May 24, 2010

Slingshots and arrows...


It was one of those typical Summer days you experience when you are young. Seems now that the days were much hotter then than they are now. You know the time I'm talking about, before such things as girls came along. The time when magic was still real and ghosts existed, when time seemed to move much slower, you could jam all sorts of adventures into one day, it seemed endless somehow.

The setting was a dead end road of newly built houses in the midst of a Georgia Summer. Sunburns didn't matter and nobody seemed to have air conditioning, windows hung open in useless attempts to catch a breeze, and the best sound one could hope for was the distant music coming from the ice cream truck. The air was alive, that's the only way to put it. The aroma of grass and honeysuckle was so strong you knew exactly what the color green smelled like. The neighborhood held a collection of sweat covered kids that were always game for anything you could think of. We had been hard at it all day, fighting every type of battle you could imagine, against all foes, human and otherwise. The rock fight hadn't ended well...

We were divided into teams and were in ditches on either side of the road throwing rocks at one another, as boys of that age do. All of our attention was put into actually killing each other. At that age we were invincible, there was no thought put into anything, it was just "Come on, let's go." Like the time we built the raft made of logs down at the pond and actually tried to sail it... Never once giving a second thought to the fact that we built the damn thing only yards away from the gigantic whirlpool of the overflow drain (it was the first day outside after a week of nonstop rain), we watched in horror as the raft came apart in the shallow water and the pieces spent the next few hours being beaten around in the suction, where we would've surely ended up if we hadn't jumped off before it got out over the deep part...

There were so many perfect shots thrown during that rock fight, we simply lost count. Head shot after head shot, perfect "right between the shoulder blades" hits when they would spin at the last second, knowing they were too late to dodge. Kids were being knocked all over the damn place, blood flying, tears of rage met with showers of jagged rocks hurled in blind fits... Cussing was done... Cussing the likes of which only twelve year old boys can do... Trust me, sailors don't have a thing on twelve year old boys when it comes to stringing together obscenities.

Like all good things, it had to come to an end. This one ended with a broken piece of brick hurled from my hand with the accuracy and speed of a minor league pitcher. I watched in pride as it took out my brother.. Perfect crack to the top of the head... Feet flying straight up in the air, he went end over end back down into the ditch... We all started our victory cries with that one. Then the free flowing blood started. The wound wasn't really bleeding, as much as it was gushing a steady stream of thick, red, life giving sustenance through his hair and down his face. Like most kids do, he wasn't paying attention until he saw the blood. Then the screaming started and at that very second all of my life long, do or die, stick with me forever, blood brother compatriots ran like hell, leaving me standing there completely alone.

Then the adult came outside...

I was met with pointing fingers and jeers that I took it too far, every situation like this has to have a scapegoat and well, I drew the short straw that day. "Did the rock bounce off the road or hit him directly in the head?" I did what all kids do when in these situations, I lied... "Yeah it bounced off the road, I wasn't aiming for his head..." I was even backed up by the only two people that were still around, the wounded party and the child of the adult.. I mean we all knew you had to lie, if they found out we were really trying to kill each other, we would never be allowed to play again. So after much drama, cold washcloths, a half a bottle of mercurochrome, and a final assessment delivered by my adult cousin that ended with, "I don't think it needs stitches." We sat around for a while until we ventured back outside... On the way out of the door my younger cousin and rock fight teammate grabbed up his latest acquisition... A slingshot with the coolest attachment you could imagine... a small wire that fit on it that allowed you to shoot arrows...

We spent the next couple of hours shooting arrows in small shots around the yard, imagining that when they hit the ground they were piercing the hearts of the foes storming our castle. We kept this up until the rest of the kids from the rock fight felt things were calm enough to venture back over. I still remember how the first couple of guys slinked around, uncertain, until we gave them the go ahead nod and they came back with sly grins and obvious interest in the flying arrows... We sat in a group near the road, taking shots across the yard until the inevitable argument started...

"Well, that thing is cool, but a bow has a lot more power..."
"Bullshit... I could shoot this as far as any bow..."
"Kiss my ass..."
"Watch this.... "

My cousin drew that surgical rubber back as far as his strength allowed, the arrow tip barely resting on the wire guide set in the middle of the sling shot, and fired it.. Damn near straight up... We watched in awe as it sailed into the sky, seeming to have no connection with gravity at all. The arrow finally began its slow arch and started its descent... Coming straight down in the neighbors yard across the street. Where he was out on the riding lawn mower cutting the grass.

Stares of awe and jealousy over such a magnificent shot were slowly replaced by looks of horror as it became clear that the arrow was headed directly for the neighbor as he passed his garden on his riding mower... That arrow was making a light speed, straight down dive directly for the top of that guys head. Time began that slow motion thing it does when faced with such a tragedy. The seconds slowed to a crawl and you could almost hear every one's heart pounding as we watched that thing making its way toward a lengthy prison term for each of us.. The neighbor's son was with us and spoke the only words sounded during that eon of wait... "Hey.. my dad.."

The arrow hit the ground and drove about four inches into the hard packed earth.. about half a foot directly behind the guy... I mean centered perfectly too. If the guy had slowed down, or changed anything at all, he would've died right there in front of us. My cousin jumped to his feet and took off with calls that the guy would surely kill us if he saw the arrow... We watched as he ran faster than any human we had ever seen move. When he reached the arrow he went into a slide that would've made Pete Rose proud. He snatched the arrow from the ground as he slid by it and went right into the rows of vegetables in the garden and didn't move. Our view was of the space between the two houses and as soon as he came to a rest the neighbor drove right by him with that dead eye, mind far away stare you get while cutting grass. The second he passed by, my cousin reappeared from thin air and ran back to us sliding back into place, then we all started that innocent looking around thing as if to say, "What?"

Needless to say, when that was over we sat the slingshot bow to the side and came to the conclusion that it was indeed a dangerous thing. Besides, one of the guys spotted a fresh pile of roadkill way up the street and we needed a new specimen for the lab we had set up in my cousin's basement. Frankenstein was a cool movie, and we were positive we could pull that one off easily....

2 comments:

Rob Cole said...

Of course, the best thing about it... Norman will never know how close he came to dying that day. Somehow, though, I think that may be why he filled in that old ditch at the street. Either way, I know I miss that "magic". Thank you for the memory!!

Lauren said...

I'm giving every cent I have to time travel research and then I'm going to go back in time and be your friend...

Damn. By Bill and Ted logic, just saying it would've made it happen. Maybe I blocked the memories?