I’ve decided to reminisce about the past in a regular publication I’m going to entitle “Wasted on the Young.” Basically, I’m going to tell humorous anecdotes from my childhood. With that having been said, let’s get started.
For the first seven years of my life, my family and I lived in the tiny rural community of Deshler. It’s a picturesque little town in the southeastern corner of Nebraska. It has the quintessential Main Street U.S.A. feel to it with all of the little local shops and cafes. It’s a place where cars and houses are left unlocked and small children can roam the streets on bicycles, skateboards, and scooters, oblivious to the dangers of the outside world. Everyone is everybody else’s neighbor and all seems right with the world.
The day in question happened the summer of my fifth year. I was a racous young girl–trying desperately to have my brother, who’s seven years older than me, to take notice of his little sister. I wanted to earn some street cred with him and his older, somehow more exotic friends. I wanted to be just like my brother, from the way he dressed to the way he acted. In 1986, I vividly recall wanting to wear the same Hawaiian shirts, white pants, and checkerboard Vans that Nate had. Looking back, I can’t imagine how a 12 year old boy could have felt knowing that his little sister was copying him. That poor son of a bitch…Nate, after 20 years, I’m sorry. I didn’t respect you as the individual you were. Forgive me, Brother.
I had spent the better part of the summer of ’86 trying to get Nate and his friends to pay some notice to me, but with no avail. He’s as stubborn now as he was back then. I had almost given up what little hope I had left, when my little life changed. The house down the street had been for sale for a while, but today was the day the new owners were moving in. And my mom had told me the night before that the people moving in had a little boy the same age as me. Score. Even in my five year old head, I knew this was a good thing. I needed a male companion to run around with. All the kids my age that lived near me were girls and didn’t want to play war games or go exploring in the woods behind our house. That would all change when I befriended the new neighbor boy.
I was sitting on our front porch all morning long watching the comotion down the street. Box after box was taken in, but I didn’t see any kids. Then, it happened. Later that afternoon, a car pulled into the driveway and three boys spilled out the back. Two of them were older and I made a mental note to tell Nate about them, but the third boy, MY boy, was just as my mom had told me: he was Erin sized and looked ripe for the picking. I opened up our front door, yelled into the house at my mom and told her I was going to meet the new kids. If she gave me a reply, I didn’t hear it because the time the front door slammed shut, I was already standing in their driveway, my trusty three wheeler at my side.
“Hi, I’m Erin! Do you wanna play with me?” I asked the towheaded little chap. He was clutching a very worn teddy bear in one arm and a G.I. Joe in the other. He looked me up and down for a second, then took off into the house. I stood there for a second, stunned. Oh no, I thought….he doesn’t like me. I’m doomed to play with little girls afterall. I climbed back on my three wheeler and was started back to my house when I heard the front door open and the boy came out, sans bear and action figure.
“Hey, wait for me! Let me get my bike!” Oh, joyous day! Oh, wonderous time! He ran around the house to the garage and seconds later, came back with an impressive bike–and no training wheels. This kid was the big time. I knew that we were going to be best friends.
“My name’s Chad. We just moved here from Beaver Crossing cuz my dad is a teacher and he’s going to teach the big kids at high school and be the football coach.”
Whoa…my little mind was blown away. Beaver Crossing? Where was that? What was that? His dad was going to be a teacher for the big kids? AND be a coach? For some reason, all that information in my head made me somehow think that these people must be filthy rich. Give me a break. I was five and had no concept of monetary value or worth.
“So, what should we do? Do you want to come over to my house?” I asked. “Sure!” We pedaled down the street to The Hoffmeyer House and I took him inside to see my room, the bathroom because we had a laundry shoot that went into the basement. “Hey, watch this.” I grabbed a towel from the closet and opened the shoot door and dropped the towel. We both stuck our heads side by side to watch the towel land on the basement floor. “Cool! I wanna try!” I grabbed him another towel and he dropped it down the shoot. “Hey, I’ve got an idea, “Chad said, “you go down to the basement and I’ll stay up here and throw something down and you can see what it looks like!” Brilliant…this kid was a genius. I had never thought of that before. I raced downstairs and when I was at the opening, I yelled up to him to throw something down. The door opened and I saw Chad launch something down, but it wasn’t a towel. It ricoqueted around in the shoot until it landed on the pile of towel. It was a toothbrush. This kids hilarious! A toothbrush?! That had never been done before! He’s such a genius! I laughed and laughed and I could hear Chad’s laugh echoing down the laundry shoot.
I wanted to show Chad around more, so I ran back upstairs. “Hey, let’s go outside and see my dog! He’s cool.” The family dog, Gus, was a bit of a legend in our neighborhood. He was a massive, hairy beast with pitch black fur and he was as tall as I was. He looked like such a menacing monster and he would stand on his hind legs and put his huge paws on his kennel fence to bark at the random wild life that scurried around in our yard. Truth be told, he was the sweetest, most gentle dog alive. He literally was all bark and no bite. I took Chad outside and over to Gus’s kennel. I opened the chain link fence and stood at the front of the dog house, where Gus was inside sleeping. “Here boy!” I could see Gus yawn and stretch. Behind me, I heard a small gasp as Gus walked out of the dog house. “Wow…he’s giant!” Chad immediately walked over to the dog and held out his hand. Gus sensed an ally and started licking Chad’s hand. I took this as a good sign. Everyone that came over to our house was terrified of Gus, but not Chad. Chad was so brave, I thought.
