Welcome to episode 14 of Messin’ with Mark, God’s Sitcom!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .
When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”
“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.
“Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”
“I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”
Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”
God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.
Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark.
Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.
So, to today’s episode –
Looking back, it is clear to me that God’s sitcom with me as the unwitting star was not a recent development. It started when I was very young. Like the day I knocked myself out with my own superball, fr’instance. Strange, but true! Read on, dear reader, as I bring you the mysterious tale of . . . The Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-as-Your-Fist Superball by Wham-O!
I was about nine years old, lying in bed, reading the latest “Tales From the Crypt” comic book under the covers with a flashlight. I finished the last story and perused the ads on the last page in case there was something there I didn’t have yet.
Whoopie cushion – Had it.
Itching powder – Check.
3-D glasses – Had it.
(They didn’t work. They were supposed to be able to see through anything, but girls still had clothes on when I wore them. False advertising to sweet, innocent children! Those bastards!)
Hand buzzer – Had it.
Sea Monkeys – Check.
Fire-hot bubble gum – Had it.
Charles Atlas bodybuilding course – Had it.
(It didn’t work, either. Yet another example of deceptive advertising! Telling small children that they can have huge muscles. I lifted everything in sight but never became a “He-Man”. Where the hell was Ralph Nader when I was a kid?)
I was just about to close the comic and go to sleep to battle witches, zombies and skeletons, when I saw it . . . “The Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-As-Your-Fist Superball by Wham-O.”
The ad said:
“Here it is, kids! The superball to beat all superballs! Be the king of your block with The Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-As-Your-Fist Superball(TM) by Wham-O! This is no ordinary superball! Oh, no! Designed by NASA scientists, it is ultra-mega-condensed by massive, hydraulic thingy’s, and can bounce higher than any other superball in history. This baby comes down with snow on it! Own one for the low, introductory price of only $5.00!!”
My heart sank. Five bucks!? On my allowance, it would take me years to save that much! I threw the magazine on the floor and tried to sleep but visions of The Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-As-Your-Fist Superball by Wham-O kept me awake. I tossed and turned for hours. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed about it bouncing in all its multi-colored glory, my friends looking on in astonishment as I careened it off the moon and back. They begged me to let them have a bounce. I brushed the snow off it and benevolently allowed them to. My enemies seethed with jealousy and my friends showered me with praise. Finally, I was reaping all of the respect and admiration I so richly deserved.
But I awoke the next morning superball-less. It was Saturday. Scooby-Doo was just about to start, but I had bigger things on my mind. My first entrepreneurial thoughts began at that moment. What would I do to amass the required five dollars? A paper-route? No, that’s a real job. I’d be stuck with it long after I had reached the goal. Besides, I’d be so busy delivering papers, I wouldn’t have time to play with said superball. Forget that. I thought about many potential careers – dog-walking, fence-painting, car-washing, lawn-mowing. I finally decided on lawn-mowing because I had the most experience with it, and my dad owned a mower. Besides, it was fairly simple; just back and forth over and over.
I jumped out of bed, stuffed a Scooter-Pie in my face, ran out to the garage, grabbed the lawnmower, and embarked on my new career. Well, until I had amassed five dollars and could retire.
I pushed the lawnmower down the street, hitting the softest targets first. Mrs. Knight, my piano teacher, surely wouldn’t turn me down. When she came to the door, I made my pitch.
“Hi, Mrs. Knight. Can I mow your lawn for a quarter?”
She looked at me like I had an armadillo sitting on top of my head. I had never volunteered for work before. It was enough of a chore to keep me in the seat during piano lessons.
Darn, I thought, I had asked for too much. What was I thinking asking for a whole quarter? That’s where greed gets you.
Suddenly, a smile broke on her face and she said, “Well, aren’t you the enterprising young fellow! Go right ahead.”
Wow, my first job! That was easy. I would be rich in no time. I finished the lawn in half an hour and went to the door to collect. Mrs. Knight handed me a quarter and gave me a glass of lemonade.
I worked my way down the block, then the next, and the next, but I was exhausted after the tenth lawn I mowed. This would be harder than I thought. My take at the end of the day was only half of what I needed – $2.50
I came home, put my loot in a cigar box in my room, had dinner, and fell asleep in front of the TV. The next thing I knew, I was draped over my dad’s shoulder being carried to bed.
