At some point during middle school, I got this idea to make a Molotov cocktail.
My friend Curtis was going to spend the night and we were going to sleep out
in a tent in the back yard. He came over that day while my parents were still
“They used to blow up tanks with these bombs called Molotov cocktails,” I told
Curtis. “They used them in The War!”
I had no idea who “they” were, or what war. In fact, I had only a vague
recollection of what one of these “bombs” looked like, which I must have seen
in a library book or the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
In my mind I had all the necessary components:
- Big glass jars
- Lots of gasoline
- Canvas for a wick
I pitched it to him while walking to the garage, already a savvy salesman—
“Let’s make one! We can blow something up.”
I can’t remember what his response was. I’m sure it was an emphatic YES. What
kid would say no? Even if he was apprehensive, would I have cared? Hell no.
I was making a “bomb.”
My childhood home had this huge detached garage that my grandpa built. It
towered above the house with its pitched roof and rafters. It was so big that
you could put at least a few cars in it easily, and still have plenty of room
to work on other awesome kid things like Making Sandwich Bags Filled With All
The Chemicals You Can Find, and Peeing In The Corner. But we didn’t choose to
work there, rather, we laid claim to the side door.
There by the side door we hastily poured gas from a red plastic gasoline jug
into a giant mason jar that I had swiped from the kitchen. Eight ounces, 16,
24, 32, finally stopping just below the rim. We dropped a wide
strip of canvas into the jar, half of it submerged, and the other half hanging
limply over the edge.
It’s go time.
We marched purposefully. Onward to our target, through the tall grass, by the
apple trees, and behind the house, to a large patch of dirt where the apricot
There was a tall wooden fence, painted bright red, which bordered
the property. And there, in front of the fence was a lowly water spigot
wrapped in gray insulated styrofoam to keep it from freezing. This poor spigot
was the target.
“Why a spigot?”, one might ask. “Aren’t there better targets for this kind of
thing?” Well yes, of course. There are many things worth the total fiery
annihilation of a jar filled with gasoline. Unfortunately, one cannot truly
understand the mostly undeveloped mind of a middle schooler. For example:
A friend and I once spent 30 minutes throwing ourselves at the windows of the
elementary school library simply because we believed they were made of
Plexiglass and wanted to know if they would break. The windows were made of
Plexiglass, and they most definitely did not break, if you’re wondering.
Another time, maybe just before middle school, I cut my radio in half with a
hacksaw, and then shot it to pieces with my BB Gun. What would compel me to
do something so asinine? Maybe I was mentally challenged, or maybe all
middle schoolers are mentally challenged.
Which brings me back to the spigot.
I remember the flame instantly consuming the canvas and lighting the top of the
jar on fire. Black smoke intermingled with red and orange flames anxiously
licked at my young hand. In a panic, I threw the jar—fire poured from the
vessel beside me leaving a giant flaming trail in the air on its way to its
The jar hit the ground, spilling its contents and bouncing into the air.
Gas and fire consumed the ground, around the apricot tree, across the dirt, up
the spigot, and onto the fence. It hit the ground again, spinning and
spiraling liquid flame everywhere.
But our crude incendiary was a dud! Oh, thank god it was a dud! It didn’t break
and shatter into a million tiny flaming shards like it should have. It didn’t
explode! Thank god it didn’t explode.
It is Armageddon. The sky is black and everything is burning. The fence is
burning and the spigot is burning. The ground is melting and the poor old
apricot tree that I’ve loved for all these years is on fire.
Curtis is kicking sand on the fence—on the spigot which we cannot use to put
out the fire because it IS on fire.
In that instant, I remember the big red fire extinguisher in the kitchen and
I make a dash for it, screaming, “I’m getting the fire extinguisher!”. I run
past the apricot tree, around the side of the house and through the kitchen
door. It’s half my height, and heavy, and covered in dust.
When I arrive back at the scene I pull the pin on the extinguisher and
dramatically throw it to the ground. Dustin to the rescue! I know what will
happen: a white powdery foam will erupt from the extinguisher. It will blanket
the landscape with its fire-cancelling properties and we will be saved! I grip
the handle and squeeze. But nothing happens.
I squeeze tighter. Still nothing. With all my might, I squeeze, as the world
around me continues to burn. But the god-damned thing just won’t go. I look at
the circular indicator on the side of the extinguisher. The yellow needle is
pointing as far away from that little green slice of salvation we like to call
Fully Charged. There is no pressure in this thing. I drop it on the ground
and start kicking sand.
We kick, and kick, and kick, until, little by little, the fire is no more.
And then we see it. The blackness that covers everything.
We spent the rest of the day trying to cover our tracks so that mom and dad
wouldn’t find out what we had done. We repainted the fence, raked up the
charred dirt, and even re-insulated and taped that poor spigot. Incredibly,
the apricot tree sustained no visible damage. It was the Immortal Tree of
Second Chances, which could withstand anything, even fire.
My parents never found out until many, many, years later.
The house had long been sold, and under its new ownership, it had
burned to the ground. Seeing the connection, I confessed with a grin that it
was the second time that trailer had witnessed the raw power of a fire gone wild.
And then I reminded them to check the pressure on their fire extinguisher.