I moved to Oregon from Florida in the summer before the 5th grade. I had to make new friends at a new school, figure out what Birkenstock's were, and learn how to pair them appropriately with socks in order to fit in. My parents were divorced already, but since they had shared custody of me, we all lived very close to each other. In fact, we lived in the same apartment complex for the first year that we lived in Oregon. This complex was great because it was right next door to my elementary school, and it came equipped with a playground and a pool. It was at this very pool that I met my mischievous new best friend, Lulu*...
*Names have been changed to protect the reputations of those involved
My mom was a social worker who handled teenage runaways, so a big part of her job consisted of driving downtown in the middle of the night to pick these runaway kids up. When she knew she was going to have a late one, she'd send me over to Lulu's house so her mom could watch me. One of these nights, Lulu and I were sitting around her house bored out of our minds. We'd already cut up a bunch of straws to the size of cigarettes and pretended to smoke them in this great game we called "Bar," and we were fresh out of fun ideas. We were just about to start cracking eggs on each others' heads when her mom Mrs. Lulu* asked us if we'd ever heard of this funny thing called "Poop Bag."
We hadn't. Apparently she used to do this with her friends when they were young and it was a HOOT.
"What you do is, you take a doo-doo in a paper bag, then you put it on somebody's front porch, light the bag, ring the doorbell and then sit back and watch the fun," her mom said in absolute seriousness while actually using the word 'doo-doo'.
I didn't get it. "What's so fun about starting a fire at somebody's house?" I asked. "Isn't that a little dangerous?"
"No no no, you don't start a fire at their house, you just light the bag on fire. Then when they open the door, they see the flaming bag and stomp it out!" her mom said, and Lulu began laughing hysterically. I was still stumped.
"Soooo, their foot gets on fire?" I asked.
"No you idiot," Lulu exclaimed, "They stomp out the fire with their foot, but they don't know there's DOO-DOO in the bag, so they get..."
"POOP on their FOOT!!!!" I screamed, excited to have figured it out and also unable to control my desire to correct their infantile terminology. I had finally caught up, and she was right. This sounded like the funniest thing I could possibly imagine. We decided (with the blessing of her mother I'll remind you) that this was definitely what we were going to do that night.
First things first. Gotta get some poop. Lulu went right into the bathroom, put the paper bag up to her butt and produced an adorable little piece, about the size of my 12 year old pinky. She was disappointed in herself, claiming she'd taken a big dump before I got there. She handed me the bag, and told me gravely that it was up to me. I was sweating bullets. I have never been the kind of person who just poops comfortably. Not in a public restroom, not at someone else's house, and certainly not on command when the entire evening's activities depended on it. I am a team player however, so I went in the bathroom and gave it my best shot.
Not even a toot. I just couldn't produce. I couldn't let everyone down though, so I did what I do best. I came up with a brilliant idea.
"Cat box!' I yelled. Lulu and I high-fived each other, raced down the stairs two at a time and immediately went to work excavating small litter-covered turds. Apparently Lulu's mom kept a very clean litter box, because we were only able to export three tiny poops. Nowhere near enough to fill one bag, let alone the three we had in mind (obviously Mrs. Lulu was going to accompany us on this journey...she wasn't completely irresponsible.)
It was getting late and we were anxious to get this prank started, so we decided to just take our pinner little bag filled with one small human pooh and three tiny dry clay covered cat poohs and head out. We grabbed some matches, our jackets (we didn't bother with disguises or masks or anything, that would have been immature), and we walked to the exit of our apartment complex. I was feeling low, because I knew the joke was not going to be a success. Sure, we could light the single bag on someone's doorstep, yes they might come out and stomp out the fire, but I knew that this was not going to have the "Ha ha, you got poop on your shoe" affect we were after. We just didn't have enough, and what we did have was dry as a bone.
Then, it hit me. The farm across the road! They had HORSES, and horses make HUGE smelly piles of poop! We ran with excitement over to the gate, climbed over the fence, and suddenly our dreams had come true. We had hit the poop jackpot. We found a couple of sticks and used them like chopsticks to pick up the horse craps and place them in our paper lunch bags. This was fairly easy to do, because unfortunately these turds were old. They were hard and dry, and I was pissed.
"Nothing is going right, gosh dangit! This stupid horse-shit is too dry. It's never gonna smear on someone's shoe. What do we have to do to have a little fun around here?" I wailed. Another idea hit me like a sugar rush from a whole box of Nerds. "If you build it, they will come!!!!!" I shouted.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Lulu looked at me like I was insane.
"Girls! Please stop swearing! You are ladies so act like it!" her mom said, holding a bag filled with her daughter and cat's feces.
"IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL...never mind. Let's get the horse shi....um, the doo-doo wet!" I said.
"Brilliant!" Lulu said. "There's a hose right over there."
We proceeded to trespass into someone's backyard to use their hose. We squirted water into the bags and waited. Nothing happened. We began massaging the outside of the bags to revive the crap. It helped a little, so we added more water and massaged the bags until they felt more like bags full of sand instead of bags full of rocks. It wasn't a squishy dog pooh, but it would just have to do. We walked around to the front of the house we were just stealing water from and decided it was as good as any other one. Plus it had a boat out in the driveway that we thought would be perfect to hide behind. Plus, it was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the apartment complex we lived in, so it would be easy to get back home.
