How a quarter led to the worst beating I ever got

My mom had a reputation around the neighborhood as my brother and I were growing up as being the “Dragon Lady.” She was a strict disciplinarian and any violation of her rules ended in being yelled at for five minutes or being spanked with her hand, belt, switch, paddle, etc. That discipline extended to our visiting friends as well.

They knew that when they came over, they needed to be on their best behavior, otherwise the Dragon Lady would attack. You obeyed the rules, went to bed when she told you to and kept the house clean.

To those that know my mom now, they would never think that. She is the sweetest woman anyone will ever meet. Back then, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, she was not to be crossed.

When we accompanied mom to the grocery store every other Friday during the summer—dad was paid bi-weekly—we would sometimes get rewarded for good behavior while she shopped. One of those rewards oftentimes was a quarter for use in the in coin-operated toy vending machines, where all of the toys were contained in little plastic eggs. They held an assortment of items: rings, jewelry, little cars and football helmets to name a few. They selection seemed to change every time we went.

One of our favorite things to get—and our mom’s least favorite—was the slime. We could play with it for hours by sticking it on things, throwing it at each other, and trying to make different shapes out of it. There were probably other uses that I can’t remember. That was probably twenty-five years ago. They came in a variety of colors: red, green, blue.

My mom hated it because it got into EVERYTHING. If we stuck it to fabric, it would get intertwined with all of the fibers and was nearly impossible to get out. It was a pain to clean off of hard surfaces. But the worst was if some got into hair. Just shampooing your hair wasn’t enough. To get the slime out of hair usually involved a session of sitting on the sink while mom took a dull pair of scissors to remove the slime.

If that happened on a weeknight, we would have pieces of our hair missing for days while we waited to go to the barbershop. I sometimes think mom could have taken us to see our barber the next day, but would rather wait until the end of the week, just so we’d have the messed-up haircut and have to explain to our friends why chunks of our hair was missing.

This one time, both my brother had been on our best behavior at the grocery store, and we both chose to get slime. I think I had blue slime and I remember he got the green. The reason why I remember him getting the green slime will be apparent in a second.

We were in my brother’s room late in the evening. It was dark outside during the summer, so it was probably after nine. We were roughhousing and playing around. Making a lot of noise. We kept the door shut to both muffle the noise and so our parents couldn’t see what we were doing.

My dad was probably asleep in the next room. He often worked twelve to fourteen hour days running an in-loader at a coal mine. He was a heavy sleeper and could sleep during anything. I don’t know if serving in Vietnam helped him to be able to sleep any chance he had or not.

We made a couple loud noises that ended with a THWAP!

A few seconds later, mom threw open the door and asked what was going on. She was mad already.

I looked over at my brother sitting in the floor from where I sat on the edge of his waterbed by the door. The look in his eyes likely mirrored mine: pure fear.

We were both shaking nervously, unable to say anything. He was eight-years-old and I was nine.

She looked at both of us. “Come on! What are you doing in here! Your dad is trying to sleep!”

At this time, I looked up, and my fear increased rising to a panic. Above me, and just in front of my mom, was a green blob of slime clinging desperately to the popcorn ceiling. The little popcorn balls of paint seemed to be helping the slime stay in place.

“We’re just playing,” my brother said courageously.

She eyed us like an FBI investigator. I wilted from her stare. I felt like my life could end soon.

She looked around and realized something was missing. She saw the slime in my right hand, but she couldn’t see Noah’s. I prayed that she didn’t look up.

“Noah, where is your slime!?”

He looked at me, speechless, searching for an answer. Waiting for his older brother to step up to the plate and come to his defense.

I knew where his slime was. It was on the ceiling. My slime was in my right hand. I am left-handed. The THWAP that caused her to come running came from me throwing my brother’s ball of slime at the ceiling.

“Well, mom—, “I started to say.

Then, in what seemed like slow motion, the grip that his green slime had had on the ceiling ended. It made a valiant effort to hang on for as long as it could, but at last, it lost its fight.

It fell in slow motion. I remember staring intently at my mom’s face as her gaze cut into us. She caught the slime’s fall just as it got to the top of her head. She watched it fall to the floor no more than six inches in front of her face where it landed with a resounding—in my head—SPLAT!

I don’t remember anything after that. The Dragon Lady struck, and I assume the beating that followed erased my memory of the aftermath.

That was the last time I recall being allowed to get slime from the little vending machines.