The Cast: Erich (alter ego: Tiger), Myself (a.k.a. Casey Jones), Richard (nom de guerre: Shadow), with special guest appearance by Officer Henningson (as Officer Henningson).
Quite often a teenage boy’s bravado is much larger than his brave. Sometimes, with enough bravado, you don’t have to show your brave. However, as a teenage, self-made superhero, fighting crime, where brave is a key ingredient for success it is still the same. All too often our bravado was much larger than our brave.
In season 1, episode 12, of The Tick (1995 animated television show) the sidekick, Arthur, creates his battle cry, “Not in the face! Not in the face!” We kind of had the same feelings at times, “Not in the face! Not in the face!” Because getting hit in the face hurts, no matter how often it has occurred over your lifetime—at least for me it still does. And if we would get hit repeatedly then we might lose our good looks, and good looks are how you get the girls. So we couldn’t have that happening now, could we? No sir. No, we could not. And in our small town there wasn’t much going on, so the need to actually fight didn’t show up all that often. At least not as often as the police did. So, out of different needs, we got real good at running. Not always from a fight, just mostly from the cops. And it was usually Officer Henningson, the night cop.
To help make our tactical retreats more effective (to make running away easier), our little superhero team would walk through town and study every detail as close as we could, through play. As we would wander from place to place, we would often take alternate, long routes, so that we could study our city. Every alley, every new and old dog, fences, piles of junk, home improvement, garden, rock, boulder, you name it. We had to know what was going on so that we could head-off criminals and extradite ourselves from those situations when Officer Henningson would show-up. A hard life lesson is the difference between study and application when circumstances are not in your favor. We had the opportunity to learn that lesson one Friday night.
Erich had one alter ego from the very beginning, Tiger. He was always Tiger. Heck, he still is Tiger. Richard, well, he flip-flopped between Zeplin and Shadow. Ultimately, he settled on Shadow. Me, on the other hand, I had like four superhero identities. They would rotate depending upon my mood. If I felt particularly destructive and uncaring, like I did that night, I would don the guise of Casey Jones. Not the descent, well-meaning Casey Jones from any of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, but the psychotic, loose cannon, mentally unstable, nut-case from the ‘80s cartoon.
The three of us set out one Friday night, as was our custom during the school year, to do our, what we called “Rounds”. On our “Rounds” we had a few routine locations that we would always visit because of robberies and vandalism, and we wanted to help minimize that—and we did. Otherwise, our route was play-it-by-ear. We would decide as the night went on. On this particular night, however, we hit a snag. A big snag. A code blue snag. Almost from the get-go.
Tiger, Shadow, and I made a rookie mistake about 20 minutes into our activities. A stupid rookie error. We knew better. We even talked about it before we did it, and we still ignored all our training and experience.
The road had looked clear. It was Main Street and there was only a single street light nearby where we were about to cross, and our destination was on the opposite side. The closest non-lit crossing was blocks away. But we didn’t want to go too many blocks out of our way when we could just cross right where we were. The coast was still clear, up and down the street, including the roads bleeding onto Main. So we jogged out of the safety of the shadows, into the spotlight, and across the street. Unseen.
Except we weren’t unseen. About 3/4ths of the way across, a car appeared on a side street and began to enter Main Street. Behind us.
As we began to notice the headlights appearing from behind, we collectively peeked over our shoulder to see who it could be. It’s a cop! Crud! “Move it! Move it! Move IT!” We picked up speed and ran to the Southside of a building on the corner, an old automotive shop with no cover to hide in or behind, but it was close by.
As we ran to the shadowed side of the building Officer Henningson quickly pulled-up and parked his patrol car in front, with his headlights shining in the direction of our only escape. He would easily see us if we were to run. This event was about to be our biggest blunder. Our crime fighting days were about to be over.
This was going to be one of those “If we run left then he runs right, and if we run right, then he’ll run left” situations. Our only option was to run into the bushes behind the building. The problem was that there was a large open area between us and the bushes. See we had figured that the cop would anticipate that we were dumb and would just run behind the building and therefore he should have pulled-up and parked on the Northside to catch us as we ‘tried to get away’. When he did that we were just going to run South across the street and get away in the shadows. But no-O-o. He had to be stupid and park where he saw us enter the shadows and stop us from getting away by getting rid of the shadows with his headlights!
