Monday, July 26, 2010

Confessions of a Lego Prodigy.

CHAPTER I: A photograph in a tin.

I moved large scoops of dirt to the side. When I got deeper I would just strike at the dirt with the tiny garden shovel, then use both of my hands to remove large portions to the side of the hole. And when the hole was deep enough I placed inside it the tin box that had been sitting off to my side. It was composed of chipped red and silver paint, ordained with what once may have been flowery mistletoe decorations along the side. Perhaps it had once proudly contained an assortment of popcorn or nuts. Now it would serve as a tomb for a rag tag assortment of objects.

I was preparing to end its miserable life as a Christmas tin; and begin its new life as a time capsule.

Before I could pull the dirt over the box and let it rest I needed to say my final goodbyes to the contents within. I popped the lid and dumped out its belongings. I arranged each item in a semicircle, orbiting the hole.

The tin sat at 12:00 directly in front of me.

To its right at 1:00 sat the last remaining piece of my grandest Lego creation of all time; the nose piece of the Velvet Kobiyashi. Hands down my masterpiece. The facial details inscribed with erasable marker still held true. It brought pain to my heart to even lay eyes upon it.

At 2:00 was a porcelain statuette of Mount Rushmore; acquired on a vacation with my father two summers ago.

At 3:00 there was a pile of random junk. A broken wine opener; along with a variety of bent, mangled silverware rescued from our kitchen drawers. As I had ran short on items I was willing to sacrifice, I figured my mother wouldn’t mind contributing a few of her own.

Off to my left, in the 9:00 position was a dozen or so slides from a Spider Man View Master series. I would sorely miss these, as it was my introduction to Doctor Octopus. An epic, no holds barred battle, that I had watched dozens of times. But as much as it pained me, I reasoned it was necessary to let go of at least one prized possession. Only this sort of sacrifice would make the excavation truly worth while. Though I popped the first disc into my cherry red View Master, and watched one last time.

At 10:00 was the plastic remains of a fallen member of the G.I.Joe team. A broken Scarlet action figure. She was missing an arm thanks to my new baby brother. However, I had recently purchased an updated version of her; one that featured the new swivel arm battle grip.

And finally, at 11:00, there was a Polaroid photo of my best friend, Anton Michaels. Just a few weeks ago his parents had returned home from a vacation to discover his lifeless body lying in his bed. His death was not an accident.

CHAPTER II: Facts and accusations.

Anton had been discovered 2 weeks ago lying in his own bed, in the attic of his home. It was just a few months ago that he had begged his parents to move his bedroom from the ground floor to the attic. They warned him of the ferocity of the midwest sun pounding down on the roof just above his head, but the opportunity to occupy a space all his own trumped any warnings his parents could offer. Despite this, the summertime heat was not the cause of his death.

As I understood it, officially, he had passed away from breathing complications. Though he was tied down, he had not been strangled. A sharp object had punctured his lung and eventually he choked to death on his own blood.

For months afterwards, families would sit and discuss the minutiae of the investigation at the dinner table. And through all these rumors and speculation, a wave of fear would wash over our peaceful Midwestern town as we had never experienced.

Talk spread of the FBI helming a thorough investigation. Our neighbors were all convinced he was still here, still waiting in the shadows to claim his next victim.

“Children of the Corn” had recently been in theatres, and devout mothers spread rumors of cults bread from the lucid imaginations of impressionable teens. Kids, such as myself, were held to strict curfews and sat through countless tiresome lectures on dealing with strangers.

The weekend in question, Anton’s parents had left him with his grandparents; so it was unclear why he had been at home, all alone, that one terrible day. His house appeared to have been broken into, as his mother’s jewelry was missing. The home rested on the edge of a densely wooded acre of land, behind these trees there was a city park. Their back door window was broken and the door unlocked. They supposed the thief had made his way under cover of trees, snuck to the back door where he shattered the window and entered.

Was it blind misfortune that Anton had been home at the time? And even more puzzling was the state in which they found his body. The killer seemed to have gone far beyond what would have been expected of a chance encounter with a thief. And though the lab reports were not entirely final, as far as anyone could tell there was no evidence of sexual abuse. It was noted to be a very patient, methodical job. Care and diligence had gone into Anton’s demise. This was indeed out of character for a common thief .

