I thought that while I was waiting for the approval process, I might stop by and put up some non adult fiction. A short story or two I have written recently. This is a piece on growing up Rural Ontario.
These Were My Friends
I can remember the first time I killed someone. I was twelve.
Don't get the wrong idea, I wasn't hard core or anything, not some sort of stone cold killer, to tell you the truth, he wasn't even dead, I only thought he was dead, and it was for less than a minute. Thirty, maybe forty seconds tops. But I was twelve. Even forty seconds is like an eternity for a twelve year old with an overactive imagination, whose concept of the criminal justice system was hazy at best. At that time my idea of the worst punishment imaginable came not at the hands of the court system or with time in prison but at the hands of my father, and if I got into serious trouble for cursing, or for not cleaning my room, the mere concept of what would happen to me if I killed someone was too horrible to contemplate.
It wasn't intentional. Well, death wasn't intentional, even though it didn't happen, we just thought it did for a while. In an odd kind of way nothing malicious was intentional, it's just that we never really stopped to examine the consequences of our actions. I say we because I wasn't alone in this fiendish plot. I had co-conspirators. A small group of like minded young men whose sole connection was that we all lived in the same area in the same small town. It's a virtue of youth, in particular of youth growing u in the rural areas that you don't necessarily need a whole lot in common to be pals. We didn't have a whole lot in common, and once we began to grow up and develop our particular personalities, we had little to do with each other, but during that summer, we were a pack of twelve year old kids who were together doing what twelve year old kids did best, namely, we were getting into trouble without ever actually meaning to.
Young boys growing up in the country have a few things in common with international terrorists of the world today. Not that we knew that at the time, at the time we didn't even know what a terrorist was, but history as it rolls along has shown that many such groups must invariably have studied young boys in North America to get a good idea of how to conduct their operations. We tended to form small tightly knit groups that acted without any kind of supervisory authority. We would plan and conduct high risk operations with little or no thought to personal danger, operations which almost inevitably contravened local rules set down by the highest authority that we acknowledged, our parents. If we were ever caught, we knew that it would be up to each and every one of us to face torture, imprisonment, and almost certain death without ever revealing the names of the other cell members, for to do so was to betray the cause for which we had fought so long and so hard, and would invoke the sure and terrible retribution saved for those who ratted on their friends.
The other members of my particular cell were Victor, Robby and Timmy. They were all neighbors in as much as they lived within bike riding distance. We would tend to group together during the weekdays to play, run around, make a lot of noise, and generally find some kind of innocent mischief to get into. In general we were a fairly unassuming group, on the whole were well behaved and we tended to avoid the more obvious routes of amusement that we knew would lead the authorities straight to us. We never tried vandalism, we never set anything on fire (I graduated to that later, but that's another story entirely) and we never stole anything. Come to think of it, we were a well behaved group for our age. That is we were until we found a target for our young minds to plot against.
We were flexible as kids tended to be back then, we didn't require some kind of bully, or some horrible monster of an enemy to bring out or lethal tendencies. All we needed was someone who we could take advantage of in the name of good clean fun. That's where Timmy's cousin comes into the story. Timmy's cousin was a city kid, which to a boy who grew up in the country, around farms and such means that he was basically a useless know nothing moron who was barely suitable as a playmate. Chances were the average city kid didn't know the first thing about finding the best places in the woods for a tree fort, had no clue at all about what kind of bent sticks to look for to make play guns, and was utterly and completely hopeless when it came to finding the best way to ford a shin deep river on a BMX bike without getting wet enough to attract motherly attention when you get home. We had little use for City Kids, and knew for sure and certain that there was no redeeming qualities to them whatsoever. So Timmy's cousin who was coming to stay with him from Toronto for a week that summer meant one thing for us, someone to torment. A welcome change of pace, since it was widely known that city kids would buy anything that you threw at them and come back for more. And we fully intended to take advantage of Timmy;s cousins urban naiveté. It wasn't even something that we had to discuss or talk about amongst ourselves. Like most young boys, we all shared a kind of telepathic mischief gene that enabled us to plan elaborate plots and conspiracies between ourselves without verbal communication of a any kind. For the most part, the plan was there when we first heard of his impending arrival, and was hatched the moment we met him for the first time, it was carefully thought out and painstakingly constructed with a few simple glances and a couple of thumbs jerked over the shoulder to indicate the precise details of our Machiavellian plot. We didn't give him ten minutes of being out there in the country for probably the first time in his life before we unleashed the powerful force of our evil upon him.
