It was horrible… horrible. We heard a deafening explosion. The earth shook. A fraction of a second later a blizzard of shattered glass flew around us, and then it lay in drifts about our feet.
Then, horrors of horrors we heard the screaming: "You did it! We saw you kids throw that rock"!
My close friend Bob and I were branded as terrorists!
I can’t remember the year. Suffice it to say, it was back in my glory days. Bob and I were about thirteen years old… I think. We lived in a middle class, suburban housing development. One broiling summer afternoon, we had been innocently walking down the street carrying boxes of slot car track. We were going to make the biggest layout in Southern California.
What had happened? By chance, just as Bob and I were walking by the Griswold residence, the rear window of Mr. Griswold’s pride and joy, a shiny Dodge El Puerco, blew out all over the place. Parked halfway in the garage, with the back window exposed to the fierce sun of a Southern California summer, the Griswold’s Dodge was as explosive as Lucy’s pressure cooker.
Now in that heat, not only would smart people entirely cover their car, but also they would at least leave open the car’s side windows. However, the Griswolds weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. That Dodge El Puerco was sealed up tighter than the Green Zone. Well, hot air expands and builds up pressure… kind of like Senator "Bull" Horn. Something had to blow and it sure as hell did. It was spectacular. You would have paid money to see it!
As kids we may have uttered something witty like "cool." Unfortunately the Griswold’s next-door neighbors saw the explosion and with sharp-as-a-tack logic, modified by middle class good will, jumped to the conclusion that either Bob or I had throw a rock. Our reputations had preceded us.
After all, the neighbors knew they didn’t do it. And the hapless Griswolds were not the most popular family on the block. So why not throw a rock at their car? Besides, people who park their cars in a half-assed way usually have untidy herbaceous borders littered with broken, cast off Big Wheels, pink garden flamingos and car parts as well as other sundry debris. Their property was a likely target for subversive insurgents and terrorists: Bob and Tom. After all, we were well known on the street for being… and I shudder at the thought… normal kids! That’ll get you busted every time.
An investigation ensued. Mr. Griswold was summoned. The neighbors swore they saw everything in videotape detail!
Fortunately it was not a Bush Administration Military Tribunal. We saw the evidence. We were allowed counsel. My dad was called to our defense.
As well, it was fortunate that my father was a science teacher who was logical, smart and not likely to lose an argument. Alan M. Dershowitz couldn’t have been a better choice.
Let me present the evidence for the defense. There were a whole lot of little chunks of double layer safety glass all over the Griswold’s driveway as well as on the trunk of their Dodge. None of the glass particles were inside the car. There was no rock, brick or projectile to be found anywhere. And to cap it off, Bob and I were carrying big boxes of slot car track. We didn’t exactly have our hands free.
Now if any of you have ever thrown a rock at a car window… hold it… you, gentle reader wouldn’t do that… ok, so that’s a bad example. Right, how about this: If any of you have had a rock hit your windshield, what happens? Does it explode? Hell no! You get a cool (or ugly, depending on your point of view), round crack. Fact is, it’s deuced hard for something thrown at a car window to cause that kind of explosion. Even if the object thrown causes breakage, where does the glass go… out? No way! It goes inside the car!
To Mr. Griswold, my father made these points. Mr. Griswold uttered only one thing… "safety glass." The charges were dropped. He wasn’t happy but he knew that the error lay in his court and that it had been foolish to leave his car in the broiling sun with the windows rolled up.
Mr. Griswold paid the body shop to replace the window and that was that.
Not so easy to convince were the neighbors who wanted to administer a good caning and chop off our hands. Unfortunately for them, Congress had yet to make torture and mutilation legal. Instead, the neighbors condemned us to Eternal Stink-Eye!
Thus terrorism began and ended on Nardcore Avenue… well, it ended until Bob and I discovered the joys of bio-hazardous culture grenades (eggs), di-hydrogen-oxide projectiles (water balloons) and potential ignition fibrous rolls (toilet paper).
Yes… I’m ashamed to say, the following Halloween, we retaliated on our accusers and terrorized them! Dang, that was fun!
I confess. Where’s my orange jumpsuit?
Elizabeth Gyllensvard edited and contributed to this story.
Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.