from the book Island Avenue

On Saturday mornings at 8:00 AM I would leap out of bed, slip on a robe and run downstairs.
As soon as I turned left into the living room, all my attention focused on the huge wooden radio located against
the far wall. One flick of the switch, one spin of the dial, and out would come the voice of Smilin' Ed McConnell,

"Plunk your magic twanger, froggy!"

"Hi yuh, kids. Hi yuh," the frog replied.

Big John and Little Sparky would follow next, and my favorite song, "You can't go out in the woods
today. . .see the teddy bears have their picnic," would bubble along in the background.
I would lie in front of that radio for two hours, along with most other boys my age, and imagine the stories
being told. I remember the Emperor's New Clothes and The Jungle Book among others. At this point in my life
there was no TV, and the movies were few and far between. I would lie on that rug for a good part of the
morning, watching the Emperor parade through my living room while the sun streamed in through the back windows,
eventually calling me to outside pursuits.

I was approaching my fifth birthday, and my parents were arranging a party for me on a Saturday afternoon.
All my buddies would be there, and along with the presents they would bring, my mom and dad would give me their
present. Since it was a sunny, fall morning, I looked forward to some great games after the party. It wasn't long before
the doorbell was ringing, and one cowboy after another arrived for my party. Coincidentally, as the party was beginning,
a man with a pony came down the street wanting to sell rides and photographs. He could not have arrived at a better
time for his business, as we boys piled out of the house for a turn on the pony. The man would return another day
to sell the pictures to the families. With all this and the treats, I didn't notice my dad slipping into the living
room with a huge object.

We were about to run outside to play when my mom said, "Look in the living room, Chucky."

Sitting in the middle of the floor, was a yellow clown punching bag fully as big as I was, with blue polka dots
and a big red grin. I walked over to it and hit it as hard as I could. It bounced right back up in my face.
This was going to be fun!

"Let me try it!" rang out over and over as each of us took turns pummeling the yellow clown, but it just
kept bouncing back for more. My father was delighted and took a few swipes himself. After we
demonstrated our boxing skills, my father took me aside for the expected instruction.

"You can hit the clown as much and as hard as you want Chucky, but never stick a pin or anything sharp in it,
or it will be no good anymore."

"I won't dad," I promised as we all went running out the door.

After my friends went home, and I was alone in the living room with my clown, I admired its size
and durability and felt very proud to have such a thing. Maybe that was the beginning of my undoing.
Somehow curiosity began to set in.

"Why couldn't I stick a pin in it?" and "I wonder what would happen if..." began to ding around
in my mind. Like Eve in the garden, I had to find out. My previous sins had been mostly those of omission.
Today, I was going to discover clearly the sin of commission. I went into the bathroom, found my mother's pin
cushion and came into the living room. Walking quickly over to the clown I, at first tentatively but finally with a hard
thrust, jabbed the pin through it and the air began to hiss. As I watched in a mixture of awe and horror, the
clown slowly sank to a plastic puddle at my feet.

"Dad! Mom! there's something wrong with my clown!" I heard myself yell.

Within a short period of time, there was something wrong with my bottom. My dad, however, was not
going to give up on the clown, so after attempts at finger nail polish and chewing gum failed, we piled in
the car and went to the local gas station. There the finest technology available in our town was applied to
that clown, but to no avail. The clown was ruined.

As I lay in my bed that night feeling the remorse of my foolishness, I kept seeing the face of the clown
bouncing back at me and the intense look on my fathers face as he tried so hard to repair it. The clown's
yellow face and my father's red face blended together, reminding me that there was no way back into the
blessing my father had prepared for me. Life was more serious than I had thought. Not everything I broke
could be fixed. It was like I had lost a friend before I got to know him.

Next Saturday I ran down the stairs, sped into the living room and flicked on the radio. I listened
very closely hoping somehow, someone would explain how or why I did this stupid thing. As Smilin' Ed said,

"Plunk your magic twanger, froggy,"

I gladly let go of this deep thinking with a grateful sigh, and heard froggy say,

"Hi yuh, kids! Hi yuh!"

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