Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Joy of Explosives

About five years ago I wrote this blogpost <> in which I describe explosive devices I made when I was a teenager. They were assembled from wax paper, a suitable weight like a marble or a construction bolt, and gunpowder that I carefully and painstakingly scraped out of caps for cap pistols.

Well, that kind of gunpowder seems to be all but disappeared from the scene. So you can imagine my surprise and wholesome delight when I found some caps in a store not long ago. Being now older and mature and therefore confident that I could handle such material safely, I bought some.

Brimming with excitement, I came home and carefully extracted the gunpowder from the caps. My hands were trembling with anticipation, but I still managed to create a small pile of the precious powder. Wax paper and construction bolts were, of course, easy to procure. With clear eyes and careful craftsmanship, I assembled a bomb: I placed a generous pile of gunpowder onto a square of wax paper and positioned a bolt over it. Then I dexterously twirled the wax paper into its characteristic teardrop shape.

Before going onto the street, I held the result in an open palm, a little damp with the emotion of the moment. I hadn’t seen such a beautiful thing for several decades, and, although eager to put it to use, I hesitated. I was not averse to throwing the item—oh no—I merely wanted to drink deeply of the exquisiteness of the imminent event. With an indulgent grin, I remembered that Winnie the Pooh had sagely observed that the moment just before the honey pot touches your lips is, somehow, perhaps, even more wonderful than the first taste of the honey.

At peace with the world, and gratefully marveling at the wonder of how the remembered pleasure of past explosions could cross the decades and swell the enjoyment of the coming detonation, I went outside. I paused at the foot of the driveway and viewed the cul-de-sac that stretched before me. I smiled wryly as I considered the possibility of neighbors going calmly about their homey business in a safe and quiet community, completely unsuspecting of the energy about to be released.

I threw the waxen teardrop upwards and watched breathlessly as it described a perfect parabola. With the full force of gravity, it struck the pavement sharply.


That was it. A mere whisper. A mild exhalation as of a sudden short sigh. A cat’s yawn. No, maybe a kitten’s yawn. If fleas sneeze, it would have been like that.

After the chill of disappointment dashed over me, my next reaction was embarrassment. I hoped that no neighbors had been looking out of their window at the moment of my humiliation, thereby intensifying it beyond tolerability. With narrowed eyes, I took a quick scan of the nearest houses. I saw no quickly withdrawn face, and felt relief.

Then I needed someone to blame. I had a suspicion. My lips pursed and my eyebrows lowered. Then my nostrils flared.

To confirm my hypothesis, I strode out to where the bolt lay harmlessly on the asphalt. Feverishly I crumpled  a piece of newspaper I had with me and lay the entire roll of caps in it and set it on fire. Barely audible puffs manifested. I had to bend down and turn my head so that my ear was close to the burning newspaper.  Fffft. Fffft.. fffft.

That was it. If there were germs on the nearby pavement, maybe they would have heard explosions, but I doubt it. To me, it sounded as if a mouse was using an aerosol can.

I came to my feet. I knew whom to blame. Insurance companies. The very people who have been quietly sapping all joy out of life for decades. The people who forbid the building of treehouses. Who saw to the removal of diving boards at motels. Who ensured the removal of BB guns and any toys with small moving parts from the shelves of toystores. The people who want to make the world completely safe and devoid of risk and therefore all of the immense joys for which risk is an essential prerequisite.

They should be sued. Obviously it’d be next to impossible to bomb their offices.

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