Thursday, August 22, 2013

The New Soot

It was a great hiding place. The garbage burner was next to the garage where so many of the neighborhood kids tramped through on their shortcut ways home; it had holes in it so I'd be able to breathe, the lid was light so I could lift it over my head and pop it off at will, and it was plenty big for me, or so it seemed.

I had my Roy Rogers cowboy outfit on, pointy toed boots, leather gauntlets, a fringed vest with conches on the breast embossed with Roy's signature and a felt hat in black and red, the colors of the bad cowpokes that everyone should be afraid of.

It would be a little joke on my peers; they'd walk by and as soon as they passed I'd pop out of the can, quick draw my dual, pearl handled sixshooters and BAM BAM BAM them into the next county. Oh the magic, oh the glory!

I took off the lid and stood it alongside the can so I could easily reach it once I had made myself comfortable, and then I stepped in atop the small pile of ashes that had yet to be emptied into the huge, horribly loud, turtlelike garbage truck that made its way down my block every Tuesday afternoon. This is what cowboy boots were made for, gittin durdy, kickin sum trayesh inta taght carners.

One foot, then the other, and with a smile that betrayed my extreme cleverness to all the dead cowboys in the world that were likely watching me from above, I lowered my body into the can, sliding down while leaning my back against the metal so I could drop quickly enough without falling off balance, knocking the can over and ruining my dastardly plan.

There was only one thing I'd neglected to account for in my mental schematic; the can was plenty wide for me standing upright, but bending at the knees put a new and interesting girth on my chunky frame and by the time I'd recognized the laws of physics I was a sooty rat in a trap.

Now I can hardly call myself a moron; while many kids might have known better by age 5, I was kind of an autistic genius type and prone to ignore the trees for the huge and incredibly appealing, always magical forest. "The Devil's in the details" so they say, and it was doubly true for me; there was never a detail that I couldn't ignore, right up to the present day as if you didn't notice.

I was stuck fast. Not only did my size warp the shape of the tube, making it form around knees like a clamp, but the holes I'd thought would be my oxygen salvation acted like little fingers as little pieces of my clothing exited the can each time I squirmed, and then caught themselves on the holes' sharp edges.

It was likely a few hours before I brought myself to call out for help, well after having watched Janie and Nicky and Jimmy trot past on their way to wooden playschool trains and crayon artworks. But when my father had come home from work and was passing me on the way to his nightly pre-supper snack, I could be silent no more.

He didn't have the tools to release me as it turned out, and in spite of loud personal pleas to just leave me rot in my ash laden prison, the fire department showed up within a few unbearable minutes of my dad's call.

Bring a fire truck into a middle class neighborhood of young couples and the machine and crew will be smothered in child within moments of the driver's setting the handbrake.

If I remember they sawed me loose as every kid within 5 miles stood and cheered the conquering hero's and jeered the blushing boob who was now covered in black, oily, uncleanable soot, ruining his costume forever, one more Christmas present destroyed.

No doubt I was spanked to add insult to injury, but there was no punishment like the few hours I ached to be free, knowing that I'd be made a laughing stock the moment I'd emerged, another really cool idea having blown up in my blackened, greasepainted face.

I'm wary now of metal containers; and since that day I've never even thought about climbing into one in order to hide, then spring out upon unsuspecting passersby. It's how I learned pretty much all my important lessons in life; by sticking my big ass into tight circumstances because my natural penchant is to think "why not" rather than "as if".
Luckily there are plenty of firemen out there, just in case I ever again become paralytically trapped within the bowels of another of my tin can concepts.

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