“Hey kid, did anybody tell you about the electric fences?”
A confused look. That was it, we knew with that single look that we had him. We were smart you see, at twelve the churning glands in our young bodies were just barely beginning to wake up to the potential of that most forbidden of pleasures, sex. And though the idea was still a ways off on the horizon as far as any kind of realization went, we had some pretty definite inroads to the illicit thoughts of things to come, so involving that in the plan made it even more irresistible to our hapless prey.
“What do you mean?”
“It's like this.....”, now the trick was to draw a little closer, identify with the victim, make him think that you're his friend then he'll be more willing to trust you and go along with it. “Not a lot of people know this......”, which was in retrospect the great flaw in our plan, since if what we were about to tell him was actually true, then everyone would know and there would be an electric fence around every house in the whole damn country. But give us a break, we were twelve, and luckily he was even dumber than we were, “Not a lot of people know this......but if you pee on an electric fence, well, it feels REALLY good.” That was the hook. When you say it, you had to capitalize really with your voice, that's what laid the whole groundwork. Every budding young adolescent boy knows for sure that something that feels only really good could be anything, could be winning a game of baseball, could be scoring a goal in hockey, could be anything at all, but something that felt REALLY good, capitalized like that, well that was something that took place below the belt line. Whether you understood the idea or not, something that was below the belt line that felt good was something that you just had to try.
Truthfully, it didn't take a whole lot of convincing. A little more in the way of reinforcement and some knowing nods from the rest of us and we were headed off to the back fields where we knew we wouldn't be spotted.
Now for any man who was born around farms in a small town area, there was a time when he was young that he touched an electric fence. The same way everybody touches a hot stove. It's an inescapable curiosity driven survival of the fittest response. It's related to the cat being killed by curiosity thing, and it's something that no young boy can escape. It happened to all of them. It started out innocently enough, wondering if there really is electricity going through that electric fence, which leads to a quick, almost nonexistent tap with the tiniest spot on the tip of an outstretched finger. When nothing happens, there is a slightly longer touch, which usually is a flinch gone sideways since it never lasts long and the finger is jerked away. There may be one or two more tentative touches before we begin to wonder if this thing is even turned on, and what the hell is the point of an electric fence that has no electricity, this thing doesn't hurt at all, and before you know it, the palm is resting open on that thin strip of wire and you're wondering what it is that you were ever worried about in the first place. This process of exploration and eventual disillusionment with the whole being afraid of electric fences usually takes between 15 and 20 seconds, which is usually about the interval set on any given electric fence. About the time that you're holding on to that wire wondering why you were scared to touch it in the first place is about the time that 10,000 volts surge through it and straight into your arm. I'm not even going to try and describe the feeling, not really so much pain as, well....just this feeling that makes for damn sure you're never going to hold on to an electric fence again. If you're really curious, go out and find yourself an electric fence and hold on to it for 15 or 20 seconds, then we can compare notes. This is a process of education and understanding that has going on for generations, ever since the electric fence was first produced, and has resulted largely in many children receiving a somewhat safe lesson in why you don't grab on to things that have names like electric fence.
With that in mind, let me say that all of us, Robbie, Victor, Timmy and me had all been through this at some point in time in our lives, and were absolutely none the worse for wear, so in our own defense we didn't see what possible harm it could do to Timmy's cousin. We were all still here, and we were fine. It was unpleasant to be sure, but not really all that dangerous, and it would certainly be funny for us. If only we'd gotten as far as ninth grade science by then we would have had some kind of basic rudimentary understanding of electricity, but we hadn't. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. As for Timmy's cousin, well as far as we were concerned, he was a City kid, and didn't merit pity or consideration. For him, 10,000 volts was an abstract idea, like communism, or the criminal justice system, or negligent homicide. You may have a general idea of what the words mean by themselves, but you could never hope to connect it to anything solid and concrete within the limited scope of your experience. What he didn't know would make this afternoon more amusing for the rest of us.
