Monday, 30 March 2015

The Great Stagecoach Debacle

Ferris Bueller had the right idea. Even though I wouldn’t see this movie until I was in my forties (I know, I know), I still knew he was on the money.

It was 1988, the World Expo was happening in Brisbane, Australia was celebrating its bicentennial and my parents were going out of town leaving me and my best mate, Andy in charge. Two seventeen year olds left to their own devices, what could possibly go wrong?
More like Andy and Scotto's Day Off

“You boys behave yourselves” my mother said as her and dad were headed out the door. Dad looked on with a look that needed no words, the kind of look that says, “I’ll know if you get up to anything, I always know.” It was true, dad had this uncanny ability where he could tell by the dust patterns what had gone on from ten paces. If something had been moved even 1mm he knew. It was both impressive and terrifying.

“It’s fine mum” I assured her, “Andy’s parents are home”. Andy lived directly across the street and we’d hit it off pretty soon after he moved in. The first thing I said to him was “My parents like country music but I don’t“, as dad was often playing Kenny Rogers or Waylon Jennings records. Loudly. Andy wasn’t as concerned with the musical tastes of the house as he was about dad’s collection of replica Old West handguns and rifles proudly on display, he wondered if he’d moved in across from the Manson family.

Shortly after their departure Andy and I were ecstatic, we had the house to ourselves for a couple of days and I was particularly happy as my parents didn’t know I smoked then, they knew Andy did and being smokers themselves they never smelled it on me. The first thing we did was to make a giant cigarette pyramid on the coffee table, who needed packets when you had a giant pyramid?

The next couple of days were a hoot, in true Ferris Bueller style I faked illness to get a sickie off work (I figured why waste the opportunity?) We lived like kings, we watched what we wanted on TV, played the sort of music dad would scowl at, ordered pizzas and promptly scared the delivery girl off when Andy came bouncing out of the house in a dozen various sized inner-tubes resembling a hideously deformed Michelen Man. It took a lot of convincing to get the pizza shop to send her back out.

The look Andy was going for. It wasn't the greatest likeness.

Then, we made our mistake. A big one.

Dad loved the old west, I’m convinced he was a cowboy in his past life. Aside from his gun collection he had a hobby building scale models of stagecoaches, he really had a talent for it as they were quite simply, amazing. Their only weakness really was they were made from balsa wood. They were his pride and joy.

It was on the day they were due to arrive home and Andy and I had grown bored. We were trying to think of something to do and absent mindedly throwing coasters made of wicker to each other like teeny tiny Frisbees. This then developed into a game with each trying to outdo the other with trick shots. Bouncing off the walls, the roof, in between the ceiling fan blades.

You can see where this lack of foresight is headed.

I flicked the coaster up towards the fan, watching it glide through the air on its gentle arc when it was violently struck by the fan blade sending it drastically off course. Straight towards the prized stagecoach atop the wall unit.

We both watched on in terror as the coaster found its target with deadly accuracy with a sickening crunch, bits of stagecoach exploding outwards.

Not the actual stagecoach but exactly like the one in question.


Shit shit shit.

Both back wheels were busted, the door was nowhere to be found and the entire front axle was dislodged. I was dead.

Panicking I collected all the bits I could find while Andy looked everywhere for the missing door. Amidst all the destruction there was a miracle to be found, while the stagecoach was in pieces, none of the pieces were actually broken, it was fixable! But I only had half an hour before my parents were due to arrive home. And they were always on time.

Luckily for me there was always a tube of super glue to be found in the fridge so while I yelled at Andy the importance of finding the door I got to work. The axle was easy, that turned out to be a simple pin needing reinsertion; the wheels however were in a bad way. Sweat running down my face I painstakingly reinserted the dislodged spokes into place one by one

Ten minutes to go. One wheel done I put it aside to dry while I went to work on the other one. Five minutes to go and I’m fiddling with the rim of the second wheel, trying desperately to get the glue to hold everything in place without gluing my fingers together.

“I found the door!” screamed Andy as I was reattaching the wheels. Three minutes. He handed me the door and the best I could do was sit it in place and hope for the best, I couldn’t see how it had been connected originally, it would have to do.

Two minutes and Andy is standing at the door ready to intercept my parents while I put the stagecoach back in place but I realised that wouldn’t be enough, “You can see something’s happened up here” I yelled, “the dust is all messed up”. "It's too late! Just put it up there!"

We hear the car approaching, I'm shaking with adrenaline trying to place the stagecoach back in exactly the right place when the bloody door falls off! I leave the stagecoach, jump down and grab the door then scramble back up and carefully put it in place. All I could do now was hope.

Jumping off the ladder and scooping it up in one motion I raced outside and threw it in the bushes then burst back inside just as mum and dad walked in with Andy in tow. Dad was glancing around and I’m sure his gaze paused on the stagecoach but he turned his eyes back to the cigarette pyramid raising an eyebrow. Thankfully we had forgotten about them so they provided the perfect distraction. “Those are Andy’s” I said. A phrase I used many, many times when it came to cigarettes. He just nodded and headed to the bedroom to unpack, we had managed to get away with it! We couldn't believe it!

Years later after I had moved out I went around for a visit and noticed the stagecoach was gone. I asked where it was and dad told me it just fell apart one day. He then went on, "It's the funniest thing, I found a coaster up on top of the wall unit, I wonder how that got there..."