The Colonial Lake and Penrod

Colonial_Lake_-_1909It was a lovely summer afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina. I was about eight I think. My best childhood friend, Martha Carroll, and I walked from her house on Tradd Street to Moultrie Playground to play kick ball. After the game was over, we decided to take the long route back to her house around Colonial Lake which was right across the street. Much to our dismay, Penrod Simmons began to follow us on his bike. He would pull in front of us and taunt us with his foul words. “Annie, Banany, sitting on her fanny,” he taunted. He continued to do this as we started to walk around the lake. There was no turning back once we started on this path. Penrod was the town bully. He had a mop of red curly hair, was big for his age which made him appear gangly, had freckles all over his face, had been adopted, had a terrible disposition and went to Porter Military Academy. He also lived South of Broad in the high rent district so he felt entitled. No one ever wanted to be around Penrod and he certainly obliged by being as mean as possible to just about anyone he came in contact with except his boy buddies. Now that I look back, I think he rather enjoyed being the town bully. Nevertheless, we had done absolutely nothing to him and I for one was a little scared of him as he was so unpredictable. I could feel the hairs on my arms rising up and my throat became so dry that I knew I would never be able to yell for help. Penrod rode off to talk to one of his buddies so Martha and I picked up our pace and began to high-tail it around the Lake. I was not a good runner, but I was going as fast as I possibly could. I began to get a stitch in my side like I usually did if I ran fast, but I wasn’t about to stop. I felt nauseous and my heart was pounding in my ears. Well, when Penrod saw us, he came flying after us on his bike pedaling like the wind in a hurricaine.  Martha and I would never be able to out run him with our short little legs, but I heard Martha yell, “Go to my row boat.” She had a rowboat in Colonial Lake so we jumped in it and started rowing like crazy to the middle where it was impossible for him to reach us. Penrod was pedaling as fast as his long legs would allow him to so when he got to the edge of Colonial Lake, he tried to stop. We heard his bike tires screeched and saw long skid marks on the sidewalk as it went right into Colonial Lake with Penrod in tow. Penrod’s face became as red as his hair. He was soaking wet and had to retrieve his bike from the water. He was beyond furious. He began to yell at us. “Wait till you come in. You have to come in you know. I’ll be right here waiting on you, you little thwarts. (I didn’t know what a thwart was but was sure it wasn’t good.) You are going to get it.” As we got a glimpse of Penrod dripping water from every crevice of his body and awkwardly trying to get his bike out of the Lake, Martha and I began to laugh uncontrollably. We tried but we couldn’t stop laughing. We laughed so hard that we almost turned the rowboat over. We had rowed out into the middle of the Lake and we were not about to go in, at least not while Penrod was still there. Minutes became hours and there we sat. Penrod was not about to leave his post and we were too scared to row in. The scow on his face became more intense as the clock ticked away the minutes. I knew my Momma would be mad at me for getting home late and I hoped she would come looking for me. The sun started to go down but Penrod was still there. He sat on his bike, sliding it back and forth never taking his eyes off of us. By then, the hot Carolina sun had dried his clothes and he sat on his bike waiting on his prey. Darkness began to set in when we saw a car pull up to the side of the Lake. It was Mr. Carroll, Martha’s Father. He hollered out to where we were, “What’s going on here? Martha, you and Anne row on in right now. I need to take Anne home and your Mother said our dinner is ready.” We pointed to Penrod. Mr Carroll told Penrod he better be getting home as his parents would probably be worried. He added, “I better not hear that you have been bothering these girls in any way or there will be a price to pay.” Penrod didn’t answer but put his head down and rode off on his bike. As he was leaving, Martha and I stuck out our tongues at him. (of course we were brave now that Mr Carroll was there and Penrod’s back was to us.) Mr Carroll said, “Now girls, there will be none of that. Let’s hop in the car and take Anne home.” We couldn’t wait to tell our tale about what Penrod did to us. Mr Carroll listened intently and told us that Penrod had a hard life. He said that he thinks he is different from everyone else being so tall and gangly and red-headed to boot with a million freckles and being adopted doesn’t help his case. Suppose that was one of you girls, think about how you would feel. We began to look like two pitiful Pearls with our pouted lips and sad expressions. Mr Carroll said, “Girls, I know just the thing that will cheer you up. Ice cream.” With that being said, away we went to the ice cream parlor. Martha and I both said that our Mommas were going to be mad because we ate ice cream before dinner. Mr Carroll just shrugged and said it was our little secret and he added, “But you girls better eat your dinner.” However, I could not wait to get home and spill the whole Penrod story, ice cream and all to my Momma and Daddy and sister. My sister even added a few things that Penrod had done to her in the past. Momma said she was going to call that boy’s Mother but I begged her not to as he would just be worse to us so she didn’t.
Penrod never bothered us again. Mr Carroll was my hero that day. Penrod finally grew into his body, he learned how to cope with his mop of red hair and Porter Military Academy taught him some manners and he became a very attractive young man. I wondered if he ever thought about that day at Colonial Lake when he went head over bicycle into the water. To tell you the truth, I was still a little bit afraid of him when he became a teen-ager. I would cross the street to avoid running into him. I guess every generation encounters a “Peck’s Bad Boy” and he was ours. When I think about his bike going into the Lake, I still smile and sometimes laugh out loud. Somehow, justice was served on that particular day for two little eight year old girls.

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