The Bomb Hole

Reads: 1185  | Likes: 2  | Shelves: 15  | Comments: 3

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
You can’t prove this didn’t happen.

Submitted: December 27, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 27, 2016

A A A

A A A


Growing up as an Army brat was tough.  Moving frequently, trying to make new friends.  Getting used to new cultures with different sets of rules.  In twelve years, I attended nine schools.  In five states, and four foreign countries.  We got around.

 

It wasn’t all bad.  I got to see a lot of America, and a lot of the world.  It was life as I knew it.  You might think a military base would be an uninteresting place to live when you’re a kid.  But there is a built in advantage.  

 

Military bases are surrounded by fences and guarded by soldiers around the clock.  Mommas and daddies naturally worry about their children.  But not so much when they believe they live in a safe place.

 

When we were not in school, we could go anywhere we wanted, as long as we stayed out of restricted areas and didn’t interfere with adult stuff.  Many of the bases covered hundreds of acres and would often have wooded areas kids would consider a natural playground.  In the trees, avoiding the big people was easy.

 

I was not impressed when Dad told us our next home would be in Germany, in a place called Kaiserslautern.  It is 25 miles from the French border.  The base was built after World War II, on the site of one of the many brutal battles that took place just over a decade before.

 

My opinion improved when I made friends and they showed me around the woods behind our apartment.  It was cool.  All over the place, you could find spent rifle shells.  Sometimes they looked almost brand new.  Others were tarnished from years of being exposed to the elements.  Occasionally kids found other artifacts like artillery shell fragments or buttons from a uniform.

 

But the coolest thing in the woods at Kaiserslautern was the bomb hole.

 

It was actually a series of three holes in a row.  The first bomb made a big hole, probably 30 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep.  The second and third must have exploded before they hit the ground and each made a smaller hole.  

 

The small holes were filled with vegetation and we didn’t pay them much attention.  But the kids had worn trails through the biggest hole.  It was the awesomest place I’d ever been.  Lots of kids build a treehouse or a fort.  How many have their own bomb hole?

 

The bomb hole was the focal point of kid culture at the Kaiserslautern base.  Children always form a hierarchy based on popularity.  If you weren’t one of the in crowd, you might have to wait on the edge, until a more popular kid got bored and went home.  I played the game and gradually worked my way up the bomb hole ladder.

 

Everyone has a friend like Benji Mack when they are growing up.  The guy who is funny and charismatic, and can always talk you into doing something you know you shouldn’t do.  Almost every time I got in trouble in Kaiserslautern, Benji was involved.

Such was the case, one Friday in early October, in the 6th grade.  In fifth period math, Benji turned around, gave me his best devilish grin, and said, “I’m going to cut class and go hang out in the bomb hole.  If you’re not a total scaredy cat, you’ll come with me.”

 

It was a bad idea.  But Benji knew how to push my buttons.  We casually worked our way toward the side door as everyone else headed to sixth period.  No one noticed as we snuck out and took off for the trees.

 

It had rained the day before.  But the trail to the bomb hole was covered with leaves and we didn’t realize the implications until we were standing on the edge.  The sides of the hole were bare dirt, and soaking wet.  We realized we would get covered in mud if we tried to climb down.  

 

This is where rational people would have turned around and gone elsewhere.  Not Benji and me.  He said, “I’ll bet you a nickel I can pee farther out into the bomb hole than you can.”  He whipped out his tool and began to spray.  I had no choice but to do the same.

 

As far as I could tell, it was a tie.  But Benji loudly claimed he was the winner, and after resheathing his sword, broke into a victory dance.

 

That was when he lost his footing.  I can close my eyes right now and see the look of terror on his face as he realized he was falling.  Then I was falling too.  He’d reached out and grabbed me and we fell/slid down to the bottom.

 

Normally, the way to get in the bomb hole was to crouch into a sitting position and slide down.  The first ten feet was pretty steep, then it leveled off.  Exiting required a bit of climbing.  We’d cut some small handholds into the dirt to help scale the last few feet.

