Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Archer

Today marks the 12th anniversary of my mother's death. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her and miss her...especially during the holidays. I dedicate today's post to her memory. Merry Christmas!

Like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story," I begged my mother for a BB gun at Christmastime. But like Ralphie's mom...and every other mom for that matter, she'd always counter my pleas with the standard answer from the mother's handbook... "No, you'll shoot your eye out." I considered my mother's opinion to be knee jerk and reactionary and her argument weak. "No," I'd say, "I 'm not like other boys...I'm going to be extra careful."

"No," she'd say again, "you'll shoot your eye out."

Frankly, my mother's firmness surprised me, she was usually such a pushover. I mean, just that summer I'd called her up at work and asked if I could buy two rabbits from Mr. Chickla, a rabbit breeder who lived down the street.

"No," she said, "They'll mate and multiply and before you know it, we'll be up to our eyes in bunnies."

"But Ma," I said innocently, " I'll make sure I get brother and sister rabbits."

I could tell from the guffaws of laughter on the other end of the line that Rabbits must be incestuous critters. Who knew? My mother got such a chuckle from my naivete, that she let me get the rabbits and then told this story for the rest of her life .

Back to the BB gun...When I turned thirteen. I went on a scorched earth campaign to get that "holy grail of Kiddom," and when Christmas rolled around, I thought I'd finally received it. There, under our tree, was a slim, wrapped cardboard box...just the right size for a BB gun. Finally, I thought, my mother had come to her senses. I could take the suspense no longer, and ripped open the package and found...a bow and arrow set???

In the box was a green fiberglass bow, with three steel tipped arrows. It wasn't a professional grade set, but it wasn't exactly kid's stuff either. I didn't understand my mother's logic.."Oh yeah" I said sarcastically as I inspected the arrow's steel tips, "This is much safer than a BB gun." This sarcasm proved prophetic...here's what became of the three arrows:

Arrow 1: Went though the 2nd floor window of a house one block over-

I began my archery career by shooting arrows into our
wooden garage door. After putting a few dozen holes in door and breaking a square window or two, I began shooting for distance. When I reached 50 ft or so , I drew back the bow string as far as it would go. The bow bent from the strain and my hands began to shake. I released the string and watched as the arrow flew high in the air...it flew over the garage, over our backyard fence, over the treetops and then SMASH!!! It shattered the glass on a second story window of the house behind us. When I saw what I had done, I high tailed it back inside the house and ran straight into my brother Brian (8 years older than me). "You could have killed somebody," he said. "you better go over there and apologize and offer to pay for the window." But I was way too chicken to own up to my mistake and I never did retrieve the arrow.

Arrow 2: Narrowly missed impaling an old woman-

I don't know what my friends and I were thinking, but one day we took the bow and the two remaining arrows over to my friend David's backyard. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to shoot arrows straight up into the air, and then run for cover before anyone us got skewered in the head by a falling arrow. David,the youngest of our group, didn't want to be shown up by the older boys, so he really pulled back hard on the bow string, and his arrow took off like an Apollo rocket.

When we came out of hiding, we couldn't find the arrow, but after searching for five minutes or so, we spotted it sticking straight out of the tilled dirt of Mrs. Rinaldi's garden... and only about a foot away from the bent-over Mrs. Rinaldi. The old woman had been so intent on tending to her tomato plants, she didn't notice or hear the descending missile whizz by her ear. OOPS!!!

Arrow 3: Flooded my mother's basement-

After what we later called the "Rinaldi incident", I thought it best to retire my bow and the last remaining arrow. Then one winter day, I grew bored and found the hidden bow and arrow atop a rafter in our basement. I took a piece of abandoned wood paneling and drew a target on it, then propped it up against one of our radon-laden cellar walls. The very first arrow I shot went wide right and missed the target completely. Instead it pierced a copper pipe that lead out of our water meter... PSSSTTTT! It was a geyser. The water shot out of the pipe and spat across the length of the basement. Like the fabled dutch boy who put his finger in the dike, I grabbed a piece of duct tape and wrapped it around the pipe. The water pressure proved too great and the water sprang forward which in turn made the tape shoot across the basement. There was about an inch of water on the floor before I finally found the water main and shut the valve off. I vaguely remember hearing complaints about how expensive the plumbing bill was.

My mother was ticked off by the holes in her garage door and the flooded basement. I told her that a BB gun would have been a much safer gift. Cheaper too!