Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Adventure Finders

When Starr Ann and I were still little, back in the orphanage, she started up a club called The Adventure Finders. Its purpose was to find adventure. I said we were little, okay?

Naturally, Starr Ann appointed herself president of the club. And she made up this ingenious test of courage that everybody had to pass before they got in. It involved this huge, heavy hardwood door that led into the sacristy. That door was intimidating on a bunch of counts. Not only was it tall and dark, it led to a place we were never to enter unless the nuns were leading us in a group. So, it was just like Starr Ann to devise her test of courage to start off with disobeying a rule.

Once we'd sneaked off to right outside the forbidden room, Starr Ann explained the part where physical bravery came into play. She started off with me, using me to demonstrate her diabolical test. I had to take off one shoe and sock and position the bare foot so my big toe rested on the floor about a millimeter from the peak of that big door's arc as Starr Ann swung it slowly open.

Once we had my toe in position, Starr Ann said, "Now you know in your head that this door can't hit your foot, even though it looks like it's going to ram into it, right Margo? You are absolutely sure that if I slam this door as hard as I can, you are perfectly safe and it's not going to hit you?"

I said I understood, and Starr Ann went over the rules one more time. I had to keep my eyes open the whole time, and flinching meant I couldn't be in the club. I braced myself as Starr Ann opened the door as wide as it could go and slammed it with all her might. Not drawing back was harder than I thought it was going to be, but there was no way I was going to fail. So, I was in.

Then Starr Ann did the initiation herself, just so everybody understood that she wasn't the kind of president to take advantage of her position in any way.

Surprisingly, most of us made it into The Adventure Finders on the first try. A few jumped back the first time, but ended up doing fine the second. There was this one boy, though, named Ruben. He was a kindhearted kid who really looked up to Starr Ann. Poor Ruben just could not find the nerve to keep his foot in place as that scary door flew at it. We were on his fourth try when our lookout came running in to warn us Sister Blissmarie was coming. So we had to scatter and leave things like they were until after lunch.

On the way to the cafeteria, Starr Ann told me she never expected any of us to fail the test. She was real worried about Ruben.

Later, when we were able to sneak back to the sacristy without getting caught, Starr Ann took Ruben aside and whispered something to him. Ruben, who had been looking awful sorry and closed up, all of a sudden puffed out his little chest and walked up to that door. Starr Ann let it rip and that time Ruben faced right up to it.

To this day, I don't know what Starr Ann said to that kid.

The next day, when it came time for Starr Ann to appoint her officers for The Adventure Finders, she made Ruben her second in command. During the ceremony she cited his uncommon sensitivity and said the thing she valued most was the strength to keep on trying your best no matter how scared you are.

Before we fell asleep that night, Starr Ann turned over and said, "It's awful easy to hurt people without trying, you know that?"

I hadn't thought about The Adventure Finders in a long time. Until today, when we accidentally saw a picture of President Bush on the Internet. He was smiling from ear to ear. Starr Ann just gaped at that photo for about a minute and a half. Finally, she said, "After all the lives that creature's lies have ruined. After all the damage he's done. Look at the absolute lack of shame on that face."

Then, out of the blue she brightened up and said, "Ever wonder what happened to Ruben?"