The Cast: A tin can, Erich, Myself, Randon.
The blackness moved swiftly and without mercy. Before we could do anything about it, it was over.
My wife sometimes will say to me, “This story seems more anecdotal than like a real story.” To which I must respond with, “…” ‘Cause I got nothin’. Sad but true. This week… This week is more anecdotal. Sad but true. It is. But, hey, look. I just want to tell it. Or, I guess retell it. Since, as I looked back through my blog, I found a short synopsis of this story when I first mentioned The Turtle Tower. And, so, yes, you could just go to that link, find the super short story (a paragraph) about what I want to write about—and am writing about, or stay and read this more filled out story, or you could leave. please don’t leave… I’m needy.
Anyway, I have plenty of good stories, still. I’m going to be writing them for years (for better or worse—we have yet to know). But this week, I just really wanted to give this one moment in time, a little more time. For some reason, my mind just wanted to hold this flash from the past up to the light of day for just a little more scrutiny. I don’t know why. I just do. So, once again, I’m telling you, if you want to spend your time somewhere else this week, I understand. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and prepare to be anecdotaled. (it’s a word)
The day was hot. There was some nice shade under the big tree in my backyard, but the junk wasn’t there. The junk and the stuff we were sorting was out in the sun. On the big slab of cement. This slab of cement would serve us well for many years. We would attempt to cremate a gopher on it. I would use it as a construction zone. It was a test spot for, um… Well, um… homemade stuff that should have gone boom but usually just burned or billowed smoke—a lot (a lot a lot of smoke). Erich and I stashed the stolen signs on it before we took them into The Tower before we returned them all. And so much more.
Whatever this cement was now, it had been something more—once. We knew this due to how there was a partial wall on one side. The garage on the property was set back quite far and away from the house and this slab was directly behind the garage. Maybe this used to be a second garage or storage of some kind? Maybe it was nothing more than a cement patio with only one wall purposefully built onto it? Maybe whatever until the cows come home? I don’t know what it was, I only knew what it was.
Wait. Let’s try that again.
I don’t know what it used to be, I only knew what it was.
Yeah, that’s better.
I only knew what it was, then. It was a test site. It was near a water source. In case of fire, or in case we wanted to hose stuff off. It had the back of the garage as a wall to lean stuff up against, or to use as a visual shield (away from prying eyes). Unless they just walked around or came from another direction. It had a wall to protect us from possible harm when our homemade wanna-be booms were supposed to boom. It was a good spot.
On this particular given day, however, Erich, Randon, and I were organizing our almost junk from our actual junk after clearing out The Tower. So many possible bits. The metal tub (with a split seam). The leather briefcase (which I cleaned—thoroughly—and still use. it was only dusty, not pigeon poopy). Some empty, rusty cans (that we thought might be useful and were not). I want to say that there was a bike frame or some kind of thing like that, I don’t recall exactly. The one thing that really had our interest was the can.
In all that mess we had uncovered a can. Perfectly sealed. No dents. No damage. No label.
We had found a tin can—an actual tin can—that held something unknown. And, we wanted to know.
“We should open it.”
“Well, duh. But with what?”
“A can opener. Duh.”
“Well, duh. But, who’s? I don’t wanna use my can opener on it.”
“What if we hit it with a rock?”
“Yeah! Good idea. That way it’ll splatter all over the place, and, you might get some in your mouth.”
“Drop a rock on it?”
“So it splatters on our shoes?”
This went on for a long time. We all wanted to see what was inside that time capsule. We just couldn’t figure out a way to do it that did not include the contents potentially getting all over us, or losing said contents to… Well, I don’t know where. But those were our concerns. Eventually, we came upon a plan.
“Let’s throw it at the wall.”
Throw it at the wall… Throw it at the wall. Genius. No way that could go wrong. How could that not splatter back and get us all covered in who-knows-what? We’re smart.
“What if, when it hits the wall, the stuff splatters back onto us?”
“Throw it at an angle?”
We had a plan. A better plan. A stupid plan.
That can was driving us mad with insanity. It was the size of an ordinary food can. Something that would have held corn or green beans. But, it had no label, was made of tin, and so a sloshing sound should come from it (well, we thought so, anyway). We tried all manner of reasonable and purely scientific tests to find out the contents. We shook it. No noise. We shook it harder. Still, no noise. We weighed it against modern food cans from my kitchen. Nothing. We had to open it. It had weight. It had no holes. It had no label (I know, I’ve mentioned that repeatedly). There wasn’t even a date or company mark stamped into the metal. All we knew was that it was a sealed can.
To be fair, we opted to take turns throwing the can at the outside back wall of my garage. Eventually, it would burst. I don’t remember how we decided, but, I do know Erich was the last one to throw it. I know, because it opened.
Our little trio had moved to a safe angle that would allow the capture of the contents, should the can burst open, and also allow it to strike the other wall—in case the first hit did not break the can open. It was a good plan. Erich threw well. He threw true. He almost threw up. So did almost Randon and myself.
In all my days I have never witnessed anything else like it. The can hit the wall. The can burst open. The contents shot out along the wall—in a line. Like… like someone painted it on. It was almost as if whatever was inside had been together for so long, it could not stand to be separated. Almost like an invincible phalanx. It had the consistency of lumpy oatmeal. While remaining smooth and creamy. Almost like a well-mixed solution of papier-mâché mush.
Maybe all those years of being in those rafters, the heat, the cold, the seasons—and who know what else—had made this possibly once-food into a whole new thing. Almost nothing in the can remained. It had emptied itself onto the wall. The sludge now made a five-foot runner along the bulwark. The stuff was soupy. It was lumpy. Slightly sludgy. It was slick. It was a dark green. Almost a rich olive drab color. Some of it collected together at the bottom of the strip and attempted to drip. It didn’t have time.
What we witnessed was only there for a second. Then it changed. I don’t know why. Maybe it was age? Maybe the stuff inside had reacted with the tin? Maybe the stuff oxidized? (I know what I wrote) Before we could even comprehend what had just occurred, a black began. It was like special effects had been added, right before our very eyes. Starting at the point that had entered our atmosphere first, the stuff blackened. Like an out-of-control time-lapsed virus, the olive drab goo darkened to a light-absorbing black color, dried out, and hardened. It had also fused itself to the brick and mortar.
Several attempts were made to chip it away. Peel it off. Scrape it. All to no avail. Whatever it had once been, it had altered and became a constant reminder of a moment—an almost super-natural moment—that should never be forgotten.