AN AMERICAN STORY: TRUE CONFESSION

This isn’t the first time that I’ve told you about things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have, but at this point in my life, I have a need to come clean … as long as the Statute of Limitations has expired.

As a kid, I had a desire to play with fire.

I know … I know … that’s a terrible thing to do and could have lead to property damage or hurting someone.

Thank God, that nothing bad ever really happened, but there were some close calls.

I never tried to start a major fire nor destroy anything except for some of my model planes and cars, but I was fascinated by flames. (I’m sure this is how arsonists start, but for me, it was just childhood interest … misguided interest, but nothing more.)

Sometimes, I would go into the alley with the oil can that I used on my bike chain and squirt oil onto some of my model planes. Then, I would light a match … often several matches since oil is slow to start burning, and I had to add paper to help the process.

Then, when it was in flames, I would imagine my fighter jet had been shot down over enemy territory. But of course, I had parachuted to safety.

Fireworks were always a good release for some of my interests, but there was one time, that I came thisclose to causing some big trouble.

This was when fireworks were not so regulated and the “cherry bombs” were probably the equivalent of at least 1/8 of a stick of dynamite — well, maybe not that dangerous, but still, they packed a powerful explosion.

So after blowing up several of my model planes and cars (see a pattern here of building only to destroy?) … I started putting cherry bombs into cans.

The blast would rip the cans apart. Then, I thought about putting one in a coke bottle.

Stop for one second.

Here is where higher reasoning came into play. I thought, Wow, if the cherry bomb would split a can … it would blow a coke bottle to pieces and shards of glass would blow everywhere.

On one hand, that seemed cool, but on the other … well, I knew about shrapnel … only I called it shap-a-rel … and I thought that could be too dangerous.

So, to show that I was maturing, I did not put a cherry bomb into a glass bottle.

However….

I did decide to place one on something in our trailer park.

I had the cherry bomb set just right and was just preparing to light the fuse when a big hand grabbed my shirt and yanked me away.

Dad stood over me and while I don’t remember all his words … it came down to the fact that I would be very stupid if I struck a match to that cherry bomb … sitting on the gas meter and connection sticking out of the ground.

While I’m purging myself of these sins, I should tell you about the time I ran away from home because Mom of a fire.

I had been doing my normal thing, striking match after match.

Only this time, I was doing it in some grass within a dozen feet of our trailer home.

Suddenly, the grass was jumping with flames.

I tried to put them out, but the blaze continued … moving closer to our house.

I ran.

Mom just happened to look out the kitchen window; she grabbed a pot of water and quickly doused the fire.

She started calling for me in that tone that did not sound inviting.

I appeared from the other side of the trailer, and I did my best acting job to that point of my young life.

My eyes were wide with shock; my mouth was open, asking: What happened?

Mom gave me that look and said. “You could’ve burned down our house and all the other homes.”

That’s when I started doing something that has since been copied all the way to the White House.

Deny. Deny. Deny.

Mom, would have none of it; she made it clear that she knew I started the fire.

Later that day, I’m still looking for a way to prove my denial … before Dad got home.

So, while Mom was at the grocery store, I wrote a goodbye note:
Dear Mom, I did not start that fire. I am sorry you don’t believe me, but I did not do it. Since you don’t believe me, I am leaving home.

That’s what I remember writing, or words to that effect, but I know my grammar and spelling probably had mistakes.

Still, I packed a little bag with some cheese crackers, and my toothbrush (but no toothpaste) and put the note on the kitchen table so Mom would see it when she came home.

Then, I waited and waited for her to return.

Finally, she did, and then I watched from the back of the trailer as she saw the note and started reading it.

Then, I went out the backdoor, making a lot of noise to make sure she knew that I was gone … forever and ever.

I was leaving home because I was falsely accused of a crime I did not do.

I slammed the door twice … just to make sure she knew that I was going.

When I didn’t hear her call for me, I slammed it a third time; then, I walked … ever so slowly so she could catch up to me … into the small forest behind our trailer.

She didn’t chase after me. She didn’t call out to me. She didn’t say that she was sorry that she accused me of starting a fire.

So, I went into the forest (more like a stand of 30 to 50 small trees) and I waited.

I had no watch, but I waited a long time. Long enough to eat all my cheese crackers and still no one came for me.

So, this was it. I had left home and no one cared.

I scratched around the dirt with my toothbrush and decided that I should have brought some water.

My throat was parched; my teeth filled with cheese cracker crumbs; I was alone with no one to love me and I was thirsty.

I decided to give Mom one more chance.

I went back home.

I walked into the kitchen, and she was busy at the stove.

I got a glass of water and kept watching and waiting to see what she would do, what she would say about me leaving home, how thankful she was that I had returned.

Nothing. Nothing.

Finally, I went back outside to play.

She never talked about the day I left home, and if she told Dad, for some reason, he decided to do nothing … not even to punish me for setting the fire.

Which I did not start.

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