Children are pretty dumb and lame, because they can’t even drive cars and are freakishly short. Despite the fact I wore a cape and a sword when I visited Santa one time, I think I was equally as dumb and lame when I was a kid. At school, my parents were called in to talk to my teacher because she thought I might have emotional issues due to reasons that were totally not even my fault, like the fact that boys kept showing me their wangs and that I only coloured using brown pencils. They didn’t know I was colour blind back then. But probably the weirdest thing I ever did was when I briefly became obsessed with scientists. My parents were always keen to support my interests with further education, and bought me books like Fun Science Experiments for Your Child but instead of actually learning anything, I mostly walked around with bottles of dirty water, which I called ‘potions’ or tried to burn various kitchen herbs.
One day I emerged from my room and informed my entire family that I was ready to show them my invention. The thing I held in my hand was this: a transistor radio taped to a larger boom box and a telescope and some toys and torches. It looked like I had been asked to clean my room, and had instead taped everything I found together. My parents were very supportive, but they also couldn’t let me go through life thinking that taping miscellaneous objects together was a valid pastime, so they gently informed me that an invention had to do something, in particular something that people need and haven’t been able to accomplish before. They talked about light bulbs and penicillin. I wasn’t deterred and carried it everywhere with me. For months it would sit on the back seat of the car, light refracting wildly from the telescope lens and the small Swarovski snail attached to one of the radio dials. It became larger and more cumbersome as I wound more and more tape around it to keep it sturdy and strong.
One day we went to see glow worms in some caves. I was wearing my best cape, and had the invention dangling off my Batman utility belt. We waited almost an hour for our eyes to adjust to the darkness and the worms to come out of their holes or whatever, and right as the electric blue wiggles started to appear, my younger sister started to cry because she was scared of the dark. Without missing a beat, I cried “Don’t worry, Julia!” and I pulled the long cord on the invention.
Both radios suddenly hissed with static, while something buried deep in the middle of the mass of junk warbled tinnily ‘Joy To The World’. Three torches cut through the darkness and a blue strobe blinked frantically. There was the sound of an electronic cow mooing. Everyone on the tour screamed in sudden pain, blinded by the light, and bats started whipping around our heads, screeching through the cavern. “Turn it off, turn it off,” screamed my mother, but I just looked at her blankly. I hadn’t designed it to do that.
Words from Patrick Lenton. You can find him at spontaneityreview.com.
Illustration from Tilly Hutchison. See more of her work at tillydrawspictures.tumblr.com.