Story Time With Bomb: No Sense Snitching Over Spilled Milk
It was a Friday evening in November of 1991, Bomb’s sophomore year at Hempfield Memorial High School.
Bomb had been at one of a legendary string of parties, taking place in Dandy’s barn, behind his mom’s house. It was one of his first, unfortunately, not last experiences, with a syrupy sweet toxic concoction called Mad Dog 20/20. Bomb was on the walk home, thru Hempfield, with his cohorts, Swag & Stow-Lo. The plan was to stop at the 7-11 for a late-night snack, before parting ways. It was approximately 11 PM when they arrived at 7-11.
None of the evening’s activity was advisable for someone with a State Sectional Cross-Country race early the next morning. Then again, very little of what Bomb did at age 15, was recommended behavior.
As Swag, Stowey and Bomb got inside the 7-11, it was nearing closing time. Swag went directly to the nacho section towards the back. He then began cranking the pump on the silver canister to add the cheese. Nothing came out.
“I’ll be over there after I’m done with these customers, I need to pour more cheese in there”, the 7-11 clerk called out. Swag did not hear him, perhaps due to the other sauce sloshing around in his brain. Swag began doing what most young men do while searching for satisfaction: pump harder. The sound of Swag cranking the empty canister, now sounded akin to a kid banging on pots and pans. The noise was echoing throughout the store.
Bomb and Stow-Lo were over near the candy aisle. They bumped into a friend they knew, DQ. DQ was engaged in one of his common practices that Bomb & Stow-Lo saw play out in the high school cafeteria line: bumming money. Bomb, having none, nor real appetite due to an uneasy stomach of syrup-infused booze, kept a healthy distance.
The clerk, now annoyed by the clanging in the corner behind him, while attending to another customer, near-shouted “I said, give me a minute, I gotta re-fill it!”.
This time, Swag heard him.
Swag still did not fully appreciate his position.
“This place never has any fucking Cheese Sauce!”, Swag said, before storming out. Bomb & Stow-Lo were soon on their way out with him, sensing an awkward tension.
DQ, who hadn’t arrived with them, stayed behind. He hadn’t yet collected enough cash, from other patrons, to satisfy his hunger cravings.
Once outside, Swag, Stow-Lo and Bomb had a brief summit by the entrance. At the same time, a Johanna milk truck delivery pulled up to the curb. The delivery driver was unloading plastic pallets from the ramp he’d deployed. While the young dudes tried to talk, the new clanging, was the sound of milk crates being stacked up out front. The delivery man, presumably making his end-of-night drop-off for the next day, went about his business. He took the first set of milk crates inside. There was still about six feet of unattended milk outside.
No one will ever know why, what happened next occurred. Bomb, engulfed in MD 20/20 and the acrimony of the previous moment, got a devilish look in his eye. Stow-Lo was the first to notice it. Next thing he knew, he was shouting “BOMB, NO!”, as Bomb made a full charge, towards the tower of milk. It was too late to stop. Bomb lowered his shoulder, and proceeded to spear the six-foot tower of milk at mid-base like Andre “Dirty” Waters would an unprotected receiver.
Moments later, the 7-11 parking lot, was flooded with milk. As the three young men proceeded to run anyway, the last thing each saw, was milk lapping against curbs in the parking lot. They were gone from the scene before the delivery driver or the annoyed clerk got back outside. Each would run their separate ways, so as to not be caught together, at the same time. Bomb lived the furthest away of the three of them, yet he was in peak track condition. He was probably back home, a half mile away from Sev, before the milk splashing had fully settled. He stopped just short of the front door, to catch his breath, plus inspect his own, before entering the family home.
Luckily, when Bomb arrived inside, no one was awake on the couch that night, to inquire of his whereabouts. Relieved, he settled downstairs in the den, to watch Arsenio before retiring for the night. That cross-country race, was gonna come way earlier than he wanted either way. Magic Johnson, making his first public appearance since the famous press conference, announcing he had “attained” AIDS, was talking to his friend, Arsenio. Engrossed but profoundly saddened by the thought Magic Johnson was going to die, Bomb was about to walk up to bed.
