Bic Sucks

At least that’s what it said on the stop sign on the southwest corner of 50th Street and Waters Avenue in my neighborhood when I was a kid.
I knew who Bic was, I had seen him around. He was a couple of years older than me, and lived in a house nearby, I wasn’t sure which one. Bic was tall and thin with olive-colored skin and wavy brown hair. I remember it was unusually shiny. He had small purple eyes, that darted about restlessly like those of a guilty criminal. I had seen the lettering on the sign for some time before I actually saw Bic. I think he may have been a kid who had recently moved to the neighborhood. None of the kids in my immediate area had ever spoken of him so all I knew about him was what I had read on that stop sign and that was that he “sucked”. I wasn’t sure what “sucks” meant either, but I suspected it wasn’t something to be proud of.

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.

“Hey….wanna go shoot off some fireworks….?”

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.

There was a kind of decorative concrete and red brick gate with a few strands of barbed wire attached to the corner of the building. Someone, probably the building’s owner had discovered that kids were using it to climb up and get onto the roof of the building. I did hear once that someone had broken into the Soda Shoppe through the skylight and taken a bunch of candy and comic books. Obviously the work of a professional. Now that I think of it, It was probably Bic.
Suddenly I caught myself following him up onto the red brick gate, past the strands of barbed wire and by holding onto the gutter, I pulled my 78-pound frame up onto the tar roof with my own two hands. Bic walked across the roof of the building and I followed. It was only a one story building with a flat roof. There were a couple of large oak trees planted out front and from the roof you could easily reach up and grab a handful of leaves. The roof toward the front of the building was actually covered with dead leaves.
It was pitch dark now and we edged up to the decorative barricade and peered over.
While I watched a police car approaching on the street below, Bic lit up another cigarette. Then what happened next surprised me. Bic took out a cherry bomb from his pants pocket lit it, and threw it down at the passing police car below.
Its fuse spewed yellow sparks as it bounced off a couple of tree limbs on the way down. There was an embarrassingly loud BOOM, as it exploded with tremendous force directly atop the roof of the passing police car. The underside of the trees and the building across the street were all briefly illuminated by the blast.
My immediate thought was, “What have I gotten myself into?” I was sure I would spend the rest of my life in the “juvenile home”. I wondered if Bic would be in the cell with me. He didn’t seem the least bit worried, and as the police car drove around the block with its lights flashing and up and down the block in front of the store, Bic just leaned back against the wall and cooly finished his cigarette.
I had had enough. I had had more than enough.
Bic picWithout saying a word, I crossed the roof by myself, sat down on my butt near the edge, shimmied around, grabbed onto the gutter and lowered myself past the strands of barbed wire onto the red brick gate, dropped onto the ground and disappeared into the rest of my life.


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