What little darkness that had been there was intensified by the patrol cars headlights and now searchlight. He would remember he had a searchlight. And the three of us in that tiny patch of black were like a size 14 woman squeezing into a size 7 dress, and making all the same grunting noises too. As well as: “Shhh.” “You shush.” “Shut-up.” “You shut-up.” “SHHH!” “Quiet.” “Shut up.” “He’ll hear us. Shhh!”
“I see you. And I can hear you.”
The three of us brave superheroes were packed behind a large planter filled with an even larger arrangement of plants. We naively thought they might give us some camouflage. Apparently, they did not.
“Come out,” said Officer Henningson, “There’s nowhere to run. You’re fenced in.”
We were dead. Our hearts were filled with the thought of what he had just said because he was right! Just past the bushes, there was a fence. A chain-link fence. A tall chain-link fence. With barbed wire all along the top of the chain-link fence. Did I mention there was a chain-link fence?
Tiger, at times, could be impulsive and was never afraid of injury. This situation was no different. Before I could understand what was happening Tiger had stood up—to which the officer said “What in the…” when he saw him (our costumes were awesome!)—had ran toward a picnic table that appeared to be next to the fence, had made it to the fence and was crawling through a giant hole in the fence. A person-sized hole in the chain-link fence… WHAT?!?! And then was gone.
“That’s our way out of this Shadow. Let’s go.”
Shadow and I bolted. Henningson’s response was, “Wha…? Stop!”
In just a few feet, and seconds, we had, Shadow and I, discovered a bevy of information. Some of that was when we paused at the picnic table that Tiger had crawled along to get through the hole. The table was not anywhere near the fence. We circled the table completely baffled. We both saw Tiger crawl over the table. Didn’t we? Didn’t we?!?
“Keep coming this way. I didn’t climb the table.” was Tiger’s clarifying encouragement from the other side of the fence in a voice just loud enough for us to hear. So we moved on to the fence.
No hole. Well, obviously besides all the chain-link holes. DUH! I meant no body-sized hole. How did he get through? Shadow searched to the right, I searched to the left, and still we found no hole. Officer Henningson was still just standing by his patrol car. Doing what I don’t know because I didn’t care to turn around and look. I needed to find that opening. “Just climb it.” Once again, from the safety of the other side, came Tiger’s directions.
It may have been dark, but as Shadow and I looked at each other with the patrol car’s headlights creating a sort of glow amongst all the dust we had just kicked up, we saw, in each other’s eyes, a thought. The same thought. A shared thought, “That barbed wire is going to hurt.” Then we set to it. Up we climbed. Henningson began to move. We moved faster and faster. He came closer and closer. But the higher we climbed, the more we weren’t climbing up anymore.
Understand that when Shadow and I had seen Tiger climb through a hole it wasn’t a typical climb-in through a hole. The ‘hole’ had been at about chest level. At that height, he should have put one leg and arm through, then his head and body, then his other arm and leg. Plus his swords—one on his back and one at his side—should probably have become hooked on the fence. But that is not what we saw. We saw Tiger climbing through the hole in a sort of Spider-Man climb if he were scaling up the side of a building. Tiger was crawling along the ground, except the ground was 3 feet off the ground. Like along the surface of a table. But he was on the other side of the table, visually aligned with the table, so it only looked like he was climbing along the top of the table. That’s why we were so confused. Also, there was no hole.
Shadow and I had just assumed Tiger knew something we didn’t, and he did, but he had learned it only by doing moments ago. What he learned was that some support poles were missing. The chain-link fence looked solid and remained upright but had the ability to change from vertical to horizontal when the center of gravity changed. Like, for example, when you add a body to the upper half. In other words, the fence became a chain-link hammock mid-climb, and all Shadow and I had to do was continue to crawl. Once at the end, we jumped off and the fence righted itself. Like a secret panel.
Henningson arrived just in time to find a solid chain link fence, with no large holes. Even with his face in shadow, we could see his look of total confusion and disbelief. You could almost hear his thought, “How did they get through this?”
Safe in the trees from the illumination of the moon and headlights, the three of us slowly backed away and then ran like madmen through the adjoining property lot’s lawn, to safety. Hurray for The Turtle Tower. Cops: 0, Heroes: 3.*
“Erich, how did you know the fence would do that?”
“I didn’t. I just was not going to get caught.”
“Did you not know that at the top of the fence there were three strands of barbed wire?”
“Oh, I knew.”
“You were going to climb over it anyway?!? It would have shredded you.”
“I know. But like I said, I was not going to get caught.”
*This score is cumulative and does not necessarily reflect the score earned that particular night. For more information on this see The First Time I Broke into a Bank and keep reading my blog.