Fight! Fight! Fight!

I was in 2nd grade when I had my first real fight. My opponent, Mark, was a year older. He was also my best friend.

The whole problem started with one of Mark’s toys. A quick internet search tells me that the toy in question was the Motorcycle Driver from the Fisher Price Adventure People Series. The Motorcycle Driver was remarkable because, unlike the other action figures of the 1970s, its legs bent at the knee to allow it to straddle the motorcycle. The Motorcycle Driver was simply the coolest thing ever – much better than my Fisher Price Adventure People Skydiver – and Mark graciously allowed me to borrow it.

When the agreed upon borrowing period had passed, Mark very reasonably asked me to return his Motorcycle Driver. I conducted a frantic search, but could not find it. That result was not uncommon for me – I still remember a number of my favorite toys from that time mysteriously vanishing. It’s possible that the missing toys were victims of my older brother – legend had it that there was a notch in the handle of the lawn mower for every toy he managed to kill. I tried putting Mark off when he would ask, in hopes that it would show up, but it didn’t. When he eventually pressed the issue, I had to admit that I had failed my best friend.

Mark was understandably upset, but he was willing to discuss a reasonable solution. The most logical option, “Get your parents to buy a new one,” was apparently rejected right away. Telling my parents would probably have gotten me in trouble – there was a general rule against me borrowing toys (for this exact reason), so the whole thing had been done on the QT. Even though he had been clearly wronged, Mark didn’t want that kind of trouble for me.

Looking back, it wouldn’t have been REAL trouble – but getting yelled at or grounded were situations to be avoided.

After some discussion, Mark and I agreed that the only way to settle the situation was to fight. A fight, much like the duels of old, would fulfill the solemn obligations of honor. Mark and I didn’t have the kind of relationship where we wrestled each other, so this was new ground for us. Being a year older, he was certainly the favorite to win, and I probably deserved the beating. We shook hands and agreed to meet the next day after school, on The Hill.

It was understood that when kids from our neighborhood had a score to settle, they worked it out on The Hill. It was really just a small hill in front of a house near the school, but it was around a corner and far enough away to avoid the prying eyes of school officials. I have often wondered if the family who lived there ever knew that their front yard was the setting for some of the most epic battles in the history of Proctor School.

The funny thing is, I don’t remember being nervous about the fight at all. It might have had something to do with the fact that kids of that age seem to be made of rubber bands. I used to jump off of swing sets at the highest point – something that would send me to the hospital today. Or maybe, I just didn’t believe that my best friend would really hurt me.

News about fights traveled fast. When Mark and I arrived at The Hill the next day, we had to wade through a crowd of excited children. They immediately formed a ring around us and began to chant, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

We circled each other and each got a few shots in before we started grappling. Somehow, I managed to get Mark on the ground. I was sitting on his chest and started choking him. He yelled “Uncle” and just like that, the fight was over. I asked Mark if he was ok, and he told me he was, so we got up, dusted ourselves off, and walked home together as the crowd drifted away.

As we walked, I remember him looking over at me and saying, “I thought we said no choking.” I hadn’t remembered any rule like that. Oops.

Following our fight, Mark and I remained close and hung out almost every day. I clearly remember sitting in his bedroom, giggling while we listened to the swear words on the Grease soundtrack over and over.

But, as the years went by, we started hanging out in different social circles. By the time I finished 4th grade, we barely spoke to each other. Eventually, Mark’s family moved away and we lost touch. We have since reconnected on Facebook, and I am happy to report that he is doing well and that he is a wonderfully talented photographer. Whatever issues drove us apart back then have been long forgotten and he hasn’t mentioned the choking thing once.

The Flight of the Trampoline

A while back, my neighborhood found itself in the path of a strong thunderstorm. I’ve heard that it could have been classified as a “microburst,” but I’m sure my friends in the Midwest would scoff at such talk. No matter, it was a strong thunderstorm with high winds and I was blissfully unaware of its approach. I heard rain, and I heard the wind whipping at the house, and then thunder – I didn’t pay much attention until I heard my children start screaming.
As a parent, screaming children is part of the job – but this was different. There was true panic in their voices. “DAD! DAAAAAD! THE TRAMPOLINE!!”

The trampoline. My wife, The Megger, had spent weeks trying to buy it and had driven 3 hours to pick up, and now, in the face of a thunderstorm, it wasn’t secured. I had been trying to grow grass, and as a result had been moving the trampoline from spot to spot while I watered the lawn. It was a poor decision for someone who neglected to check the weather.

My children were pointing to the backyard and screaming and, sure enough, the trampoline was dancing to the sound of crashing thunder. I quickly sized up the available options and chose the worst one – I sprinted outside and grabbed the big, metal trampoline.

I can envision my father reading the above sentence, shaking his head, and thinking, “I swear, we went over this so many times.”

Once out there, I realized how loud the world around me was – thunder crashing, winds whipping, tree branches and, I found out later, trees themselves falling. Out of the cacophony, though, my ears picked up the sound of my shed door repeatedly slamming in the wind.

