A Weekday Afternoon

I don’t remember being asked politely if this was something I actually wanted to do, or being given an offer of one or more choices on what to do with the rest of my day. A wet trash bag filled with water balloons was simply shoved against my chest and I was instructed to “come on.”

The top of the bridge was cold. It was probably getting close to October but that didn’t keep me from wearing shorts, exposing the thin, hairless, goose-bumped legs on my almost-eight-and-a-half year old self. Matt and Jeffy were stretching their heads over the guardrail, half-crouched in a juvenile attempt at covertness. There was a bend half a mile up the road that lead beneath the bridge we were huddled on. Every car that came around it was judged based on whether the windows were open and how many people were in the car. Matt decided any more than two people per car would have been too much: less people meant less chance of getting caught. The wind was picking up. My hands were sweaty. The balloons felt like bombs.

Finally, spotted with a pair of Boy Scout binoculars, Jeffy informed us of a perfect suspect.

“Guys, get ready!”

Matt and I kneeled with our backs against the cement wall under that guardrail, a balloon in each hand, my exposed knees scraped raw on the concrete. Jeffy peaked his head over for a final look, joined us at the wall, and gave a quick countdown.

“Three… two… one… now!”

Six spheres flew into the air and held suspended like neon stars for what felt like minutes; a blinding rainbow of adolescent defiance. The sun shone through each in turn, sparkling prisms of poor foresight sliding across our faces, the cement wall, the guard rail, the open highway.

There was a series of splashes, a screeching of tires, a crash, and terrible silence. A door eventually opened but we were already in a dead sprint, furious screaming echoing on our heels, our dirty shoes skittering over cement and down grass embankments, over rocks and through the woods. The wind cut sharper than the branches and leaves over our hot faces but there was no time to breathe or think or cry or look back on the wreckage our thoughtless antics had caused, spinning the life of an unsuspecting individual into complete chaos simply because we were three stupid kids, bored on a weekday afternoon.

There may have been blood. There may have been injuries. There were certainly tears. It made the local newspaper but nobody ever found out it was us. They didn’t have to; we knew exactly what we had done.

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