Firecrackers, gun powder, matches, Estes rocket engines, and gasoline. When you are 10 years old, all of these things are like magic.
Man has always fought for the control of fire, and still does. From flaming bags of dog poop at Halloween to roadside bombs in Afghanistan, we have used our mastery of fire as a tool of power and intimidation. It probably goes all the way back to the dawn of man, when we were dancing around a flaming tree that had been struck by lightning.
Now I had this one buddy, we’ll just call him Ollie – and you know who you are – who lived (at least part of the time) in an old antique shop. In this antique shop, there was … way way back in the corner … on a shelf … in the back of the shop … hidden behind a picture of a shoe, a glass container filled with mysterious blackish powder. I am not saying that we stole anything. It’s more like we borrowed from the jar, so as to test out some theories, and ensure that others would not be injured. If it really was dangerous, we could place a warning label on the jar, to ensure that no one else got hurt.
We took our little stash down to a certain secluded area near my house, and carefully poured a couple of ounces of the powder onto the sidewalk. Now at this point, I know your sayin’, “I see what’s coming”. You are probably right, but this single incident scarred me, so I am afraid I need to talk it through as part of my therapy.
Suddenly the match is lit and in my hand. Slowly, I move the match towards the powder. I am about half an inch from the pile when WHOOMP, off it goes in a flaming mushroom cloud of death, burning every hair from the front of my face. I have found that it is very hard to explain to anyone why a 10 year old has no eyebrows. Also, it takes quite a while for them to grow back.
Not sure whether we ever went back to label that jar. I do remember the smell of burning hair and a tube of Aurora model paint that I used to cover up the missing eyebrows.