Tales From Camelback Mountain in the Arcadia District of Phoenix, Arizona.
Boy of '99
By: Tony Klingen (Minneapolis, MN)
It’s Christmas morning and I’m nine years old. We wake up to few presents and no snow. My parents dragged me here from Minnesota to see my cousins. Last I checked. Santa delivers presents on a sleigh. Last I checked, no sleighs in the desert. Instead of helping my dad cut down firewood and build a toasty fire inside, I’m instructed to put on my short sleeve shirt and go hiking.
But first, a round of presents for each of the cousins, each aunt and uncle. It’s 1999 and under the wrapping of my paper is a Motorola FR50 2-mile 14 Channel Walkie Talkie. This is top of the line. Last summer, they got us walkies to take on the boat across the bay to the candy store. Yes, the candy store. Can I be this young and still have such aged anecdotes? By the time we got to the store, our parents were out of range, we were free and more independent than Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Fern. So this Christmas, with more channels to choose from, we set off from our parents to reclaim our freedom.
We climb all the way up to the top and I have to tell you, I remember little. What I do remember came next. There is a conversation with a plumber and crude remarks by my brothers. There are empty threats between two men, all on which we butt in with completely irrelevant comments. And then there is a perfectly feminine voice on Channel 7, Mode 14. My Wendy Peffercorn that I never knew I’d find in Arizona.
She is perfect. She asks about my day, I press to talk before my brothers can. There is only the 2-mile radius, but at 9, that could have been anywhere. So I work up the nerve to ask where Wendy lives. My brothers nearly push me down the backside of the camel, but it is then that I am running to catch my balance that she comes over the Motorola FR50 to tell us she lives at the bottom of Camelback Mountain. Precisely the location where we mentioned we were hiking. I can’t believe my own ears and I search fervently for any girl in a red one piece near the base. Perhaps it is a cruel prank that she’s given us in exchange for our information about the hike. We see no one. My brothers call me a moron and other such names for revealing our whereabouts, but I collect more evidence as we descend further. She lives by a golf course, she says. She is out by the pool. The pool! In December!
And there in the distance just below is my future, waving up not knowing I am falling in love at just nine years old. My brothers push and we pick up the pace until we stockpile halt into a cousin ahead who is stopped and howling. She’d been listening on our channel and pointed at the girl waving and told us to look closer, now that we were closer. She was old! She had to have been in college. The eldest of us was just thirteen. So we do what any prideful person would do, we pretend we can’t see her waving and make sounds into the walkie to signal that we’re losing signal. We trudge back to Christmas in the sand with few presents, no snow and no Wendy Peffercorn.
It was a hard week of recovery until my return to Minnesota, but I'm still out here. So Girl by the Pool on Camelback with the Walkie Talkie on Christmas 1999, if you’re out there and reading this… find me on Channel 7, Mode 14.
Boy of ‘99
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