When I was about 9 years old, I committed a crime.
Actually it was a pretty heinous crime given the times in which we lived, a time when children did what they were told and obeyed their parents… at least most of the time, that is!
I grew up in New Jersey where summers were hot and oppressively humid, and the mosquitoes were so big they had leashes. I never liked summer... probably because it was hot, oppressively humid, and the mosquitoes were so big they had leashes. I can remember night after night lying awake in bed for hours listening to those hated insects intone their monotonous whine above my head, living in fear I would get bitten. And I always did.
My mother tried valiantly, but unsuccessfully, to help. She bought the great mosquito elixir of the day... 6-12. Remember 6-12? It was a very thick, sticky, sweet smelling oil that came in a clear glass bottle. The idea was to slather the 6-12 all over your body, and according to the advertising on the bottle it would keep the mosquitoes far away. So every night I would grease up as though I were going to swim the English Channel, and 6-12 had the following result: NOTHING! 6-12 did absolutely nothing, except for the guy’s bank account who invented it. It smelled so sweet that the mosquitoes, totally attracted to it, now came in swarms... I was their candy store. Their single whiny voices now blended together in chorus, and they bit the living hell out of me.
So as I lay there night after night all greased up and waiting for the expected onslaught, I would think up things to do to pass the time to take my mind off the imminent mosquito attack. One particularly oppressive night while tossing and turning, my hand came upon the tag that hung off my pillow. I remember my mother telling me NEVER, EVER to remove the tag that hangs off the pillow... but she never said why.
So this one night I got my flashlight out and shone it on the tag. It was ominous, because it stated in no uncertain terms that it was AGAINST THE LAW to remove that tag. I shuddered in fear wondering what would happen if I just accidentally removed the tag. I mean, what if I rolled over one night, and it came off... that wouldn’t be my fault, right?
Well, my 9-year-old curiosity finally got the best of me, so on this night I made just the tiniest tear in the tag. My heart was pounding and I sat erect in bed wondering if somehow that tag was connected to some master board at the pillow tag factory that signaled the manufacturer, and soon they would come in a police car and take me away. But nothing happened that night. With each succeeding night I got bolder and bolder until that tag hung from the pillow for dear life by just a single thread.
The very next night I decided this would be the one. Obviously this pillow tag business was the biggest lie ever perpetrated on the American public, and I, this little 9-year-old from New Jersey, would be the one to prove it a laughable hoax.
I prepared well for the event, steadying myself in bed, feeling a strange sense of euphoria. I put the pillow in my lap and nonchalantly stroked it, turned it over, and played with it for awhile. I made sure everyone else in the house had gone to bed and all was quiet. Very, very quiet. Then, with a very deep breath and one deliberate motion, I pulled that sucker free... and at that very moment... an ambulance, I guess, or a fire engine, or a police car... whatever it was... came roaring around the corner outside my window with the siren screaming loudly.
And I wet my pants.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 16 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She has written three books: one about the towns and villages in our area, one about growing up in the ’50s, and one that recounts untold veterans’ stories from WWII to the present. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 401- 539-7762.