The Fireworks of Family Interactions
Jared C Schultz, PhD
(Editors note: This is a piece written by my brother. It is an actual occurrence that happened when we were kids. I have posted this because it is a fun memory of our childhood. I would encourage others to write their memories and share them with family. Please enjoy!)
The boy, a young man really, stepped from the shower. Wrapped in an ill smelling towel grabbed off the floor, he begins his daily hygiene routine of deodorant, brushing teeth, and a small dab of anti-fungal cream in places he refuses to talk about. It is a unique time in this young man’s life as he has just returned from an outing with friends. Not an outing of ordinary happenstance, but one of significant, life altering proportions. He has broken the law.
It is probably not the first time in his short, fairly trouble less life growing up in Eugene Oregon, and certainly will not be the last. A whimsical smile creases the corners of his mouth as he examines his reflection in the steam-bordered mirror. Despite the lectures from parents, teachers, and a periodic neighbor who has had tomatoes launched over their fence, or a daughter hit in the head with a rock, he had gotten away with it. He had gotten away with it!
One thing separated this young man from the hordes of other young men beginning down the path of delinquency and mindless shenanigans. He was actually smart. He had the power to foresee events, cause and effect, and plan for the long term as much as for the immediate success of whatever semi-legal, or destructive activity in which he was currently engaged. It was this unusual foresight that had allowed him to successfully dodge full responsibility for his miscreant activities for so long.
It was this foresight that brought him out of the adrenaline; endorphin induced revelry, and caused him to focus. He had lost focus. Immediately, as he lathered his face and applied the razor to trim but four hairs and some peach fuzz, he began the procedure of threat identification and neutralization planning.
Younger brothers? He had two of them. Both smart, both funny, both dangerous to his cause. Additionally, he had to deal with the exceptionally bright and favored youngest brother, who could in reality do no wrong! In fact on a number of occasions, this blessed brother… Dang! He needs to focus!
Brothers a threat to the recent victory? Not particularly. He had returned from his recent foray into the unknown of villainy, with tales of adventure and trinkets of gold. Well… actually stories about what happened and a few pieces of junk. But to the younger brothers, every word was one of immortality. Every tale as great as those from mythology! Every trinket the lost treasure of Eldorado! No, there was no threat to his operational security from his brothers.
His parents? They were smart, but not suspicious. It appears they were just glad to have him back in one piece. They worried when he went on these trips and the fact of having their number one son (Author’s Note: Number one reflects birth order, not parental preference. As was noted earlier, the youngest son was the preferred. By the whole family really.) returned alive was cause to rejoice. At one point his father had talked of killing the fatted calf, the one with the botched vasectomy that resulted in half of a bull, in celebration of his return. No. No threat from the parents.
His friends? So long as they stuck to the same story, they would be fine. He had addressed them prior to coming home, hoping to imbed in their minds the necessity for secrecy. They developed plans of mutual support, so that if one friend began to crack under the scrutiny of a parent, they could obtain assistance from the others. No. No threat there. This job had been too well planned. This one carried off without a hitch. It was perfect. Which was the problem.
He wiped off the additional condensation from the mirror and reflected on that last thought. That was the nagging realization that had been pushing up through the depths of his unconscious to find the light of day. It was that thought that had been at the source of his paranoia. There was no such thing as the perfect crime!
Any third grader that had read Sherlock Holmes (and if you hadn’t read it, that causes me to ask, “Didn’t you go to Third grade?”) knew, there was no such thing as a perfect crime. A surge of energy, best defined as a cocktail of fear, anxiety, anger, and a slight addition of detached whimsical musing, rushed through his body as he realized the precariousness of his predicament. NOT A PERFECT CRIME!
Hair dripping with water and wrapped in only an ill smelling towel (one of thirty three from the floor), he sprinted out of the bathroom, around the corner, and down the hall to his room. Upon entering his room he immediately turned and shut the door. He ran to his bed at the far end of his room, jumped up on it, losing his towel in the process, and placed his hand into the uncovered air vent located in the ceiling. He felt around the vent in a circular pattern, searching… searching. His frantic search subsided. Though he continued to check the vent the realization came to him. Not suddenly, but in small increments, until the checking of the vent was just an action that carried no reason. For he knew. All the work, the planning, the effort to get over the border and back. The running, the hiding, eating half frozen burritos from 7-Eleven, was all for naught.
The firecrackers were gone.
