Saturday, October 20, 2012

Childhood fantasies were da bomb

I had the strangest thing come back to mind last night just as I was drifting off. This strange game I used to play in my mind back when I was 9 or 10, during recess.

Most of the time, I spent recess in grade 4 and grade 5 with my posse, Bobby and Darrin (hey, Bobby Darrin; I never thought of that) and Alan. We had a game we played that sounds like something out of the Third World. It was called "can tag". At one mouth of the school's arch driveway, we chalked off an upper boundary, and our field of play was the pavement between there and the sidewalk. Leaving the bounds, including stepping onto the grass either side, instantly made the transgressor "it". "It" was the person in possession of a 10 fl. oz. steel pop can, squashed flat, which he was to kick at  the other players until the can contacted one of them, at which point, that player became "it". Fairly simple in its concept and its play, and surprisingly lively. I don't think today's aluminum 12 fl. oz. pop cans would have the necessary heft, but I'm no longer really in a position to test the theory.

As Bill Cosby would say, "I told you that story to tell you this one." This is about what I used to do when I couldn't play can tag. You know, one or two other guys were sick, or had detention, or I was on the outs with them for any of the myriad reasons kids fall out for a day or two. Or I just wanted to dream.

There was a large, tree-bordred field at one end of the school, and not as many kids played there. I suppose these days it would be full of kids playing soccer, but back then it was just a big empty thing some guy had to mow. I could just wander around in it like a little lost drunk, talking to people who weren't there, pressing buttons that didn't exist, and watching phantom disasters.

I'd conceived of this idea I thought would make a great TV show. The premise was that the US was testing a new kind of nuclear weapon. I'd heard of the neutron bomb, so my proposed new weapon was the electron bomb. They were testing it in Arizona (I suppose Nevada had had its fill of this kind of thing). Something went horribly wrong, as it must in shows like this, and the bomb created some kind of weird effect that killed its handlers and the entire population of Phoenix. I supposed I picked Phoenix because I used to watch the sitcom Alice. If you didn't, kiss my grits. In my "show", I was the star, the leader of a courageous expedition—men and women; I was an equal opportunity destroyer—into the ruined and extremely dangerous lost city of Phoenix to determine what went wrong. I made up a kind of hurricane wind that endlessly circled the city and made it impossible for our heroes, once in, to get out (whatever means brought them safely in was lost, I imagine). They found they couldn't communicate with the outside, and the outside world either considered them dead, or didn't want to risk more lives to find out, and so they were stranded. I imaged a few attempts from outside, usually sponsored by rich family members of those trapped inside. Those efforts never went well.

This electron bomb effect was kind of like a neutron bomb. It just killed people; it left all the buildings and cars and "stuff" perfectly fine. (Hmm. I should have called it the right-wing bomb.) Turned them quickly into skeletons. You'd see them hanging out of windows in buildings, or classrooms full of seated skeletons at desks, or sitting in rows in buses. A literal city of the dead. And, this being that kind of show, sort of Space: 1999 style, every so often I'd sacrifice one or two of the crew to the effect. They'd get left outside the shelter when the winds, which swept the city daily, returned, and everyone else would watch in horror as they were skeletenized. They'd become part of the landscape. You know, "There's Joe with his shovel." I think I would bury these people now, but at the time, it just made more sense that they'd be their own monument somehow. So it was a little like Gilligan's Island except, y'know, people got killed.

I think I remember how I proposed to end it. I had the impression that the winds, which might have been quasi-intelligent, were losing their punch over time, and that eventually—after two or three skeletastic seasons—they'd be mild enough that someone on foot might survive. I think the commander (your humble narrator) finally did this, contacted the outside world, and they all finally got rescued. Now, as someone in his mid-40s, I recognize that the show would have been a real dud. "Okay, three or four dozen people are trapped in a dead city. What do they do, besides spectacularly die?" "Uhhhhhh..." Yeah. But when I was 10, boy, when I was 10... it was the best show I never saw. :)

No comments: