Delmo Hammontree used to turn green in the winter.
Not a bright green, more like a dull, mossy green, but green, nevertheless.
“Hey look, it must me gettin’ close to Christmas. Delmo’s turning green,” we’d say.
Nobody knew for sure why he turned green. Some people said it was because of all the green apples he ate. I rarely saw him eat anything else. Some people said that turning green ran in his family and that his ancestors were even greener and were sometimes hired by frontiersmen to scare away the Indians.
“Ok class, quit teasing Delmo. And stop drawing pictures of him,” Ms. Harper would say.
But, truth be told, I think Delmo liked the attention. Plus, for a few short months, he was the only boy in elementary school who could walk fearless of the class bully, Cindy Little, who was just a little bit freaked out by Delmo when he was green, although she never admitted it.
“I’ll whup him twice when he turns back to regular color,” she’d say. And she always did.
Cindy Little was smart and pretty and the toughest person I’ve ever known. I’d climb trees so high my nose would bleed to avoid her on the playground.
Some parents thought Delmo’s condition might be contagious and wouldn’t let their kids go near him when he was green, although mine always told me to treat him just like I’d treat anybody else… that God’s children come in all shapes and sizes and colors. Even green. I once even had Delmo over to spend the night when he was green, but that didn’t go so well. Trixie, our German Shepherd, surely didn’t know what to make of Delmo’s odd coloring and howled at him half the night. Plus, Delmo seemed to glow brighter and brighter as the night went on. I didn’t sleep a wink.
All in all, though, most of us got used to Delmo being green and didn’t think much of it after a few days. He was a good short-stop and was always one of the first kids picked when we chose teams for softball at recess, whichever color he was at the time.
Delmo and his family moved to another town when we were in junior high and I never saw him or heard from again. But I think about him often, especially in early spring, as the birds start to chirp and the snow melts. It was always about this time of the year when Delmo would return to his natural alabaster complexion, and life would get back to being normal.