As a young boy, I took delight in putting together model airplanes, and I still had some paints left over from this pursuit. I finally hit upon the idea of covering up the hole with a piece of tape and painting it to match the silver trim. It was a plan born of desperation with little chance of success, but I had nothing else. Nothing but owning up to the truth, and that thought was even more ridiculous than the cover-up.
My father was an angry and oft-times violent man. Violating a major rule of the household, such as playing with guns, was a cardinal sin. Actually shooting the television while in violation of that law would invoke a sentence worse than death, or so my mind told me.
I cut a strip of black electrical tape and pressed it over the gaping wound in the television. I mixed my white and black paint until I created a shade I thought approximated the color of the trim and carefully applied it to the tape with deft, even strokes. When the job was completed, I stepped back and marveled at my handiwork. It was work as near perfection as I will ever know even to this day. The greatest of auto-body men would have been impressed with such an incredible job of matching color and texture.
My fear was far from abated, however. Even with as good a patch job as I have performed it would never stand against close scrutiny. I am glad my dad was not an ardent duster, or my deception would not go undiscovered for long. I double-checked that the gun was exactly how he left it. All I could do was wait, worry, and pray I was not found out.
My dad came home the next day. He wore his typical western shirt that was years out of fashion. A trucker hat covered his Homer Simpson-like bald head. It was fortunate jeans and cowboy boots never went out of style or his outfit would have bordered on the ridiculous. A thick but close-cropped beard covered his jaw. It was solid black except for the silver stripes on each side of his chin. He was not a tall man, standing only five foot eight, and had a respectable gut thanks to a lifetime of excessive beer consumption.
I greeted him as he came through the door, hoping my fear was covered by my feigned excitement at his return. The afternoon passed without any trace of suspicion on his part. A week slowly lapsed and a sense of normality soon imposed itself on my life. After another week of non-discovery, I started to relax. I succeeded in pulling off the perfect crime. Perhaps I should embrace this criminal master-mind skill I seem to have developed. I have yet to discover anything else I do particularly well.
Fast forward nearly three months. Dad and I were watching television one night. I was sitting on the couch while Dad was back on his plush, reclining throne. My eyes widened in horror as I spotted something amiss near the top of the television screen. The dang-blasted tape had started to peel, and with it, my entire scheme, my whole cover-up, quickly unraveled. I prayed it would stop and go unnoticed, but the glue surrendered its grip as the tape continued its faltering decline.
My father leaned forward in his chair, gripped the armrests and squinted at the object of my demise. I suddenly found I had urgent business elsewhere. The where was not important only the distance mattered now. My father stood and took a tentative step toward the scene of the crime.
“What the hell is that?” he asked as he crept forward, as if the tape were a skittish creature and would bolt if he made any sudden movement.
I sprang from the couch with a velocity greater than that of the bullet which struck the television. Windows rattled in the wake of the sonic boom I created as I rocketed toward the illusory safety of my upstairs bedroom. I needed to pack. I did not know how I would get to the airport and sneak onto a plane bound out of the country, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.
With a glare and sharp word my father was able to violate the very laws of physics. “Sit your ass down!”
I went from nearly seven hundred miles per hour to a complete stop in less than a second. I was surprised the house did not shift on its foundation under such incredible kinetic forces. My hopes of escape were dashed like a drifting ship upon the rocks in a hurricane as I took my seat. The couch transformed from a simple emerald green hide-a-bed into the rigid, wooden seat of the electric chair.
As my dad stretched out a hand, the errant, slipping piece of tape may as well have been the switch that would send hundreds of thousands of volts coursing through my body. My conviction and subsequent execution was a foregone conclusion.
Dad plucked the barely hanging adhesive strip from the plastic molding and revealed the gaping wound beneath. I could hear his teeth grinding together as his head pivoted toward me like some Disneyland automaton gone horribly wrong. His eyes pierced my flesh and skewered my very soul.
My entire trial was boiled down to a single word from my judge, jury, and executioner. “How?”
My mind raced once more as I was forced to come up with a plausible explanation that would at least commute my capital punishment to life without possibility of parole. Unfortunately, my former criminal-mastermind had deserted me and left me to fend for myself. Coward! I cried into the echoing, empty cavern of my skull. My possibly bright future in crime was snuffed out like the candles of a birthday cake I was unlikely to ever see again.
Somehow, out of the ether of the small part of my logical mind that had not totally deserted me, I grasped at a thread. Whatever I said now had to be close enough to the truth to stop any further interrogation but not so close as to admit I had touched his gun and struck the television with an accidental discharge.
“I was shooting my BB gun into a box on the floor and it ricocheted and hit the TV,” I replied, barely able to force the words past the enormous lump of fear in my throat.
I was sweating profusely, knowing my explanation was only slightly more acceptable than the truth. It was only the greatest of poor luck that the BB gun I pinned as the murder weapon was the very same tool I had used to blast out the rear window of a car being driven by a senior classman and occupied by what seemed to be half the population of my high school. That is another story altogether, and perhaps I will share it with you one day.
Through teeth clenched so tightly coal could be turned into diamond, my father ordered me to produce the offending weapon. I immediately complied and he looked at it with such enmity I was sure he would smash it to pieces then and there. My father’s temper was legendary. An incendiary grenade burns at around three thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Such was but the tepid water of a soothing bath compared to my father’s ire.
With one of the greatest efforts of forced calm I had ever seen him produce; Dad blew out a long breath and ordered me to get rid of my precious BB gun. It was to be out of the house tomorrow and he had better not ever see it again. I was grounded, life with possibility of parole no earlier than two months. I had received the lightest sentence I could have possibly hoped for.
I would like to tell you that I learned my lesson that day and that I never again violated the rules of gun safety. I would like to tell you we won the lottery and lived a life of lavish comfort for the rest of our days, but both would be pure fantasy. That underdeveloped neocortex of the teenager simply does not allow for such perfection in reasoning, which is why I live by the adage: “better lucky than good, every time.”