Halloween Special: My Night as a Pokemon

I don’t know the exact history of Halloween, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now. I will say that as a Christian, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with going trick-or-treating, and this is why I hated going to my church every Halloween when I was in elementary school.

I remember being in sunday school at my super conservative church and another kid telling me that on Halloween demons reach up from the ground and drag you to hell. He probably just heard this from his older brother trying to scare him, but hearing such things was not uncommon. One of the kid’s fathers wrote a book about how Pokemon was demonic, and the kid told me he would get me a copy of it for free, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, in an attempt to keep kids from going trick-or-treating, my church would throw an annual fall festival on the night of Halloween.

This festival was filled with mini games, inflatables, and raffle drawings. The reward to most of these was a piece of candy, but by the end of the night my pillow case would have only a handful of sugary delectables in it. When I got home and checked my loot, I had a similar feeling to opening a Lay’s bag of air and finding potato chips inside. Every year got more and more disappointing, especially because my costumes were pretty dope and I couldn’t show them off in their rightful place on the streets. When Pokemon was all the rage, there was a very popular charmeleon costume that was sold out everywhere, so my mom made the costume with her bare hands. It was better than the one that was sold in stores, complete with a fire tail made out of red and yellow cellophane.

Bow down to me, plant-types!

Bow down to me, plant-types!

I confidently walked through the parking lot of the church, looking down my nose at the other Pokemon.

“Look at all these dumb pikachu costumes. FLAME THROWER!”

I decided to test my powers against the closest thing we had to real Pokemon and headed straight toward the petting zoo. All these creatures were inferior. I was at least a level 16, and these goats and chickens were all levels 3 and…

munch munch munch

I turned around and saw a goat eating my cellophane flame. If you know anything about charmeleon, you know that he dies if his tail goes out.

I was dead.

That experience pretty much summed up every festival experience I had. I walked in with burning hopes and desires, walked out with nothing. Moral of the story: take your kids trick-or-treating. They’ll be okay. I promise.

Once I was in middle school, I stopped going to that festival and never returned. My mom finally let me go trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with some of the other kids. My pillow case runneth over.

Happy Halloween.


The Death of Chicken Moreno

The first pets that I ever had were hamsters. After pestering our parents enough, we went to the store and bought two furry little rodents and decided to name them Chip and Dale, based off the popular cartoon depicting the adventures of two crime-solving chipmunks, or rescue rangers, if you will. They lived around two years, the average lifespan of tiny rodents. I remember the exact moment when I was told of the first one’s death. My mom picked me and my next door neighbor, Josh, up from school. I was probably in first or second grade. I hopped in the passenger’s seat of our van (is that too young to sit up front?), and my mom immediately starts like this:

Mom: Chip died.

Me: *bursts into tears*

I remember that she didn’t look at me and immediately started driving after she broke the news. In retrospect, I don’t know why she didn’t wait until we got home to tell me or why she told me like that. Maybe she didn’t know how to approach the whole telling-your-kid-his-beloved-pet-just-died thing. After all, she never had to do it before. We had the funeral that day, but we made a couple mistakes. First, we didn’t put the hamster in a box. Second, we didn’t bury him deep enough. The following day we found the burial site dug up, and the corpse of Chip was nowhere to be found. Some cat or possum got an easy meal that night.

I don’t remember too much about the death of the second hamster. Probably the same amount of tears, but I do remember that we made sure to dig deeper. However, it was disappointing that the two siblings wouldn’t be able to rest in peace together. They did get in a lot of fights in their old age, so maybe it was better that way. Despite the tears, I did learn a lot from the death of my two furry friends. I do think having animals with short lifespans at a young age is a good, healthy way to introduce the concept of death and loss to a child, but even this could not prepare me for what was to come.

Fast forward a year or two. We had attained two baby chickens from my older brother’s 6th grade science teacher, who had a box filled with chicks for some reason. He gave them to us to care for temporarily since my mom had raised many a chick when she was growing up. We did a good job until tragedy struck.

We had a neighbor named Michael who lived across the street. He was shorter and slower than Josh and I were. One day, all of us were playing with the chicks in our backyard. We were holding them and discovered that they would always run away immediately upon release. They were pretty fast, but not faster than the average elementary schooler. Being mean children, we bet Michael that he couldn’t catch one. He insisted that he could.

“Prove it.”

Oh, he proved it, all right. We released the chicks, and they took off as expected. Michael bolted after them, and then…

it was over.

The next thing that could be heard for miles was my wailing and screaming for my mom. She arrived, and I begged her to rush the chick to the vet. She told me that it was no use. Michael had accidentally stepped on the chick while he was in hot pursuit of it. Its neck had been broken. I remember looking at the chick during its last few moments on earth. I will never forget that feeling of hopelessness and dread as I saw its life slowly slip away. After a few long minutes, he had passed.

I was beside myself. The neighborhood kids gathered for the funeral. Had I owned any black clothes, I certainly would have worn them. We put the deceased in a box that we had adorned with pictures and notes. Michael wrote “sorry” on the cardboard coffin, but Josh and I knew that we were to blame. We shouldn’t have mocked Michael and used the poor poultry as bait. Later that day as I was processing the loss of the chick by looking pensively out my window, I saw a mocking bird and sparrow fighting in my backyard. To prevent more death, I ran toward them to break up the fight, but my shirt got caught on our patio chair, causing me to lose precious moments. I got there and scared off the mocking bird, but it was too late. The sparrow’s body was on the ground, lifeless. More tears. Too many bird deaths in one day. I buried this little guy in the same deep hole as our chicken. At least they would have the company that Chip and Dale didn’t.