The Morning Breaks
Jared lay in bed in that semiconscious state, where one knows it is necessary to get out of bed, but the warmth and comfort of being there is too much to overcome. As something similar to rational thought began to form in his mind, he realized that today was Saturday. He had nothing planned for that day, other than working with his father on the family farm. Living on a farm, seemingly 200 miles from town, in actuality it was only about six miles west of Eugene, creates non-eventful days for young men that have yet to reach the age to obtain a driver’s license.
“And even when I get that, I’ll be driving the Haymobile for sure”, he said aloud. The only response was a flicker pecking on the side of the house.
Jared knew that they were in for a long morning of hard labor. It was his father’s tradition to work around the house on Saturdays. Whenever asked about it, his father would mumble something about a work ethic, steam whistle logging, and snow up hill both ways and wander off. All the while asking himself what had he done wrong? Jared reflected on that. What had he done wrong? Nothing it would seem.
Gathering the courage to get out of bed, the youngest son donned a pair of jeans, a Churchill High School Basketball t-shirt, some old high tops, and headed upstairs. Mid way up the stairs he began to catch the early smells of fried potatoes and eggs, over-easy.
He cheerfully entered the kitchen and greeted his mother.
“Mooother? Is that you?”. Feigning a visual impairment, he began to feel her head. Mom laughed, she was always a good crowd, and handed him a plate of food.
“Is Dad ready yet?”
“He is already outside. He’s been out working since seven this morning.” It was 8:00 o’clock. “Is Scott up?”
“I don’t think so. At least he wasn’t when I last checked.”, Jared reported. He didn’t like telling on his older brother, but he couldn’t lie to his mom? Could he? Not his dear, sweet, “Mum”!
“Well maybe dad will be able to get him up.” , she replied nonchalantly. Almost too nonchalantly.
Mom had an interesting way of staying out of the family intrigue. This family, just as any family, had a certain level of political jockeying and maneuvering, and most of all prank playing. All of which Mom had stayed clear of, claiming naiveté. Jared wondered at whether his mother was truly naïve , or was she so smart she just seemed naïve? Too much thinking for a Saturday morning.
Upon taking his fourth or fifth bite of potatoes and eggs, smothered in ketchup of course, there were a series of explosions downstairs. The sound was similar to the gunfire on TV, or the random shotgun blasts that would periodically wake him up at night, or make him duck for cover during the day. With a quick glance at Mom, she was startled as well, he dashed for the stairs. With mom right on his heals, Jared rushed down the stairs, vaulted over the last three feet of railing in a supreme “Starsky & Hutch” move that would win top points in any Olympic competition, and ran down the hall.
Upon entering Scotts room, they were overwhelmed by the acid smell of gun powder. Gun powder? Here?
“Are you OK?”, Jared asked a confused, dazed, and thoroughly bad hair day brother that had just been awakened by the commotion.
“Yeah, I think so” was the reply.
“I don’t know. I was sleeping when all of a sudden these explosions started happening. Scared the crap out of me!”
“Scott!” Mom chimed in, “Don’t use such filthy language in our house!”
Now was not the time to launch into the singsong version of “Crap, Butt” that got mom steamed. Jared noticed strange material on the floor. Getting down on his hands and knees, he began a closer investigation of the scene. Shredded paper lay all around the room. A flimsy paper that was thin, with patterns on it, mostly a small black checkered pattern. It was at that point that he noticed an anomaly on the pitching sleeves shirt that was on the floor. Just below the neckline of the shirt, between the shoulders, was a black smudge about an inch in diameter. In the center of the smudge was a hole, approximately a quarter inch in diameter. It all lead to one conclusion.
“Firecrackers”, Jared mumbled.
“What was that?”, Mom asked.
“Firecrackers.” Jared repeated. “Someone has lit a number of firecrackers and thrown them into Scott’s room. Look here,” he said showing the shirt, “even blew a hole in his shirt.”
“But who would do that? And aren’t those things illegal?”, was mom’s response.
At that moment there came a familiar sound. It was the squeaky, grinding sound that came from the gate leading from the backyard to the pasture. Jared calmly walked to his room, through the door less entry, and looked out the window. He was just in time to catch a glimpse of a man, approximately six foot three inches tall, broad in the shoulders, and with black hair, wearing nondescript jeans, a short sleeve light blue shirt, and wallaby’s shoes, walking over the hill towards the barn.
It was time to feed the cows.
Note: The author has taken some creative license to make this story, well, more entertaining. Other’s recollection may be different from that presented here. That is fine, even if they are wrong. Though the small details may be embellished, this is a portrayal of an actual occurrence. And certainly the author stands by claims of being the favored son.