Anton had a massive contusion to the side of his head, but the coroner said this was not what responsible for his death. It was supposed that somehow the killer had knocked him out with this blow, he then drug him to his bed and while unconscious wrapped two entire rolls of duct tape around him; securing him tightly to the frame. Anton was discovered laying face up, on his back, arms spread wide like a child making angels in the snow.

Most terrifying of all was how it seemed there had been very special attention given to the position of his head. The majority of the duct tape had been used to angle his head so it looked directly up at the ceiling above him. His face had been covered strategically, almost like a mummy. Only holes for his eyes and nose remained. His head was immovable through these layers of duct tape. If he had been alive, struggling, there no was no way he would have budged an inch. It took them hours to cut him out without damaging his body.

And then there was the string. A single piece of simple white sewing string that dangled down from the low ceiling of Anton’s room. It had been thumb tacked into the roof, directly above him, where it dropped down 5 feet. Terminating in a frayed tip about 3 inches directly above Anton’s nose. For this curiosity no one had yet presented a single hypothesis.

Though they found scattered drops of blood, they could not find the weapon that my friend had been stabbed in the chest with; that which had ultimately taken his life. Nor could they find the heavy instrument which had knocked him unconscious. There were no suspicious fingerprints on the door, nor on the duct tape, nor anywhere at the scene. Care had been taken to prevent such tell tale hints of the fiend in question.

And like clockwork, each morning the papers would announce a new smoking gun hypothesis which had been overlooked by local law enforcement. Each more far fetched then the last. And all their theories and speculation would evaporate into baseless accusation.

CHAPTER III: To rekindle the lost art of Legos.

We spent entire summers together. Creating tree forts. Spending the night at each others houses. Playing board games and diving for pennies at the public swimming pool. It was just before the age of girls, and all those thoughts that complicate and confuse life so. And it was summer and there was only the fear of baseball practice to burden one’s existence.

But more then anything there was time for Legos. Those tiny blocks that would snap together, which had thousands of intricate and diverse little pieces. They were the erector set of the new generation. But next generation style and flexibility came at a price, and thus legos were just outside the scope of my parents lower middle class earning power. Anton, however, had a nice collection. It was composed of a healthy cross section from a variety of play sets; 2 space stations, a naval destroyer, a fairly bland city play set, a moon rover, an elaborate dune buggy set, and a dozen or so smaller sets mostly from space themed collections.

The space sets were always the holy grail of any Lego collection. You see…the value of a Lego play set was not defined by the quality of its preset design. It was determined by the originality, complexity, and functionality of the pieces that composed it; and the space sets always had the most incredibly diverse pieces.

This is what separates a Lego enthusiast from a Lego auteur. If only now you are understanding this, then you were never more then an apprentice. A slave to the instructions included in the box. You never grasped the true nature of Legos.

I was a Lego prodigy.

My mother had observed my aptitude for visual design and geometric awareness at a young age. One day I approached her and asked her to teach me how to use my right hand; as I was ashamed for being the only left handed child in my 1st grade class. She told me this; “Honey…your left hand is what makes you special, it’s what makes you creative and unique and allows you to do things that others can’t. Keep this a secret...but in many ways your left hand is magic. When you get older, you’ll understand better.”

Unlike most, Anton may have had glimpses into the true nature of Legos. But he, like everyone else, could not comprehend the bigger picture. To me Legos spoke. To me Legos were a religion, and I was a prophet who could transcribe their message. I was put here for a reason; and while at this age the message was not quite clear yet…I knew that through these little plastic blocks I would be shown the way.

And that said, one may hypothesize that I was using Anton only to take advantage of his treasure chest of space sets. This was, in fact, not remotely true. There was never any insistence on my part to play Legos, nor on Antons part that we do otherwise. Antons purpose, the reason for his very existence on this world, while still my friend, was simply to provide me with what my parents could not. To show me the divine path. Anton was a marker; whether he knew it or not.

Legos were present even in my earliest memories. I remember going to my grandma’s house for Christmas and my cousins coming down from Minneapolis. They were quite wealthy, and every year they would bring down a massive play set their parents had given them as a gift. We would use these play sets to create world war 2 era monster movies in the basement. All of our sets and vehicles were created in Legos, and for characters we used little green army men. We would then charge each member of our family 10 cents to come down into the basement and watch our epic films which we would act out in front of them.

