But on this particular morning there was no one around and I was left on my own to entertain myself. I wanted to practice receiving passes, not an easy feat to do when you’re by yourself. After some thought and a little experimentation I discovered that if I stood a few feet in front of our house and threw the football up and onto our roof (we lived in a two-story colonial) it would roll off the roof in such a manner (because of the odd shape of the football) that I could never quite tell where it was going to fall. One throw would roll far to my right and the next might roll far to my left. It was perfect for practicing (yes, I really was a simple boy).
I must have been at it for a good half hour, working up a sweat, having fun before my father came home from the hardware store. He pulled into the driveway, stepped out of his car, gave me a smile and a wave.
I shouted, “Hey, Dad, look at this!”
And then proceeded to somehow throw my football right through his second-floor bedroom storm window. I can only imagine how it looked to my father. I say I can only imagine because I didn’t stick around long enough to see his reaction – I just ran.
That’s just the way it was in my house. My younger brother and I always seemed to be in trouble. I still don’t get it. We weren’t bad kids. We weren’t troublemakers or bullies; we just had a knack for getting into trouble. I think it might have been some kind of hormonal imbalance, or maybe we just didn’t have that thing in our brains that keeps people from acting on every impulse. If there were something in the house that could break sooner or later we’d manage to break it.
Unfortunately this wasn’t a problem that was just confined to our home. We seemed to get in trouble all over town, at the boys’ club, at school (constantly) and even at Boy Scouts meetings (I think I may have been the only kid in our town encouraged to leave the Boy Scouts). After a while my brother and I realized that if we couldn’t control our impulses, what we really needed was a scapegoat. We needed some kid in the neighborhood we could blame for all of our destructive deeds. We needed a fall guy. That person became Art Farrel.
Art wasn’t really a bad kid. He was like us, impulsive and high-spirited, but he had something we didn’t have – long hair and a loud dirt bike and in my dad’s book that was enough to label him as a troublemaker. My parents never questioned why Art Farrel single-handedly launched his reign of terror against our house but we blamed that kid for everything: broken birdbaths and windows, trampled flowers, disconnected telephone wires (we would do this whenever our teachers told us they were going to call our parents), garbage cans that were flattened when we tried jumping them with our bikes – I mean everything.
Not only did we blame Art for all this vandalism around our house but we would also make up stories about things he did in school. Over dinner one of us might say, “Hey, Mom, guess what Art Farrel did in school today…” It was always something borderline psychotic like flushing a cherry bomb down the school toilet or stealing everyone’s lunches and throwing them in a Dumpster. We launched a complete and well-crafted character assassination.
So Art, if you’re out there someplace, probably playing the part of the well-respected-man-about-town with a wife and family, I’m sorry. It wasn’t personal; I even kind of liked you. You didn’t deserve the reputation we thrust upon you. You were basically a good kid but you have to realize, it’s like my father always told me: “You have to be careful who you pick for your friends.”