One Way or the Other

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The ageless man was dark as a soot pot. Bent with time and circumstance, he walked down the abandoned railroad tracks unaware we were watching him. Or so we thought. Passing within three feet of our hiding place deep in the thicket of bushes, he paused for a moment. My three brothers and I had been throwing water balloons at his house all summer. Until now, we had never been caught. Not even close.

His coal dark eyes seemed to burn right through the bushes, but if he saw us, he didn’t let on. Instead, he pointed a crooked finger in our direction and spat a brown liquid on the ground. In a gravely voice he called out, “Y’all boys done did wrong. God’s gonna git ya.” Then he walked back down the tracks, and I let out the breath I didn’t even know I was holding.

Sam Washington was right. It wasn’t a week later that we all got what was coming to us - and got it good. I don’t think God had anything to do with it, though. More like Big Brother James pulling too hard.

There’s a word for the stupid things we did when we were young; it’s called adolescence. It’s the time in our lives we can get away with things because we don’t know the difference between right and wrong. That’s how it works in the real world, but the house located at 110 Flamingo Street where I spent much of my youth, was far from the real world. It was Dad’s World, and his word was law.

Ever wonder where the police got the saying “Ignorance of the law is no excuse?” I don’t. They got it from my dad. From the time we boys reached the age of two, Mom and Dad taught us the difference between right and wrong. That education took the ignorance out of any excuse we could come up with for all the stupid things we did. Trust me; one of us four boys was always doing something stupid.

At age seven, I certainly knew throwing water balloons at Mr. Washington’s house was wrong. Since he almost caught us, I knew it was really wrong, but that didn’t stop us from throwing water balloons. It just made it more fun.

Preston Weston was the rich kid that lived over on the Duke of Gloucester, one street over from ours. The Duke was where all the rich kids lived. Preston’s dad was some sort of doctor, and they had more money than most. He got us the surgical tubing for our water balloon launcher - Preston, that is, not his dad.

The plan was to build a giant slingshot out of the tubing and make a leather pocket out of one of The Sister’s old discarded winter coats. Unfortunately the only coat Older Brother Richard could find in her closet was her new leather coat, not the old discarded one.

After cutting up the coat, Twin Brother Mark and I tied the surgical tubing to either side of the makeshift balloon pocket. With our giant slingshot ready, we waited for Saturday night. Why Saturday? We were out of balloons.

On Saturdays, we collected empty bottles all day from the vacant lots down Flamingo Street and cashed them in at Mr. Mooney’s seven-eleven store. Not only did we have enough money for 100 balloons, but we had money left over to buy RC Colas and Moon Pies.

With a bathtub full of water balloons upstairs, the baby sitter downstairs thinking we all were asleep, and Mom and Dad out on a rare “Date Night” the fun was about to begin. Or so we thought.

We each had a bedroom with a sliding glass door leading out onto the 2nd story porch. James and Richard tied the ends of the surgical tubing between a pair of two-by-fours holding up the roof over the porch. After placing a water balloon in the pocket, we pulled it back to the doorway and let it fly. It soared across the yard but missed the street by ten feet. We needed more range. That’s when James opened his sliding glass door.

He took a step back into the bedroom, and our liquid projectiles almost reached Flamingo Street. After launching twenty or so balloons, we wanted to see just how far they would go. James put two balloons in the pocket, pulled back into his room and stood on the bed. That’s when we heard the crack.

Seconds later the twin balloons reached their target: the far lane of Flamingo Street. With a double SPLAT, they hit the windshield of a police car. The blue lights switched on. We didn’t see them though; we were on the bedroom floor all covered with glass. Seems termites had used the wood for dinner long before we decided to use it to anchor our slingshot.

That night put an end to our water balloon escapades, and we no longer had any free time. Instead, for the next year we picked up bottles and gave the money to Dad to replace the door. Each time we went out searching for bottles, we passed Sam Washington’s house. Each time he saw us, he’d smile and wave. The incident taught me that nature has a balance. No mater what age, if you do something bad, sooner or later it comes around to git ya one way or the other.

login to post comments | Rick Ryckeley's blog