Childhood Mercenaries

"Childhood Mercenaries" taken from the book "On The Upswing of Life, Love and Regret: True Tales of Mayhem and Awesomeness"

Christopher Gutierrez

Still too young to realize that cleaning up animal excrement wasn't worth $5 an hour, Matt and I began the two mile walk to apply to a privately owned animal shelter. It being summer and I being at my obnoxious punk rock pinnacle, I strolled in wearing a Misfits shirt, all black cufoff shorts held together with safety pins, combat bots, and whether or not I was wearing eyeliner remains arguable.My
Our friendship was inevitable from the beginning. Growing up together, Matt and I fell in and out of different social circles. I was of the "fuck you" crowd. He was of the "I'm gonna drink protein shakes, work out, and wrestle the shit out of you" crowd. Despite every eighty's comedy cliche', we made it work. Being the same year in school and both of our names beginning with "GU", my last name Gutierrez and his being Gugala, ensured that from the third grade on, through church functions, hih school graduation ceremonry, and even in a few classes in college, we were forced to sit next to eachother. Matt was my complete opposite; quiet, reserved, and a varsity letterman. Yet we shared a similar disdain for the mindless, drunk conformists that roamed the halls of our highschool, a true nihilist in gap clothing. Forming a strong alliance in our single digit years, he became a bit of a father figure to me. Showing me how to work on cars and new and inventive vandalism techniques, we became inseparable.

Cleaning up shit was nothin new to us and it was nothing we were above. Arriving, we walk in and ask to fill out applications. Minutes later, a stern looking woman emerges from the back room.
"So are you aware of what this job entails?" she says with a smirk.
We both nod our heads.
During her brief questioning of our work history and if we, at fifteen, fully understand the importance of on-time feedings and medications, she paused and gave me the once over look from head-to-toe. "And for future reference, this is not something you want to wear to an interview. No one will ever take you seriously wearing those clothes."
My fce went warm with embarrassment. I mean, who the fuck was this woman covered in dog hair and smelling of cat urine to tell me what was socially appropriate? Hell, what was SHE wearin to the interview?

She thanked us for our time, and then dismissed us.
"An eight-year-old monoloid could shoved shit and pour food into dog bowls, but apparently kids in black punk rock shirts scare animals?" I screamed as we walked down the road.
"fuck her" Matt said in his usual dry tone.
The next day, Matt got a call for the job. I did not.
Matt has just landed a sweet job at a Little Caesars sticking his dick in the pizza sauce on his day shift. Afterward, he would walk the four miles to shoved crap in the late afternoon. Since Matt was on his way to becoming a hundred-aire, we never got to hang out anymore.
About two weeks later, I got a phonecall.
"That fucking bitch!" he screamed.
"What are you talking about?" I said
"that bitch who runs that fucking place called me dad and told him I don't have work ethic because I don't get there fast enough from my other job"
"damn dude, what are you gonna do? I asked.
"OK, here's the plan. They have these geese they raise as pets that live around this small goldfish pond in the backyard of the shelter. I want you to kill them. I'll give you twenty bucks."

Now, Matt could have told me to jump into a pile of dog shit. I'm fifteen, if it involved some kind of secret mission, there's not much I wouldn't do. I couldn't count the nights we stayed up watching Red Dawn dreaming of a Russian invasion just for the opportunity to dress in fall camouflage gear and go on secret recon missions. To a kid that embodied 'teen angst'. this was the perfect combination of destruction and revenge that fueled my punk rock spirit. My friends were few but we were indivisible. I was in. Twenty bucks or no twenty bucks, I was ready to fuck up any oose if you talked dirty about my boy.
That night I called up the only other guy in the neighborhood who was as unscrupulous as I was, George Warren. George and I were partners in mayhem. From shooting our streetlights, to stealing an entire half-pipe full of wood from construction sites, to many attempts at breaking into the mining quarry deep in the woods, I knew he was the man for the job. The product of a strict military, alcoholic father he was a text book example of rebellion, we clicked immediatly when he moved into the neighborhood only a few years earlier. Together, we once again spent an entire Sunday afternoon attemptin to break into an old shed that housed blasting dynamite. He was in. We made the plan for 2:00AM the next night.

After my mom and sister were asleep, George quietly knocked at my basement window and I let him in. Already in full camo and face paint, he climed in, ready and determinded.
"Do you have the stuff?" he asked
I lead im into our laundry room and showed him the following: two containers of anti-freeze, two BB-guns and a hand drawn map.
"Cool. I didn't see many cops out tonight. We should cut throuh the woods just to be safe." he said in his best fifteen-year-old serious tone.
What he really meant was "we need to make this as cool of a secret mission as possible. Walking down the street without camouflage would just be lame and cowardly."
I would have agreed with him.
It was 2:00AM, the time had come. This was the time ll the maniacs in highschool hallways agreed upon as the safe time to commit crimes. As local legends would have, 2:00AM was the time when the cops "switched shifts" thereby giving all criminals a small window to comment whatever genius scheme they could imagine. The accuracy of this was solely based upon hallway gossip and the local sixteen-year-old weed dealer, yet we took this as absolute truth.