A note about the shed – it’s one of those plastic sheds from the big box stores that they complain about in the commercials. It’s a fine shed – we had it installed last year – but it hadn’t even been up for a full day before my sweet little daughter went outside and tried to open the doors. She pulled and she pulled with all her might, completely ignoring the shiny lock that was in place, and managed to bend the plastic doors. As a result, the doors tend to hang open at the top, just a little, and it takes a determined effort to shut them so they stay shut.
As a result, my shed door was not shut. In fact, it was swinging back and forth in the wind to the point that I was nervous about it flying off the hinges. I let go of the trampoline, walked 3 steps to the shed, and made sure that the door was solidly closed.

I then took a step back toward the trampoline. At that moment, the trampoline leapt into the air and took flight, directly away from my outstretched hand. The flying saucer crashed through my neighbor’s fence without a moment’s hesitation and sailed straight for my neighbor’s house.

It’s a shame that there isn’t a picture of my face at this moment, as I stood slack-jawed and terrified, because I was convinced that my trampoline was going to smash into my neighbors’ sliding glass doors.

Instead, my wayward tramp bounced off the neighbors’ trampoline (which, to its credit, never moved), changed direction, and got hung up on their porch. It was at that point that I snapped out of my trance and realized that I was standing outside in the middle of a serious thunderstorm. I ran into the house and we all went into the basement to wait it out.
As soon as the winds died down a little, The Megger and I freed the broken, bent trampoline from the neighbors’ porch and staked it down in their lawn, where it remained for the night. The whole affair had lasted about 15 minutes.

Upon reflection, I was very lucky. Trees and branches came down in the yards next to me and didn’t land on me. The lightning did not take the opportunity to show me how unwise it was to stand in an open area gripping a metal object during a thunderstorm. The trampoline, when it did its impression of the Gale house, flew away from me and not through me. Despite my stupidity, only stuff was injured on the trampoline’s maiden flight.

The fence was fixed, and The Megger found some replacement parts for the trampoline, and I still ignore the weather reports, so things are pretty much back to the way they were. Except, of course, the trampoline is now securely fastened to the ground and can only dream of its short, but exciting, time aloft.

A Mother’s Love

My son asked for a trampoline for his birthday. It was exciting to have him ask for something unrelated to video games, and we knew that his sister would love it as much, if not more, than he would.

His grandmother generously agreed to fund the venture and my wife – The Megger – agreed to purchase it. Easy enough, right?

Not so fast. Every other family on the eastern seaboard, also stuck in their houses during the pandemic, had the same idea before we did. There were no trampolines available anywhere. The Megger looked everywhere online. She called. She sent emails. She worked at it until she found one online and quickly paid for it.

What she didn’t realize is that plenty of companies online are happy to take money for products they don’t really have, and this company didn’t actually have any trampolines available. Also, instead of just giving the money back, they hid the refund button on the site and tried very hard to interest her in a store credit toward other (probably) imaginary products. The Megger kept at it, though, and eventually slipped through the site’s defenses and got the money back.

She then called a local sporting goods store – let’s call it Nick’s. The manager at Nick’s assured The Megger he was looking at several trampolines on a pallet. When she offered to buy one, he explained that he wasn’t allowed to sell them to her. He couldn’t take her credit card, and he said she couldn’t drive to the store and present him with a stack of cash.

The only way to purchase one of the trampolines was through the Nick’s website. That would have been easier if they were listed for sale on the site. The manager explained that he had asked his corporate office to put the trampolines on the site, but so far no luck. He offered, however, to put a note with her name and phone number on one of trampolines.

The Megger checked the site several times a day and called the manager a couple more times over the next two weeks, but no trampolines showed up on the site. The Megger called the corporate office and talked to people and was assured that they would be up soon. This went on until the day the stores were allowed to open. The Megger walked into the store that day and an associate explained that all of the trampolines had been sold in seven minutes.

The Megger was incredulous.

“But, my name and phone number was on one of them. You were holding it for me,” she said, practically in tears.

The associate said, “Yeah, when you didn’t call, we had to sell it.” It’s a good thing The Megger has self-control.

She then spoke to the manager who said, “Usually trampolines aren’t a high demand item, so I’m sure we’ll have them back in stock soon.”


After a couple more days of searching, The Megger found a trampoline at Nick’s in Rutland, Vt. She paid for it online, but saw that it wasn’t available to ship. She called and the manager there explained that the item was too expensive to ship, so it would need to be picked up. Rutland is about three hours from our house, but this was a woman on a mission. The Megger told the manager in Rutland that she would be there the next day, after work, to pick it up.

The next morning, The Megger received an email from the Nick’s in Rutland, confirming she had already picked up her trampoline.

She panicked – not again! She called the store and was told that, no, there had been a mix-up and that the trampoline was still there, waiting for her.

So, The Megger left after work that day and drove three hours to Rutland, Vt. She spent 15 minutes picking up a trampoline, and then drove three hours home. We then spent four hours the next day putting it together, swatting mosquitoes, until after 10 p.m.

Happy birthday, kid, your mother loves you.