Three boys came fishing
Many years ago, my brothers and I had some apartments that we rented out. I didn't have much to chip in, so it was my job to maintain the place. I also lived in one of the units. It was a nice little complex, consisting of two triplexes on a lake, and another four-plex a block away. One day as I sat reading the paper, I heard a knock on the door. I went to answer it and found two young red headed boys standing before me. I had seen them before playing in the neighborhood, but had never had the chance to speak to them. "What can I do for you" I asked.
"Well mister," one of the boys began a bit sheepishly, "our daddy needs to buy some flour, but he doesn't have the money. I told him that I thought you were rich, and so he wanted to know if you would like to buy this." He held out an old cedar watch box before me then, and opened it. Inside there was a used wallet, and a folding knife with one of the blades broken.
"Well sure," I replied. "I was just thinking about getting me a new pocket knife. How much does he need for that?"
"He needs at least five dollars," the older boy said.
Now it occurred to me that these boys might just be looking for a way to get some spending money, but I didn't know enough about them to put any weight into that thought. So, I reached into my wallet, and got out a ten dollar bill, and gave it to them. "I don't want your father to lose his stuff," I said. "Tell him to consider this a loan until he can pay me back."
The two boys eyes lit up then, and the youngest boy grabbed the money. "Thanks mister!" they replied in unison, and then they took off.
I went back inside, and began reading the paper again, feeling a little good about myself for being able to help someone. Not five minutes had passed when there came a knock at the door again. A little annoyed, I got back up and went to the door to find the two boys back again. The oldest boy reached his hand out before me with the ten dollar bill in it. "Our daddy said he can't take no loan, on account he won't be able to pay you back," he said softly.
At that moment, it was all that I could do to keep my eyes from tearing up. I knew what it was like to be poor growing up, not because we had nothing, but because others had went out of their way to point it out to me. "Where's the box he wanted to sell," I asked.
"At home," the older boy replied. "Daddy figured you didn't want it. He said you probably have lots of nice stuff, and didn't want it."
"That isn't the case at all," I said almost sternly. "I told you boys that I needed a pocket knife, and now unless your father sells me his, I'll have to drive down to the store and pay twice as much. Go get the box."
A few minutes later, they were back with the items they had before, and this time I handed them two ten dollar bills. "If I'm going to buy your father's stuff, I have to pay him what I think its worth," I said firmly. "I'm too proud to cheat someone."
"Yes sir," the oldest boy replied, then started to take off, but his younger brother remained standing before me. "Come on Charles," the older boy said. Then the younger boy looked up to me and asked, "mister, would it be okay if we went fishing in your lake?"
The older boy started to admonish his brother for asking, but I cut him off. "It would be fine for you to go fishing here. Do you boys know how to swim?"
"Of course we do," the older boy replied.
"Okay then," I said, "just remember, you will always need to let me know before you go fishing. Okay?"
"Yes," they both chimed in, and that's how it all began.
The boys return
A few days later the boys returned and they brought along one of their friends, another neighborhood boy named Bobby. As I had requested, they knocked on the front door and got my permission to go fishing. Now the reason that I wanted them to check in with me, is just so I could keep an eye on them, and make sure that they were safe. Considering that I had spent so many hours fishing the creeks and rivers of Alabama without any supervision I felt a bit hypocritical, but it was my call.
On that first day they didn't catch any fish, and that was fine with me. To be honest, I had grown to be quite a softy by that stage of my life, and I used to feed those fish in the lake. John referred to them as my pets, and maybe they were, but those boys didn't have much to keep them busy. So for the time being I sucked it in, but I made sure that they didn't fish where I put out food. I also intervened from time to time, to capture their attention with one of the tales from my youth, and they appeared to enjoy it. Everything was going fine, until one of the tenants became annoyed by the boy’s presence.
That tenant brought it to my attention that the boys were sometimes leaving trash behind. The truth of the matter is that I had picked up a few potato chip bags behind them, along with the tin cans they had used to carry their worms in. Still, it wasn't much, and I had talked to them about it. Another tenant complained about the noise, and yet another one said his wife didn't feel comfortable sunbathing with the kids around. Then three of them ganged up on me one day, explaining that they were paying tenants, and the boys had no right to be there. I explained that they were guests of mine, and that I had the right to have guests over. That held water for a while, until the boys began showing up when I wasn't there.
