This 4th of July I would like to pay homage to “Crazy Frankenstein”, the Idiot who lived on our block when I was growing up. You know this guy! He’s the one who among other stunts, makes tennis-ball-can-rocket-launchers and shoots them at animals and sometimes, accidentally-on-purpose injures a five year-old across the street. He puts fire crackers up frogs asses and when he’s not outside embodying the term idiot, he’s in his basement working on experiments that will never influence the world in any significant way except to perplex and ask why. In actuality he’s a genius, but ends up becoming a dirty drunk, living in a trailer on Old Kings Highway in a small butt-crack town anywhere in America. You’re surprised that he was once married and fathered off-spring, because you cannot imagine anyone ever getting naked in the same bed with him. He’s an honest to goodness mouth breather unconscious of the fact that his jaw is a gap at all times which you would think would cause it to dry up inside, but instead he rhythmically swallows the saliva pooling in the trough of his jaw by sucking back loudly through his teeth at the moment just before it begins to spill over his cracked lips, but in that awful moment when he forgets a line of drool will run out, which he wipes away with the back of his oil stained hand, annoyed that he has to think about it at all. His front teeth buck out straight and his wide bottom lip folds out way to far, revealing his gums and that little piece of flesh that connects your bottom lip to your bottom teeth. I think this malformation was the reason he spit when he talked and may have had something to do with his timed sucking in behavior either way everyone took care to stand out of range when he spoke. But he never said very much. His tiny eyes are magnified behind coke bottle bottom glasses, and this created the illusion that he had the longest color-free eyelashes on the planet. He never seemed to wash and his straight greasy hair might might have been blonde. Most of the time he smelled like Fritos. And all things being equal in my world of aquaintances, If a vote was ever taken he would be voted least likely to get ever get laid and most likely to fornicate with farm animals! He was to my mind the most unfuckable creature alive! And still he sired some children, a true testament to the bizarre nature of procreation and one hell of a shock for me!
One year, before the fire, he had a motorcycle accident, if you could call what he was driving a motorcycle, it had 2 wheels a seat, an incredibly loud motor that sounded like an off-timed lawn mower and a steering device, but I think he took odd parts he had laying around his garage and assembled it in one afternoon after having consumed copious amounts of Genie Cream Ale. After he finished each can he would burp loudly and crush that dead soldier in his fist or sometimes smash it against his skull in a manly-man sort of way and it was laughable except that he decided he would ride his contraption at high speeds up and down the highway at the end of our block. Yeah, he crashed and broke his neck. Yup, I’ll say it again, he broke his neck and lived and came home with holes drilled in his head from which a metal circle was connected with a base that sat a top his shoulders that reminded me of those cones they give dogs so they don’t lick their own wounds, but it was just a frame meant to keep the weight of his head from snapping his spine again. The words, “mediaeval torture” device came to mind and all of us neighbor kids sat in awe as we watched him from the vantage point of my lawn, the highest elevation in the neighborhood and from my front step provided the most perfect option to spy directly into his garage where he was manically repairing his motor bike and cursing the metal frame bolted his to his skull as it impeded his progress especially when he tried to maneuver his head. We joked that the idiot would probably get on the thing and ride around the block at high speed as was his custom. And it was just a joke until late that same afternoon when we first heard then saw him motor out of the garage onto the driveway and into the street, obviously he wasn’t wearing a helmet and his parents peeped through the drawn curtains at Crazy Frankenstein, their second son.
It isn’t easy describing the image of a lunatic and painting a picture in words of a man’s head bobbing up and down inside a frame that looked, oddly enough, like those stands gardeners use to hold up tomatoes, except for the way it was bolted to his skull is an exhausting feat and if a group of us had not witnessed it I might think it was just a hallucination. And anyone who didn’t know him simply would refuse to believe that someone who had just returned from the hospital with a broken neck would spend a day repairing the motorcycle that put him there only to get on and ride it later that very afternoon. But this is true, it did happen and even those of us who knew him watched with open mouthed speechlessness and wide round eyes as he speed by back and forth in front of us for over an hour.
And he wasn’t the worse for wear. Nope. The next year on the 4th of July around dusk a couple of us were sitting around waiting to go out when Crazy Frankenstein crossed my driveway and walked up the hill towards us. We could see that he had an empty plastic gallon milk container and a handful of bottle rockets in his big mitts. This was odd because he didn’t usually “hang” with us and we were shamefully eager to see what he would do. Without a word he plops the flimsy container down next to me, drops the stem of the bottle rocket in and gets out his lighter. I said, “when you light that the weight of the rocket is going to lay it down and it will shot straight into the shurbs across the street, the dry shrubs.” It had been a very dry summer. He poo~pooed me and continued to light it off. Well gravity and propulsion being what it is, the rocket shot straight into the dry shrubs as predicted. “See”, I said, “I told you that would happen!” I’m always the voice of reason and this time was no exception. As I puffed up my chest we saw sparks fall into the pine needles below a front window of the dark house and waited, but nothing happened. Then a light came on in the window just above the shurbs and a voice called out, “Hey what are you trying to do set my house on fire, ha, ha, ha?” and at the trail end of the voice we all witnessed the shurbs go up in flames. And a real burning bush was seen by all. It burned fast and big and bright as a bonfire in the semi darkness. We sucked in our breath. We all stood up at the same time, but knew not what to do. Then other lights started to come on in the neigbhorhood and soon the underside ledge that topped the bush was involved in flames and the man’s voice started screaming obscenities and he came out his front door. He was hopping mad, I mean literally that he was hopping up and down screaming, while he should have been getting out his garden hose, or maybe just calling the fire department, but he didn’t, even when voices out of nowhere yelled at him to call. Others were carrying pails of water from up and down the street and while they tried to run with them the buckets just spilled wetting the road and seeping into the pavement, leaving dark patches and a misshapen trail to the edge of the lawn in front of his house that was now clearly on fire. And after what seemed a long time we heard sirens in the distance and then were deafened by them when they arrived in full view. Crazy Frankenstein never did anything, he just starred at the flames and listened while that man verbally accosted him from across the street. The whole block stood and watched while the firemen did their business. And Crazy Frankensteins parents got sued for the damages!
So the next night we are sitting on my front step and Crazy comes over. He sits down and dislodges an M-80 from his crusty jean pocket. He lights it and throws it into the street. It explodes with a roar and we all kind of duck our heads in the shadows when the neighbor hood lights begin to click on one at a time. He waits, then dislodges another and throws it into the street, but with a little more force and we watch while it rolls down the smooth pavement spins a couple times and stops dead directly underneath another neighbors car. It’s the silence in between when the explosive stops and the anticipation of what will happen when it blows that is the most exhilarating! And we watched, holding our collective breath. I didn’t even look over at Crazy, now I wish I had, but there were only long seconds in between when he threw it and when it landed before it ignited with the second load roar of the night. Boom!
The Gods must have been smiling on Crazy Frankenstein that night, because the car wasn’t damaged.