I was the type of kid who took things which were written on stop signs very seriously. I interpreted the scrawl as some kind of dire warning from some anonymous kid who knew him to watch out for him, to watch your step around him, not to trust him, to stay away from him. And so I did, for my entire life, except for just this once.
It was a hot summer evening and craving adventure and excitement, I had gone outside after supper to walk around my neighborhood. It was around eight o’clock in the evening and it was still somewhat light out. I had gotten as far from home as the driveway separating Diane Bailey’s house from Mrs. Pilgrims’ when I chanced upon Bic coming in the opposite direction. No one walked particularly fast in those days. He was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans and smoking a cigarette. He had a pack rolled up in his sleeve. To my knowledge, he had never seen me before. I think, to him, I was just another kid. He spoke first.
I think he knew the answer before he asked the question. That was the kind of question most kids liked. No doubt, I quickly replied in an affirmative manner before he had time to withdraw the invitation. “Okay….” I said. After all, he did say “fireworks”. This alone indicated to me that he probably had more than one firecracker to shoot off. The word did have an “s” on the end of it. I was really hoping he had a whole pack –of 16 firecrackers. That would have meant that I could spend considerable time hanging out with him, time enough perhaps to even establish a friendship. I wasn’t about to hold anything I had read about him on a stop sign against him. I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. The truth is, that even if I had known he was an escaped lunatic from an insane asylum, I would have still gone with him, because he said the magic word, “fireworks”. As I was about to find out, he actually was somewhat of a lunatic.
I followed him up the block toward my house and we cut across the street and took the shortcut across the vacant lot toward the Soda Shoppe. Then he unexpectedly turned into the alley and went around behind the Soda Shoppe, coincidentally, not far from the very corner with the stop sign where I had first learned of his existence.