The sign read Danger of Death. Well, that was like a red rag to a bull for a twelve-year-old. Fastened to the fence in striking gold, the sign double-dared me with its figure getting struck by lightning; he looked like the Flash.
Every day, I would look at the sign on my way to school and do exactly the same on my journey back.
Jimmy, my only mate, always upon always said, “Touch it, Charly. Go on, I dare you.”
I did, too. It took a lot of aborted attempts, but eventually I did. The fact I didn’t blow up was a kind of a disappointment in the end, more to Jimmy than me, which was troubling.
Of course, we both knew it was the humming, mesmeric sound of the electricity box behind the fence that was dangerous, not the sign itself, but it was one stage on the road to manhood and I’d touched it where Jimmy had not.
Like all kids, one always searched for the next thrill, and I was no different to the next. It called to me that humming thrum of electricity, it beckoned to me. One day, I’d do it. One day.
I’d never seen Jimmy cry. It was the strangest thing to see him blubbing in inconsolable anguish. He stood before the Danger of Death sign like it was the end of the world. I asked him to stop, but he just ignored me. He continued balling his eyes out as though he wept an ocean. If truth be known, he almost did. He didn’t care who saw him, either. It was a good job it was just me and him really. There were many bullies in our school who would have jumped at the chance to pick on a kid for crying, especially a boy.
I sat beside Jimmy and waited. I waited and waited and waited, until, at last, I was rewarded for my patience. Jimmy reached up and touched the sign — I was very proud of him for that — turned away as though I wasn’t even there, and then ran off.
In loving memory of Charly Smith read the plaque under the Danger of Death sign. I’d forgotten it was there until I read it. I had a thing about signs. I had a thing about touching electricity, too.