Breaking my Neighbor’s Leg

by Regis Boff

When I was nine, the smaller older boy next door began knocking me down and taking my hat. I cried. He threw it on the little patio that separated our houses knowing that my dad who worked at night would find it.

I was the bigger one, so there was no excuse. Fathers and sons rarely repair experiences like this. You can’t quickly change what you believe your parents think of you. One afternoon my father dragged me out to fight this boy. He screamed at the closed door for him to come out. The boy did not.  My dad and I never spoke of it again. Some summers later I tossed that boy down a hillside and broke his leg. Sure I was to be killed, I walked home and told my father. Without looking up from his paper, he said, “It serves him right.” After my father died, I came home to see my mother. The boy, now a grown man came out to say hello. We sat on that same patio and talked about growing up the way we had, never mentioning the ever-present ghost of that hat. He seemed sweet and gentle. He still hadn’t grown. As we said our goodbyes, I grabbed his hat and walked back to my old house. He never came around to ask for it. I hope it was because I was big. I left it on his side of the patio.

Some summers later I tossed that boy down a hillside and broke his leg. Certain I was to be killed, I walked home and told my father. Without looking up from his paper, he said, “It serves him right.” After my father died, I came home to see my mother. The boy, now a grown man came out to say hello. We sat on that same patio and talked about growing up the way we had, never mentioning the ever-present ghost of that hat. He seemed sweet and gentle. He still hadn’t grown. As we said our goodbyes, I grabbed his hat and walked back to my old house. He never came around to ask for it. I hope it was because I was big. I left it on his side of the patio.

After my father died, I came home to see my mother. The boy, now a grown man came out to say hello. We sat on that same patio and talked about growing up the way we had, never mentioning the ever-present hat ghost. He seemed sweet and gentle. He still hadn’t gotten bigger. As we said our goodbyes, I grabbed his hat and walked back to my old house. He never came around to ask for it. I hope it was because I was big. I left it on his side of the patio.