Great Falls

Picture a Dr. Seuss style stack of things. Now picture a chair on top of that stack. Still with me? Okay. Imagine a rope tied to the back of the chair that’s perched precariously atop this perilous pile of  peculiar possessions (I have alliterative fits sometimes; bear with me), looped over a beam in the garage ceiling twelve feet up and tied again to the front of the chair, creating a harness of sorts, or an impromptu middle-class porch (garage) swing. Got it? Good. Now imagine you’re a parent stumbling across this hodgepodge creation, with one of your children sitting in the chair, while the other makes like a human bulldozer and shoves the stack of crap out from under the chair. Thus begins our tale…

“If I catch you doing this again, I’ll crack your skulls.”

She never did get around to cracking my brother’s skull. I guess she figured a 50% success rate on parental threats was good enough.

At some point in my childhood, my mother decided to perform the emotional equivalent of a roundhouse kick to her parents and leave the family business (tent and awning company) to become Super Cop. As you can imagine, this career change was about as well received as snake in your toilet (you’re going to check before you sit for quite some time after reading this). The emotional battle-royale that ensued was epic. Like Greek Gods on steroids epic. In the end, my mother faced down the ruling Matriarch of the family, risked emotional and financial exile, and stuck to her guns…literally.

Since this is about my brief stint as the young Harry McDuckini, I’ll spare you (for now) the stories of the rashes, bruises and burns I endured when my mother would come home from stormtrooper camp to show me some new punishing take-down she just learned. Suffice it to say I learned more about being a half-conscious victim of police academy brutality in those months than if I had simply attended the training myself.

Once her training was complete, she was required to spend at least a year serving as warden pro-tem at the local jailery (word-smithing is fun), typically on night shift. This left me in charge of my brother (whom I’ve already revealed was not as safe as houses with me). Usually this meant bickering about what show he was not big or strong enough to make me watch, but this one night would change all that for a few weeks.

It may or may not have started with the viewing of some documentary about some famous dead escape “artist” (I don’t want you parents of enterprising and imaginative children banning them from learning how to scale buildings like a bug-bitten superhero, or how to get pregnant in New Jersey, because T.V. had some say in it). What I do know is that we decided to build a life-size Jenga pile in the garage and secure me to the throne atop it all to see how Jedi my escape skills were.

Here’s the set-up: 1) I would climb the swaying stack to reach the chair; 2) once seated, my hands would be tied behind my back to the chair; 3) the stack would either tumble away on its own or be pushed by my brother; 4) I would escape my initial bonds, untie the rope from the front of the chair and lower myself in the chair to the floor below. Simple, right? For the first 3-4 times we cheated death, yes. Enter the righteous fury of Cop-Mom.

Since she was on her way to choking out handcuffed prisoners for fun and profit, my mother only had time to make it clear to us that they would never find our bodies if she caught us performing our impromptu act again. Secure in her position as AIC (Amazon In Charge), she left and we went to watch Love Boat. And that’s where the chalkboard of my mind got smeared.

Apparently the dubious charms of evening television could only enrapture us for an hour or so before we were determined to perfect our escape routine, and I’m told we set about to make the next attempt the best ever…by simply stacking crap higher than before. Climbing the tower of stupidity this time required assistance in the form of another pile of junk from the garage so that the throne-stack would remain intact until launch. After carefully maneuvering myself into the chair and securing my hands, I apparently ordered my brother to neglect any pre-launch safety checks (which we had never performed before) and give the ol’ heave-ho to the chair pile…

Waking up in the emergency room because nurses want to give you another shot in the butt-sac isn’t the dream break from school it might at first appear to be. I had no idea where I was, how I got there or why my ass needed constant chemical infusions. I wanted up, I wanted out and I wanted answers (like who dressed me in this fruity, but remarkably breathable, nightgown). From what I was able to glean from frustrated nurses, anxious family members and a profoundly unsympathetic brother, the rope had forgotten to tie itself to the front of the chair. Without any sort of anchor to the garage ceiling above me, I had toppled with the stack to the floor below, smacked with sufficient force to elicit a dolphin-summoning scream and voided all liquid and solid waste in my body. Classy.

My skull actually cracked from falling headfirst onto concrete from 10-feet up (along with an accompanying blood clot that was the cause of some initial concern & the ass-jabbings), but it did nothing to slow my shenanigans. Learning how to activate, and immediately deactivate, the nurse-summoning wand, as well as the EEG & ECG monitors, made me the kind of hit in the ER that means they do their best to ship you to the regular ward to share a room with a screaming baby. Karma: it will get you.

Returning to school two weeks later with a modified schedule that allowed me to skip my first class for the rest of the year offered me another, if unexpected, chance for fun. My honor’s English class had been told that I had died. Walking back into a class full of non-mourning students hard at work was, initially, a bit of a letdown…until the scream.

Yes, she screamed. And nearly fainted. The girl who used to frighten the crap out of me in grade school by chasing me all over the playground threatening to kiss me, had thought a ghost was visiting school to punish her for not making good on those promised kisses, hence the histrionics.

My celebrity as the boy who lived was brief; about 25 minutes brief. And I didn’t get to slay any evil wizards at the end. What I did get was the understanding that I could nearly die and only make one non-family person wig out.

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2 Comments on “Great Falls”

  1. Katie Says:

    Oh, see THIS is why I don’t have kids. And why your mother sent you to live with your grandparents. 😉 (Kidding!)


  2. […] off-the-rails developmental period when it seemed like I was preparing for a full-time career as a crash-test dummy, and there wasn’t any one single event that ever gave me pause enough to consider either […]


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