 

Getting out of the bomb hole was no big deal when it was dry.  When you were not injured.  On the way down, I banged my knee on a protruding rock.  It was already swelling and it hurt.  Benji had rolled over his arm and it had gotten twisted.  It was broken.

 

We tried to climb out.  Neither of us could make it.  The walls were too wet, too slick.  I couldn’t bend my left leg or put any weight on it.  Benji’s right arm hung at an odd angle, useless.  The severity of our situation quickly sunk in.

 

We were outside of shouting distance from the nearest person, and at the bottom of hole.  Nobody knew we were here.  We couldn’t get out.  We were wet, covered with mud, and both of us were injured.  It was cold.  It got worse when the thick clouds rolled in and a thunderstorm ensued.

 

The two of us huddled together near the bottom of the hole.  Our teeth were chattering and we were terrified.  I knew what death was and this was the first time in my life I’d felt it near me.  The swelling in my knee got worse and it kept hurting more.  My fingers and toes were so cold they were numb.  I felt like I was drifting away.

 

I jumped and opened my eyes when the lightning bolt struck a nearby tree.  The light was blinding.  To this day, I can’t explain what I saw, on the edge of the bomb hole.  

 

The outline was obviously of two men.  It just didn’t make any sense.  The squared off helmets they wore, that was distinctive.  The men shouted at us.  I’d lived in Kaiserslautern long enough to recognize German when I heard it.

 

They climbed down.  I’d seen war movies.  I knew what a WWII era soldier in battle uniform looked like.  Two of them were standing over Benji and I.  They spoke to each other for a moment.  One reached his hand down to me.  He helped me up and lifted me up on the other man’s back.  He climbed slowly, but it only took a minute or so and I was out of the hole.  Benji appeared a moment later on the back of the other man.

 

One of the men tapped Benji on the shoulder and said in English, “You, home, get others.”  He pointed down the path toward our apartment building.  Then he pointed at me. “He stay, you come back.”  

 

As quickly as they had appeared, the two men vanished into the trees.  Benji said, “I’ll get my mom and we’ll come back for you.”  I can still see his awkward gait, as he ran down the trail as fast as he could, holding on to his broken arm.

 

Nobody believed our story about the soldiers.  I can’t explain it.  All I know is what happened.  I was there and I guarantee I didn’t climb out of the bomb hole by myself.

 

Everyone assumed we made it up that part of our story.  After taking some derision we quit talking about it.  As far as I was concerned, I was going to pretend it never happened.  But Benji did not forget.  He became obsessed with the soldiers.  He thought they might be ghosts, and if we didn’t repay them for saving our lives, something bad would happen.

 

Benji couldn’t explain why he thought that, and it made no sense to me.  It didn’t matter.  He was freaking out and I knew we had to do something to calm him down.  I came up an idea.

 

It was a couple of weeks later.  The swelling in my knee was going down.  Benji was used to the cast on his arm.  We snuck out of our apartments late at night.  We navigated down the trail, by flashlight, to the bomb hole.  

 

This time we stopped a safe distance from the edge.  I set the box I had carried on the ground.  Several times, Benji repeated the German phrase he’d memorized, as loud as he dared. “Wir brachten Geschenke. Genießen.”

 

“We brought gifts.  Enjoy.”

 

The box contained ham and cheese sandwiches, cookies, a bag of potato chips, and a pair of 10 ounce Coca Colas.  Whatever we could pilfer from our kitchens without being noticed.  We even had a bottle opener for the Cokes.  Benji added a Playboy magazine he’d stolen from his older brother.

 

The next morning, Benji and I went back before we headed to school.  The box sat where I left it.  But the food had been consumed.  Nothing left but wrapping paper and bags.  The Coke bottles were in the box, empty.  The Playboy was gone.  

 

Benji relaxed.  After that, neither of us visited the bomb hole again.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply