Fuzzy decided over the summer that his goal in life this year was to make an "air taser", the sort of electrical stun gun that zaps voltage through the open air to the target, Star Trek phaser style. (Or, at least, that's how his incoherent ramblings painted it.) This was not the first year I knew him, nor the second, because the first year was '95/'96, and was followed by him spending the summer in Colorado with his dad, the summer that involved Terrible Tuesday. The second year was '96/'97, and was followed by the summer in New Mexico, which was the summer where he (reportedly) blew up half his desk and wrecked his soldering iron (which he'd cannibalized for the tube for the barrel of the thing) in the process. (This was also the summer where he fell off his bike due to a Bad Physics Moment, and blew up the lawn mower due to another Bad Physics Moment, stories available upon request, or if I feel like it at the end of this.)
He came back to school in the fall of '97 with the ambition to build himself an air taser, at any rate. He was into weaponry that year, and kept amassing assorted scary little bits of technology intended to cause pain, damage, or discomfort. I wound up calling it "the Arsenal of Freedom", which name stuck.
In Pottery class, which was taught by my adult friend Robby, he made the casing for the air taser, a ceramic handle and bowl-like-thing to hold the guts of the taser. In Electronics class, taught by the inimitable physics-geek Mr. Johnson, he created the electronic components of the thing as an independent-study project.
After the guts were finished and the casing was fired, he brought the entire project to lunch with him.
Now, lunch with the Library Monkeys, our crowd at school, was not a peaceful prospect. We were an unruly crowd of students who ate lunch in front of the library, and we were known for being loud and not particularly orderly (though we did clean up after ourselves). But when he brought the taser to lunch, and began hooking the thing up, including the little power supply, we all gathered around him in a great big circle, as if we were kindergarteners at story time, rather than sprawling all over the carpet as we usually did. We were nearly silent as he fastened one bit to another bit, where we were usually raucous and verging on profane.
I sat in my usual spot at his side as he explained that the red LED would turn on when power was connected, and begin blinking when the capacitors had charged up. He explained that once the thing was armed, it was quite, quite dangerous, and might even go off without someone pressing the trigger (a square little red switch affixed to the bisqued clay handle in the traditional trigger position). Any attempt to remove the power supply (some battery or other) would also trigger firing, if the thing was ready.
High heels walked up, with long stocking-clad legs and a knee-length skirt. I looked up, and up, and up. The face I saw was hauntingly familiar, under a cap of curly hair. He continued with his work.
"What's that?" the strangely familiar adult asked.
He began to explain that this was an air taser. I elbowed him.
"That sounds dangerous," she commented.
I caught the warning note and the key phrase. I elbowed him again. He elbowed back hard. He explained that oh, yes, it was, but it was solely for use in self-defence.
The tall woman beckoned to the dark, stocky, lurking figure of the vice-principal, who was a much more familiar sight to Shawn. He frantically began to back-pedal, but it was too late. The vice-principal and the woman hauled him and his novel device off into the office. Shawn handed me his pliers and backpack just as the end of lunch bell rang. I hustled myself off to American Government class and sat through it with two backpacks instead of my own one.
Shawn was out of the office by the time that class was over. He recounted his experience. "How was I supposed to know she was the principal?" he complained. I pointed out that she had spoken at all the assemblies. He countered with the fact that he skipped the assemblies.
Evidently, they'd hauled in Mr. Johnson all the way from the annex, and called Shawn's stepdad. Shawn frantically tried to convince the vice-principal that the thing wasn't dangerous. Really. Mr. Johnson examined the thing, and declared that if it had been put together right, it would indeed have been a hazardous little toy, but Shawn had put the thing together wrong, and so it would do nothing. Shawn's stepdad looked it over, and announced that he would help Shawn put the thing together right. (Shawn's stepdad, in related news, utterly rocks, but had a distorted image of his stepson.) Shawn just about had the vice-principal convinced that the thing was not dangerous at all, when the little red LED started blinking...
No. It didn't go off. Fortunately.