I awoke the next morning, had my usual Scooter-Pie breakfast and sped down the driveway with the lawnmower, planning to hit the blocks in the other direction. Virgin territory! I purposely picked smaller lawns this time and was done by about two o’clock. Finally, I had the five clams I needed!
I ran home as fast as I could, clearing the sidewalk of pedestrians with the whizzing, gnashing blades of my lawnmower. I was so excited, I could hardly feel the blisters on my hands. I crashed the lawnmower into the garage, never planning to touch the infernal thing again as long as I lived, and ran to my room to fill out the all-important “order form”.
I asked my mother for a stamp, walked to the corner, and reached up to drop the envelope into the big, blue mailbox. The waiting began. Every day, I watched for the mailman, hoping to see a small box in his hand, and every day, I was disappointed. Had my letter been lost in the mail? Did somebody steal my five dollars? Did they run out of superballs? I was going crazy!
After about two weeks, I was starting to give up hope. A dark depression had consumed me. I was in my room playing with my Light Bright when I heard the mailman drop the mail through the slot in the door. I got up lackadaisically to go look, certain that there would be no superball yet again. Halfway there, though, I heard a knock on the door. The mailman had something that couldn’t fit through the slot! Good Lord in heaven, it was here! My prayers had been answered!
I threw open the door. The mailman asked, “You Mark Rickerby?”
“Something for you.”
He handed me the box and walked away. “Something for you”, he says. That poor sap. He didn’t even know he was holding in his very own hands the Holy Grail of superballs. Grown-ups are so dumb.
I fell to my knees and tore into the box. The superball was wrapped in white paper and plastic beneath that. I threw the white paper into the air and ripped the plastic off. There it was. Glory of glories. It was too beautiful for words. A halo of light seemed to surround it. There was a small, gilt-edged certificate inside the box that read, “Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of The Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-As-Your-Fist Superball(TM) by Wham-O.” There was some other stuff about safety but who had time for that? I wanted to see this baby fly!
I ran outside to the middle of the street where there was plenty of room. I held the ball up in the sun to appreciate the sheer majesty of its swirled colors. It was like a solid ball of rainbow sherbet. High psychedelic art. Like something Peter Max coughed up. I almost didn’t want to bounce it and scratch the slick surface, but that just wasn’t an option. Like thoroughbreds are born to run, this little honey was born to bounce. What might happen? How high would it go? Would it really come down with snow on it? Would it bounce off the moon like it did in my dream? My mind was swimming with the possibilities.
I couldn’t hold back any longer. I took a few steps back, ran forward and fired the ball at the ground with all my might. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the cement like a sausage in a pan, looking up at the blue sky. My right eye was throbbing. It suddenly dawned on me that I had clobbered myself with my own superball! “Wham-O” is right!
I made a fun discovery that day, though – cartoons are factual. You do see stars if you get hit in the head hard enough.
Cars were starting to back up on the street. A woman with horn-rimmed glasses looked down at me, her bouffant hairdo blocking the sun.
“Is he dead?” someone asked.
“No, I don’t think so” the lady answered.
“Was it a hit-and-run?” someone else asked.
“I don’t know, but he’s got one heck of a shiner coming up,” the lady said. “Maybe another kid punched him. What happened, dear?”
I sat up and assured them all that I was okay. They helped me to the curb. My parents noticed the commotion and came running out of the house. I couldn’t face the embarrassment of admitting that I had knocked myself out with my own superball, so I told them I fell down. They took me into the house. My mom put a steak on my eye and made me lie down. I could hear them talking in the other room.
“Fell down, my arse!” my dad said. “He probably got punched again. That boy never knows when to keep his yap shut.”
When the smoke cleared, I climbed out the window and found the superball under a car. Determined to get it right, I bounced the ball again, this time making sure my face was out of the way. It was everything they promised and more. With my one good eye, I lost sight of it in the high air for what seemed like a full minute. Birds stopped in mid-flight, wondering what was up there with them, and without wings! There was no snow on it when it came back down and it didn’t hit the moon but that didn’t matter. I loved it anyway, even if it did knock me out.
Moral of the story – If you ever bounce a Super-Duper, Ultra-Compacted, Rainbow-Swirl, Big-As-Your-Fist Superball by Wham-O, make sure your kisser is out of the way.