Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Life Less Ordinary (#195)

I knew living an ordinary life was not for me when I was seven or eight (or nine, heck I can’t recall exactly) years old and broke Billy McIntyre’s arrow.

Billy was a couple of years older and lived next door. We didn’t go to the same school and weren’t exactly friends but obviously we knew each other. I was a little afraid of him. He was big and had a temper and wasn’t averse to beating someone up.

Back then in the 1950s, at our ages, “beating someone up” meant cuffing them a few times and shoving them down on the ground. You might end up with a few scrapes and a bloody nose. Nobody died and most guys wouldn’t even tell their Mom - as long as they could cover up the evidence - but it still wasn’t much fun being on the receiving end.

At the time, we lived in very modest part of a small working class city. Billy was an only child and probably the kid on our street who came closest to being rich. He never wore hand-me-downs from his cousins and always got really neat stuff for his birthday and Christmas and sometimes just because.

One summer day I went outside to see Billy in his backyard shooting a for-real bow and arrow. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was just like the ones on tv and in Dad’s hunting and fishing magazines. There were no rubber cups on the end of those missiles. The business ends of the arrows were metal, rounded but conical, and with something of a tapered tip.

It would likely bounce off a bear but you could certainly put someone’s eye out with it. My mother would have a fit if she saw me shooting one.

So I had to work fast.

I hopped the fence over to Billy’s yard and starting chatting. I remember acting cool, like it was an everyday thing for me to be talking with someone who was shooting a for-real bow and arrow into a target pinned onto stacked bales of hay.

I watched him for a few minutes and casually asked if I could take a couple of shots. He said maybe later. He had to go in for lunch soon.

I was in agony. Every minute I waited brought my mother a minute closer to seeing what I was up to and forbidding it.

About two eternities later, Billy’s mother finally called him in for lunch. He looked at the bow in his hand and then at me.

“If you wreck it, I’ll kill you.”

I barely heard him. I took the bow and fetched the arrows from the hay. There were only two. That was fine. One would have been perfect.

I walked to the back of Billy’s house, as far from the target as I could get. As I notched the arrow to the bowstring, I was struck by a thought: I wonder how high I can shoot this thing?

I squinted up into cloudless summer blue and decided to find out. I bet it would go three or four times higher than a house.

I drew back the bow and aimed nearly straight up, then fired. I watched, delighted, as the arrow soared skyward, impossibly high, tilted, and began its earthward plummet. It landed, quivering slightly, nearly at the foot of the hay bales at the end of the yard.


I notched the second arrow, pointed skyward, pulled and watched - watched as the arrow followed a similar trajectory to the first. Watched, with mixed horror and delight as it followed the exact trajectory of the first and landed atop it - splitting the first arrow down the middle.

Holy Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints!

I walked over, not quite believing my eyes. Bending down, I marveled at the perfectly bisected arrow.

My amazement was tinged with dread, of course. I had a hunch Billy’s focus might be on the ruined arrow instead of where it belonged -- on the phenomenal circumstance that resulted in the ruination.

Now here we are at the end of the story and I can’t help but feel I’m going to cheat you folks a little. I honestly don’t recall if Billy beat me up or not. It was immaterial, really. What I took from the day is a perfect recollection of that brilliant blue sky and a deep-seated sense that the extraordinary could be just around the next corner.


Hilary said...

Although this story isn't new to me, I still find it amazing. Extraordinary is a broad spectrum and you sure do span it in many ways. :)

Sally said...

Yes ... a moment of magic! Like the time when I - as a primary school kid who was about as sporty as an armchair - saw the cricket ball hurtling down towards me and CAUGHT IT! A feeling of awe and amazement that I can still remember.

Rick Rosenshein said...

Hi Frank,
Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

Thumbelina said...

You're Robin Hood in disguise! You are aren't you?

When did you emigrate?
Only Robin Hood could split an arrow like that.

Great recollection. Who cares if he beat you up? What's the chances of ever doing that again? Brilliant.

Leah J. Utas said...

Agree with Thumbelina. RH was my first thought, too, when I read your story.
That said it's a beautiful memory of a perfect occasion. Thanks for writing about it.

Frank Baron said...