A year later we showed up for Christmas. I was excited to see my cousins, but even more excited to see what new Lego set they had received this year. But they didn’t bring them, they had left their Lego’s at home. My mother would later tell me that their parents didn’t allow them to bring them. After Christmas last year, they had went home and tried to re-create the worlds and characters we would build in the basement together, and they just couldn’t do it. It became an exercise in frustration, a bitter slap in the face that without me the picture on the box was all they were capable of creating. And they grew to hate that about me, and eventually despise me. And to them Legos were simply a puzzle to assemble…and to me those little bricks were the clay with which I could sculpt entire civilizations.

I had lost many friends like that, and while Anton could not fathom the true nature of Lego’s…he was creative, and he was quite astute at putting unique things together on his own. At times I could see him get frustrated, but at an early age I had learned the ways of positive reinforcement; and somehow I always managed to convince him that his designs were exceptional…even if they were fairly remedial.

This was not kids games. This was art. There were masterpieces that were constructed and destroyed for the sake of drama. And through all those worlds, and creatures, and robots, and starships…something was speaking to me. It’s voice was becoming louder. Sometimes Anton would catch me staring at the bricks, lost in a trance. He’d snap his fingers and ask if I was ok, and I would simply play it if off as a joke.

The day Anton was killed we were in his attic playing Legos. I was with him shortly before it happened. This was a special day for me because I had created my current masterpiece. A starship of absolute artistry; a solid, elegant, silky smooth design which I had christened the Velvet Kobiyashi.

It was both graceful and powerful. It glowed with a sort of magic that only a true artist can fully appreciate. Like the best art, it had happened spontaneously. It was solid and durable. I had dropped it and not a single piece had broken off. And it was also intimidating…more so then I could have imagined. You see, there was tension in the air, and slowly it became clear that things were not as good between me and Anton as I had believed.

CHAPTER IV: Last voyage of the Velvet Kobiyashi.

It was a rainy day, especially chilly for a Midwest summer. Though we loved the thunder and lightning rattling above our heads. Antons parents were out of town and he was staying with his Grandma who lived a few blocks away. Anton was on his way back to his grandmothers from swimming lessons, and decided to stop and see if I was home. The rains were pouring down outside interspersed with blasts of lighting; and thus our default afternoon activity was not an option, as the public pool would be closed. It was Anton who suggested we sneak into his house, and continue our Lego projects that we had begun a few nights earlier.

He took the key they hid in their gutter and we entered in through the garage door, locking it behind us. We went up to his bedroom in the attic and pulled the shoe box of spare bricks out from under his bed and over to his electric train set. The tiny plastic railroad tracks spanned three interconnected 4x4 plywood sheets. Inside this giant pill shaped span of tracks we sat cross legged and put the final touches on our creations. My masterpiece needed only a front landing gear. This took me roughly 15 minutes to complete. And after I was done, Anton continued to fumble away. Randomly trying different blocks; his creation taking on a new shape every couple minutes.

An hour passed, and I did my best to hide my impatience, and I could tell his frustration was growing stronger by the minute. He had no more control over what he was creating then I did over the rains pounding against the window.

Unconscious of my action, I let out a gentle sigh. Anton looked up at me from the indiscernible abomination resting in his hands. “What’s your problem” he asked me in a gruff serious tone, his brow displaying a look of bottled rage?

I told him that I was just waiting for him to finish, and that I wanted to play, and that, honestly, I was getting a bit bored.

He let out a sarcastic laugh and said “play? How are we even supposed to stage a damn battle if I have a piece of shit like this going against something like that?” And he pointed at my ship.

Having seen these outbursts before I tried to calm him in the typical manner; by lying to him and saying his work was better then it actually was. But he would not have it. Something was different this time. Perhaps he detected my insincerity. He rose to his feet, his anger was no longer bottled. Now he was openly furious.

“You know what this game is? This game is insulting to me. You make me look like an idiot. I hate playing these games with you, because you just make me look like a moron. Is this fun for you? Finishing something in two hours that’s so damn cool I could probably never create anything like it in my entire life? Is this a joke to you?”

“But Anton, your ship is good.“

“Don’t fucking lie to me!!! I’m sick of it. Don’t come over here and use my fucking Legos if you’re going to lie to me.”