“I have a dog, too. Her name’s Megan. Maybe our dogs can play together sometime.” The things that came out of this boys mouth…I tell you what…I had never heard so many wonderful ideas and thoughts pour out of a child so eloquently and freely. He surely must be gifted. After we played around with Gus for awhile, I took him into the garage. I felt a little bit naughty for doing so…my dad told me not to touch anything unless he was around to get it for me, but I wanted to impress Chad with my dad’s cool stuff.
Just the other day, I had wondered into the garage while my dad was working on his truck and at the his feet was a gadget I had never seen before. I picked it up and examined it. “Dad? What’s this?” “That’s an oil can. Like the one the Tin Man had in the Wizard of Oz. ” So it was….it was amazing. I squeezed the handle and a dark amber stream of oil came shooting out. Awesome. Now as Chad and I were standing in the garage, I knew that Chad would love this as much as I did. I looked around my dad’s work area and came upon my jackpot. But lo and behold, what did my little eyes see? Not one, but TWO of these oil can devices. I grabbed both and handed one to Chad. “Here, take this and follow me!”
I led him to the front porch and I climbed up on the banister, leaving Chad on the lawn. I took aim, fired the trigger, and oozed oil on his arm. “Hey!” he yelled, “Cool!” He fired back at me, but I ducked. A thick spray of oil hit the house. It ran down in a slow stream. We looked at each other and smiled. We just invented a new game: Spray Oil on the House. Coming soon to a toy store near you. I jumped off the banister and started shooting oil all over the side of our house and on the sidewalk. I know now that was a poor decision to make. I had no idea that oil stained things. How could I have known? So here’s me and Chad, squirting oil on our nice white house and lauging our butts off. I was in heaven: this is how a kids summer is supposed to go. Messing around with your best friend, getting into all sorts of trouble. It was marvelous. We tapped the cans dry, so we went back into the garage to put them back. It was a good day. As we came out of the garage, we heard Chad’s mom yelling for him, so we said our goodbyes, promised to meet again the next day, and he left. I went inside and watched Scooby Doo.
After a few hours, my brother came home and asked me where Mom was. I told him she was in the kitchen. Nate left and went to find Mom. A few minutes later, the two of them went outside. When they came back, Nate had a smile on his face, but my Mom looked kind of angry. “Erin, were you playing in the garage today?” “No. I went in the garage to get stuff for me and Chad to play with, but we didn’t play inside the garage.” It’s true. That’s what happened. “What did you get from the garage?” “The Tin Man’s oil cans.” My mom closed her eyes. “Did you spray oil on the house, Erin?” Busted! “Chad did it, too!” “Erin, please go to your room until your dad gets home.” Dad? My dad had to find out about this? Isn’t there some sort of mother/daughter code of silence? My dad would be furious at me. I started crying and went upstairs to await my doom.
My dad came home and I heard Mom talking to him. Next, I heard my dad shouting “She did WHAT?!” and his giant footsteps coming up the stairs to my room. Shit. I hadn’t had a chance to write out a will….not that I knew how to write anything but my name, but still, it’s the principle of the matter. My dad came into my room and sat down on my bed. “Erin, I’m not mad at you. I’m just disappointed in you.” ooohhh….that’s soooo much worse….I’m disappointed….I failed you, Father….”You are going to be punished, though. After supper, you are going to clean up outside. I’ll get a bucket and a sponge for you and you need to try to get all the oil off the house, understand?” My father had spared me…washing our house would suck, but compared to the ultimate torture I had envisioned, this was a breeze.
So, after I gave our house a bath, all was right again. My dad ended up buying a padlock for our garage to avoid these little incidents again and I was only allowed over at Chad’s house to play for a month as more punishment.
And here is what I shall call the “Eric Filpkowski Ending”:
But little did they know that I’d have my revenge. Later that month, I sneaked into my parents room and doused them with oil, my little girl eyes ablaze with hatred for my parents. Make ME wash the goddamned house?! I couldn’t deal with this shit…and I knew it was only going to get worse as the years went on. I had to stop this here and now.
Thanks to the sleeping pills I snuck into their meatloaf at dinner, my parents didn’t wake up as I was drowning them in the oil of their sins. I grabbed the lighter out of my pocket–I had been smoking heavily since I was three–and flicked the flint. A wonderous orange flame flickered in the dark room, illuminating my face. “Good night, Mommy. Good night, Daddy. I love you, ” I said as I tossed the Zippo onto their bed.
The quilt caught fire instantly and spread up over my sleeping parents still bodies. The smell of burning oil, flesh, and smoke filled the room. I ran out of the house and into the street, screaming for help. I had made sure my brother was gone that night. I didn’t need his bullshit getting in my way. My screaming hysterics woke up the neighbors and some one called the fire department. By the time they got to our house, the entire top floor was engulfed in flames.
I remember a fireman carrying me away from the house and into the back of an ambulance to make sure I was ok. As I was beeing led away from the house, my eyes never left the top floor window where my parent’s room used to be. A small smile creeped on my face. That’ll teach ’em, I thought.
Now an orphan, I got sent away to live with my grandparents. My brother was so traumatized by the events of that night, he went crazy and was put into a mental asylum for young boys in Vermont. I was rewarded all of my parents insurance money and got a fat settlement check out of the ordeal, too. Now, twenty years later, I’m living it up in West Hollywood in a mansion built with my parents blood money. And it feels good….really good. No one tells me what to do.