I traded some kid a bunch of porno mags that I found in the desert for a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook. This same kid was the son of a Vietnam vet. His father kept a bunch of guns and explosives in their garage. I spent a few hours reading through different ways to make home explosives until I settled on making a pipe bomb.
A pipe bomb would do the trick.
The desert used to be right down the block from the house we’d moved into. All of the kids in the neighborhood used to ride out there on their bikes, free and easy with no adult supervision. So many days were spent out under the sun and making time pass by trying to jump arroyos, trying to show which kid was the craziest by jumping into cacti and other flora.
Undeveloped land was quickly being swallowed up by new tracts of homes. What used to be paths for the kids to run free were being reborn, cul de sacs plotted and paved in patterns that took away the freedom to run wild. Huge earth-moving machines left unattended after tilling the desert for progress. Stacks of wood and sheetrock. Rolls of carpet waiting for walls to be put up to house them. Construction workers. Foremen.
Emptying out shotgun shells for their black powder is tedious work, even more tedious when you are an angry kid hopped-the-fuck-on-up on sugar and anticipatory glee. Finding the right size pipe is necessary, but not right away—all the busywork should be done first—otherwise you just have piles of disassembled shells scattered everywhere and a bunch of volatile black powder in a pipe that can be found by a snooping parent or curious sibling.
Too much evidence to leave around, really.
Something about methane rings in the brain when thinking about things blowing up. Something about how combustible it is and how there is a thing called a “flash point” that should be taken into consideration. The desert is hot. Garages are hot. Black powder burns bright and hot. Black powder can blow your hands off of your body if mishandled. Black Cats and other easily-obtained fireworks are smaller doses of this truth.
A pipe bomb, though. A pipe bomb would do the trick.
Without fail, any time a group of us went out into the desert some construction worker dick would razz us or throw things at us. Once, a really angry and fat man threw a brick at me when I was riding my skateboard down a paved road into a hamlet that had half-finished homes. The brick exploded in front of me, with the debris catching the wheels of my board and sending me flying face-first into the freshly-paved blacktop.
I could hear him laughing when I was pulling the asphalt out of my face at home, crying and plotting. I stared hard into my wet eyes and let it slip out.
“Fuck you, you fat dick. You’re gonna be sorry.”
I was socially awkward. Making friends was hard for me and I was always scheming some way to make all the kids I thought were cool to like me and think of me as cool.
A pipe bomb would do the trick. Or so I thought.
I had followed all of the instructions in the recipe as best as I could. I did my research. I studied the patterns of the construction workers—what time they arrived, what time they milled around doing nothing, what time they left for the day—scratching it all down in my head. I snuck into the construction site three days earlier and shoved rolls of toilet paper into and then closed the vents on the Port-o-John to make sure the levels of methane were high, even with the opening and closing of the door. It was easy to smell that sealing those vents was working—the big blue box reeked something awful from one hundred yards away.
After watching them leave for the day, I took my friend—the one with the dad with the shells and the explosives—and asked him to be a look-out for me as I ran to the blue box and set my plan into motion while he stayed by the street with our bikes. The bikes were to help us get away quicker.
Once inside, I slammed the door shut behind me. The smell was overwhelming and I felt faint. I climbed up on top of the seat to make sure the vents were still closed and full of toilet paper. They were. I pulled the pipe bomb out of my pants and set it across the top of the commode opening, twisting the fuse in my fingers to make it shorter in hopes that it would burn faster. I looked out of the tiny holes in the door to make sure that my friend was still stationed where he was supposed to be and to make sure nobody was headed toward the shitter. I pulled out lighter and closed my eyes tight, taking a slow and deep breath before lighting the fuse. I was out the door and slammed it shut behind me, walking quickly toward my friend and escape.
His eyes were plates. He nodded his head toward the shitter.
“That is a lot of smoke, dude. Is it gonna blow?”
It was a lot of smoke, almost too much.
I could already hear a fire engine en route.
Shit, when on fire and raining from the sky, turns into something akin to napalm.
The explosion wasn’t massive like I’d hoped it would be. The amount of black smoke pouring out of the door made me think it wouldn’t actually blow up, but when it did the concussion from the blast staggered us. The sky above us filled with flaming shit, raining down on the desert and igniting everything it touched. One of the big earth-moving trucks caught fire. A pile of wood was spattered and smoking. A bunch of kids had started to gather at the street, lots of mumbling and muttering. Big-eyed and smirking.
When the firemen arrived they jumped from their truck and ran into the mess of fires, dragging hoses behind them and yelling about the stink. I started to laugh a little but stopped myself when I looked over at a house on the corner and saw a man talking to one of the firemen and pointing toward me.
I ran as fast as I could as soon as I saw the fireman reach for his walkie-talkie. I didn’t stop running until I was in my garage, bagging up all of the empty shells and supplies I had used to manufacture the pipe bomb. I took the bag and put it in my neighbor’s trashcan. As I was walking back into my garage, my father pulled into the driveway. I tried to look and act calm when he spoke to me.
“Did you see that fire around the corner?”
“I heard the fire trucks, but I didn’t see anything.”
“Looks like some asshole kids decided it would be funny to blow up some portable shitters. Half the desert over there caught fire.”
My father walked to the trunk of his car and opened it. Then he took my bike out—the one I had left behind at the scene of my crime—and wheeled it right in front of me, smiling.
“Don’t get caught, dipshit. Don’t get caught.”
Sean H. Doyle lives in Brooklyn, NY. He works hard every day to be a better person, and is learning how to love himself more. seanhdoyle.com.