Then a knock came on the door, accompanied by a doorbell, ringing twice.
Bomb’s thoughts quickly shifted from Magic Johnson’s misfortune, to his own self-preservation.
First priority was answering the door, otherwise, whoever was there was clearly going to keep ringing and knocking. Previously relieved that his parents were already upstairs asleep, this was to Bomb, far less than ideal. He peered out from the den into the hallway, to inspect the shadow at the door.
As he feared it would be, it was a Hempfield police officer. He couldn’t tell which but wasn't sure it mattered. Bomb opened the door. It was Officer Shunter.
If you were picking a Hempfield cop for a teen to deal with, he was probably the last straw you wanted to draw. Bomb, now with the door open, peering up at 6’5” uniformed officer, did his best to appear confused.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Officer Shunter cut to the chase.
“Are you Max Kelly?”, the policeman asked.
“Yes”, Bomb replied.
“Were you over at 7-11 earlier this evening?”
“You been out at all tonight?”
“I was at a friend’s earlier, been home for a while tho, watching Arsenio”.
“Well, that’s odd, Mr. Kelly, because I have someone who says otherwise”.
It was then that Officer Shunter, cracking a smile, pulled out a 7-11 napkin.
Bomb could see some writing on it.
It was DQ’s handwriting. Bomb, having currently been sharing a lab table in Mr. Fred’s class with DQ, would recognize that chicken scratch anywhere.
“Yeah, it looks like someone who knows you, said you were at 7-11 a little earlier. Said you knocked over some milk cartons, made a big mess of things.”
Bomb, feigning ignorance while inspecting the napkin further, stalling for time:
“Officer, I don’t know what that’s all about, I’ve been home for a while. Maybe it’s someone that doesn’t like me, using my name to get me in trouble.”
“That could be, seems like he knows you pretty well tho. He gave up your name to the clerk and me, even drew me a map to your house, with your name on it."
Officer Shunter chuckled a bit before the last part:
"Yup, he gave your name up for two free hot dogs.”
Bomb, by now was struggling to maintain composure. His blood was boiling at the prospect of DQ diming him out for two hot dogs.
He wasn’t sure you could put a price on loyalty. If you could though, it damn sure would be higher than that. Officer Shunter seemed way too pleased to show him that napkin. It had not only his full legal name, including the middle name Christopher, but also a rudimentary map outlining how to get from 7-11, down Haddon Ave, then the hard right, by the circle where Hempfield Acme was, over to his parents’ house.
“Your parents’ home, Max?”
“Uh, yeah, they’re asleep though.”
“I think you’re gonna have to go wake one of them up”.
The prospect of doing so, was somewhat terrifying to Bomb.
Still, leaving the door to do it, would at least give him some time to think, away from an officer’s flash light, and that damn DQ napkin, openly mocking him.
Bomb ascended the old, creaky stairs. When he got to the door of his parents’ bedroom, he opened it as slowly as possible. The goal had shifted from avoiding waking his parents, to now hoping to just wake his mother, rather than his father. He purposefully crept to the right side of the bed, where she slept. Once close enough, he gently reached out to nudge, while at the same time, whispering.
Bomb’s mom, slightly dazed and confused, opened her eyes.
“What’s going on?” she said.
“Ma, there’s a police officer downstairs, says he wants to talk to you”.
“Huh, what did you do?”
“Nothing Ma, I was in the den watching TV, I think some kid gave ‘em my name”.
Bomb would tell her the truth later…much later.
Right then was not the right time for it.
He needed to get that cop off their porch.
Ma walked downstairs after putting a robe on over her pajamas, curlers still in her hair, then opened the front door.
Ma’s exchange with the officer didn’t last very long, but still felt like forever.
