Scout, Jonny’s dog, gleefully joins in our game. We chase Scout and each other, zigzagging from one end of the yard to the other until finally, breathless, we collapse on the lawn. We lie on our backs and admire the puffy clouds as they float by high above us, joking about what they resemble.
“Let’s play running bases,” says my brother.
“No,” J responds. He pauses briefly. “I’ve got a better idea. Let’s tie up Gail.”
I start to laugh. Obviously he is just making some kind of ridiculous joke. But that’s not how my brother sees it.
“Cool,” he says. “I’ll go get some rope from the garage.”
As he trots off, I turn to J.
“You’re kidding, right?”
He shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe.”
In the ten months I’ve known J, I’ve loved his sense of humor, so I am sure that this is just another of his gags.
My brother returns, holding a coil of rope over his arm and trailing several more feet behind him. Scout races after it and takes one end in his mouth, ready for a tug of war.
J grabs Scout’s collar, shouting, “Drop it.” Then, to my brother: “Put Scout in the house.”
I haven’t moved, and indeed feel like I am stuck to the grass. Suddenly the beautiful summer night doesn’t feel so friendly any more.
When J tells me to put my hands behind my back, I don’t question him. I am still waiting for the punch line. He ties my hands together and then wraps the rope tightly around my arms. With my brother’s help, he then winds the rope around my feet and makes several knots.
“Okay,” I laugh, “you’ve done a great job. Now would you untie me? It’s really tight.”
“Untie it yourself, “ J chuckles.
“No, seriously,” I say, my voice cracking a bit, “you need to take off the rope.”
But Joey turns away from me, suggesting to my brother that they play catch in the front yard. In seconds they are gone. For a few minutes I try to get loose, but
the more I pull, the tighter the rope gets. I can hear the slap of the ball against the mitts. I figure that they’ll play catch for a while and then come back. I hear shouts of “Nice throw” and “Good one.” Soon the side door slams as they go inside, and I see lights flicking on in the family room.
Now I am getting worried. It is beginning to get dark, and no one seems to be around; my parents have gone to a party and won’t be home for hours. My arms feel numb, and, to make matters worse, I really need to use the bathroom.
An outdoor light snaps on next door and I hear the patio door slide open.
A voice calls out: “Just checking the garden, dear.”
It is our neighbor.
“Mr. Hershman!” I shout.
“It’s Gail. I’m in our yard. I need some help.”
As he comes through the opening in the thick bushes which separate our yards, I can’t imagine what he is thinking. There I am, tied up, lying on the grass.
He runs to me. “What happened, Gail?”
“I was just doing some really silly stuff with J, and they tied me up.”
He begins working to loosen the ropes, but they won’t budge.
“This was some kind of a game?” he asks.
Mr. Hershman shakes his head. “I’m going to get a scissors. I’ll be right back.” He looks at me and shakes his head again.
After Mr. Hershman cuts me loose, I don’t know what to say.
“So,” I begin, as I rub my arms, “thanks. I’m really sorry. I know this was pretty dumb. I thought it was a joke.”
“Some joke. Don’t worry: I won’t tell anyone. But I think you’d better talk to that fiancée of yours. Once you two are married I won’t be so easy to find.”
I laugh. “Yeah, I know. I’ll talk to him.”
Mr. Hershman heads back toward the bushes. Just before he gets to the opening, he turns towards me again, shakes his head, and disappears into his yard.
After that I go into the house to talk to J. Or maybe I run to my room and refuse to talk to him. Or else I hear him laughing with Jonny and tell them they are both idiots.
The next day my arms are bruised from my wrists to my elbows; in spite of the heat I wear a long-sleeved t-shirt. The day after that, when I go to Dr. Linden for a pre-wedding checkup, he asks me what happened.
“Oh, I fell.”
Doctor Linden looks at my arms, nods, and smiles.
“You should be more careful,” he says. “You want to look perfect for the big day.”
The morning of our wedding I wake to a rainstorm, but by the time we leave for the synagogue in mid-afternoon the sun has come out. In our super 8 movies I walk to the car, my wedding dress over my arm, and wave to my father. I smile, point to my wedding dress, and then flash a victory sign.