Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood: The Year of the Squirt Gun

When I was little, it was Cowboys & Indians. I got a little bigger, and it was games of Army. In the spring of 1977, it became all about the squirt gun.

I was fifteen and a freshman at Muncie Southside High School. It was a time of high insecurity, blackheads, pimples, and voice changes. I had almost survived my first year of high school without getting a swirly, and I was still consumed by “The Crush.”

I don’t know how it started, but that May, Muncie South was overrun with squirt guns. They were everywhere. Wet shirts. Wet walls. Slick marble and tile floors. Rumors abounded that some of the hoodlums were putting bleach in the guns, but I never saw any real evidence of that little bit of craziness. I didn’t bring one to school. I was too chicken.

I was convinced that as surely as I brought one to school, I’d get caught. I’d never been in trouble in school, except for a couple of times at Roosevelt Elementary; once in second grade when Mrs. Birch gave me a whack for talking too much and  another time when I got a whack for basically being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’d never been in Southside's Dean’s office and I wasn’t about to risk that record just to carry in a Smith & Wesson knockoff loaded with water.

So, for the month of May, I walked around school dodging stray streams of water, and watching all the fun everyone else was having. I almost made it to the end of the school year.

We were down to the last week of school, and I was sitting in Study Hall. To my left was my good friend, Collin. Across from me was the one to which my heart was still bound…the object of “The Crush.” Of course, she didn’t know it. I was the only one privy to that little piece of information. Tena was studying. I was,…well…I was busy being a fifteen year-old boy.

In my puberty driven mind, a light bulb flashed on with a bright idea. It was brilliant. It was a stroke of genius.

You see, my buddy Collin, he had a squirt gun on him, and I just knew that if I borrowed the plastic weapon and shot a stream of water at Tena, she would….she would…well….she’d notice me. She’d look at me. Well, a guy can hope anyway.

“Hey,” I said in whispered tones. “Can I borrow your squirt gun?”

“Sure,” he whispered back, and he handed it over to me under the cover of the study table.

With stealth, I carefully angled it over the edge of the table. I took aim at the area where her beautiful brown locks of hair fell down across her homework paper.

I fired.

I missed.

The stream of water flew with a marvelous angle over her shoulder. It flew with grace, and it carried with it my avoidance of the Dean’s office. You see, it didn’t fall safely on the floor, nor did it harmlessly hit a wall. Nope. It hit a girl I didn’t know at the next table.

It would have been nice if she’d just said something like: “Darn. I’m a little wet, but it’ll dry. It’s only water.”

But, no. She said a bunch of other things…in a very loud voice. She said words that would scorch the earth. She said stuff that she wanted to do to me. Stuff that she thought ought to be done to me.

I said “I’m sorry. It was an accident!”

She screamed some more things that ought to happen to me. Stuff she was determined would happen to me.

By now, she had drawn the attention of the study hall monitor, a woman I wasn’t particularly fond of anyway. On the one hand, the woman intervened and prevented my premature death at the hands of a slightly wet teenage girl. On the other hand, I was busted.

Of course, I had carefully slipped the gun back to Collin.

“Did you squirt that girl?” asked the monitor.

“Um, yeah. But, I didn't mean to.  It was an accident and I said I was sorry,” I replied.

Turning to the raging mermaid, she asked: “Did he tell you he was sorry?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Be quiet and sit down.”

Whew! That crisis had passed.

“Give me the squirt gun,” she demanded.

Now, I’m in trouble. I didn’t have it anymore. Besides, it wasn’t mine to give to her, and I couldn’t rat out Collin.  I was stuck.

“I don’t have it.”

“Where is it?”

I just looked at her.

She pressed on: “I said, ‘Where is it?’”

“Umm. I don’t have it.”

“Tell me where it is!”

By the way, Tena is definitely looking at me by this point. What a brilliant idea.

The pressure was mounting. The monitor’s temper was getting short. I was about to be in some major trouble.

“Where is it? Tell me right now!”  She demanded!

“Ummm,…” I started.

Collin spoke up. “Ma’am, it’s mine,” and he handed it over. He gave himself up for me. Wow. I couldn’t believe it. I was amazed. I was relieved. I was sent to the Dean’s office, …where I was left to sit for an uncomfortable amount of time dreading my expulsion from school with only two days left in the year, ...before being released back to class.

I never got in real trouble from that event, but it just proved my original premise that I should have nothing to do with squirt guns in school. Later, I thanked Collin for fessing up.

“No problem,” he said. “That one leaked anyway.”

You would have thought that I would now be done with squirt guns, but that was not the case. I couldn’t have them at school, but I could still go crazy with them at home, so I went out and armed myself with one of the coolest water weapons I could find in the days before Super Soakers.

So, here I am wandering around the neighborhood looking for something to shoot. I could have been as mischievous as some of the other boys in the hood who targeted the gorgeous young woman who was lying in the sun…on her stomach…with the bikini top undone to avoid tan lines…but, I’m not that stupid. I’d learned that squirting nearby girls is not a good idea.

Nope. I’m not that stupid. Apparently, I’m even more stupid.

Instead, I learned that if you squirt a bumblebee, it gets waterlogged and can’t fly.

One wonderful sunny day, I was out in the back yard with my gun stalking helpless yellow and black critters, and enjoying the pleasure of seeing them struggle against the waves of water shoving them off of the clover blooms. Squirt, squirt, squirt! Bzzzzzzzz. Squirt, squirt, squirt! Bzzzzzzz.

Hours of fun.

Somehow, my stalking carried me over the fence into my neighbor, Betty’s yard. It had been her attractive daughter who had been lying in the sun previously, when I displayed enough sense not to fire at her lotioned up skin, but this day the yard was empty…except for me and the bumblebees. So, I soaked one up real good. I watched it struggle down in the grass and then crawl back up on the flower. Squirt, squirt, squirt. I did it again.

I had my fun and I sat down on the end of her carport that paralleled the side of her house. My feet were in the grass of the back yard.

I don’t know how I ended up with the large stick in my hand, but I had the gun in my left and a large stick in the right. I had probably been poking the bee with it. Anyway, there I sat relishing the joy of insect abuse, soaking up the rays of the springtime sun.

I looked down.

On my right leg…crawling over the side of my knee…ominously staring at me with tiny, hateful insectile eyes…was that water-logged bumblebee….threatening me with a wicked stinger!

“Aaaahhhhhhh!” I screamed like a little girl! I jumped up and began swinging that stick in self-defense!

Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Over and over again! As fast as I could! Hard!

I don’t know if I ever hit that bumblebee…but, I sure beat the crap out of my own right leg.

I never picked on a poor, helpless bumblebee again.

1 comment:

  1. A squirt gun now in a school would mean jail time ;-) But we lived in a more innocent and less politically correct world back then.