The three of us agreed that the only way we were going to see inside the fence wasn’t from underneath or through a peephole, but from over the top. Though we quickly agreed on what we had to do, it took longer for us to agree on how to do it.
Tommy suggested climbing a nearby tree. Johnny and I ruled that out because Tommy was the only one of the three of us capable of shimmying up any of the trees around the fence. Tommy considered going rogue on us and climbing up the tree anyway until Johnny threatened to alert the woman of Tommy’s presence, leaving him exposed on a limb while the two of us ran through the woods to safety.
Johnny’s suggestion was to go to his house to get his dad’s ladder. Tommy and I nixed that idea. Three boys, each one well-known for shirking work, walking down the street with a ladder would send up a signal flare that begged for adult investigation. Johnny thought we could sneak the ladder down into the woods without being seen. I argued that the time to act was now, when we knew she was home and possibly in a state of undress. Valuable time would be wasted running to his house and sneaking the ladder out of his dad’s garage without getting caught by his mom. Johnny still insisted we should get the ladder. Tommy stepped in and warned Johnny that there was the possibility of being caught by the nudists and having to abandon the ladder to run through the woods for safety. Johnny didn’t relish the thought of explaining the loss of a ladder to his dad. He then suggested using my dad’s ladder instead. The size of the nuts it took to suggest such a thing astounded me. I didn’t bother to answer him.
My idea was for two of us to give a boost up to the third one so that he could grab the top of the fence and pull himself up with the continued aid of the other two. This seemed like the easiest solution that could be done in the here-and-now, would allow all three of us an opportunity to get a peek inside, and provided a quick getaway to run through the woods to safety. The other two agreed with me. I suggested that seeing as how Tommy got us here that he should go first.
We found a spot where a tree branch was hanging low enough over the top of the fence to provide some cover. Johnny and I knelt down on either side of Tommy so that we could each grab a foot. We pushed Tommy up high enough for him to grab hold of the top of the fence then pushed him up until he told us to stop. Johnny asked Tommy what he saw.
“I see a small swimming pool,” Tommy answered. “Nah, it’s just a wading pool.”
Johnny asked, “What the hell is a wading pool?”
“It’s a small pool for kids,” I informed Johnny. “It’s shallow enough for adults and kids to sit in it. But who gives a damn right now?” I said through clenched teeth. “What else do you see up there, Tommy?”
Tommy surveyed the surroundings. “There is a patio table and chairs and a couple of wooden recliners. Man, you won’t believe the house. The back wall is almost all glass.”
“All glass? Can you see inside?” I wanted to know.
“No, it’s too dark inside.”
It stands to reason, I thought, since there aren’t any other windows where the sun could come in.
We let Tommy look around for about two minutes before letting him back down. Johnny decided it was now his turn.
“Like hell it is,” I told him.
Johnny wasn’t happy about this turn of events. “What do you mean? Why shouldn’t I go next?”
“Because I know you well enough to know that once you have your peek you’ll take off so I don’t get a look.” Even though he and his brother were still relatively new to the neighborhood, Johnny already had a reputation for pulling underhanded tricks on us. I wasn’t about to allow him the chance this time.
“No, I won’t,” Johnny answered.
“You know damn well you would,” I responded while crossing my arms as if to end the argument. Without taking my eyes off of Johnny I added, “Tommy?”
“Yep, you’d take off, Johnny.”
“Damn it.” Johnny’s face was turning red from either anger or embarrassment. Whichever it was, he knew that Tommy and I were onto him. He pointed at me and asked, “Do you swear to stay and let me get a look?”
“You know I will.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My initial grip on the top of the fence was tenuous at best. Glancing at the hill behind me, the ladder idea was getting better and better by the second. Tommy and Johnny boosted me up further so I could find a better handhold. At the exact moment that I secured my grip on the fence we heard the patio door slide open and closed once again. And once again we were frozen in place by a combination of excitement and fear.
I clung for dear life to the top of the fence with my left cheek pressed up against the fence, not daring to make a sound. I wondered whether or not my fingers and the top of my head were hidden from view on the inside. I stole a glance down at Tommy and Johnny. They were just as scared as I was.
“Oh, shoot!” were the first words we heard from the potentially naked woman. Hers was a lovely voice with a delightful lilt to it. Visions of Karen Christy filled my head. A bead of sweat worked its way down my nose. Full discovery was just a few inches away. We heard the patio door opening yet again. The guys were urging me to peek over the top of the fence until we heard the familiar chorus of Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” growing louder as the woman returned to her patio. The door closed behind her and then we heard her set what we assumed to be a radio on the glass table top.
The mysterious woman belted out a few lines of the hit song. As lovely as her speaking voice was, her singing voice wasn’t exactly that of an angel. It was almost difficult to listen to, in fact. There was no doubt in my mind that Karen Christy had a far lovelier singing voice. After the song faded to its end we heard the familiar voice of Bill “Super” Shirk announcing the call sign of 990 WERK before “A Horse With No Name” began to play. That damned song was heard nearly every morning coming from my dad’s alarm clock in the bedroom across the hall from mine. I had become so sick and tired of the song that I grew to hate it and the woman’s singing did nothing to improve it for me. I strained to filter out the song and her voice to see what else there was to be heard.
What I heard was like a dream come true. The woman was testing the water of her small pool, either with her hand or the toes of one of her beautiful feet. “Mmmmmmm. Perfect.” First one foot and then the other were heard breaking the surface of the pool. I realized that at most she was wearing a bathing suit. My eyes felt like they were bugging out of their sockets as an odd feeling washed over me. This was it. Now or never. I knew that I had to act.
I pulled myself up ever so slowly to the top of the fence. My eyes, now able to see the back of the house, scanned first to the left and then to the right. Tommy’s description of the house was spot on. I inched up further until I saw a mass of blonde hair. Blonde hair!, I thought. Just like my Karen! I closed my eyes for a moment as the realization of what was about to happen sank in.
Should I do it? Should I intrude on this poor, unsuspecting woman’s privacy?
Or should I become a legend and a hero in the neighborhood?
I prepared to pull myself up one last time.