Final Resting Place

Kung Fu was much on my mind in the 70’s. First there was the television show starring David Carradine, which was THE GREATEST SHOW EVER for a non-violent, philosophically minded pre-teen. Two years after its debut, G. I. Joe developed Kung Fu grip. This was a breakthrough in Action Figure Technology. Now, Joe could grab his opponents and climb walls and . . . well, much more, I was sure of it. I had to have one. It turns out that once you’ve grabbed your first enemy action figure, and once you’ve posed him dangling off the kitchen table, he’s just another G. I. Joe with funny hands. So I did the only other interesting thing I could think to do with him: I stood outside and threw Joe as high into the air as I could. I caught him twice, but on the third attempt I threw him so high that he landed on our roof, rolled down the incline, and came to rest in the gutter. Only his camouflage-clad right arm and Kung Fu-gripped right hand were visible; the rest lay hidden, two stories above the ground.

The Kenowers did not own a ladder. And so for one season, and then two seasons, and then three seasons I played in our yard and would occasionally glance at Joe and his one dangling arm and hand. The more I glanced at that arm and his Kung Fu hand, the more I missed Joe. I began to think of new things I could do with him and his grip. I imagined adventures he hadn’t taken, enemies he hadn’t faced. His life had been so brief. I hoped the rest of him was doing all right there in the gutter.

Finally, a full year after his entombment, the day came that my father, never to be accused of handiness, procured a ladder. There had been some badgering, I suspect. Up he went, my brother, sister and I waiting below, wondering if we might soon be fatherless because of this trapped toy. The ladder was just high enough that if he stood on the second-highest rung and leaned one hand against the house, he could reach over the gutter with the other and fling Joe free.

“Careful!” I cried, as Joe spun through the air. I caught him!

I don’t know what exactly happens in a gutter over the course of summer, fall, spring, and winter. I suppose there’s a lot of water and debris. Whatever it is, there’s some powerful chemistry at work, for what I held in my hand was an unrecognizable, plastic carcass of a toy. The clothes were stinking, rotted shreds, and somehow the body had decayed in that one brutal year. All that remained intact was the single arm, still wrapped in its camouflage sleeve, extending to a perfect Kung Fu hand.

My brother and I buried him the next day. The adventures I had dreamed for him would be lived by other toys, or told in other stories. He had served his family well.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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