Da Bomb

February 13, 2015

I have an explosive history. Literally.

When I was five or six, a Fourth of July in Sidney, Nebraska, my mom’s brother, Dee took a length of narrow steel pipe and stuffed it with gunpowder and some other ingredients. He balanced the pipe against a concrete block, lit the fuse and ran for it, his brothers and sisters yelping with anticipation, and me and my sister excitedly covering our ears.

Nothing. A few seconds passed. Uncles Dewitt and Jess were discussing what might have gone wrong. Dad and Grandpa Jones drank whiskey with Beanie the Bulldog.

Suddenly I stood up, ran for the pipe, grabbed it, my mom yelling, “No,” and I stared down the barrel and KABOOM! My face was ashen gray and my eyes were studded with paper wadding. My flesh was rent. I ended up in the hospital, of course.

When I was seven, my grandfather Floyd pushed back from the Thanksgiving table and said to Grandma, “No pie, darlin’. I will explode.” Grandma scoffed and brought out her famous pecan pie, and Grandpa ate a slice and KABOOM! His stomach blew open. As he collapsed, Grandpa, a gentle soul who never swore, said, “Well, I never.” And he never.

One Halloween night in high school, my vengeful friend Curt and I drove out to a certain farmhouse. We unloaded paper sacks of cow manure, strings of firecrackers and a bag of toilet paper and crept up to the darkened front porch. We set the bags in front of the screen door and prepared to light them. From the shadowy porch swing we heard, “Click. Click”: the twin hammers of a double barreled shotgun being set.

We tried to run when KABOOM! KABOOM! And my back went numb, and my sweatshirt was blasted with rock salt holes, and Curt dragged me to the car and off we drove, crying like girls. My mother spent two hours pulling pellets out of my back with a pair of pliers.

My roommate Greg Markstrom and I shared an apartment in Minneapolis, just down the street from Mary Tyler Moore’s pretend house on Lake of the Isles. We noted that college students in our neighborhood drank a lot. Sales of Boon’s Farm and Spanada (cheap red wine in a grape-shaped bottle) were crazy good at our local liquor store, a buck seventy-five a bottle.

So Greg, who worked at a dairy, brought home some huge plastic milk bladders. We read up on how to make wine, and soon we had a living room closet stuffed with fermenting grapes, sugar and yeast. We would sell the concoction for one dollar a bottle—take that, Boone’s Farm! We figured we’d age our wine for two weeks.

A week later, we came home from a walk—no Mary Richards to be seen—and found our closet door blown open and KABOOM!—three huge bladders of wine and shards of plastic had blasted onto the walls and the floor and the ceiling, over coats and other apparel, and ten thousand ants were running around the room. The smell was of something rotten in Minneapolis.

Yesterday morning at the Clifton Country Inn, I ordered two hardboiled eggs and dry wheat toast, and when the eggs came I poked one with my fork and KABOOM! The egg blew up all over my chest and face, pieces of hard yellow yolk showering the neighboring tables, and a bit of yolk in my left eye. Talk about having egg on your face. My friend Layton wiped me clean with a napkin. Scout the Cat, upon my arriving home, gave me a sandpaper tongue bath.

On one of our recent, spring-y days, social critic that I am, I saw a new variation on the yoga pants craze. Of course I investigated, for your consideration—I look so you don’t have to—and understanding. Three high school girls came walking along the River Road trail. They wore cutoff yoga pants—CUTOFF yoga pants!—yoga shorts if you will!— highlighting their lady parts—thank you Jesus, God and all the saints and the inventors of yoga shorts. The lasses said hi and walked on, and I turned and got the rear view when KABOOM! My head exploded and rolled down to the highway. One of the maidens picked up my head and handed it back to me. My mouth was smiling.

What is that Old Testament verse, the one where if you lust-look you have to take out your eyes? I worked out a rough calculation of how many pairs of eyes I would have gone through in sixty-six years, for each episode of lust. It worked out to 666,000,000,000,000,000, 000 pair.

And it’s only February.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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