I have been married for over forty years. When you have been with anyone for that length of time, you inevitably develop a set of tropes. A trope is a kind of shorthand that captures a well-known story, idea or situation in a word or two, so you don’t have to retell the whole thing. One trope that my wife and I often use is Best Friends for Frances, from the title of a children’s book we read to Peter and Emily long ago. These days, when I say to my wife, “Best Friends for Frances“, it is my way of reminding her that one has to be careful around friends who might not be so nice to you as you are to them.
[The ironic part of this — and I should use a footnote here instead of brackets but tonight I am too lazy to follow that convention — the irony is that the Russell Hoban story involving perfidious friends was not Best Friends for Frances but rather A Bargain for Frances, wherein Thelma tricks Frances into buying her worthless tea set. Even so, my wife and I have found that saying Best Friends for Frances is a useful trope, especially when you put air-quotes around Best Friends.]
Well anyway. The trope that is the subject of this blog is Saltines. Saltines is itself short for Saltines and Rocks. If I may explain. When I was, oh, six years old maybe, there was an older kid (two years older) who lived across the street. His name was Ricky, and he had friends named Kevin and Walter. Ricky also had a cool treehouse in his backyard. Being with Ricky and his friends in his treehouse, it was like a club. One day — maybe the only time I was there, who knows — I told Ricky and Kevin I would go home and bring back a snack for us to eat in the clubhouse.
I went home and got a packet of Premium saltines from the bottom cupboard where Mom always kept them, and then I crossed the street and headed back into Ricky’s backyard, saltines in hand. I had barely entered his backyard when I was suddenly hit in the head by something. I reached up to my forehead and there was this reddish-brownish smeary stuff there. I started crying and ran home. They were throwing rocks at me.
Lessons you learn when you are six years old last for a long, long time. I can still feel the stitches on my forehead. Saltines and rocks. Best friends for Craig.