The Cast: Erich (helper extraordinaire), Monsters (they are real), Myself (quick on my feet, but not in my head).
When you’re young you don’t know enough to think things through. Cartoons have taught us that the consequences of our actions are funny. Because cartoon physics are different than real physics. Additionally, past life experience can cloud current judgments and understanding.
My house—like many others in the area—had a second story balcony. But, unlike other homes, mine had a high traffic sidewalk run past it two to four times a day. Students heading to and from high school would walk past and on warm days I would, on rare occasions, lob a water balloon or two at unsuspecting teens. Sometimes the less intelligent ones would stop and stare at the wet spot on the cement and wonder, “What is it?” or “Where did it come from?” and then I would lob a water balloon at them. I rarely hit anyone. Actually, no one. Ever. More to the point, it piqued my curiosity about what could be put into a water balloon and how that mixture would react.
Behind our Turtle Tower (again, to be explained at a later time) there was a large cement slab—a remnant of an old structure—that Erich and I would use to make tests in a safe environment. Erich and I tried putting all kinds of things into water balloons, small rocks, flour, sugar, and then we would hurl the balloons and see what kinds of messes would result. We became slightly fixated on water balloons for about a week. The Monsters would soon put a stop to all that.
One full-moonlit night Erich and I snuck ourselves across the street with a large bucket of water balloons and mischief. The full moon illuminated everything perfectly. Not too bright and not too underlit. But the shadows were black holes, voids, netherworlds of inky black that dissolve those solids who entered into nothingness. The perfect cover for a couple of “little stinkers” and… Monsters.
The two of us placed ourselves into the cover of one of those sinister voids and prepared ourselves. We would take turns as thrower and scout. The scout would look North, between the trees and wait for South-bound traffic, give the go signal, and the thrower would blindly toss a balloon—a plain balloon, we didn’t want to hurt anyone or risk serious harm—over the large bushes and attempt to hit a windshield. It was miss after miss after miss after miss. One close call after another. And then came the little red hatchback.
It was something like a 1990’s Mazda 323. Erich spied it, timed it just right, no other cars nearby—we were thinking it through, gave the signal, then I threw. The balloon flew perfectly, landed perfectly. A direct hit to the windshield, driver side. Then the hatchback slowed, looked like it was going to stop, but didn’t. It just continued on its way. Erich and I watched it for a long time, wondering if the people inside were going to try and get us back for our little prank. It didn’t look like they would. So we continued our bombing run. Missing shot after shot, again and again.
Sitting in the dark, waiting for targets to drive by, a twig snapped somewhere off in the dark void. What was that? A dog perhaps? Nothing came forward and found us. So maybe it was nothing after all. Still, the two of us became decidedly uneasy. The tree canopy was casting impenetrable shadows and we could see past them, “through” them, but could not see anything within the shadows. There was something there, our… “guts” told us so. But we could not see anything. So very unnerving! But nothing was there, so nothing to worry about. We went back to tossing water balloons. When you let your guard down, that’s when monsters can get you.
“Mwraaaugh!” A deep, guttural bellow came from nowhere. Without warning, from out of the inky void three or four, maybe five amorphous masses melted out from the shadows, limbs outstretched, claws extended. Whatever they were they were going to get us! “AAAAHHHHH!!!” was our immediate response. I had been holding a water balloon in my hands when the monsters arrived and I must have squoze it so hard it popped, because my pants were suddenly, unexplainably wet. The dark shapes shifted and moved to surround us. Each was at least 6’ 14” tall or larger. Their limbs were like tree trunks, their bodies were twice that. Massive and terrifying, Erich and I were about to die.
Like some types of prey, Erich and I darted around and through the shadow monsters and out into the open road. We bolted across six lanes of traffic onto my property, hoping to escape these giants of the dark. As we hit the property line Erich peeled left and headed to into my house. No! Now I was alone. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Erich freeze as soon as he opened the door. That’s when the monster took him from behind. I had no choice but to keep going. I ran into the chest-high weeds in the lot behind my backyard and fell down hoping to conceal myself within them. Through the weeds I saw the giants from the void approach, slow down—these weeds were their weakness, yes!—and then they stopped. “Dude, we can see you. Get up.” Wait, what?!?
What happened next was one of the most powerful lessons I have ever learned. As it turns out the “monsters from the void” were three of the largest Samoans I have ever encountered, then or since. They were young, in their early 20’s, all well over 6’ tall and maybe just as broad. They were not overweight, and they were very fit. The three of them could have easily been a single NFL defensive line all by themselves. But they were also the kindest men I have ever met.
Erich had attempted to escape the pursuing Samoan by entering my house, when he opened the door my parents were sitting at the dinner table, and my mother didn’t like him. So he froze, and the “monster” caught him. As it turned out the Samoans wanted to teach us a lesson we would never forget. And they did. Once hit, they thought about pulling over to “get us” but figured we would see that and get away—that was the slowing down—so they drove two blocks out of sight and then came back around from another direction. They were the twig snap. They thought for sure we were going to run, but we didn’t so they did what they did. Standing there with my parents, Erich and I were kindly counseled about the dangers of throwing things—anything—at cars. We had broken their windshield wiper, but they didn’t care about that, just the lesson. These young men chased us out of the frying pan, into the fire, pulled us out of the fire, then put the fire out. They did it all with smiles on their faces and kindness in their hearts.
Windshields are sturdy. However, objects thrown or dropped—regardless of weight—at the right angle could break through the glass and harm or kill the driver. You can find reports of these all over the internet now—in the 1990’s we would have read them in the newspaper. Never, ever, EVER throw things at car windshields!
As a final note. I occasionally try to imagine those three giant Pacific Islanders climbing into and out of that tiny Mazda hatchback. It’s always funny.