05/11/2009 at 5:35 pm

I love your story! It is so true about how we attempt to grasp at straws sometimes for the sake of our fragile egos. The scenerio presents a great learning lesson for us all!

Get Evelyn Lim’s content here..What Do You See if You Are Standing Next to God?


Jeb 05/12/2009 at 5:24 pm

Hi Evelyn,
Thanks…I must admit, it’s loosely based on the real life adventures of, um, a ‘friend’ of mine. You wouldn’t know him…he lives in Canada.


Detlef Cordes 05/12/2009 at 11:58 pm

I love this story Jeb. But it evokes bad memories. I was the child not daring to climb on that roof in the first place. So I was more comfortable with the grownups - that was boring, but secure.

Get Detlef Cordes’s content here..An eye in the meadow


Jeb 05/13/2009 at 1:22 pm

Hmmm. Perhaps you simply knew better Detlef. Getting oneself into situations that provide opportunities you’re unwilling to take advantage of can be destructive.

Or so I imagine. :)


Henie 05/13/2009 at 2:21 pm

This story provoked childhood memories…I truly was a tomboy, a roof climber and a tree climber! One day, I enticed my older sister to climb a tree knowing full well she wouldn’t be able to get down by herself! Our dad finally had to rescue her down with the ending prize of a big scratch gash across her stomach…not sure whose lesson was bigger…mine or hers!

Thank you for writing this. It’s a good reminder that choices are ultimately our own, fragile as they may be sometimes.

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Jeb 05/14/2009 at 3:22 pm

You? A tomboy? Hah! Nice to hear the younger sibling getting the upper hand though. :) Sounds like yours is a good story, too. Thanks Henie.


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