Every kid in the neighborhood wanted this new squirt gun. It was definitely cool. It was green plastic, in the shape of brass knuckles. The water supply fit in the palm of your hand, and it shot a stream of water thirty to forty feet long. It was great for drive-by soakings while riding your bike. This wonder of modern science soon became a staple in every boy's arsenal. If you didn't own one, you were at a severe tactical disadvantage.
I rode my bike to the Memorial Corner Store, which was where we went to blow some of our paper route money, and bought this "weapon of mass destruction". I couldn't even wait until I got home to fill it with water; I rode across the street to the gas station, and used their water hose to arm myself with a full supply of liquid ammo. And, I went out, looking for my first victim.
Not a one! None of the guys were around! The chance to show off my new acquisition was quickly slipping away! What a jip! What good was having this beautifully constructed work of art, if I couldn't torment some innocent schmo! Dejectedly, I decided to go home.
And there, as if my prayers were being answered, I found the ultimate patsy -- a trophy that would ensure my place in the annals of "Kiddom" forever -- my dad -- lying in his favorite chaise lounge, reading the newspaper under the maple tree, in our own backyard. This was just too good to pass up!
With the stealth of a ninja fighter, I hopped the fence on the side of the house, and crept up behind the chimney. This gave me a clear shot at my intended target, lying there, with his back to me, like an unsuspecting wildebeest, who was about to be devoured by the almighty lion. After saying a short prayer to the gods of mischief, I raised my weapon, and fired. It was beautiful! A perfect arching stream flew majestically across the yard, and landed dead-center, into the folds of my father's newspaper.
He didn't react. He just turned the page, and kept on reading. Was he ignoring me?? I shot again; and again, soaked dad's paper. This time, with little or no emotion in his voice, without leaving his comfy perch, he responded:
"Eric, I know that's you. I'll advise you to stop now, or suffer the consequences."
Here was my dad -- the man who had done so much for me, and the rest of the family. The man who supported us; who got up at the crack of dawn, every single day, breaking his back to give us a better life than he had. It made me stop and think. Didn't he deserve a peaceful Saturday? Was I overstepping the bounds of human decency? Was I encroaching upon my loving father's personal space???
That did it! I had crossed the line! Dad slowly rose from his chair, folded his paper, slammed it to the ground, and bolted at me! I took one look at the vengeance in his eyes, and took off running. I leapt the fence, thinking I would be safe, but no -- he came right over the top, and kept on coming! I took off down Summit Street -- he was right behind me! I turned left on Delmont Street - he was still there! How long could he keep up this pace? We ran by the Haley's house. Mr. Haley was on the front lawn, saw what was going on, and yelled:
"Get him, Irv! Kill him!"
We turned the corner, and ran down Clifton Street. By this time, kids were following us on bikes, cheering us on! How much more could he take???
A quick left on Hollister Street, and we were in the home stretch. He had to be ready to drop! The crowd was swelling. A final left turn, back onto Summit Street! This stubborn old man had chased me around the entire block! Surely, he would give up, once we had reached the Mann Family homestead!
No such luck. We passed the house, and were starting the second lap, when I ran out of gas, and collapsed on the neighbor's lawn. "I give! I give!" I pleaded.
"Not good enough!" Dad proclaimed, sat on my chest, and proceeded to dump the contents of my squirt gun on my face. Just about this time, Mr. Speck, our neighbor, opened his front door.
"Hey Irv! How's it going?"
"Good Don. Hey! Can I borrow your hose?"
"Sure. Here ya go! Just turn it off, when you're done."
Mr. Speck walked back in the house, and closed the door, as if this were an everyday occurrence! Dad then proceeded to pay me back for this, and every other practical joke I ever played on him. He almost drowned me that day, taking great enjoyment in blasting me in the face, down my pants, everything.
When he finally called it quits, I knew who the better "Mann" was. As I lay there, covered with mud, out of breath, and struggling to regain my dignity in front of two dozen laughing kids, I watched Dad walk back to the house, through a gauntlet of appreciative, admiring parents, who were living vicariously through my father's actions.
I threw the squirt gun away.