The next time the boys came knocking on my door, I asked them in and told them to have a seat. Over a glass of lemonade I explained the predicament they were putting me in, and I also made it clear that they were not supposed to go fishing without checking in with me first. They admitted that they had gone fishing one weekend when I was out of town, but promised it wouldn't happen again. Feeling as though we understood each other, and the problem was solved, I told the boys to go fishing. It was then, that the older boy asked me about the boat out back. Now I had built that boat for the purpose of getting trash out of the lake, but it wasn't very stable at all. I told them under no circumstances were they to ever get in that boat. However, boys will be boys.
The following day when I came home from work, one of the boys came running around the apartment in a panic. "Charles and Bobby are out in the boat, and they can't get it back to shore!" Joe cried. "They almost tipped it over, and they can't swim!"
I ran around back, and dove into the lake. Now I'm far from being a strong swimmer, and the fact that I was fully dressed didn't help. By the time that I reached the boat I was exhausted. Hanging onto the boat's bow, I decided to kick off my shoes. That would make swimming back easier. With the boat in tow, I struggled until I reached water shallow enough to wade in. I pulled the boat up to shore, and collapsed on the bank. All three of the boys took off then without a word. That afternoon I ripped the boat apart, cut the sections up into small pieces, and threw it into the trash bin. More than a week passed before I saw the boys again.
It was during the middle of the week when I decided to come home for lunch. It wasn't often that I got the chance to do that, but I was working on a job just down the road. As I got out of my truck, I noticed voices coming from behind my apartment. I walked softly to the back of the building, and then peeked around the corner to see the three boys out by the lake fishing. I shook my head in frustration, but decided to go inside and calm down before I said anything. As I made a sandwich, I got to thinking about how to make these kids understand my concerns. That's when I got this crazy idea.
I had a couple of speakers out back in the oak tree by the lake, and I would put them to use. First I put a tape in my cassette deck, and then I connected a microphone to the right channel. Next I went to the kitchen, and got an old mixer. Then I turned it on, and brought it closer to the mike, and then moved it away, repeating this process for a few minutes. After that I put the recorded tape into the play side of the cassette deck and hit the play button. With the microphone now plugged into the left channel, I let the second tape begin recording the sound of the mixer's BUZZZZ buzzzz BUZZZZ buzzzz, then I began to speak into the microphone with the squeakest voice I could muster, "Belzar do you see those earthling children down there?" I paused and then slightly changing my voice I replied to myself, "yes supreme commander what should we do?" Then I said, "drop the mutating bomb Belzar!" After that I got an empty quart gallon milk jug out of the wastebasket, and filled it with water. I put the second recorded tape into the play side of the tape deck, switched it over to the outside speakers, and hit play. I went to the front door then, and I could hear that buzzing sound of my flying saucer coming from the oak tree. When the tape got to the part where it said, "drop the mutating bomb Belzar," I took that milk jug and flung it as hard as I could over the roof. A moment later I heard this big splash in the lake. I ran out back then to chide those boys, but they had high tailed it, leaving their fishing poles behind.
It was the weekend before I saw the two brothers again walking down the road in front of my apartment. I called them over so that I could return their fishing poles to them. That's when the younger boy told me, "we won't be coming back here again to fish."
"Why not?" I asked.
The older boy, Joe, jabbed his brother then, as if to keep him quiet, but it didn't work. "There was this flying saucer that dropped some radioactive stuff in the lake," he began, and again his brother jabbed him, but it still did no good. "Now if you get any of that water from the lake on you, it will turn you into a lizard man!"
I tried to explain to the boys then about the prank that I had pulled on them, but I'm not sure that they believed me. All that they were concerned with at the time was the fact that they were going to get to visit with their grandmother. She lived on a farm in Georgia, and there were all sorts of things for them to do there. It wasn't until a week later, when I saw the boys friend Bobby, that I learned the entire truth. The boys and their father had been evicted from their home. The two brothers had been sent to live with their grandmother, and their father was living out of his car, still trying to find work.
Memories from the past come calling
More than a decade later, I was living in another part of town. My life had changed quite a bit since those days living on the lake. One day after coming home from work I decided to play a little music. So I rummaged through the stereo cabinet and found an old mixed tape. I popped it into the cassette deck, hit play, and leaned back into my recliner. With music pumping through the speakers from the seventies, I relaxed and was just about to doze off to sleep, when the music suddenly went dead. For a moment there was only static, and then I heard this loud BUZZZ buzzz, "drop the mutating bomb Belzar!"