Excerpted from Falling Backwards by Jann Arden. Copyright © 2011 by Jann Arden. Excerpted by permission of Vintage Canada, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
When we weren’t colouring or playing John and Jane West, Gary and I rode our tricycles around and around and around the block. (At this point we hadn’t clued in to the fact that riding bikes was exercise, and that we would one day hate every second of cardiovascular activity.) I knew where every crack was in every single inch of sidewalk. I knew where every kid lived and what their names were and what kind of swing set they had in their backyard. I knew what cars would be parked in the front driveways and when they came and went. My neighbourhood was mapped out in my heart and I never wanted anything about it to change.
I had put a pet turtle into my pocket on one of those bike trips around the block with Gary, and sadly I discovered it quite dead after a few hours of pedalling. Why I thought a turtle would survive inside my pants for hours is beyond me, but live and learn, I suppose. I cried rivers and oceans of tears over that dead turtle. I am sure Gary cried too. I hadn’t seen many dead things by that point in my life. We conducted a funeral for the turtle, said a few words to Jesus about “his only something- or-other son” and then proceeded to flush him/her down the toilet. John and Jane West also attended the funeral and were very straight-faced through the ceremony. Life, it seemed, was going to be getting harder.
After the funeral, Gary and I took our twenty-five-cent allowances and walked down to the only convenience store in town and bought a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a cream soda, respectively. That would leave us with enough money to buy five pieces of Dubble Bubble gum. If I forwent the Dubble Bubble, I could buy a box of Eddylite Easy Strike matches. It was a hard decision to make. Gum or matches? Thank God they didn’t have flammable chewing gum.
First the gum . . . I would chew all five pieces at the same time, almost causing my jaw to lock and my saliva to overtake my head. The pain was unbearable but necessary. You can’t chew just one piece of Dubble Bubble-that’s nuts. You have to have at least three pieces in your mouth to make it worth your while. You have to blow out a bubble at least as big as your head to make it any fun at all. You then have to pop the bubble so the gum sticks to your hair and perhaps end up cutting off some of your bangs. I never had to cut my bangs, unless you count the time I fell asleep with the wad of gum in my mouth and woke up with my whole head stuck to my pillow.
From the Hardcover edition.