The Day We Bombed the State
I wondered why no one ever used such a powerful explosive in any of the war movies we went to. Every week we watched movies at the State Theater about things that really happened in the war, things like Wake Island, Bataan, and Corregidor. Lots of Japanese airplanes and tanks got blown up, but no one ever made any explosions with this stuff. Why was that?
"Because it’s a secret!" Robbie yelped. "If they showed it in movies, everyone would know about it." I had to agree that made sense. "Besides," he added, "the explosion’s not THAT big. It’s not going to blow up the whole building, for Pete’s sake."
"How big is it? I don’t want to hurt anyone."
Robbie gave me his best are-you-crazy look. "With bubbles?" he asked. The idea was that millions of bubbles would erupt to fill a large part of the theater. Millions of bubbles would make a great explosion but wouldn’t hurt anyone. When I worried that the bottle might explode, he reminded me we were going to put the whole thing behind the drinking fountain down the hall from the entrance..
"Maybe we ought to test it first," I suggested.
"Fine!" Robbie said in disgust. "Do you have enough money to buy another coke to test with and still go to the movie?"
I agreed testing was a waste of time. By then we were a block away from the State Theater and could read the signboards. "Uh-oh," I said. "They’re showing a Lash LaRue western. I was hoping a Bob Steele."
"It doesn’t matter! We’re going for the explosion, not the movie." He pulled me into the doorway of a shoe store and told me it was time to hide the coke. "They won’t let us into the theater carrying a bottle of coke."
"Why can’t you take it?"
"I’ve got the aspirin," he explained.
"Well," I said, "I paid for the coke." He’d brought the aspirin from home. He didn’t have to pay for it. With the price of the movie, I was putting twenty-six cents into the plan compared to his sixteen to get him into the movie.
"All right," Robbie agreed. "You take half the bottle, and I’ll take half."
I gave up. Robbie put the coke in the small of my back, held there by my belt which he tightened so that I could barely breathe. I was afraid the bottle would slip out, so I walked up to the ticket booth slowly and very stiffly.
An usher stood just inside the door taking tickets. He gave me a curious look and asked "Are you okay? You’re not going to puke are you?"
"He’s fine," Robbie said. "He hurt his leg playing football."
The usher waved us through. "As long as he don’t puke."
"He ran for a touchdown," Robbie added. "He won the game."
We sat down front in the third row. There were only a couple of others in the audience. I was giggling. "How long was it?" I asked.
"How long was what?"
"My pretend touchdown run."
"Sixteen yards," he said without hesitation.
I was curious. Why sixteen?"
"When you make something up, always try to put in details you can remember easy. You paid sixteen cents to get into the movie. So if the movie usher asks you how long your touchdown was, you won’t have any trouble remembering. Now, who’d your team beat?"
"The La Rues," I said.
"No. That would make the usher suspicious. Why would the team and this movie have the same name?
"That’s better," Robbie agreed.
We watched the movie for ten minutes. Lash LaRue used his whip to flick a six-gun away from a crook. Then it was time to place our bomb.
We went to the restroom where Robbie pried the lid off the coke. He took six aspirin out of his pocket. Suddenly I got an awful thought. "What if it goes off as soon as you put in the aspirin?"
"It’s supposed to take a while," he said.
"How long is a while?"
To give us the most getaway time, we waited until we were right next to the drinking fountain before we put in the aspirins. Robbie jammed the cap back on the bottle and wedged it between the fountain and the wall. Then we scurried back to our seats and waited for the bubbles.
Nothing happened after five minutes. We gave it five more minutes and then we went to the drinking fountain to have a look. The cap was loose on the bottle and there appeared to be a wet spot on the floor. Robbie held the bottle up to the light on the fountain to see if the aspirins were in there.
"You can’t have that in here!" The usher who’d taken our ticket at the door had come up quietly behind us. "It’s gotta go."
Robbie tipped up the bottle and chugged the whole coke.
"You better not puke," the usher said.
I told the usher my touchdown run went for sixteen yards and beat the – uh – Autrys.. He wasn’t impressed. He kicked us out.
On the street going home, Robbie complained that the coke and aspirin explosion was a big lie. "What if we were being chased by an enemy spy and the only way to escape was to blow him up?"
"Maybe it just hasn’t gone off yet," I suggested. "Maybe you should puke or maybe . . . ."
Robbie began walking home faster.