About twenty years ago, a series of small fires plagued the town where I grew up. The city of Glastonbury was on edge with the rumors of a serial arsonist on the loose. To this day, they remain unsolved. I would like to admit that I was behind these fires and I am solely responsible for the reign of terror created by them.
My reasons for the fires and my reasons for why I am admitting to them now are complicated. To understand my motivation, I must take you back to that time.
In the 1990s, Nerf, the company that brought you the foam Orange football and the suction cup mini basketball set, decided to change its image and aired this series of commercials:
While most children probably watched this ad and started bugging their mom for these cool new weapons, or maybe even ignored it, I took the message a little more seriously.
“Nerf or nothing” became my raison d’être. My call to arms. My life.
I became afflicted with Nerf mania. An innocent tagline? More like a command to wreak havoc upon anybody who would besmirch playtime with a lesser toy!
It doesn’t really make sense now, I’m with you. But I was going through a tough time then. My coach had just cut me from the little league all-star team. I was angry and confused. So I took it out on my friends and family.
It all started at my friend Bennie Arthur’s house. I had come over after school and he suggested we play G.I. Joe. I agreed and then struck him over the head with a Pogo Ball, knocking him out cold. I then dragged his lifeless body into the woods and set fire to his house. I made sure to plant plenty of evidence on him: some matches, lighter fluid, etc. He came to in the back of an ambulance, handcuffed to the stretcher, lest he tried to start more fires. He told them his story, how he was playing with me at the time and he didn’t know anything about why his house had burned down. Unfortunately for ol’ Ben, I had left my Prodigy account on and so I had an airtight alibi. The next few times it was the same thing. My friends would suggest Legos or Transformers, I would pretend that was a great idea and then… well, you can figure out the rest. I had watched a lot of Hill Street blues and Murder, She Wrote, so I always knew how to work it so I could avoid suspicion. Sometimes, I would simply hypnotize my sister to think she was with me, playing My Little Pony; I owed a big debt to Santa for bringing me that magician’s kit for Christmas. Other times, I would pay some kid from the next town to dress up in my clothes and go to the arcade for a few hours. One time, I slipped up and left some fingerprints on Dave Cortez’s Voltron Black Lion, so to draw suspicion away from me I burnt my own house down while I was seemingly 2000 miles away with my family on vacation in Disney World. My family still thinks that was me on Space Mountain with them! Anyway, after I threw the 5-0 off my scent, I was free to get back to business, only it didn’t seem to get me off like before. I lost interest in Nerf. Maybe it was never really about the Nerf. Maybe it was the thrill of being a serial arsonist. I don’t know. All I do know was that it was time to come clean. Perhaps some of you will point to the fact that I can no longer be indicted for my crimes, due to the statute of limitations, but I swear I had nobler motives: I wanted to be an example for the children of the world. The ones who got cut from the All-Star team, just because they were a terrible sport and would intentionally bean people when they were pitching. The ones whose mothers told them they couldn’t have weapons, even ones made out of plastic and foam. The ones who grew up in the crappiest house in the richest neighborhood in town. I want to be a role model for them. To stand and say that just because you’re rich and white and well-educated, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to the troubles of the world. Your problems matter and you have the intelligence and the means to solve those problems. Or at least forget about them for a while until you find your dad’s Playboys he hid behind the furnace in the basement.