Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bombs Away

Michigan was mired in yet another of its frigid winters and I was forced, as was my daily routine, to make that half mile walk down to the bus stop to await the yellow chariot that would transport us to school. Our house was situated back from the main road by a driveway roughly one half mile in length. To wander down this road you would find but two houses, ours and THEIRS. In the twenty plus years that my family has lived in that house, I have come face to face with THEM perhaps five times. Ever. It helps to be from a non-social family that happens to live next door to another non-social family.

Setting forth for the stop that day, I had a strong suspicion that I would not ulitmately be ferried to our vaunted den of education. No, I had the knowledge that my parents would be leaving on yet another of their interstate ventures, this time to peddle antique books somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago. That meant that freedom was mere minutes away. As soon as they left, I would once again have full control of the house for whatever term they would be gone, which in this particular case was about a week.

My bus stop was used by only one other student, namely Terry. You should be aware that we were regular partners in crime, so any plans I had for cutting out on class and in general being a juvenile reprobate would no doubt need to include him. I met him down at the bus stop at our normal time and proceeded to delicately broach the subject of hiding out at my place instead of actually going to school.

"I don't think I'm gonna go to school today, man. Wanna join me?" Again, I wanted to make sure that the subject was handled with all due aplomb.

"Sure" he said, and at that point our blood vow had been made. No school would be attended by us that day, and in fact, we would make a solemn vow to ensure that no education of ANY TYPE took place in the time that we should have been in attendance.

The only thing to do at this point was to avoid getting on the bus while also remaining hidden from both the bus driver and by my parents as they made their way out. No problem, we figured, as it was still early in the morning (ergo, dark) and there was a baseball field across the street from our bus stop.

The plan was simple, make our way behind the concession stand at the baseball field, wait until my parents venture forth and then head to my house to reap the spoils of our clever and devious ways. The only thing standing in our way at this point was the cold. The frigid cold. The oppressive, HOLY FUCK Michigan cold. Fortunately, we were both completely underdressed for this venture, having assumed when we got ready that we would either be attending school or would quickly be heading to my house. Of course, no such luck was to be had.

The bus came and went at 6:30 and we basked in the warm glow of our clever hiding spot. A glow that was neither warm enough nor long lasting enough to assist us as the time wore ever on. 7:00 came and went. As did 8:00.

Far from being warm enough to handle such a situation, we found ourselves in desperation, digits turning beet red and then purple due to restricted blood flow and soon we were burying our appendages in the snow in order to capture what little warmth was leaving our bodies. I'm sure it would have looked odd to passersby to see two teenaged boys, almost purple with cold packing their hands and feet in the snow, assuring one another that this was "for warmth".

By the time 9:00 rolled around, we were beginning to become seriously worried about frostbite. This is the sort of shit we had more or less come to expect from life. You come up with a great idea and then life decides to fuck it all up by necessitating a trip to the emergency room. Sigh.

At 9:00 our shivering had become so severe and our inability to feel our fingers and toes so concerning, that we decided to head to my house under the assumption that we had simply missed my parents leaving. I mean, come on, it was nearly 3 hours since the bus had gone. My parents had a 7 hour drive ahead of them and that didn't even include getting a hotel room, setting up for the show, attending the pre-show dinner, etc. There was no way they had dallied behind at the house this long without a reason involving an ambulance making its way down our road.

So, collecting ourselves and our backpacks as best we could with fingers that no longer gripped, we began the long trek down the road to my house, grumbling between us the entire way about how we CERTAINLY had frostbite to some degree on any number of parts of our body. (Author's note: Yep. The toes on my right foot have never been the same and will turn ghostly white the second they get cold.) As we neared the halfway point of the driveway we heard a sound. A sound that sent an even icier chill down our spine than the one currently inhabiting the space.....My parents' van.

"OH SHIT!" we screamed simultaneously as we took off at the most breakneck speed we could manage back down the driveway. Oh fuck, oh fuck, what if they see us?!?! Our run nothing more than a hastened hobble, we managed to make our way back to the end of the road and cut over to the baseball field just in time to see the van pulling out of the driveway and making its way to Chicago. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, we made our way down to my house at the best pace we could manage. Not quite a run, not quite a crawl. (Which was impressive, considering.)

We deposited our backpacks upstairs in my bedroom and proceeded to fill the bathroom sink with warm water. Taking opposing spots on the counter, we submerged our hands and feet in the warm water, feeling the life slowly creep back into our bodies. After some time we were able to switch to hot water and in fact were able to feel our fingers and toes again. Numb with exhaustion and near-hypothermia, we made our way into the den, turned on the tv and were both fast asleep within five minutes.

We awoke later that day still chilly, but ultimately none the worse for wear. (Ahh, the resiliency of youth.) It was decided then and there that lunch time had arrived and we sauntered to our respective lunches. This being my house, I made my way to the kitchen, while Terry ventured upstairs to gather his bagged lunch from his backpack.

I stood in the kitchen preparing my sandwich without much more thought about the future than what movie I intended to watch shortly. And then I heard it.

