It's Not My Fault!
"Did you remember to bring the potatoes?" my lab partner Dean asked as he picked up the potato launcher we had made in shop class.
"No, I thought you were doing that," I said.
"It's cool," Dean said. "We'll improvise."
We grabbed some duct tape and wrapped it around several round Styrofoam pieces. After assembling the makeshift potatoes, we asked our teacher for permission to go outside and test our invention.
"Be careful!" he hollered as we hurried down the hallway.
When we got outside and shot our lightweight Styrofoam "potatoes" into the air, we were bummed by how little distance we got. Then Dean remembered he had some golf balls in his trunk. We figured we'd try shooting those instead since they weighed more.
With just five minutes left until school let out, we sprinted to the parking lot to get the balls from Dean's car. Then we loaded the launcher with a shiny new Titleist golf ball.
Fooop! Like a high-speed rollercoaster, the ball blasted out of the plastic pipe and into the bright blue sky. Blinded by the sun, we lost sight of it.
"Whoa!" Dean shouted. "That was amazing!"
"Where did it go?" I asked, squinting as I scanned the parking lot.
"I dunno. Heaven?" Dean joked.
The bell rang and students began pouring out of the school's doors.
"Wanna go find that ball?" I asked.
"Nah," Dean replied. "I've got plenty. C'mon, let's go grab a bite to eat."
As we sat at the local Subway discussing our brilliant invention, Dean's cell phone rang. It was his dad, who was a teacher at our school. Dean was only on his cell briefly, but I could tell by his face that something was wrong.
"That ball didn't make it to heaven after all," he told me. "It shattered the back windshield of someone's car."
"What?!" I gasped, nearly choking on my meatball sub.
"It gets worse," Dean continued. "The police have been contacted and want to talk to us."
A sinking feeling weighed me down. We'd damaged somebody else's property. And to make matters worse, it probably looked like we ran from the scene to avoid getting busted.
When we arrived back at school, I felt like we'd walked onto the set of some television crime show. Two husky police officers were waiting inside the front doors, ready to grill us for details. My heart thumped a million miles a minute as I quickly ran through excuses in my head for why this wasn't my fault.
It was Dean's idea! He's the one who thought of using the golf balls. I didn't even touch the launcher! And our teacher let us go outside alone, unsupervised. Clearly, he's to blame.
When the cops approached us, notepad in hand, I felt sick to my stomach.
Stay cool! I thought as I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants. Just explain why it's not your fault.
I cleared my dry throat and opened my mouth, all set to blame my friend, my teacher or anybody else who popped into my head. Then the woman whose car we damaged approached Dean and me and introduced herself as Alice. She worked in the school's cafeteria.
I braced myself for the worst, convinced that Alice was going to lay into us, but instead she calmly waited for our explanation. She was acting so calm and pleasant. As I witnessed her Christ-like behavior, a jolt of guilt shot through me. Here was this woman whose personal property we'd destroyed, forced to stay after work to deal with this mess, and yet she wasn't mad or accusatory. Meanwhile, I was two seconds away from totally blaming others for something that was my fault.