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      Tuesday
      Jul242012

      Grenade

      This is a deleted scene from my novel, The King of the Band Room.  I had to cut it out, but it works as a short story I think.

       

      Grenade

                           It was the first warm Friday in April and we were all crammed into Kumail’s van, just cruising around and enjoying the feeling that basketball season was over and there were no more pep bands, so we could all hang out again.  Dave had been exceptionally quiet, waiting for the inevitable cue from one of us.  It was Iver who supplied it.

                           “So what are we gonna do tonight?”

                           “How about we blow some shit up?” Dave said, reaching into his military surplus backpack and pulling out a small object about the size of a hand grenade.

                           Iver leaned forward from the middle seat, “Holy shit!  Is that a hand grenade?”

                           Dave smiled, “Yep.  My brother snuck it off base and brought it home for me last weekend.”

                           Kumail screamed, “Your brother is a god!”

                           I laughed, “Your brother is a role model!”

                           “Your brother is an asshole,” deadpanned Stella, remembering the quote from Can’t Hardly Wait.

                           Dave laughed, “He usually is.  This is a rare moment of awesome from him, so I need to make it really good.”

                           “Let’s take out the gas main to the school!” cried Kumail maniacally.

                           Iver looked sideways at him, “Are you serious?  You’re a little bit sick.” 

                           Dave said, “Settle down, you’re about to lose your talking privileges.”

                           “Maybe you’re about to lose your riding in my van privileges,” threatened Kumail.

                           I tried to relax the situation, “But then you’d miss whatever we do blow up.”

                           Kumail smiled, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

                           Stella asked, “Can I see it a second?”

                           “Sure,” Dave replied, “Just don’t put it in the hands of Captain Psycho and don’t do anything stupid, like pull out the pin.”  We all got a chance to hold the grenade.  It was heavy and cold, dangerous looking.  I’d like to say that I was afraid, but I had such faith in Dave, I wasn’t the least bit worried.

                           Now you might think it wouldn’t be hard to find something to blow up with a hand grenade, but it’s more work than you’d think.  We were basically broke, so Stella’s idea of a pile of watermelons was out.  A couple of ideas were thrown out for being too violent, like Principal Daniel’s front door and the fountain in the town square.  A mailbox was too easy, you could do that just fine with an M80, plus Dave wanted to actually throw the thing, even though it wasn’t really necessary.  We drove around for about an hour, hoping to find that perfect combination of destruction/safety/not getting arrested until Buck finally piped up for the first time.  “How about an outhouse at the park?”  It was perfect.

                            As we drove to the edge of town to the park, Dave started acting odd.  It wasn’t unprecedented for him to act erratically from time to time.  His manic energy sometimes overtook him and made him act out, laughing or twitching somewhat.  So as the excitement of throwing the grenade began to build, it didn’t seem all that odd that Dave might be talking too loud or too fast.  But when we got there and found an appropriate wooden outhouse at the campground we were surprised that Dave insisted that we all stay in the van. 

                           Dave walked ten steps away from the van, easily within throwing distance for the grenade.  He turned to around and even though his face was in shadow from the moonlight, I could tell something was wrong.  A sneer was contorted and twisted by the shadows, eyes narrow with hate.  He spoke softly at first, but his exaggerated gestures told me that he was only getting warmed up.  “I am so tired of it!  Nothing ever changes, nothing ever gets better.  It just gets darker and darker, until I want to snap!  Sometimes I wish I was locked up again ya know?  At least in the psyche ward I didn’t have to think about anything.  This crappy world we live in, this pathetic town, the crappy school, you losers.  I can’t believe I’m wasting my life here!”

                           Tank looked over at Iver, questioning, but he just shrugged.  Stella grabbed my arm as I started to climb though the seats reaching for the door handle, and shook her head.  I looked at Buck, but his usual stoic look had changed somewhat, he looked like a cougar ready to pounce.  I knew that he sensed that something was wrong, too.  I’d never seen Dave lose it like this before.  The others talked about his rants like a legend; they were rarer since he got back from Southbridge and was put on his meds, but in the old days, they were apparently quite common.  I’d seen him go off about rotten TV shows and movies and such, but never in this random sort of way.

                           He held the grenade in his hand.  As he continued raging, he flailed his arms and paced.  He howled, “I don’t even care if they take me away forever.  I’ve known you guys for ten years now and nothing has ever changed.  I’m pathetic, you’re pathetic, I’m putting you out of my misery!”  He pulled the pin and threw the grenade under the van. 

                           Kumail was in the front seat, and luckier than the rest of us.  He screamed, “Oh, shit!” jumped out the door, and ran like hell.

                           Iver and Buck were closest to the van door.  They fumbled with the latch, slipping and grasping for each other.  Tank tried to scramble over the front seat so he could slide out the open passenger door.  Stella and I were towards the back and we crouched, waiting for Iver and Buck to get the door open.  Stella buried her face in my shirt and was screaming “Oh God!  Oh Shit,” over and over.  It couldn’t have been more than two seconds that it took them to get the door open and to jump outside.  I pushed Stella out and jumped myself, waiting for the sound and the fire on my back.  It was sick how I envisioned myself flying in the air like in a movie or something, but of course a real explosion isn’t like that. 

                           We ran about twenty yards into the park before we realized that nothing was wrong.  Over our screams we could hear Dave laughing.  I followed the sound and saw him standing on a picnic table, silhouetted in the moonlight.  He was shaking with laughter.  He was slapping his knee and stomping his foot as he pointed and hooted at us.  I’d never seen anyone actually do that before.  Another two seconds passed and we realized that there was not going to be an explosion.  I looked down and realized I was holding Stella’s hand as we ran away from the van.  She looked at it too, and then quickly dropped it as Iver, Buck, Darren, and Tank all began to converge on Dave from the darkness.  No one spoke; we just watched him laughing on the table.

                           “Ha ha ha ha ha…whoooo hoo hoooooo…your faces…homygod…hooooo ha ha…and the running…ha ha ho ho ho hee…haven’t you…he hee ha hooo…haven’t you guys…whooo ha ha ha…ever seen…ha ha ha ha ha oh Jesus…ever seen….oh god, ha ha ha…a…haw haw oh shit this is funny…a dummy grenade before?...hee hee hee ha ha hoooooo hee hee.”  Dave collapsed on the table, helpless with laughter, tears streaming down his face.

                           Buck, still stoic, unclipped Dave’s cell phone from his belt and placed it on the table.  Dave tried to resist, but was still laughing so hard he couldn’t really fight.  He grabbed one of Dave’s legs and said, “River.”  Dave was laughing the whole way as we carried him to the riverbank.  He was laughing as he flew in the air and landed in the water.  He was laughing when he stood up soaking wet.  He was pretty much done laughing by the time he caught up to us waiting for him at the park entrance a half mile from the river.

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