Sometime during high school, I brought up the chicken incident with my mom. After the first chick died, we returned the second chick, so I asked what happened to him and the rest of them. It turns out that the teacher gave them to a farm, and a raccoon got in their crate and slaughtered all of them. Nature. She didn’t tell me way back then because she didn’t want to upset me more, but telling me actually made me feel better. Meeting the bottom of Michael’s foot may have been the best thing that could have happened to that chick. I think that I would prefer getting my neck broken to getting ripped apart by a pair of ravenous jaws, but that’s just me.

I Was A Crybaby

I’m not sure why, but I used to cry a lot as a kid. But crying as a kid is normal, right? Yes, but one might say, if he were a mean and hateful person, that I was a crybaby.

There were emotional reasons for starting the waterworks. The death of my hamsters and my pet chicken (that post to come later) definitely left my little, elementary school heart broken and the flood gates open. The majority of the time I cried, however, was from pain. Any shot, scrape, bruise, bump, you name it would set me off. Maybe it was because I had a naturally low pain tolerance. Maybe it was because I was coddled. Whatever the reason, I grew up thinking that I had to cry. Crying was just something that you did when you got hurt. There were several occasions in which I would get a scrape and carry on perfectly fine until I saw that I was injured and then start crying. Nobody taught me that it was possible to just not cry if you got hurt. It’s similar to how nobody teaches you that you can just watch each Lord of the Rings film separately. I used to think that you could only marathon them1.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I was 9 0r 10 that I realized I didn’t have to cry if I got hurt. The epiphany came through my best friend’s little brother. He was a scrappy one, indeed. This kid was six years younger than I was, and he seldom cried. They lived next door, so he would often come outside and play with us, the big kids. I specifically remember his arm getting run over by a wagon filled with kids. One time, he decided to stand underneath the basketball goal while we were shooting. Somebody made a basket (probably not me) and the ball went from the hoop right into his head, knocking him to the ground. Looking back, this actually would have made a good America’s Funniest Videos moment. I ran over to ask the little booger if he was okay and prepared to get him to stop crying, but he ignored me, got up, and kept trying to make a basket. This kid never seemed to cry2.

I would compare my life to this kid’s and think, “Why the heck isn’t he crying? I would have cried for sure.” Then it hit me: I could just try not crying. “Next time I get hurt, I will not cry. Next time.”

I was so proud of myself the first time I got a shot and didn’t cry. I started getting scrapes and cuts and learning that most things don’t hurt as bad as you think they do. My crying has leveled out since my childhood. The average man cries about 7 times every year. That seems about right, unless he watches Marley and Me. That will bump it up to 8 for sure, unless you’re a mean and hateful person.

1One of my good friends has never seen any of the Lord of the Rings films (I know, right?), so we had been trying to set a date to watch all of the extended editions. That’s 12 glorious hours of LotR. Eventually she asked if we could just watch one at a time. Up until that moment I hadn’t realized that that was a possibility.

2Okay, this actually isn’t completely true. I remember one time specifically when his family came over for dinner, and he was bouncing on my bed. In an attempt to get him to stop, I tackled him and accidentally hit his mouth with my hand, causing him to wail in pain. When his mom and my mom came up to see what the commotion was all about, I lied and said my brother did it since he has ADHD and thus didn’t know what was happening and was also still too young to get into any trouble. I confessed to my mom that night, but never to any of the other parties involved. Sorry, guys. That feels good to get off my chest after 12 years.

Do you remember when $8 was a lot of money?

My parents used to always buy canned soft drinks. I thought this was normal amongst all families until I made friends. They would come over and look into my fridge and see cokes, sprites, root beer and some diet drinks (gross and carcinogenic) that my dad liked. My best friend who lived next door would always tell me that the only time he had soft drinks was when he came over to my house.

My parents are big on recycling, so we would always crush our cans and throw them in a huge trash can that was lined with one of those giant, black trash bags. Every time we filled one of those up, we would set it aside. Once we had enough filled bags, we would throw them in our van and drive off to this aluminum recycling center in the ghetto.

At the ripe old age of 11, recycling used soda cans and mowing the lawn were my main sources of income. Looking back, I’m surprised that my parents paid me for mowing the lawn. If one day I am blessed enough to have kids and a lawn, they are definitely mowing that thing for free, but I digress. This aluminum recycling center would pay by the pound. On the good days, we could get up to 42 cents for every pound. I believe I usually got $8 out of the transaction, which, according to my calculations, was over 500 cans. The frequency of our visits to this place is probably too embarrassing to share, and I don’t remember.

I would walk out of that place feeling like a king! I was one step closer to buying that Playstation 2. Or that video game for the Playstation 2 that I had spent all my money on. Or that second controller for the 2-player video game that I had just bought for my Playstation 2. The possibilities were endless.

I am 22 years old, and I still think $8 is a lot of money.