Sunday, August 12, 2007

Time Bomb and The Great Hobo Adventure



Things are beeping in the office. That is always a bad omen. When I was a kid, we didn't have beeping things. We had time bomb. You twisted the top counter-clockwise (I think) and then it ticked..tic..tic..tic...tic...tic.. and made a blow-up noise when the ticking stopped. I am fascinated by the fact that, as a kid, the toy I loved the most was time bomb.

When mom and dad punished my brother and I for opening the chocolate chip package without permission and then lying about it (we didn't lie, it wasn't us and that was confirmed by our oldest brother thirty-five years after the event), we decided to run away from home.

We had been sent to bed without our dinner and we were angry and hungry, a miserable condition for any 8 and 6 year old, respectively. Our first problem was how to escape from the upstairs bedroom. The upstairs bathroom was a dormer and so there was ample roof below it. We decided to exit the bathroom via the window, drop to the roof below, slide down to the porch roof and drop to the ground at the corner closest to the hard-packed earth, and furthest away from the dining room window.


That decided, we each made a hobo pack, since we intended to ride the trains and be hobos. Of course, there wasn't a train track within 5 miles of our house but that part of the plan we would piece together once we were on the run. We decided we would need an extra set of clothes, two pairs of underwear (whitey-tideys), two pairs of socks, and our favorite toys. We didn't need any money because, well duh, we were going to be hobos and they don't need money, they eat beans and drink water from the creek or whatever.

When it came time to pick our favorite toys, my brother chose some dumb action figures and his favorite beloved baseball cards. I chose time bomb. I was the weapons man.

I stuffed time bomb into the top of my pack, which was a flannel shirt with the arms tied together. Flannel shirts look an awful lot like hobo packs. My slightly older brother, whose name now escapes me because I am still mad at him over something, looked at me with the most incredulous eyes and whispered, "You aren't gonna take that stupid toy, are you?"

My feelings were hurt. I knew that there were bad men in the world (didn't know about bad women yet) and I wanted to be prepared. "Mister, you better back away now or I will blow you up...tic..tic...tic...tic..."

Goofus (my brother) wasn't impressed. "That is a dumb toy and you know it."
"It is better than those stupid baseball cards. What are you gonna do? Flick your Sandy Koufax at him?" I angrily whispered back.

Then we heard the booming voice of father from downstairs. "I better not hear another peep from you two or else!" It was the "or else" that was the scariest part of that proclamation. We sat in stony silence for about, oh..say...thirty seconds and began again our silent move to the bathroom...which was directly across from the stairs...and freedom, which was off the porch roof.

Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, TIC....TIC....TIC....

That darned time bomb, what a dumb toy. We scurried back to the bedroom. A gigantic voice shook the floor, "ONE......TWO....." We waited for THREE for a really long time but all was quiet. We waited even longer. Then we, two little church mice, quietly slipped out of our beds, crawled on our hands and knees to the top of the stairs, and moved like ghosts in the manor to the bathroom. We carefully, oh so carefully, closed the bathroom door and locked it.

As we had crawled past the stairs we heard the sounds of forks on dishes and laughter and merriment and we got even madder and hungrier than before. We are running away! We reject you mother and father and you too, oldest brother. We don't know how you did it. You messed with the timeline, you ate the chocolate chips and lied about it, and now you are sitting there eating dinner and we are STARVING!!!! You connivin' , lyin', Nestle' Chocolate chip stealin' good-for nuthin' jerk!

Once we were in the bathroom, Goofus took over, he had snuck out the bathroom window before and had the whole routine down pat. I was the follower, and was quite frightened when he dropped down onto the steep house roof and wildly slid down the remaining 6 feet to the porch roof. I hesitated.

"Come on!" he whispered. "Come on, what are you, chicken?"

The magic word was spoken- chicken. l was overcome by a tidal wave of reckless courage and soon was sitting on the porch roof with a slightly scraped elbow and my dignity intact. Now for the easy part- the porch roof to the ground. We walked over to the corner and hung over the side, our feet hanging as we slowly inched our way down until we were each holding onto the roof by our fingertips.

"You first." I whispered. "OK" he replied and disappeared from sight. Next thing I knew he was pulling on my feet and I fell in a heap to the ground with Goofus sitting next to me, pointing and laughing.

We got up, dusted ourselves off, checked the packs that were strung with our belts to our backs, and began to walk to the front yard and the sidewalk heading out of town (figuratively speaking- our sidewalk went down the street and met another sidewalk which travelled awhile and met another sidewalk and then another and another).

Once we made it to the sidewalk, it was time to plan again. We huddled under a streetlight in front of our neighbor's house. It was dark and a chilling Autumn wind blew in our faces. The world suddenly loomed large. There WERE bad men out there, in the dark, in the cold, hiding behind the hobo fires, ready to slit our throats.

"Which way?", I asked.
"I dunno, I guess we will go up the street. Did you bring your time bomb?"

My time bomb? MY TIME BOMB? It was a DUMB TOY!

"Ummmmmm...nooooooo, I was afraid it would start ticking again so I put it under my pillow."
"Oh great, now we have no weapons." Goofus was clearly upset. "We will have to go back inside."
"How are we gonna get back up on that roof, huh? We ran away. We have no where to go. We can't go back" I was flabbergasted. Who was chicken now?

"We will walk right through the front door,up the stairs and to bed." He was matter-of-fact about a certain whippin' we were soon to get. "You can run away if you want, but I'm going back to bed." That was his final word.

So we walked across our very familiar and safe front yard to our very familiar and safe front door, opened it, walked inside our very familiar and safe home, said "goodnight!" in stereo to the shocked faces sitting at the dinner table, walked up the stairs, climbed in our beds, and waited for sounds of heavy feet on the stairs. They never came. I listened while my tummy rumbled. I listened while my mind tumbled. Goofus fell asleep.

I was wide-awake, adrenalin still flowing, my little heart still pounding. I was amazed at our incredible journey. We had run away. We had taken righteous action! We stood up to the despotism of unfair parents! We had won a moral victory! We swam into new, uncharted waters!

Then I realized I had to pee. I quietly tiptoed to the bathroom door. It was locked.

I casually walked back to my bed, twisted the cap on my time bomb, and placed it underneath my sleeping brother's bed...

tic....tic....tic...
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