Lulu was up first. She not very quietly went up to the front porch, put the bag on the ground, lit the edges, and then ran over to where her mom and I were crouched behind the boat. We were laughing so hard we almost peed. We peeked over the boat, fully expecting to see someone hopping around in a panic, stomping out a fiery poopy bag. Instead, we saw darkness.
"Crap, I forgot to ring the doorbell," Lulu said.
"Why isn't the bag on fire?" I asked.
"I think it got too wet when we poured all that water into it," she replied.
"Well maybe you should have been more careful! My bag isn't all wet," I snipped.
"My goodness girls stop bickering. I guess I'll have to show you how it's done," her mom piped in. She stealthily ran up to the door, plopped her bag on top of the one Lulu had left there, produced a small can of lighter fluid from inside her purse, poured the stuff all over the bags, and then lit a match and tossed it onto the pile, causing a huge fireball to blast past her forehead. She rang the doorbell three times rapidly, and then sprinted back to the boat, her white Keds flashing in the darkness.
"You had gasoline?!" I screeched in disbelief.
"Sssshh," Mrs. Lulu hushed me, breathlessly. "I really hope someone answers the door because their front porch is all wood."
We waited for what seemed like an eternity. The fire continued to blaze. We could smell burning horse dung and we were getting anxious about the wooden porch catching on fire. Finally, the door opened. A bald pot-bellied man in a bathrobe opened the door. This was it! Poop Shoe time!!!! We could barely contain ourselves. At second glance we realized he was barefoot. We hadn't accounted for this. What would happen? Would he scorch his feet? Run inside to get some shoes, then run back out and stomp out the fire?
He looked down at the fire and sighed deeply. He glanced out towards the boat we were snickering behind, and then shut the door. We were freaking out. Had he seen us? What should we do, run? Stay there? What about the blazing turds?! Did this man have a death wish? Why did he shut the door? We couldn't just let the turds burn his whole house down with him inside! What were we supposed to do?
Just as I was about to run up to the porch and stomp the thing out myself, the door opened again and Mr. Pot Belly calmly doused the fire with a few bursts from a fire extinguisher. He then looked back at the boat one last time, and slammed the door.
"What...a...LET DOWN!!!!" I whisper-shouted. "What kind of idiot has a fire extinguisher in their house?"
We waited a few minutes to make sure he wasn't going to come back out and shoot us or something, and then we headed back home like a defeated high school football team. We were about three buildings down from where Lulu's apartment was when we ran into a wild pack of pre-teens that lived in our same complex. There was Pete and Missy, the grandkids of the managers of our complex and a few of their punk-ass friends. These kids sucked, let me tell you. They used to call our moms and us witches, and would throw rocks at us when we were on the playground. Admittedly our moms had hosted some very witchy-sounding chanting parties in the community room, and Lulu and I liked to play into it, telling these kids we put curses on them and enjoyed eating cats, but still...kids are cruel. So, when they asked us what we were up to, we thought we'd take the opportunity to rub it in their faces how awesome an evening we'd been having.
"What are you losers doing out? Isn't it past your bedtime?" Missy taunted.
"Oh just hanging out...having the best time playing a little game called Poop Bag. Ever heard of it? Yeah, didn't think so," I said nonchalantly.
"Poop Bag? What kind of black magic is that?" Pete asked.
"We're lighting SHIT on FIRE you perverts!" Lulu shouted at them with wild eyes.
"Gross! Have fun playing with poopy with your mommy, witch-babies!"
I hissed at them like a cat and Lulu spit on the ground behind them, mumbling some made up words that sounded like a magic spell.
"Girls, don't encourage them. They are just immature," Mrs. Lulu said, still holding a bag full of fecal matter.
"Grrr, they make my blood boil!" Lulu grunted. "We can't let them win. We gotta get some poop on somebody's shoe! I HAVE to see it. Minnie, it's up to you."
"I'm cold and it's late. I don't want to go back out into the neighborhood." I whined.
"So just pick one of these apartments. Look, they only have cement in front of their doors, so there's no chance of a house fire," Lulu reasoned, pointing towards Apt 102.
Mrs. Lulu handed me the last bag and looked me deep in the eyes. "I believe in you. You can do this. It's going to be really funny, I promise." She slipped the lighter fluid into my hand and closed my fingers around it.
I took a deep breath and then scanned the darkened apartment complex. There was a nice sized hedge we could hide behind right next door to Apt 102, with a perfect escape route behind it that led straight back to Lulu's Apt 225. It seemed like it was meant to be. Lulu and Mrs. Lulu hid behind the hedge and I got ready. I practiced the move in my head a few times. Drop the bag, pour lighter fluid on it, light a match with my head held way back, drop match, ring doorbell, run. It seemed simple enough, and they were counting on me.
