I was seven years old. We lived in a giant apartment building complex in Carol Stream, Illinois. It was the first day I was to be King. And, unfortunately, my last.
I was King by default, meaning I had the coolest toy that day. The rage at the time were these Spider man wrist-shooters. It consisted of a small, thin plastic box (with a Spider man logo) attached to a multi-colored ribbed stretchy wristband. Inside the box was a spring mechanism, and into that you shoved a plastic dart with a suction cup tip.
Ok, for accuracy's sake, Spider man didn't shoot suction cup darts, but it was a wrist-shooter nonetheless (note: a more accurate wrist-shooter which actually shot a gooey string-like substance did in fact surface several years later.)
Anyhoo, there were these shooters that every kid went gonzo for. Spider man was a god to us...
Of course, I didn't get one of these shooters. Instead, my folks got me a Hulk wrist-shooter.
I know, the Hulk didn't shoot anything from his wrists. I tried explaining that to my folks... I guess they were out of Spidey, so I had to settle for a green shooter. In the end it really didn't matter, since I was still the first kid on the block to have one, Spidey or not. Because of this, I got to lead our group for the day.
This honor gave me point position in front, directing the other half dozen kids as we explored the area for interesting bugs, lost toys & other general kid crap. It rocked. Little did I know there were strange things afoot at the apartment complex.
The area consisted of several buildings, all centered around some basketball courts, a pond, a pool & a pool house. It seems that at the same time I was leading my rag-tag group of friends in search of our next grand adventure, the local police department was in search of some criminal in hiding. Who knew?
The cops had found the poor fellow & were trying to flush him out.
Cut to me leading the group, a giant smile on my face and a small green Hulk suction cup-shooter on my wrist.
We're coming around the back side of a building when I spot something in the grass up ahead. It glimmers, so of course we're convinced it's a cool toy. I give a pause sign (raising both arms in the air) & then motion for the group to move ahead with caution. This could be a trap. The shiny object could turn out to be just a soda can, & I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up.
Doesn't look like a soda can...
Looks like something else. Something familiar.
I motion again to the group. They huddle around me, I'm in the quarterback position, just about to call the play. We're all wrapped around this Mystery Thing. I give the sign to get in closer. I hunch down.
A pepper shaker... that's what it looks like!
I reach for the cylinder with my wrist-shooter hand, just so everyone sees who's still in charge. I need to appear calm. Any sign of nervousness or concern would instantly be sensed by someone in the group, & I couldn't afford to be questioned at such a crucial moment.
I pick the pepper shaker. I turn it over in my hands a few times, looking for an opening.
With two small hands I twist each end of the shaker in different directions. There's an anticipation, as kids wait with baited breath at the oncoming mess. The controlled chaos. Man over machine.
And that's when I fired off the canister & tear gassed the entire group at pointblank range. It must've been a tear gas grenade left behind by the cops. Ooops!
Within seconds tears, snot & slobber are pouring out of every available orifice. Blinded, we're slamming into each other trying to get out of the tear gas cloud. We're sobbing openly, I'm wiping my eyes, nose & moth, coating my Hulk wrist-shooter in slobber (Who knew little Mattie Sedik would have a true sticky-slime web shooter years before the rest of the world...)
The group disperses like a rack of billiard balls at first strike. A few of us manage to find a brick wall. We follow it by touch, the world is still a wet, cloudy vision. We get a dozen or so yards down when we pass by the subterranean windows of a laundry room.
Luckily, one of the kids who's stumbling around blindly with me has a mom in that very same room. She sees us sobbing & instantly snaps into Defensive Mother Overdrive. Woe to the Big Kids who made us cry this bad... (or not, since no one was really in any state to explain the situation.)
She took turns holding us under the laundry room sink, flushing our eyes & noses in a much needed stream of cold water.
Thank you, dear woman.
The group didn't convene very often after that. And I sure as hell wouldn't be leading again anytime soon.
The Hulk wrist-shooter lost its New Toy Glow quickly after that. I dunno if it was because the Hulk just didn't cut it as a cool wrist-shooter, or if it was all the snot that still encrusted it from the whole tear gas incident...