A Halloween Story
This is not a horror story. Well, that is to say that it's not about ghosts or goblins or a headless horseman who haunts the countryside. This is a story about that other age old American Halloween tradition: vandalism.
It's only an innocent sort of vandalism, or at least that's all it was meant to be when the whole thing started....
For those of you who are not acquainted with this tradition, I will give you a brief overview. When children in America reach adolescence (typically boys) and Halloween comes around, they often feel the need to leave their mark on the world in a very real and literal sense. This often involves hanging toilet paper from tree branches and spraying people and houses with shaving cream. Some even go so far as to throw eggs on cars, or let the air out of tires or even slash tires. This is typically seen as a level beyond the good humored antics such as toilet papering and shaving cream. But I digress....
One Halloween night, many many years ago my friend and I had a brilliant idea. We would liberate the largest pumpkin we had ever seen, take it to a remote, undisclosed location and blow it up!
One of my friends, Jim*, had made a few CO2 bombs. These are basically emptied CO2 cartridges filled with gun powder. Now, this is long before columbine and a much more innocent time. I strongly discourage anyone from even thinking about attempting the events portrayed herein.
The concept was a simple one. We would steal the largest pumpkin we had ever seen, which incidentally just happened to lie in my neighbor's garden, cut the top off and throw one of Jim's bombs in and watch the pumpkin pie fly!
To help us in our endeavor, we enlisted the help of another friend, Ben*. Ben was a tall, goofy kid with an infectious laugh. He was nearly 6' 5" tall and strong as an ox and we could use that kind of talent.
With the help of big Ben, The pumpkin heist was successful and uneventful. We christened the pumpkin "Big Bubba", loaded it into Jim's Plymouth Horizon hatchback and sped off into the cover of darkness.
The undisclosed location was easy enough to find. We lived in a small, rural town so we just drove around on back roads for about 20 minutes until we were well and truly lost. At this point, we heaved Big Bubba out of his seat in the hatchback and positioned him in the middle of the road. Jim cut the top off the pumpkin, lit the fuse, dropped the bomb in and replaced the top.
He ran at break-neck speed to join Ben and Me behind the Horizon and await the epic destruction. Three seconds passed, and then four. Then came a very loud, but very muffled WHUMP!
We took our fingers out of our ears and moved in to examine the carnage, but there was none. There was only Bubba, resting in the road where we had left him. Upon close examination, smoke could be seen wafting from the misplaced pumpkin piece atop the monster gourd, but nothing more.
We walked around the beast, observing the skin for tears or exit wounds, but found none. I removed the lid and peered inside. It was then we realized the flaw in our plan. The pumpkin skin was just too thick. The explosion actually cooked the pumpkin on the inside, but nothing more. No pumpkin parts. No pumpkin goo. Just a robust and rotund orange gourd defiantly intact.
Faced with this dismal outcome we did the only thing we could. We piled into the car and went on a search and destroy mission, targeting another friend.
After a couple hours and numerous skirmishes which eventually led to our egging our friend repeatedly and forcing him to the car wash, we soon found ourselves lost again.
It was at this time that Ben began to get a little paranoid about our activities. It probably didn't help that he had been sitting on our last remaining CO2 bomb either. We had all become concerned that a police officer might pull us over for egging another vehicle and find the bomb. After a brief discussion, we decided it would be best that we dispose of the evidence.
The only problem was that we could not agree on the method of disposal. Ultimately it was Jim's decision. He had spent the time and effort in making the device, and he was also the one driving so we had little say in the matter.
Due to Jim's affinity for his device, he felt a strong desire to see that it live up to its full potential. That being the case, he thought it best to detonate the device.
He stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and sighted a lone mailbox, across the road from a long dirt driveway that disappeared into the black of night.
He lit the fuse, tossed the bomb into the mailbox (closing the door) and once again ran like a man possessed back to the rear of the car to join Ben and Me in waiting. We crouched for seemed like an eternity, counting the seconds.
Something had clearly gone wrong. It should have detonated by now. We all stood up to ponder the situation when we were driven to the ground almost instantly by the loudest explosion we had ever heard, followed by the tearing of metal. It was like a shriek from some undead creature finally being released from its eternal damnation.
We scrambled into the car as fast as our gangly teenage legs would allow and tore off into the night. We did manage to get a nice drive-by view of the damage on our way out of the scene. The effect was most impressive. It blew the metal mailbox outward in every direction, but the box was still attached to the stump. It looked as though some creature with hulk-like strength had peeled the mailbox open like a banana!
Later that night, when we were tucked safely in our beds and the police had failed to materialize on our doorstep, we felt pretty good about things and drifted off into a peaceful sleep. The next day, before the opening bell of school, we met and talked in hushed tones and oblique references to the previous night's events. We formed a pact that we would never tell another living soul about that night.
Things went along pretty smoothly until second period mechanical drawing class. That's when Mr. Howland* entered the class with a glum look on his face.
"Did you have a happy Halloween Mr. Howland", a student asked.
Mr. Howland replied, "Not really. A couple of jokers blew up my mom's mailbox!"
It's not as scary as all those stories about ghosts and goblins, I will grant you that. But it put me on the straight and narrow for a good many years!
Have a happy, safe, and (ahem) legal Halloween!
* Names have been changed to protect the "innocent". :)
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