Now before I begin, let me say clearly, one more, we were twelve, we were a pack of boys who grew up together, and this was a long time ago, before political correctness, before raging homophobia, and before gay rights and public school education on alternative lifestyles. I give you this brief note to explain that at that time, in that place, there was nothing seen as even vaguely odd or alternative about a line up of small boys standing in a field with their flys open, all standing proudly peeing towards a fence. It happened all the time (well, maybe not all the time, but sometimes for the sake of a truly great prank, some sacrifices must be made). There we were, it was a beautiful warm and sunny day with not even a hint of a breeze, which was lucky for us, considering.
Once again, through the virtue of unspoken telepathic communication, we all were on the same page in our master plan, we knew that in order for this to work, we had to tread very carefully, and to do that, our own egos had to take a hit. For a young boy who has not yet learned the value of bragging about size, bragging about the number of girls he's slept with, or other assorted locker room respect winners, we had a limited selection of things to be able to say we were good at. Aiming well when you are peeing is a big one for boys. It's a point of pride to be able to thread the needle at 10 feet, or write your name legibly in the snow on a cold winters day (no easy feat since cold hands can sometimes make for difficult aiming). So we had to purposefully throw off our own aim, and let Timmy's cousin think that he was getting the better of us, which he did, there was even a smirk on his face as he was able to hit the target perfectly while the rest of us were waving away like drunken firemen. All the while we waited, breaths held in anticipation.
It wasn't quite what we had expected. There was no cringing yelp, there was no sudden involuntary flinch, there wasn't even the hoped for momentary lapse of guidance that might have made him pee on his leg. Nothing of what we expected happened, and yet, what occurred was so much more. There was a bright flash, that held that seemed to hold in it's wake all of the raw untamed fury of the primal forces of the very earth itself. Along with this was a sound that I can only describe as a zap. It was so much more than a simple zap, three little letters can't possible contain what this sound was, it ripped through the air. At the moment the fence cut loose with it's deterrent bolt of energy, as we would later learn in ninth grade science, electricity will always take the path of least resistance, and liquid is a great conductor. Sure enough, that jolt traveled straight back through that well aimed stream and landed right squarely on the tip of Timmy's cousins twelve year old willie.
Oddly, he didn't yell, he didn't scream, he didn't flinch. Instead, he was actually launched backwards from a standing position, flying through the air a good five feet before coming to rest, completely unconscious on his back in the grass, splayed spreadeagled on the ground, eyes closed, still peeing straight up into the air, and soaking his lifeless body.
That was it, we thought we'd killed him. In that instant we were sure that he was dead, lifeless and beyond returning, and in that instant of comprehension, we were already planning our escape. It was the minute or so of shell shock while we were trying to come to grips with the sheer amount of trouble that we would be in if anyone ever found out that we had anything to do with this that saved us. Otherwise we would have already been back at home telling whatever ridiculous lie we had managed to concoct when Timmy's cousin would have come staggering home and spilled the beans. In the long seconds that we were staring at each other, and at Timmy's cousin, still lying on his back, still peeing all over himself, we heard him moan, and begin to move.
We were saved! He wasn't dead! There would be no trouble, there would be no punishment. We could get out of this without so much as a disapproving look. But of course, between ourselves we knew that this could only happen if we made this whole thing go away.
I find it ironic later in life that we were so horrified at the thought that we had killed him, so completely petrified that we had committed something that we instinctively knew was a pretty bad act, and at the same time so relived, and happy, no overjoyed that he was actually alive, that the first thing we did was threaten to kill him if he ever breathed a word of this to anyone.
These were my friends.