The man’s shadow was enveloping hers, she could feel his breath on the back of her neck. He smelled like Old Spice cologne, had on dress pants, a white short sleeve shirt and tie. Juju had always been warned about the bogeyman lurking in the shadows ready to reach out and grab you. Juju’s mother had warned her and her older sister Junene to always be careful and never to talk to strangers. “Do you wanna see what’s on the other end of this big pipe?” Juju asked him.
Sure, he said…..I will go with you.
Junene yelled, “no Juju, we have to get to the store!” She reached out and grabbed Juju by the forearm and gave her a good, stern yank. Juju complied and the four girls started to walk away.
Are you sure you don’t want to play?
“No!” the older girls yelled in joined chorus as they picked up speed and began to run away. They raced in unison with their beating hearts back to Aunt Freda’s house….the older girls dragging Juju into the bathroom. Panting with excitement, Juju’s cousin Sandy locked the bathroom door and turned to her. “you will tell no one about what just happened, do you understand Juju?” Yes, yes….I will keep it a secret, but he just wanted to see where that drainage pipe went! “No Juju!, he wanted more than that…you can’t tell mother or she will kill us for leaving this house!!”
Juju and Junene were visiting their Aunt Freda’s house during a hellish August weekend in Austin. The temperature was over 100 and the girls had just wanted to walk down to the convenience store for an Orange Crush, Juju’s favorite. Juju’s cousins…Donna and Sandy, along with older sister Junene, often let her tag along on their adventures…as long as she understood her place. She was younger by five years and the gap was as wide as the Grand Canyon. They liked to lay around and listen to Led Zeppelin records. They thought they were cool because their jeans had peace sign patches sewn on them and they got to stay up to watch the Midnight Special.
They had started down an access road just a few blocks from the subdivision where Aunt Freda’s house sat. The adults were off shopping and the girls had been given a stern warning to hang around the yard…to not leave. It took about five minutes for the older girls to pool their money together and to set off for cold soft drinks up the road. They would be back in plenty of time and the adults would be none the wiser…what could happen, they thought?
Juju always walked a few steps behind the three older girls, not by her choice. Junene was a smart 13-year-old, savvy beyond her years, but often got Juju into predicaments that she would never have found herself in if she had been left to her own devices. Junene was 13 going on 30…Juju was securely in the single digits and in no hurry to grow up.
The “predicaments” always ended and the sisters would return home safely….but there was always a moment when Junene would pin Juju up against the refrigerator warning her to maintain her silence…it would be used against her! Juju had an early understanding of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.
There was a field that ran parallel to the access road the girls were walking….it ran in between the road and a major four lane highway just to the east. From the access road you could see the opening of a large drainage pipe…it was about 5 feet in diameter. Sandy and Donna started running toward the pipe…yelling at Juju and Junene to follow. Sandy said it was the coolest thing ever…that the pipe went under the highway and that if you walked the entire length you could hear the cars rumble overhead. Sandy and Donna had been in the pipe numerous times they said, even sneaking a cigarette once and smoking it there.
The four girls entered the pipe and began to walk the fifty yards of concrete and green slime. Juju wasn’t scared, but the water and slime was getting on her new Converse…that caused her much anxiety. There was a deafening roar above the girls and ahead Juju could see a shaft of light…it was a drainage hole on the opposite side of the highway. The older girls were laughing and running ahead…Juju was walking slowly so as not to fall and further damage her red culottes, that matched her Converse…of course.
After reaching the end of their darkened journey they turned back. Juju was not going to show any fear to the older girls as she sensed the whole trip was probably for that reason. Junene and her cousins were generally nice to her, but they did have a mean streak and enjoyed irritating her on a daily basis. The girls exited the tunnel and were walking around the immediate area cleaning green gunk off of their shoes on the brown and burnt Texas Johnson grass. Juju looked up and saw the man exiting his car, a white sedan.
The man walked quickly toward the girls. Junene and the cousins did not move, at first thinking the man was a police officer…thinking they were all busted for walking into the pipe.
What are you girls doing?
“we are playing in the pipe”, Juju chimed up. Juju walked over to the opening of the pipe and stood just inside it’s lip. The man walked over and stood behind Juju..resting his hands on top of the pipe. The man was blocking Juju’s exit, she continued to banter with him, not recognizing the fact that she was now standing right beside the bogeyman.
Sure, I will go with you!
The bogeyman dropped his right hand and rested it on Juju’s right shoulder….just as Juju felt a sharp pain in her left forearm as Junene yanked her under the bogeyman’s extended left arm. The four girls ran past the white sedan and back in the direction of Aunt Freda’s house.
They exited the bathroom and Juju knew she had to keep this secret. She still didn’t know what would have happened in the tube with the bogeyman….but she thought she might have been “raked.” How very close she had been to walking into the pipe with the man behind her. What would have happened if Junene didn’t reach out to grab her arm?
Life is a blink of an eye….minute things occur to change the course of many lives in seconds…decisions are made daily that alter one’s life and fate. Juju thought she was a smart kid, but she hadn’t recognized the bogeyman even after years of warnings from her mother. She was perplexed that a nice, clean man in a shirt and tie could be a monster. She always thought the bogeyman would be dirty and lurking in the bushes at night….not a man who looked like Ward Cleaver getting out of a shiny new car.
Juju thought kids need to be taught that the bogeyman can look like lots of people, he can come at you in the daytime. Keeping it a secret was probably wrong too, but Junene was so strong and could beat her up! Maybe she would wait 40 years or so until her sister was an old lady…then she could take her. And thanks to the sharp pull of a left arm…Juju would be around to do it.