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The International Writers Magazine: Childhood Menace - From Our Archives

Red Eye
John M Edwards

“Red Eye, Red Eye, that’s the name. Catch the red spike, and win the game!”
TV commercial jingle from the 1970s

Back in the days when I ate TV dinners in a partially flooded basement, watching, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Land of the Giants,” while my folks played the board-game Acquire upstairs and guzzled “frothies,” I realized that only one thing counted in this world: games. - Lots of them.

 Hippity Hop. Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. Slippery Slide. We bought baseball cards for the gum, and gave the cards away while flipping. Even close friends weren’t averse to snatching my Hot Wheels. Airplane models were to be built and painted by  Dad, then displayed on the bookshelf with games I rarely played: Parchesi, how do you play that? I wanted results.

Somehow one Christmas, while listing everything I wanted on reams of yellowed notepad paper, when I expressed mild interest in a very dangerous-looking toy, resembling the vengeful molten ball of a medieval mace, my dad actually succeeded in finding one. Of course, my dad was innocent and unmindful of the eldritch weapon he was handing over to his own son.

 Right across the street, the flaming shadow of the missing mansion entered our dreams. Old Man Hatchet’s place. Which was obviously the inspiration for the Adams Family comics (Charles Adams lived in the next town over). I stayed up late at night shivering with fear about a single episode of “One Step Beyond.”

Some of the older neighborhood kids could actually succeed in throwing a baseball, or a snowball, or an apple, or a rock, with deadly aim at some of the younger and more defenseless victims in our neighborhood. Why is it that anything can “take your eye out”?

With a Wacky Packages grin, I greedily unwrapped the Red Eye, this nightmare alternative to the football: a spheroid satellite studded with spikes! No seven-year-old plays Candyland.

Weapon in hand, I trudged down the block, feeling like Warren Oates playing the Cyclops on the “Outer Limits,” to test my new toy on one of the more gullible members of our block, whom the older kids referred to as “Tuschy.” He had a bunch of older stepbrothers with boxes of magazine containing irresistible pulps, such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. One of his brothers worked for a TV station in New York, which produced “Chiller,” wherein a horror film is introduced by an animated hand rising up from a pool of blood with six fingers.

Anyway, he was used to being picked on.

Much larger than me, with Country Club-blond hair but good-naturedly fearful of any physical contact, he at first seemed reluctant to play, to catch it. After explaining the rules of the game--easy enough, all you have to do is catch this hard yellow plastic ball by the red spike—he seemed just this close to being tricked yet once again. Yes, you win if you can do that. I cruelly convinced him to be the target of my first throw.

Bam! He ran off bawling to tell his mother. I had been planning revenge on my friend ever since the day he peed on my brand-new shoes behind the garage. I went inside, feeling a little despondent, and played the board-game Dark Shadows with my older sister. She smiled evilly when she won.
© John Edwards May 2008

John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely (five continents plus), with misadventures ranging from surviving a ferry sinking in Thailand to being caught in a military coup in Fiji.

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