Bomb couldn’t quite hear all of it, he was originally standing next to her, interjecting with some details for her (and his) benefit, but Officer Shunter asked Bomb to wait in another room.
Bomb’s father, would have immediately been convinced of his son’s guilt.
He may have even tried to turn the event into a teachable moment, even encouraged Bomb to ride back to the 7-11 with the cops to be identified.
This was not how Bomb’s mom rolled.
She surely suspected something.
Still, she was annoyed that a policeman was waking her up at midnight, had her standing out on her porch in the cold, talking about some damn spilled milk, all because of some chicken scratch, written on a 7-11 napkin, for two hot dogs.
She politely listened to the officer, then in her own way, explained that she would get to the bottom of it herself, but there was no way was her fifteen-year-old son, was going anywhere with the officer, unless the officer had a warrant for him to do so.
Officer Shunter, though he objected, understood she was legally correct.
He seemed just as well with not having to spend the rest of the night doing paperwork, now having already ensured Bomb some home life unrest.
Eventually he left.
Mom went back to bed and ordered Bomb to do the same, reminding him that he had a race, early in the AM.
Bomb made it thru the next day’s hangover at Sectionals. He wasn’t sure he would when he first woke up, but after being given a Power Bar provided by friend/teammate Flaco, felt better. Bomb actually ran one of his better times in his high-school career on that course. Perhaps it was the guilt, making him run faster, as if he was fleeing a milk-saturated scene at 7-11. Or perhaps he was more focused on the hangover, then the natural hurt of running 3.2 miles as fast as you can.
Either way, after greatly pleasing Coach Bakes with his performance that day, Bomb had one order of unfinished business: Confronting DQ.
He knew he would have to see him in Mr. Fred’s class after lunch on Monday.
Unless, of course, he didn’t show up to school.
Which he didn’t.
And was again apparently too “ill” to attend again on Tuesday.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were what New Jersey Public Schools deemed to be “teacher in-service days”, so students had the day off.
It would be a full ten days before Bomb would see DQ.
Ten days, in a teenage timeline, feels more like a lifetime.
All the chatter, “are you gonna fight him?”, etc. had dried up already.
The rest of the school had moved on to other, fresher, gossip.
When Bomb finally did see DQ in class that following Monday, he kept it simple:
“Two hot dogs….You gave my name to the police, my parents address and drew them a map to my house…for two hot dogs?!?”
DQ could tell by Bomb’s tone, that it was more scolding, then threatening.
It was almost too ridiculous to still be heated about ten days out, particularly since it was Bomb’s original, inexplicable act that set the wheels in motion, thus exposing DQ’s weakness under duress.
Bomb also had been lucky plus duplicitous enough to still avoid legal retribution.
So instead he just looked DQ in the eye, asking him the question:
“Two Hot Dogs?!?”
DQ, near blushing with embarrassment, finally blurted out:
“Ah, I’m sorry Bomb, I was drunk and I was so hungry”.
“Yeah? Ever think to give them a fake name, then they’d give you the two free hot dogs anyway?".
“Ah, nah, I’m sorry Bomb, I didn’t think of that at the time”.
“You are out of your mind…and you are doing all our lab work today, I’m just gonna sit here and read Spin”.
And that was it, the first, of what would eventually be four times that DQ would go on to rat out Bomb, was resolved. There would later be controversies: some unassigned vulgarities scrawled on an English worksheet sophomore year that surfaced when DQ got sent out of class, a trash can that mysteriously sailed out a second-floor window into the high school courtyard and lastly a real estate sign that crashed thru a window in their senior year together.
Each time, DQ would fold like a cheap suit upon the first sign of trouble.
Buck-passing and blame-shifting was in his nature.
But is that more his fault, or Bomb’s, for putting DQ in position to expose that sin?
Because the way Bomb sees it, there is no sense snitching over spilled milk.
But deep down, he also knows it makes no sense to spill it in the first place.