I approached the door cautiously and could hear the television blaring through the door. Good, that meant someone was home. I dropped the bag and executed the moves exactly as I'd rehearsed in my mind. Fluid, match, ding dong ding dong ding dong, RUN. I got to the safe zone hedge and crouched down, barely containing the excitement I felt. This was it. The moment we'd been working so hard for. Some sucker was going to open up his door, see that little fire, stomp it out and get poop ALL OVER HIS SHOE. It was going to be great! My heart was thumping out of my chest. Lulu reached out and grabbed my hand. We shoved our free hands up against our mouths to keep the laughter in.
The door slowly creaked open a crack and we caught a glint of light as it bounced off of something shiny inside the apartment. We had one second of confusion and then the door FLEW open and a very disabled man in a wheelchair rolled out. He began rolling back and forth over the fire, trying desperately to put it out and wailing in a voice that still haunts me to this day, "Oh nooooo! Oooohh nooooooooooooooo."
My jaw dropped to the ground and tears welled up in my eyes. This was not funny. This was horrible. Lulu and her mom burst out laughing and began running towards their apartment, but I just stood there with tears rolling down my face and dripping off of my chin. This poor man, whom life had already shit on, had just opened his door, thinking he had a visitor, only to find a bag of flaming shit on his front stoop. He couldn't have stomped it out if he tried. I was too upset to help him, but I knew enough to stay and make sure the fire went out. I watched as it sputtered out under his wheels. He sat there for a moment, probably confused as to what had just happened, and then slowly rolled back into his apartment.
I ran to my own apartment and opened the door. My mom was just getting home from work, so I put on a fake smile and ran past her to my room, then crawled into bed to cry. I couldn't get his terrified wailing out of my head, and the worst thought I could imagine kept racing through my mind. What if he thought this had been done to him...on purpose? That his home had been intentionally chosen rather than selected at random? I couldn't bear the thought that he might feel bullied or attacked. That he was inside his apartment crying just like I was.
Then I thought about the man in his bathrobe, and how he probably thought someone had chosen him as well. It didn't matter that he wasn't disabled, his feelings might have been hurt too. He probably thought that he was being pranked because he had a pot belly, or because he was bald, or because he was old. Who knows. This was the moment that I truly realized my actions, no matter how well or poorly thought out they are, affect others. That I could choose to do a million kindnesses and spread love throughout the world, or I could be a little shit who doesn't think about other people's feelings and risk hurting those who happen to get in my way.
As I lay there, learning a big life lesson, the doorbell rang. My heart stopped and I froze, listening to my mom's footsteps as she walked down the hall and opened the door. I heard a man's deep muffled voice, and I quickly picked up the phone and dialed Lulu's house. I whispered into the phone "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod someone's at my door and I think it's the cops!!!" then hung up and threw the covers over my head.
"MINNIE!!!!" my mom's voice was shrill and angry, "GET OUT HERE RIGHT NOW."
I opened my bedroom door, and sure enough there was a policeman standing there. He was very imposing in his uniform, and he looked at me like I was a murderer.
"Are you lighting SHIT on people's doorsteps?!?" my mom asked with fire in her eyes. I didn't know what to say. Tears were already streaming down my face, so I just let them continue so I wouldn't have to talk.
"Are you Minnie Goode?" the policeman asked. I nodded. He wrote something down in his notepad and then said, "We got a call from the managers of this complex saying you were out performing a little prank this evening. Do you know what "Arson" is, young lady?" I shook my head no. "It's a crime involving people lighting property on fire. You understand?" I nodded. "Now as I understand it, you were not alone this evening, am I correct?" I really didn't want to sell my friend and her mom out, and I was under the impression that being with an adult meant what you were doing was OK. I just stood there. My mom piped in, "She was in the care of a friend...an EX-friend now. She lives right around the corner."
"This crime is considered Arson 3, but since you are a minor, and it appears you were in the care of an adult, I'll go ahead and charge you with criminal mischief of the third degree. You'll need to go to court, and do some apologizing, miss. Why don't you go back to bed now."
DAMMIT! Our big mouths got us caught! What kind of idiots commit a crime in their own apartment complex and then BRAG to the family members of the management company that runs it? I deserved any punishment that was coming my way.
I didn't sleep that night. The feelings of guilt and remorse I had inside me made me wish that cop had taken me to jail. I deserved it. The next morning my mom came in and told me that I wouldn't have to go to court. It turns out she knew the police officer through social work, and was able to work out a deal with him where she would handle my disciplinary action, and my record would be expunged once I turned 18. Since I was technically in the care of an adult, she didn't really hold me as responsible as she did Mrs. Lulu, but she was still furious. I'm not sure what kind of conversation they had after that, but I wasn't really allowed to go over to their house for a while.
As punishment, Lulu and I had to apologize to the apartment managers and their grandkids (which didn't make any sense to me and was VERY humiliating) but no one ever thought to have us apologize to the victims themselves. I was too embarrassed to apologize on my own, but I couldn't stop thinking about that poor man in 102 and how he probably thought someone out in the world hated him. So, once a week for the rest of that summer, I would walk down to the drug store, buy a candy bar, and leave it anonymously on his front stoop, in the hopes that he would know someone out in the world also loved him.