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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A SQUATLO STORY: NUMBER SIXTEEN (ALCOHOL AND BLOWGUNS DON'T MIX...)

        How I came into possession of an actual blowgun (complete with a set of plastic tipped metal darts) is a little foggy after all of the years that have transpired between then and now, but the event itself is as clear as if it had happened last night.
         I think I had bought one of those plastic blowguns for my son at a flea market, and in showing him how to use it decided it was much too dangerous for a ten year old to take back to his mom's house, where he might decide to use his new ninja weapon to hunt birds, or cats, or his older sister.
Something told me this "toy" needed to stay at Dad's, and he could play with it on the weekends the two of them would spend with me.
         Besides, the thing was way cool and much too fun to give away after I'd seen it in action.  The blowgun itself was a hollow plastic tube about twenty or twenty-four inches long, and it had a narrow trumpet-like mouthpiece with which the user would pucker up and send a sudden burst of air into the blowgun to propel a very tight-fitting dart at the intended target.  The plastic butt-end of the dart was made to just barely wedge into the blowgun through the mouthpiece, so that compressed air from the shooter's mouth would eventually send the dart zipping across the room into a Styrofoam target, or a pillow, or the drywall... I was living in an apartment, and to tell you the truth, taking care of the place wasn't at the top of my priority list most of the time.  I was separated from the kids' mom and loving every minute of my freedom with a cadre of likewise recently-single guys who lived in the same complex.
          We would get together just about any night of the week for practically any excuse for a party, and proceed to kill about as many brain cells as it took to forget we were single guys living in apartments, separated from our wives and kids and homes.  Monday Night Football? Check!  Just got the new Pink Floyd CD?  C'mon over!  Copious amounts of beer, liquor, and certain mildly entertaining illegal vegetation would be consumed, and a large time would generally be had by all.
           Weekends were parties from the time we got out of bed and stumbled, with coolers full of beer, to our designated lounge chairs at the apartment complex swimming pool, until darkness and fatigue chased us inside for even more partying... and sometimes our parties went right on until the next day's siren call from the swimming pool began to wail.  One day would blend into the next, seamlessly, like a "Lonesome Dove" marathon on the movie channel... We'd start off on a Saturday morning at the pool and the party would formally break up late on Sunday night, and no one would get anything remotely constructive done in all the hours in between.  We were, in other words, having the time of our lives.
            One particular night I had a few friends over for one reason or another, and somehow the subject of the blowgun and darts on my coffee table come up.   One thing led to another, and before long a target competition had begun, complete with scoring and taunting and lots of shots and beers being downed between darts.  That got boring pretty quickly, and soon we were tossing the lid from a Styrofoam minnow bucket into the air and shooting at it in mid-flight, which was much more challenging, to say the least.  The circular minnow bucket lid would be tossed up, Frisbee style, so that it would hover for an instant at the apex of the toss, and at that point one of us would attempt to nail it with a dart from the blowgun.  We got pretty good at it, until we realized we were running out of darts, because most of them were nailed into the drywall of my loft ceiling at a height none of us could reach, even standing on chairs.
              As the party was breaking up due to a lack of ammunition, someone found a softball on a shelf and decided it would be cool to shoot our remaining couple of darts into the softball from across the room.  If you had the lung power (something I have at levels that would stagger the imagination... I can put out a candle from across the street...) it would embed the dart almost to the hilt of the plastic butt on the dart.  Pretty impressive shit, when you're incredibly stoned.
              The blowgun was handed to me, and for whatever reason I put my right hand near the end of the blowgun as I aimed at the softball on the sofa across the room.  I gave a mighty burst, determined to beach that dart further into that ball than anyone else in the room could possibly do, and as soon as the dart left the blowgun I realized how much it hurts to be impaled with a blowgun dart.
            My friend JD kept his eyes on the target, to his credit, and asked, "Where'd it go?" as if I had, somehow, finally missed on one of my shots.  The dart wasn't hanging out of the softball like it was supposed to be, and for all the world it looked to have simply vanished into thin air.
             I knew where the dart was, though, and a quick glance at the pinkie finger on my right hand confirmed what I already feared:  my finger had somehow dangled over the hole at the end of the blowgun, and the dart was more than halfway through the tip of my little finger.  It had gone in on the fleshy bottom of the fingertip and had exited through the fingernail on the other side.  It was quite a sight.
            My friend was still looking for the dart in the softball, and asked again, "Where'd it go?" so I showed him my hand and said, "Right here."
             His eyes widened, his face went very pale, and he sat back in his chair and looked at the ceiling for a few moments as if hurling his evening's consumption of beer was not at all out of the question for his next activity.
              I, on the other hand, had gotten up to go to the kitchen with my dart-in-finger problem, thinking it was best to handle this on my own, rather than make a guy sick in my living room.  I tried to pull the dart back out, but the plastic butt of the dart slid off into my left hand and the dart itself failed to budge.  This thing had gone through bone and nail, and it was going to require pliers for a sufficient grip if it was coming out at all.  I fumbled around in that one drawer every single guy has in his kitchen, the one with every piece of shit kitchen utensil and tool he doesn't already have in his car or tackle box, and found a pair of pliers.  I firmly clamped down on the dart, gripping with my left hand, which is about as useless an appendage as any known to mankind, and pulled the dart back out of my finger.
               My friend JD was gathering up his cooler and cigarettes for his walk home, and on his way out asked if I needed any assistance.  I told him I had it under control, and he thanked me for not involving him in the dart extraction process.  Apparently, the sight of blood and metal and impaled fingers affected him a little more strongly than it had me, which was fortunate, because one of us was going to have to remove the dart, and since it was my problem it might as well have been me.
             Our motto after that can be misconstrued, and I hope you'll take it in the spirit with which it is offered here:  Never drink and blow.

              It took about five weeks for my fingernail to finally outgrow that hole.  Week after week the "hole" mark would move a little closer to the end of my pinkie finger, and by the end of the summer it was pretty much a distant memory.  We laughed and laughed. 
              The blowgun took a quick trip to the complex dumpster the next morning, and I guess the apartment painters found and removed the overhead dart collection after I moved out a year or two later.
               I'd like to have one of those things again, now that I'm a little older and wiser.  I'd buy a longer one, though.  Four or five feet long, at least.  Much longer than my right arm, or anyone's right arm.  And I learned another valuable lesson that night:  you never know when you're gonna need a good pair of pliers.  Keep 'em handy for just such emergencies.
              I gotta go...

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