Your Ad Here Your Ad Here Sandwich of Ruin!: The Big Bang The most

October 03, 2002

The Big Bang The most

The Big Bang

The most difficult thing to believe about this tale is that I was 21 when I did this, an age when my brain, technically, should have jumped the common sense fence and been grazing with the enlightened neurons that knew playing with grenades was probably a bad idea. As you shall see, common sense was nowhere to be found within me on this particular day.

It was nearing the 4th of July, perhaps a week to go before that grand celebration of fireworks and flatulence-inducing bratwurst. I was living at home that summer, enjoying the stress-free and responsibility-free intermission between college semesters. The problem with that type of stress-free and responsibility-free environment is that the average 21-year old quickly becomes bored. Thankfully, I had a large horde of explosives with which to kill time, to say nothing of numerous insects, organisms that quickly atomize when forced to endure the concussion blast of firecrackers.

The previous week, myself and a friend had driven to South Dakota to stock up on fireworks, owing to Minnesota's legislative insistence that fireworks are somehow dangerous and should be outlawed. South Dakota has no such qualms regarding gun-powdery goodness. I think the tourist motto for the state goes something like, "Come to South Dakota and Blow Some Shit Up." With the trunk of my '89 Cavalier loaded with over $500 in pyrotechnics, I was relatively certain I was going to enjoy a festive Independence Day.

Alas, despite the fact that I had purchased some of the most powerful fireworks on the market, I grew bored with the tame whistles and pops. I yearned for something more, something that could wake up my lazy neighborhood and prompt them to bar the door in the mistaken belief that gang warfare had erupted in the streets. Seeing as how I was in a rural community of just over 1,000 people, all of whom knew the word "gang" only from The Little Rascals: Our Gang, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Somewhere in the dusty archives of my mind, I remembered buying a defused and disarmed pineapple hand grenade from an army surplus store a few years before. Now, here's where the common sense should have kicked in, but I think common sense had left briefly to hang out in the bar for a few drinks, never for a second believing I was capable of something so entirely stupid as what I was about to pull.

I raced upstairs to my room and fished around in my desk until I found the grenade. I then taped a quarter over the hole in the bottom and began filling the metal shell with a substance called Pyrodex, a gunpowder substitute for muzzle loading rifles that isn't as volatile as regular gunpowder. Normally, if I find myself creating what essentially amounts to a pipe bomb, a little angel will appear on my shoulder and explain that I shouldn't be doing that. Apparently, the little devil on the other shoulder had snuck up on the angel and stuck his pitch fork handle deep in the angel's ass, because I couldn't for the life of me see anything wrong with what I was doing. It all made perfect sense.

With the grenade filled to the rim with Pyrodex, I trailed a lengthy fuse from the top and sprinted back downstairs and out to the deck to test my brilliant creation. I placed the grenade on a heavy metal table just off the deck and lit the fuse. I then quickly retreated about four feet away, fully believing that to be an acceptable distance.

Suddenly, a column of flame shot from the top of the grenade, reaching perhaps 12 feet in the air, and it let loose a whistling note that would have drowned out a four-engine locomotive. I have to say, it was really fucking cool. For about two seconds.

Without warning, the cool column of flame sucked back down into the grenade, and the shell just kind of sat there, silent, for about half a second. What followed was the most ear shattering explosion ever to rock the sleepy community of Harmony, Minn. I actually felt the concussion wave ripple my clothes, and I was so startled, I remember hopping about two feet backwards.

"What the fuck was that?" I thought to myself, unable to grasp how incredibly stupid I was.

In a flash of clarity, perhaps jumpstarted by the blast still echoing around town, I realized I had just detonated a grenade in my backyard. There was no end to the laundry list of laws I had just broken. It was then that I noticed the grenade was no longer sitting on the metal table. It was gone. Where did it go? Oh, there it was over there, and over there, and over there, and over there, and over there. There were chunks of shrapnel embedded everywhere. In the deck. In the siding of the house. In the trees. One fragment had blown out a large window on its way into my father's den, where it lodged deep into the sheetrock on the opposite wall. Yep, pretty much anything within a 20 foot radius had been smacked by shrapnel.

Then came the sickening realization: "Wait a minute. . . I'm within a 20 foot radius! In fact, I'm within a four foot radius!"

I frantically started patting myself down, convinced that, at any moment, my hand would encounter a massive wound soaked in blood. By whatever forces of luck, or the grace of God swooping down to intervene on behalf of His monumentally brain dead child, I was remarkably unscathed. Despite the fact I was standing almost within reach of the grenade, I didn't get hit. With my ears ringing deep within my head, which they would do on and off for about a week after the incident, I ran inside the house and forcefully vomited, a gastronomic release of shock, relief and absolute disbelief.

In the hours following the blast, I tried to concoct a plausible scenario to explain the considerable damage done to my parents' home. Using a screwdriver and a hammer, I set about prying the shrapnel free from the siding, the deck, and the surrounding trees. As I surveyed the scene afterwards, I knew that no excuse, save a meteor strike, could account for all the huge holes adorning the house. I was pretty much fucked.

So, I opted to hurriedly go out and buy my parents a sympathy card, in which I wrote "In deepest sympathy that you have such a stupid son," and then I enclosed a check for $500, which probably didn't even come close to covering the repairs, but which left me poor as a church mouse all the same. I also stipulated, in no uncertain terms, that they were never, ever to ask me exactly what happened on that fateful day, although I'm pretty sure they guessed the truth eventually.

I went into hiding for the remainder of the summer, knowing full well that my grenade fiasco would be the talk of Harmony well into October. The week following the grenade detonation, my father started painting the house, a project he had been planning for about a year. In preparation, he covered most of the windows with sheets to prevent paint from dripping on the glass. Of course, the rumor that eventually emerged was that I had blown up a grenade inside the house and that the explosion blew out all the windows. According to local coffee talk, my parents had to buy an entirely new living room set, including couches and a television, due to my pre-occupation with all things explosive. And those are just the rumors I heard about. There's no telling what was circulating that I didn't hear about.

And the moral of this story is: Don't play with grenades, because that's just a really stupid fucking thing to do.

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