Sheep in a Jeep cute little blue Honda Civic with a yellow flower sticking out of the vent

Yes, the toxic fume incident happened at “my” Westgate Kroger. Coincidentally, Mouse tried to shop at Kroger shortly after the incident occurred but was turned away at the door by some employees who told her the store was closed.

Boys will be boys (er, maybe I should make that kids will be kids?) and if there isn’t enough to do, sometimes they will invent something they think is fun and exciting. Like spraying toxic chemicals at library and grocery store patrons. Or detonating homemade black powder bombs.

Explosions are not something that normally disrupt my life much. You can’t hang around with the GG for very long without becoming inured to the sound of things blowing up and I’ve been hanging around with the GG since 1980, so when firecrackers or bottle rockets are going off around our quiet little neighborhood, they don’t typically wake me up.

The explosions I heard the summer before Lizard Breath went to kindergarten were different. I had a job that took place in an office at that time and I worked until early evening. Those were the days when I could sometimes — after as many chapters of whatever book we were currently reading as Lizard Breath could wheedle out of me — get the beach urchins to bed at an early enough hour that I might have a little space of time to myself. I would usually spend that time in the back room, in the dark. Nice and quiet, cooler than the rest of the house, and I felt far away from anyone. I was alone and I had some space. Then… KABOOM!!! What the heck was that! It wasn’t the GG. He had already gone to bed. And it didn’t sound like his usual kind of explosion. It was way bigger than that. I felt a little shaky. For a few minutes, I wondered if I should call the police or something. I forced myself to believe that all was well and went off to bed.

I heard similar explosions throughout the summer. I’m not sure if I exactly got used to them or what. But nobody else seemed too bothered. Then one August night a couple weeks before school started, I was running around doing laundry and various other chores after work. It was a hot evening and the school yard was fairly busy with people milling around and a baseball game. I had just put a load of laundry in and was working on cleaning the bathroom when a huge explosion shook the entire house. Almost before I had a chance to react, I heard someone yell, “Call an ambulance!!” and within a minute or so, we could hear sirens approaching.

There used to be a big wood and tire play structure over there. It was built by parent volunteers back in the 60s, before there were playground police to outlaw homemade playground equipment. That evening, a group of 19-year-olds took it upon themselves to try to destroy the structure. They had obtained a supply of black powder and some gas cylinders and, if my ears are right, had been working on the art of bomb making all summer. They carefully, or so they thought, positioned the bomb in just the right place to blow up the structure and not the baseball players. It didn’t blow up the baseball players. It didn’t blow up the big wood and tire play structure either. I don’t think it actually “blew up” *anything*. But a piece of shrapnel from the cylinder lodged itself into the brain of one of the girls in the group and I’m not sure if she ever walked again.

These were not bad kids. They were local kids who hadn’t figured out what to do with themselves after high school, even what college to attend. They were Community High graduates, one year out, and some had attended Haisley as children. My kids went to those schools. In the end, no one was charged with any crime and I remember the head bomb maker saying that he wished he could trade places with the girl who took the shrapnel. That was 18 summers ago and I wonder what he’s doing now and how the girl is doing. They’d be in their 30s now.

I don’t know what to say about the pepper spray kids. Apparently they haven’t been identified yet. Like the black powder bomb, I think this was supposed to be a prank. But what on earth were these kids thinking? Dozens of people were affected with five taken to the emergency room. How many ambulances had to respond? How many paramedics? How much money was spent on all these ambulances and paramedics? What if they had been needed elsewhere?

Yes, that was “my” Westgate Kroger. The one I’ve been shopping at for 28 years. I’m glad Mouse wasn’t inside when it happened. I’m glad I was doing the laundry instead of taking my beach urchins to the school yard that night 18 years ago. The big wood and tire play structure survived quite a few more years and one more attempt to destroy it, this time when school district employees misread their instructions and tore down a brand *new* structure across the sidewalk from it. Go figure. Eventually the playground police managed to get rid of it.

And then, this morning, I opened up the trunk to my cute little blue civic and I couldn’t put the groceries in there because it was filled with sheep.

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