Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ephemera

Shingle Fights.

You never knew when you might come under attack. The wind-searing sound of the tightly and rapidly spinning projectile slicing through the air gave no warning until it was too close to evade: a square piece of asphalt shingle, torn from the roof of one of the vacant houses and hurled like a boomerang.

The flight of the properly sized and dimensioned shingle, about four inches square, was remarkable. Thrown at a high trajectory the projectile would do a single, slow roll of 180 degrees as it made its way to its target. Once one became familiar with the particulars of the shingle's flight he could be deadly accurate within about fifty yards and could vary widely the trajectory to either rain down from above on its target or approach it at high speed in a harrowing, corkscrew spiraling line-drive. The natural bend in the shingle's flight, manipulated by a skilled and experienced thrower, could negotiate corners.

We were sitting in the shade of a tree in the middle of a wide field, located propitiously alongside a grade variance, that is the property line that once cut through this spot had separated a row of houses that were situated a few feet higher that those they backed up against. The block wall that separated the backyards had been leveled to the higher grade; this left a perfectly sized curb on which to sit, as if on a bench. The tree's shade protected the grass beneath if from the brutal summer sun that burned the unprotected grass into a brown, dirty scrub most of the year. A kid, I don't remember his name, was seated on this natural bench, resting his elbows on his knees with his hands clasped out before him. The shingle cut through our circle in an angry flash, the slicing sound of its flight terminating in a sickening sound of struck shallow bone, as it hacked a bloody gash across the back of his hand.

In the face of such an assault we would repair to a vacant house of our own and mount the roof, tearing off shingles and returning fire. Battles were quickly engaged, as two rooftop gangs exchanged fire across a street, the shingles turning like small black birds in graceful, varied arcs. Marksmen positioned themselves behind the peak of the roof, ducking out of the way of the shingles that careened and skidded past. Soon the ground was littered with these, the street and sidewalks scuffed with their impact marks, the houses pockmarked with their black commas. Motorists would happen through warily. Sometimes an outraged adult would chase us off. We melted back into the environment like urban guerillas.

Somehow no one was ever seriously injured.

2 comments:

Steve Sailer said...

Your recollections are so visually memorable that perhaps you could create a TV show out of your youth: "The Blunder Years"

Dennis Dale said...

I'm already thinking: musical.