“Anton…I seriously think…”

“Shut up. Did you hear what I said. These are my Legos. You might make these insane things…but you know what; these are MY Legos. They are not YOURS.

He paused for a second. Rubbing his temples in frustration. His face red with rage. Then he turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Now we are going to play my game. Destroy your ship and put the pieces back in the box. We’re not playing Legos here any more. Never again.”

“But we haven’t even started…we haven’t even begun to tell a story…”

“We are done with Legos. Now break apart your ship and get out of my house. Maybe now you’ll stop using me for my Legos, or you can go ask your drunk for a dad if he’ll buy you some.”

There was a moment of silence. His statement had triggered something in me. Something was different. Any notions of compromise vanished in that moment, I became someone else entirely. I replied quietly, under my breath…


“What did you say?”

This time I looked up from the ground and stared him in the eyes, and I said sternly… “No. This ship is my masterpiece.”

There was a moment of stunned silence. Anton did not know how to respond. A look of rage came across his face…he turned away from me and stomped over the train tracks. Before I even realized what he was doing he had picked up my ship. He placed it into the palm of hand. And in one fluid motion, like a pitcher releasing a baseball, my ship went flying across the room.

To me it all happened in slow motion. I saw it rotating through the air, moving towards the wall; but I couldn’t move fast enough to stop it if I had tried. And though it was durable, it was not nearly capable of withstanding a collision of this magnitude. In my mind it was not unlike a car commercial where you see test dummies smash a car into a wall at 70 miles an hour. On impact with the wall it seemed to compress, squashing flat against the wall as it fractured into dozens of little pieces. Tiny plastic bits ricocheted of the wall and pelted us. And the largest remaining chunk, the face from the nose of the ship, somehow landed at my feet. Looking directly up at me.

It was gone. My ultimate creation had been returned to its primal form; nothing more then a scattered corpse of tiny interlocking bricks.

CHAPTER V: Duct tape and a string.

Then Anton turned to me and said; “Get the fuck out of my house.” I stood there, On my face was a look of disbelief, but behind my eyes there was unbridled rage and a growing need for redemption.

Again he said…”GET OUT!” I did not budge. Enraged by my stubbornness Anton put out his hands and shoved me with all his strength. I was not expecting this and I spilled backward towards his desk, reaching out my left hand to brace my fall. Expecting to feel his desk top or chair, I instead felt a sharp, horrible pain. My outstretch arm collapsed; and the weight of my body took me into the desk, my back ramming into the top shelf of the desk, and my head went back and smashed into the cabinet above it. Pencils and paperclips sprinkled over me.

I pulled my arm around from behind me, to see what had caused the white hot pain emanating from my palm. To see why it felt awkward and clumsy. I discovered that my left hand had been pierced by an old file spike sitting on top of Antons desk.

The long, sharp, chrome tip had passed cleanly through the very center of my palm. My hand now rested at its base, neatly stacked on top of two or three pieces of homework. Bright red blood was already oozing out onto the immaculate white surface of the desk.

Anton had destroyed my masterpiece. He had humiliated me. And now, I was convinced he had stolen from me the one thing that made me special. He had taken my hand. My left hand. The hand my mother had told me was my gift, that one unique element which allowed me to create sheer unquestionable beauty from a pile of chaos.

He stepped towards me with wide eyes. He could not believe what had happened, fear radiated in his eyes. But it was too late, I had now given fully into my rage. I wrapped my right hand around the large rock being used as a paperweight on the side of his desk. He took another step closer…and in one swift motion, with all of my remaining strength, I swung my arm around and the rock connected directly with the side of his head. He collapsed to the ground.

I pulled my hand from the shaft of the chrome prong. I grabbed a long sock out of Antons’ clothes drawer and tied it around my hand to stop the bleeding. Slowly a new feeling was washing over me. I felt cheated. I felt that Anton needed to experience the pain that he had given me. It was not enough that I had knocked him out. My masterpiece was destroyed, my hand had been robbed from me, in that moment I believed I had been reduced to nothing more then an average mortal child.

He was heavy, so it took a while, but I managed to move him over to his bed and rolled him onto his back. I found a roll of duct tape off his shelf, then bound him as best I could. I paid special attention to constricting the movement of his head. I taped and retaped his head until it was frozen looking directly upward. I stuffed pillows behind his head to reinforce the angle.

