Clifford showed me how the knights in the old days jousted.
“See this.” It was a post he’d dug into the ground a little taller than my five-year-old self, with a board nailed to the top at right angles. One nail — because nails were precious and not to be wasted ¾ and a bit of plywood on one end. The other end of the board, an eight-foot two-by-four, that he didn’t trim off, either because he didn’t want to spend time sawing it, or because he would get in trouble for wasting wood, was left jutting out on the other side of the post. “That piece of plywood is the shield. Now I’m going to come down the hill on that bicycle. That's my horse. And this” — a pole about six feet long — “is my lance.”
“You watch.” He took me by the shoulders and stood me off to the side. “Now you’re going to see how it was done.”
He came off that bit of hill on that bicycle that didn’t have any tires, just bare metal rims that rattled as he picked up speed. The hill, because the bicycle didn’t have any petals and he needed the assistance of gravity. One end of his lance tucked up under his arm, the other end — “You have to hit the shield right dead centre. That’s the way they did it”— out in front of the bicycle that had a fair bit of hurry as he came past me.
And he did it.
I was the witness.
The lance did hit the shield right dead centre. A solid hit.
The shield spun away, pivoted on the single nail driven into the top of the post, and the other end of the board spun around, exactly like he planned it, exactly like he told me it was going to work. Except I don’t think he expected the long end of the two-by-four to come around so quickly and catch him on the back of the head.
I pick up the hoop. That’s all it is, a piece of plastic tubing, big enough to fit over a five- — maybe I was six or seven — year-old boy.
Clifford’s bubble maker.