George and I packed up, crawled out of the basement window. Our first plan of action was, we needed to get to the woods and into the darkness. Although just across the street, getting into the cover of the trees was important to the mission and was not to be taken lightly. Taking every precaution, looking both ways, and seeing absolutely no cars or cops for a high mile in either direction, we went running into the woods. Once we were in, we started walking, using only hand signals we learned from the movie Predator to communicate. Of course, we didn't encounter much resistance. Following the map Matt had drawn for us that day in home-room, we navigated over a mile through the dark woods until we saw the clearing. It was lit up underneath the full mood and we saw our target: 4 large white geese that encircled a small man made pond.

Scanning the yard for the potential enemies, we slowly emerged from the woods crawling on our bellies. This was it. This was go time. As discussed, we gave ourselves a two minute window to accomplish our mission. We knew from watching TV dramas that it generally took two minutes for the police to arrive after a call had been placed, so we moved with speed and effciency.

Immediately, we crawled up to the pond and started to empty the contents of the anti-freeze into the pond to ensure a painful and slow death to those goldfish. The green liquid seemed to take an eternity while our hearts raced and the moonlight exposed us. The moment the containers dripped the last of the contents, dogs started barking. Matt had alerted us to the location of the kennels and instructed us to, "Make sure not to be seen by those fucking dogs." In our haste, we made too much noise. Now we really had to move.
"Just throw the containers in" George said in a quiet yell "We don't have time to clean up, we have to fill these motherfuckers before someone sees."

Simultaneously, we grabbed our BB-guns and frantically began to pump the air levers as we were too poor to afford the newer more powerful CO2 guns.

In preparation, we made sure to use the best ammo on the market: pointed tipped pellets specifically designed for killing rodents.The benefit was that they would penetrate more easily. On the downside, the pellets had to be individually loaded, again adding to the time we didn't have.

Both of us pointed our which one we were to shoot. And with the count of one... two... three we fired.
"Honk! Honk! Honk! the geese freaked out and fell into the pond splashing frantically, in turn making every dog bark louder than it already was.
"Holy crap!" I screamed, "Hurry up!" As I tried to load the tiny pellets into an equally small chamber at 2:30 in the morning, under the light of the moon.
Again, we aim. One... two... three, and fire. Same results.
"Dude, we're fucking these things up. Aim for the neck and head." George shouted quietly.
Again, one.... two... three, fire. Again and again.
After the last goose was in the pond frantically splashing around we knew we had accomplished our mission. But right then, a light came on in the building.
"Fuck," I yelled "RUN!"

Not relying on cover any longer, we stood and made a run for the woods. Sprinting through the dense foliage cut our hands and faces, but that light, it could only mean one thing: the entire Bolingbrook police force was out for us. We raced through the trees, losing all composure. Our stealth like hand signals, out the window. We were less like our heroes, the wolverines from 'Red Dawn' and more like the Little Rascals on speed. We wouldn't be caught alive, but if some one fell behind we had the only scheme a naive kid can produced when his back is against the wall. The fake name. Picked out and practiced to ensure believability, it seemed a genius idea to a kid scared out of his wits.
"Do it again, it didn't sound authentic" he had said.
A combination of my middle nam and my mothers maiden name, "Brian Ruhlow", I practiced to George over and over before we left.

Panicking, with black and green face paint sweat dripping down my face, heart racing, we sprinted out of the woods, across the street, and into my yard until we came upon th unlocked basement window. Hysterically, we threw th window and toppled over one another until we were reduced to a panting, sweaty, camousflage mess on the floor.

"Holy shit, I think we got away with it" George said with an uneasy laugh, "Now give me my ten bucks."

We calmed down, drank some warm 2-liters of RC Cola and watched Ferris Bueller, while recounting the nights events.

Monday came and I couldn't wait for homeroom to tell Matt about our successful mission, about dogs, police and near death experiances. Matt walked in, sat down and said "Dude, what the fuck?"
"What?" I said
"Dude, I went into work the next day and all the geese were fine, and on top of that even the freaking fish were alive, too. All I saw was some bubbles by the edge of the pond" he screamed.
"Quit lyin'" I said before recounting the entire night for him. I explained how we risked jail and almost certain death for his honor.
Laughing partly at how emphatic I retold the story and partly of the ridiculousness of the situation he reached into his back pocket and flung a crumpled twenty upon my desk.
Disillusioned that I wasn't the budding mercenary I had dreamed of becoming. I had envisioned returning to Matt with tales of honor defended and that our crew ws not to be toyed with. That the disrespect of any of us would result in swift retribution, and that no pet was safe. Truth was, I had watched too many movies and Matt had only given me n opportunity to act out my own adolescent fantasies on a handful of harmless geese and fish, which I was too clumsy to accomplish. Walking home, I laughed at the absurdity of the previous night and realized that my juvenile actions were nothing more than a result of too many pizza party sleep over nights watching HBO.
Apparently, in the end all the animals were complelely fine.
And I made ten bucks.


This story always cheers me up when I've had a bad day. From the fact it reminds me so much of my fathers stories to me about his childhood to the way I can see exactly what is happening in my head.

Both of Chris's books are made up of short either funny, emotional or crazy moments from his life living in Chicago. More worthwhile stories from 'On The Upswing' are "The Fuzzy Tiger Blanket That Stole My Virginity", "The Legend of the Pink Garage", "Auntie Larry" and "Young, Poor and Snotty".
Find out more at and www.askheychris.comp (where you can also buy this and his other book).

Hope you enjoyed the short story by one of my favorite authors.

If you have any funny short stories, do recommend or tell.
Posted on August 16th, 2007 at 05:12am


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