I then took a spool of thread from Antons junk drawer, a thumbtack, and a scissors. I tacked the end of the spool to the ceiling, directly above Antons head. I let the spool drop, unwinding as it fell through the air, eventually bouncing of Antons lip and onto the bed. I then snipped it off about 3 inches above his nose.

I picked up the last remaining piece of my ship. The nose piece that had landed at my feet. I had used dry erase marker to scrawl a sinister face on it, inspired by world war 2 bombers. I took this piece and duct taped it to the end of the string dangling just above Anton’s nose, and carefully tilted the face so it was staring down directly into Antons eyes.

I wanted this final remaining fragment of my masterpiece to be the last thing he saw before he died.

And eventually he awoke. And by that time I had cleaned my blood off the desk and returned all the Legos to the shoebox. I tossed the file spike in my duffle bag; along with the rock I had hit him in the head with. I went into his parents room and took a handful of jewelry from the box next to their bed. I ran down stairs and broke the back window, then propped open the door, giving the illusion of a robbery. I took extra special care to prevent fingerprints or any indications of my presence. And finally I grabbed the spiral metal wine opener from the silverware drawer in their kitchen.

Just as I was returning to his room Anton was returning to consciousness. Slowly his eyes grew wider and began to dart back and forth from me into the unflinching gaze of my creation hanging just above his nose. I could hear him screaming from behind the duct tape over his mouth. I gripped the spiral metal wine opener and straddled Anton’s legs. I placed the sharp tip of the wine opener to the right of Anton’s rib cage. I placed each hand on either side of the handle as I leaned into him and twisted.

I looked up at his face, and now he was staring wide eyed into the depths of the Lego gods eyes.

. . . . . .

In retrospect, I admit I was aiming for his heart and clipped his lung. Unfortunately my aptitude for geometric construction is far advanced to my knowledge of human anatomy.

I took the scissors and snipped the head of my masterpiece off from the end of the string, still staring down into Anton’s lifeless, wide open eyes. I tossed it into my bag and carefully crept out the back door out and cut through the woods so no one would see me. I tossed the rock I had hit Anton in the head with into a pond I passed on the way home, along with the jewelry.

And as for the time capsule? Well I returned each of the objects inside, beginning with the View Master slides, and ending with the wine opener that had punctured Anton’s lung. I placed the tin box in the center of the hole then pushed the mound of dirt on top of it. I then packed it down with my fists, and stomped on it with my feet for good measure. And with that I said goodbye to Anton.

My hand would heal. Infact, the injury had been slight. The prong must have passed so cleanly through that no nerves, muscles, or tendons had been affected. It took no more then a dash of antibiotic ointment and a band aid on the front and back of my hand for it to heal completely, excluding a tiny scar. My parents never even noticed.

Its true a part of me would regret not having his company. But I did not cry; nor was I angry. I simply went out and got a paper route. You see, at last I had realized that I could not depend upon others any longer. It was time I purchased my own set of Legos. Then I could be free of the limitations inherent in the damaged egos of all inspiration stifling cry babies.


One evening, two weeks later, there was a knock at our door. I opened it to discover Antons mom standing there with a shoe box. It was the shoe box that had contained Anton’s Legos. She looked down on me with serious eyes. A bittersweet smile came across her face and she leaned forward and spoke. She said she had been cleaning out Anton’s room and discovered his collection of Legos under his bed. She stretched her arms out and handed the box to me.

She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “here…I know he would have wanted you to have these.” A tear rolled down her cheek, then she turned around and walked away.


Naveen Nattam said...

wow that was pretty haunting. I didn't know what I was reading but as the conclusion came out about the narrator and I think I had a tiny gasp. When did you write this?

Raj Nattam said...

Sweet stuff, effendi :)

MJC *-* said...

Hey, i'm a new follower. I was just searching for 'parachute' reference...that's when i saw your cool sketches. Nice style.

JJ said...

Nice f**ked up stuff B. I'd expect nothing less. This is a true story right? You just changed the names?

2 Ply Parachutes said...

As always JJ, yes, of course its a true story.

On that note, Naveen, I believe I wrote this circa 3rd grade. A close friend of mine had just passed away...mysteriously.

New Member Charles said...

Brutal...just brutal! I mean come on, who has the gaul to take a talented boy away from his lego's! Serves him right!