"Bombs away!" Terry said, followed by a dull thud, which in turn was immediately followed by, "OH SHIT!”

Now, let's be realistic. "Oh shit" really NEVER means something good. But "Bombs away" FOLLOWED by "Oh shit" can only mean disaster. Major disaster. In MY house disaster.

I ran from the kitchen, screaming "What the fuck did you DO?" but didn't even have a chance to finish it before I saw. The pool. The ENORMOUS pool. Of grape juice. On the white carpet. A pool with a four foot radius, glistening in the sunlight streaming through the bay window.

Fear and rage welled in me, twisted and convoluted into an emotion so powerful words cannot describe it. I call it fage, and there's not a teenager alive who hasn't felt fage at some point. Currently, my fage was focused squarely on Terry.

I tried to stammer myself through a repeat chorus of "What the fuck did you do", but found that my fage had stripped me of my voice. The best he could offer in reply was that "I didn't know it was in there" when he dropped the bag. I retorted with the relative idiocy of dropping your lunch from the second story onto the white carpet in the first place with or without the involvement of Welch's.

I'd love to say that I cleverly grabbed a knife, slashed his throat and forced him to bleed out on the very stain he had just created, crafting a meticulous story for my parents about Terry tripping and falling onto the blade. If nothing else, the blame would be deflected from me. But unfortunately, I just wasn't that creative as a lad. And I was left with a rather large, round and increasingly purple problem.

I stormed off to the garage to gather a bucket and a couple of sponges. Filling the bucket with cold water and a liberal amount of Woolite, I made my way back to the living room, stuffed them into Terry's hands and very nicely suggested that he should consider cleaning the mess. (Author's note: I was not nice nor did I suggest anything. I am certain that a threat involving crushed testicles was levied.)

Feeling a tad high and mighty due to the fact that I had NOTHING to do with this fiasco, I watched Terry furtively scrubbing at the stain moreso than get involved. Oh, I scrubbed a bit here and there, but the meat of the work was done by him, as felt fitting at the time, and frankly still does as I write about it.

He scrubbed that carpet until his fingers were but nubs, reddened and raw from the continued motion of the carpet against them, frigid water and copious amounts of Woolite, both from the bucket and applied directly to the stain. After a good hour of cleaning, it became readily apparent that his efforts were completely in vain, this stain was making its way into the carpet and had no intention of leaving without a fight.

Realizing that these efforts were fruitless, it was decided to phone a carpet cleaning place and throw out our favorite question. The hypothetical. Any time we made a phone call starting with the phrase, "Hypothetically speaking..." you could pretty much just assume that we fucked up. Bad. Hypothetical calls were made when we knew we had done something really, really terrible and wanted to see just how deep a hole we had dug for ourselves.

So I dialed the phone and started the conversation with the dread term. "Hypothetically speaking, let's say you spilled a large amount of grape juice on a white carpet. What would be the best way for cleaning that up?". Of course, the answer we prayed for was to spend $5 on some miracle elixir and be done with the whole sordid affair. Unfortunately, that was NOT what they had to say to us. They recommended a steam cleaning but made extra sure to point out that NO MATTER WHAT, do NOT use cold water and Woolite, as you'll just set the stain forever.


So, the bad news is that the carpet is ruined and I am filled with a fury so indescribable that Terry fears my imminent explosion, as it will rightfully be directed at him. The good news is that since my parents have left me for the week, a small stipend was left so that I could afford luxuries such as food. So, further phone calls were made to try and get our hands on a steam cleaning unit. Unfortunately, the stipend was just that, a stipend, and nowhere near enough money to cover those costs.

Ultimately, I made Terry come over every day during my parents' absence and clean that spot. By the time they returned from their trip, it had gone from a brilliant enormous purple stain to a vibrantly bright enormous purple stain. But, all things being equal, life decided to be fair on this one. I managed to deflect ALL of the blame onto Terry, and for years he was unable to live down his accident with my parents.

Of course, the version we told involved an innocent Terry having a very severe accident involving a Keatonian pratfall, but nonetheless, the end result was a huge stain, compliments of him. He was therefore banned from ever having a drink in the house anywhere except the kitchen from that point forward, in perpetuity.

We were lucky that time.


Malcolm said...

This kept my interest far more than Ferris Bueller

E said...

Ferris was a do-gooder. :P

Katie Collins said...

Yep how you turned a story about spilled grapejuice into that many words escapes me, but I was interested until the end.

EuroYank - Virginia Hoge said...

While reading this, I could not help but wonder - what kind of a job do you have that allows such creative outbursts? Getting back to the story ... wine would do better and the story would not be that long!

E said...

Glad I managed to keep you interested. Agreed, it really is a pretty short story, but it's fun to drag things out.

And EY, I work in IT. Today's post was actually written some time ago. Truth be told, though, the majority of my writing is done in short bursts in the evening. Something like this I'll put down in 20-30 minutes, but I'll spend several hours during the day rolling ideas for it around in my head.