I know y’all have heard the expression, “curiosity killed the cat,” right? Well, the last part of that sayin’ is, “but satisfaction brought him back.” I’ve always been curious about how things work.
Take a ball point pen for example. When I was just a little bitty kid, I would sit for hours and click a ball point pen. I know … simple minds are easily amused.
One day I just had to find out what made it click, so I tore it apart. I couldn’t find a clicker, so I tore apart another one, then another, and another. Before long, I had disassembled every ball point pen in the house.
Still no clicker. No, I didn’t put them back together. I was not a reassembler, just a tear-it-upper.
Of course, my mom found all the pen pieces, and she was upset, but my dad was proud of me. You see, he’s a tear-it-upper, too. The only difference between the two of us is that he could put stuff back together.
I still, to this day, have an uncontrollable urge to tear things open to find out how they work, or worse, try to improve their mechanics. It usually, no always, ends up costin’ me more money, plus I have to listen to my wife say things like, “I told you so,” or “Won’t you ever learn?”
Well, I guess I never will. Although, there is one thing I’m no longer curious about. And that's the little ball that’s in a can of spray paint.
I don’t remember when spray paint was invented, but I remember seein’ my first can. It was in my dad’s hand.
My dad was a fixer-upper. He could fix anything. Not only could he fix it, but when he finished with it, it would look better than when it was new. He was always like that. Behind our house was his shop. He’d spend hours in there fixin’ neighbor’s lawn mowers and stuff. No, it wasn’t his job, just a hobby.
One day, I walked in and he had a tall can in his hand.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Spray paint,” he answered.
“What’s it do?”
“Watch,” he said. He started shakin’ the can. At first it didn’t make a sound, and then it started clicking. My ears perked up. Before long, the clickin’ was louder and then he stopped shakin’ the can. He sprayed a piece of metal and turned it black.
“Neat, huh?” he said.
“Yes sir,” I said. “What makes it do that?”
“Well, there’s paint in here under pressure, and when I push this little nozzle…”
“No sir.” I interrupted. Who cared about some dumb ol’ paint. “What makes that clickin’ sound?”
“Oh,” he said. “I think there’s a little metal ball or marble or somethin’ in there to help mix up the paint.”
“Wow,” I said. “Can we get it out?”
“Heh, heh,” he laughed. “No. I don’t think that would be a good idea,” and he continued his work. I watched for a while then went out to play. After a while I saw him leave his shop. I snuck in and grabbed a can of the paint. He had several cans, so I didn’t figure he’d miss just one. I took the can and ran up to my cousin Coy’s house.
“Coy!” I yelled. Nobody knocked on doors back then. In a second, Coy came out.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Looky here,” I said, and held up the can of paint.
“What is it?”
“It’s paint in a can, but that ain’t the best part, listen.” I started shakin’ the can. The clickin started and then got louder.
“What is that?” he asked.
“Daddy said it was a marble or maybe even a steel ball.”
“Wow. You gonna try to get it out?”
“Yup. You wanna help?”
“Sure,” he said. “Good. Here,” and I handed him the can. “You read the instructions and see how we get it open, and I’ll go get a can opener in case we need it. I’ll meet you in the storm cellar.”
The storm cellar was actually a fallout shelter Uncle Ray, Coy’s dad, built for when the Russians bombed us, but you know how that turned out, so we used it for a make-shift club house.
I ran back to my house and “borrowed” my mom’s can opener. When I got back, Coy had a funny look on his face. “What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Man, this thing has some mighty big words on it.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like this,” he replied, and then he spelled out the word. “P..U..N..C..T..U..R..E.”
“What does it mean?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, “but it says don’t do it.”
“Huh,” I said. “Well whatever it is, let’s not do it. Now, give’er to me and let’s see if we can get’er open.” I took the can and turned it over and placed the can opener on the bottom. “Well, here goes nothin’,” I said and I squeezed the handles together. Suddenly, everything went black. Coy was black. I was black. The whole room was black. Everything was black. Coy was the first to speak.
“You know,” he said. “This ain’t good.”
“Who said that?” I said, not bein’ able to distinguish Coy from the wall. We walked outside.
“Look,” said Coy. “We’re only black on the front,” like that made things better.
“I think I’ll go on home,” I said. “I have a feelin’ that I might be in trouble.”
“I won’t be,” said Coy.
“I’ll just tell Mom what you did and she’ll say, ‘It figures,’ and that will be the end of it.”
“Boy,” I said. “I won’t get off that easy,” and I didn’t, and neither did Coy.
After being scrubbed down with gasoline (mom wasn’t home and it was up to my dad to help me clean up, and he figured gasoline was the quickest way to get the paint off) and then soap, Dad hosed me down with the water hose. He threw my clothes away and told me not to get near any open flames. When Mom got home and surveyed the mess, and got a whiff of me, Dad got in more trouble than me. It was that gasoline thing I guess, but I still got in trouble.
But I did learn a lesson from all of this. If it clicks, leave it alone. And if it says don’t puncture; well, don’t go pokin’ no holes in it neither.