Marolt: The surest sign of spring is ants in the pants
An out-of-the-ordinary thing happened the other night as I was treading across the porch to the front door after taking the dog out. Directly in front of me next to the door over my right shoulder and under the peek-a-boo window danced a bright-red dot on the siding. I haven’t been watching much television lately, and I’m reading a novel set only at the brink of the Great Depression, so snipers steadying high-powered rifles with laser-guided sights and conspiracy theories involving secret government agents with high-tech tracking gadgets weren’t in the forefront of my mind. I froze for a moment to let the perps know I was on to them. They couldn’t see my smile in the darkness. Their beam projecting toward me wasn’t a usual sign, but it proved that the warm months are finally here, and I was thrilled to discover the evidence.
A less observant man might have called the cops, but I knew it was just the neighborhood kids out hiding in the bushes giving me the business with a laser pointer they found in the junk drawer and popped some new batteries into to discover it still worked. I don’t think they’ve been out playing that late in the evening since Labor Day weekend. It was nice to know they were back at it, having fun outside after dark because they could be without fear of freezing.
There aren’t many things as reassuring as the signs that kids are playing outside in the evening. It means it is warm. It means there mustn’t be any homework or at least none that can’t be temporarily ignored and reasonably explained away the next morning to a teacher who might be more lenient because they were able to enjoy a cold one on the deck as the sun went down. It means that parents are losing track of time and their offspring’s whereabouts now that the nights are compressed and there is suddenly so much to fit into the longer days.
I guess I prefer the laughter and yelling and the loud, hollow thudding of hard plastic riding toys skidding sideways across the blacktop in the cul-de-sac to the silent firing of a red streak of light at my back from the safety of a fort on the edge of the neighborhood park, but that’s only because I’m lazy and want the confirmation of springtime to be something I don’t have to work too hard at, only needing to slide the window open while I’m watching the ballgame and let the sounds of it fill my ears.
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I remember when I was part of my neighborhood’s proof of the seasons’ changes. We got busted shooting popcorn kernels at Old Man Hicks’ view window, which looked out across our neighborhood park and the golf course for a clear shot at Pyramid Peak from just outside foul territory on the third-base side. It was retaliation in a situation that had escalated for several summers. Although we had never broken one of his windows, we had a reputation among people who lived on the perimeters of local sandlots as prolific pane reductionists. Any baseball that ended up in his yard was in danger of becoming his property. He watched our games intently, hoping for the chance of ending them. So one night we watched him watching “The Dukes of Hazard” and “plink,” “plink,” “plinked” his window in what we likened to Chinese water torture, Lincoln, Neb., style.
Apparently, though, what we thought were “plinks” on his window to him sounded more like rounds fired from an air rifle, and that’s quite a tribute to kids propelling popcorn through a straw by emptying their lungs, but that is beside the point. When the police officer showed up at our house with Old Man Hicks by his side and asked us to produce the weapon and one of us held out a half-emptied baggie of corn and the other a large-diameter drinking straw, while our eyes welled with tears of fear, his filled with the kind that come when you are trying with all your might to hold back gut-cramping laughter.
Lots of people today think the law should be called in when kids get mischievous and do things like use the temporary local Republican campaign headquarters for egg-tossing target practice. Such incidents get blown out of proportion and end up in the newspapers, and then of course the perps feel like hoodlums thumbing along the short road to juvenile hall and don’t feel too badly about retreating indoors to play video games that nobody cares to call the police about. But that happens more in the fall. For now, we can celebrate springtime.
Roger Marolt knows it can be a fine line between mischief and a misdemeanor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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