Well I thought it was funny! Well I thought it was neat!


I was never the biggest, fastest, or best-looking kid as I ineptly clawed my way from kindergarten through puberty. However, I have always had a gift for weapons. For a sixth grader coming of age in the Mississippi Delta in 1976, that was a marketable skill.

This ghastly tale begins at church. One of my dad’s deacon duties at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, was counting the money after each week’s collection. He and another couple of guys would tally the folding money and checks. I was responsible for counting the silver. There was just so much damage I could do with that. However, that did give me unfettered access to a wide selection of rubber bands in the counting room.

Just like assault rifles, fighter planes, and attack submarines, my weapons evolved over time. Eventually, I found the optimal balance between propellant and payload. It took a great deal of experimentation to get there.

This may look like common office kit. However, in young irresponsible
hands these simple rubber bands can become weapons of mass destruction.

Tactical Details

The energy came in the form of a pair of substantial rubber bands looped together in the middle. One loop went over the thumb and the other over the forefinger of my left hand. The knot between the two reliably established the midpoint.

The ultimate projectile began as about one-third sheet of notebook paper split up and down. I coated one side with a thin film of Elmer’s glue and folded it on itself. Once that set, I repeated the exercise. After a few iterations, I had a strip of glue-laminated paper about the width of a cigarette. I then flattened it between two books and folded it in the middle.

With this as a foundation, I discreetly made a puddle of glue on the floor of my sixth-grade classroom underneath my desk and balanced the thing vertex down with the legs pointing up. Once that set, I peeled it up and teased the extra glue away until it left a hard nubbin on the end. Terminal performance was, shall we say, formidable.

I’m not kidding, that bad boy would dent sheetrock. I have no idea where my teachers were this whole time. Just imagine what I might have accomplished had I focused all that energy on something more productive.

Regardless, after the first recess, every little boy in my sixth-grade class had to have a DIY death machine of his own. The following Sunday, I pilfered enough of the Lord’s rubber bands to arm the male half of the class. Our little grade school suddenly became considerably pricklier.

This is what Tom thought popped him behind his right ear.
Reality was something altogether different

The Event

We’ll call the two kids in question Tom and Bill. These were obviously not their real names. Tom was a pleasant enough bloke, but he always seemed just a little bit stoned. Bill was a hoodlum, but he was a likable hoodlum. Tom sat about midway back in a particular row in Mrs. Flowers’ sixth-grade classroom. Bill occupied the desk behind him. I sat behind Bill. As it was hot and air conditioning was expensive, the windows stood open.

Mrs. Flowers was reading us something, Charlotte’s Web, I think. Such maudlin prose was inadequate to keep us evil little boys exactly riveted. As a result, Bill entertained himself by exercising his rubber band weapon.

Bill oriented his left hand behind Tom’s head and stretched the contraption to its full length with his right. All the while, he used Tom’s melon as cover, so Mrs. Flowers remained blissfully unaware. I could not help but watch. It was like being privy to a slow-motion car crash. What came next was tragically predictable.

Perhaps his hand was sweaty. Maybe Bill was just clumsy. We have already established that he had epically poor judgment. For whatever reason, Bill’s projectile slipped out of his fingers. It then promptly accelerated to around 5,000 feet per second before catching Tom in the little pocket behind his right ear with the force of a 20mm cannon round.

Tom suddenly stood bolt upright and unleashed an absolutely inhuman shriek. Bill took advantage of the chaos to stash his rubber band in his pocket. The projectile likely glanced off of Tom’s skull, punched through the ceiling, and is currently orbiting Uranus. Mrs. Flowers was, shall we say, discomfited. Tom then collapsed into a ball on the floor and appeared to have some kind of seizure.

Mrs. Flowers was at Tom’s side in an instant, attempting to render aid and comfort. After a couple of minutes, Tom regained the capacity to speak. Mrs. Flowers asked him what in heaven’s name was the matter. She had likely never before seen a sixth-grade boy so moved by Charlotte’s Web. Between sobs, Tom explained that a wasp had stung him unexpectedly behind his right ear. As the window was standing open, this explanation was sufficiently plausible to deflect further investigation.

Tom recovered, sort of, in about half an hour. Charlotte’s Web was irretrievably ruined for the day. As I was the only one who actually saw Bill’s accidental discharge, no one was the wiser. It has been some 47 years, and precious Mrs. Flowers has since died, so I suspect the statute of limitations has expired. Tom, if you’re out there, I sincerely hope you’ve had a good life, bro. I’m sorry Bill nearly killed you with an improvised weapon of my own design.


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