Sunday, November 17, 2013
"Wrigley's 'Spearmint'; The Show and Tell Murder"
Good morning dear Reader,
I come from a long line of "story-tellers". Inspired by three Uncles who could tell some of the tallest tales since Twain...and make them funny...I've had fun telling my kids some real "Paul Bunyans"! My kids loved hearing them and listened intently with great fascination as I told them stories of buried toes from a murder victim seeking revenge in the dark of night...or how Superman really got his super powers and such as that.
Twice, during their childhood I had to take a hiatus from my tall tales. The first occurred one night while their mother was working. The kids were being really obnoxious and I remarked that they were just too damn much like their "real" mother and I had a good mind to send them back to her. This got their rapt attention so I continued. I told them that they were, in fact, not the children of the mommy they knew and loved, but were the offspring of my "first wife"...who happened to be a mean old hulk named "Bertha". Just as I was getting into full elaboration, and doing so with them all howling in anguish, my wife walked in and they all ran to her in hysterical tears and cried in unison "we don't want to go live with Bertha". Needless to say, my wife was flabbergasted and I had alot of "Ricky Ricardo 'splaing'" to do to calm everyone down. My wife had one of those rare moments we sometimes have where we're really angry but the situation is also funny...so she chewed me good with frequent bouts of intermittent laughter.
My second "elaboration" was actually based on a true story. At one point during my tour in Vietnam I was working atop a 160 foot water tower. Equipped with millscope and alidates and portable radios a crew of four of us sat atop the tower and watched for the location of rockets fired into the base by the Viet Cong. Our responsibility was alert our central communications control via radio of incoming rockets, who would then activate the base siren so everyone would seek shelter. We would then take direction and location readings and call them in. A triangulation of three base towers could usually pinpoint the rocket launch location within a hundred yards or so. The U.S. response was then to send up our gunships and take out the enemy.
In the early morning, during shift change, I would go down the tower ladders fifteen minutes early to retrieve equipment from the top of the tower and guard it until our relief crew arrived. One rainy morning I performed this task and was standing alone at the base of the tower, clad in camouflage fatigues and covered by a rain poncho. Just as I was getting the equipment organized a South Vietnamese troop approached me, saw that I was chewing gum and asked for a piece of gum. Since I didn't have any more I gestured with hands that I had no more...the Vietnamese troop apparently didn't believe me because his faced evolved into a sneer and he pulled out a long knife from his belt. I then backed away a step and pulled my .38 revolver on him. At this, he walked away and nothing more was said or done.
Flash forward a few years and my son, John-boy is in first grade. One night my wife and I were talking about Vietnam and my son asked if I had ever had to kill anybody over there. Seizing the moment, I related the story of the "Wrigley gum" incident but altered it to imply that I had to shoot the poor guy dead for lack of a spare stick of gum. At my wife's urging I quickly told him I was just kidding.
I thought nothing of it until I attended my son's Parent-Teacher conference a few weeks later. My son's teacher looked at me rather strangely and said "either your son has an active imagination or you've had quite a colorful life". She then explained that, a couple of weeks previously, my son, having forgot to bring something to show and tell, decided to relate the story of the "Wrigley gum murder". I could have fallen out of the chair...had it not been one of those little first grader chairs I probably would have!
After that incident I confined my children stories to mundane "fairy tales".