So, Hil, you're saying I look fat in these pants? ;)

Way to go Maud! Nice grab!! I know the feeling - like my first home run in Little League baseball. You remember every, single split-second of the important stuff. It's magic all right. :)

Very kind of you to say so, Rick. Thanks.

Thumbelina, I was a Robin Hood fan at the time, that's for sure. And the chances of repeating it? I've never once tried again. I'm gonna stay 1 for 1 in that department. :)

I'm glad you enjoyed it Leah. Thanks for letting me know.

Reb said...

What a wonderful memory for you. Smart to stay 1 for 1 too ;)

Frank Baron said...

I thought so, Reb. It's about the only unblemished record I have. :)

Dianne said...

this story reminds me that the beauty of life is in the moments - string them together as we travel down the road and they become an extraordinary path

I love the way you tell a story Frank

david mcmahon said...

The beauty of your writing, Frank, is in its sincerity and depth.

Tessa said...

I agree with David, Frank. This is an absorbing and beautifully told tale of childhood.

Congratulations on POTD - so well deserved.

Jewels said...

Beautiful! Wonder is best appreciated in the smallest of things.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

This is fabulous! I love the way you recount this...you have a gift...and your writing is extraordinary!!! You've bisected the arrow, once AGAIN! Brilliant. Congrats on POTD! ~Janine

LadyFi said...

I love the way you start off recounting the bully Billy, but then leave us all with the magical almost-impossible daring feat of splitting an arrow in two.


Merisi said...

Life is like a set of two arrows,
you never know how they are going to meet!

Wonderful story, congratulations on David's POTD! :-)

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I came here from authorblog, and man I sure am glad I did. What are the chances? If you had set out to split that arrow it just never would have happened. Not only was your story entertaining, it was well-written.

Thumbelina said...

Congrats on a POTD from David. About time too.

Frank Baron said...

Apt analogy Dianne. Thanks for the compliment. :)

Thank you David - that's very kind. I understand you're responsible for this spate of newcomers. Thank you for that, too. :)

Thank you Tessa. :)

I agree Jewels. Thanks for the visit and kind words. :)

Janine, you've nearly convinced me to follow up on this writing thing. ;) Thanks. :)

Thank you, LadyFi. :)

Thank goodness for life's surprises eh, Merisi? Thanks for the compliment. :)

Thanks Elizabeth, you're very kind. :)

Thanks (again) Thumbelina. :)

Ray Veen said...

Hey Frank, enjoyed every bit of the story.


Not telling people if you got beat up or not? That just might get you beat up now.

Barbara Martin said...

A wonderful nostaligic story of a miracle! Thanks for sharing it, Frank.

Frank Baron said...

Ray, I'm thinkin' if he'd really thumped me, I'd remember. So, likely he was too flabbergasted. :)

Barbara, I'm glad you enjoyed. Thanks for letting me know. :)

Kappa no He said...

I love it! I imagine Billy saw it, slapped you on the shoulder and said, "Duuude!"

Frank Baron said...

Ha Terrie! THAT, I would have remembered. :)

Rajesh said...

Interesting childhood memory.

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Frank Baron said...

Yes indeed, Rajesh.

Aw, BBC - I bet you say that to all the blogs. (insert eyelash-fluttering smiley here)

Anonymous said...

Frank, this is a movie scene! It reminded me of being young and of how I used to think some kids were "rich" who probably were not. It also reminded me of my four boys when they were little and they went out to conquer the neighborhood where we lived. This post makes me miss them, and for some reason it really made me hope at least one of them will write.

This post was as perfectly told. As clear and well aimed as the arrows of your childhood :).

Frank Baron said...

Meredith, you're very kind. It was my birthday yesterday and reading your comments is like getting an extra gift. Thank you. :)

Skunkfeathers said...

The Things We Carried sent me over...apart from the excellent imagery you weave in this story, I reckon that perhaps on this occasion, Billy didn't nail you with retribution, when he saw the split arrow; after all, he might have been familiar with Robin Hood ;)

Frank Baron said...

Ya' think he feared my prowess eh, Skunkfeathers?

Well, maybe so. :)

Thanks for following Meredith's directions. Hope to see you again.

Grayquill said...

I don't believe you - if this was a fish story I would say where are the pictures....oh, yeah you are probably a photo shop expert...pictures don't count eiter. If this is a true story - will you buy me a lottery ticket?