The appearance of the Invisible Boy (IB) I am about to describe was the final straw between him and me. After his antics this day he wasn’t welcome around me anymore. To think that all of our adventures together had to end this way.
There was no way I would continue taking the blame for him. Never again would I receive punishment because of something he did—something he encouraged me to participate in.
What do a cigarette lighter featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy, a very pregnant mother, a four-ounce plastic cup, and tall, dry grass all have in common? The end of a friendship, that’s what.
It must have been May or June of 1969, my mom was very pregnant with my little brother, David, and Dad was at work. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and mom was trying to take a nap. IB and I knew we weren’t supposed to play with the Charlie Brown lighter, but we did anyway. Apparently there was a crude joke written on the lighter that my dad thought was funny, but IB and I had no concept of that. We just liked the cartoon.
IB suggested we take it outside. I agreed.
We walked past my grandmother’s house, which was right next door to ours, and went into an area of tall, dry weeds. The next thing I knew IB had done it. He set the grass on fire!
My response was to immediately do the most logical thing. I ran into the house, filled a four-ounce plastic cup with water, and ran all the way back to the fire site to throw the water on the fire. But since it was a good fifty yards from the fire to our kitchen, and then back again, the fire had grown considerably. I think it was Jamie’s cup that I used. We each had a plastic cup with our name written on it with a black permanent marker. I remember her cup had her name and a drawing of a mouth with a toothy smile.
Anyway, after doing this several times the fire continued to grow, and my mom got up to see what I was doing. I don’t remember if I told her about the fire or if she noticed it herself, but she went outside. About that time our neighbor, who lived very close to where IB set the fire, came home. So did Dad. They made sure the fire was put out. No one was injured and only some weeds were actually burned, thank goodness. That was my cue to hide. I chose the one place no one would look—under my bed.
It seemed like an eternity stuck under that bed. I just knew I was going to really get it if they ever found me. But who ever think to look under the bed?
“Where are you, Joe?”
They said that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I would just come out and talk to them. What can I say? I wasn’t even five and I fell for it. I found myself in my room in the presence of my mom, my dad, and the paddle.
I told them how the IB was the one that really did it. Then the most amazing thing happened. I wasn’t going to get in trouble at all! IB was pronounced the guilty one! Then mom “saw” IB standing behind me and tried to paddle him as the proper punishment for setting the fire. But IB jumped out of the way at the last minute and I got the punishment that he deserved!
That was IB’s final trick. He never appeared again.