A long, long time ago, after the dinosaurs but before the gods of first-person shooters and massively multiplayer online games smiled upon a technology-sparse earth, the young and impressionable of our world trudged through long and tedious summer days with nothing but authentic human beings, sunshine and imagination to see them through.
Mothers would send kids out the door in the morning, with some vague instruction like, “Get out, and don’t come back until lunch. And then get out again until dinner.”
Pedophiles weren’t the media's darlings they are today, so my mother sent us packing with confidence, giving nary a thought to the remote possibility I’d come home with hair in my mouth and a railway spike entrenched in my anus. Oh, those were the days.
In reality, the most dangerous people I encountered on a day-to-day basis were my older brother (who, even then, wanted me out of the will) and those friends who were willing to engage in behavior that is at best risky, and at worst downright stupid. Too often, I was their ringleader. That's why, when most people compare scars and stitches from their childhood, I'm part of the story.
Without further ado, here are the rules to a handful of games we engaged in when our parents weren’t looking—which was, in our day, much of the time.
The Spit Toss
First, pull out bed on standard sleeper sofa; the smaller the mattress, the better, so challenger and opponent are in close proximity. Challenger and opponent lay under a comforter or blanket, faces exposed. Both participants talk about weather, girls, music or any other desired subject. Mid-sentence, challenger fires a loogie directly up in the air. Challenger quickly covers self with his section of blanket while simultaneously yanking down section covering opponent. If challenger scores a direct body hit, one point. If challenger hits opponent in face, game is won, because opponent won’t want to play anymore. Challenger laughs, and then runs away, very quickly. Key to winning: don’t tell opponent you’re playing the game; surprise him.
The Prune Juice Challenge
Plan sleepover with friend. Eat chili dinner, with beans, and follow with bran muffin for dessert. Set up standard two- or three-person tent. Equip with sleeping bags, pillows and flashlight. Walk to local convenience store. Each contestant selects a four-pack of prune juice. Return to tent. After mindless childhood conversation, extinguish flashlight. Wait. Last person to leave tent wins.
Select appropriate evening when parents are out of town. Raid garden of most available tomatoes (ripeness and/or color doesn’t matter). Distribute tomatoes equally among opponents. Run around yard, pelting opponents with tomatoes. When bored, choose unsuspecting neighbor girl and fire rock-hard green tomato into forehead. Run into house. Hide in closet. When neighbor girl’s mother storms into house, stay in closet. Stop speaking. Stop breathing. Think of clever excuse for ketchup-stained property.
Pin opponent to floor, with knees on shoulders and legs restraining all movement of arms. Move ear close to opponent’s mouth, just beyond biting range. Listen. For each sound heard, deliver smack to opponent’s face commensurate with volume of sound. Smack once, fairly hard, when no sound is made. When opponent protests with yell, unleash flurry of brutal smacks. Run.
Go to bi-monthly doctor’s visit for allergy shot. Ask doctor for syringe, without needle, and cap for said syringe. Fill syringe with water. Replace cap. Choose opponent. Aim. Slam hand against bottom of syringe plunger, launching cap at incredible speed. Take friend to doctor. Be sure to ask for extra syringes.
Rubber Band Hide-and-Seek
Hand-select six to eight rubber bands of appropriate thickness and strength. Stretch along surface of wooden ruler until attached at both ends. Encourage opponents to hide in dark basement. Turn on flashlight and begin hunt. As each opponent found, allow three-second escape period and then open fire. When opponent found hiding beside refrigerator in bar area, block all means of escape. Count to three. Launch all remaining rubber bands from three-inch distance into opponent’s bare back. Run for bandages.
Sounder (my brother’s favorite)
One contestant (younger brother) plays neglected puppy in store window. Other contestant (older brother) assumes role of lonely, benevolent bachelor. Bachelor purchases dog (always named Sounder, for some reason) and brings him home (the basement floor). Bachelor nurtures dog’s playful side by dragging long string around floor, which dog is obliged to chase. Hunt continues for 20 minutes or exhaustion, whichever comes first. As reward for “winning”, dog is treated to full bowl of shredded paper, or food. Dog eats “food”, leaves game with stomach ache. Game is repeated throughout childhood; players keep same roles.
If you like these, I'll share the better ones ... after all, what boy doesn't have at least a dozen childhood memories involving incendiary materials?