In general, I think I am a pretty good person. Of course, most people think this, probably even really truly unredeemably terrible people think, "Hey! You know what! I AM AWESOME!" as they spend their 22nd year denied parole and secretly whittle a shiv. The probable reality is that all of us are both good and terrible, we just spend a little more time on the good side. Usually. Every so often, we do something just so mean. And when I say "we," I mean "me" and this story.

When I was little, I had a friend whose home I played at quite often. It was a truly marvelous place: a huge white Victorian mansion decorated with period furniture, on the lake, in the woods. My friend was an only child, had a suite of three rooms and her own bathroom, a playhouse outside, and every toy you could imagine. I soaked up everything she had. I was the dominant one in the relationship and pretty much ran the agenda of whatever we would be doing, whether it was dress up or play pretend vet office, play Beatles LPs, or whatever. We were even allowed to take out a small rowboat by ourselves on the tiny, deep green, weed-choked lake. We would have parades with wagons and toy trumpets, swing high on a rusty squeaky blue-and-gold-and-white swingset, make elaborate pretend dinners from weeds and wildflowers and dirt and pebbles and serve them on tiny doll china to our wary parents. I would play with her massive St. Bernard, Silly, and watch "Soul Train" and "American Bandstand" on Saturday mornings, followed by the local scary "Creature Feature" movie.

Around the time I was 8 or 9, a new family moved in next door to my friend. They had a little boy of about 4 or 5, a sturdy little pink-cheeked sandy-haired boy named Casey. Casey was always coming over, barging into our playdates, always curious about what we were doing, asking lots of questions. He was prone to stomping fits and crying if we didn't include him or do what he liked to do. When I look back on it now, I see that he was just a normal kid of his age, and pretty nice at that. But at the time, I found him frustratingly obnoxious and intrusive, and I wanted him gone from my friend's house, and from me. He was stopping my show.

I had been reading some kind of historical novel at the time, and had come across the concept of "tar and feathering." Wow, I thought, wow. What would that look like? How would that feel? How barbaric! What a very strange thing to do! Strange, and evil, and powerful, and nasty. And effective.

One day at my friend's house, after another meltdown and stalk off by Casey, I looked at up at the cottonwood tree by her driveway, shedding its fluffy white seeds in the air, some branches dashed to the ground from a great wind the night before. I looked, and a horrible idea came to me, making my brain spin and an evil smile come to my lips.

"Let's tar-and-feather Casey!"

I explained the concept to my friend, and she eagerly and nervously agreed to the plan, giggling conspiratorially, eyes widening. It was obvious what the "feathers" were going to be. We picked up some of the biggest and most seed-laden of the cottonwood branches from the ground, and set them aside. But what would we do for the "tar?" We didn't have real tar. A quick look around the garage produced a nearly-full red metal can of gasoline, and after some discussion, we decided that was maybe not the best choice. We rummaged through the kitchen pantry, found a container of thick black molasses. Yes. But still, that was not enough, and it would take too long to pour. What else?

We went outside again, and sitting near the porch a large rectangular plastic container just caught the corner of my eye. AH. OH MY. OHHHH.

The very very well-used cat litterbox.

I pounced on it, lifting it, laughing madly. My friend howled in hyper agreement, strident now. The litterbox smelled horribly of ammonia, cat logs sticking up from the wet litter like some hideous crap crop. We poured the molasses into the litterbox, grinning at the awfulness of it. But still, not quite enough. I glanced toward the lake, at the bottom of a steep slope, and thought of the gross chartreuse-green algae blooms currently in residence by the pier. We grabbed a couple of plastic buckets from the sandbox by the swingset and made our way down to the water. Leaning over, risking falling into the disgusting lake water, we both filled our buckets full of ugly smelly lakequid, scum and weeds and algae included. We poured the contents into the litterbox. I took a long stick and stirred the evil mixture. It was ready. We discussed the strategy of attack, making sure my friend's mom was safely busy deep in the house. My friend went inside and telephoned Casey to come over, while adrenalin coursed through me, my heart beating in anticipation.

We took the tar-mixture litterbox, each taking a side because it was so heavy, and crouched behind the cottonwood, waiting to hear Casey's little cowboy-booted footsteps on the driveway. When I peeked around and saw a flash of his pink face, I whispered, "GO! NOW!" In one fluid movement, or so it seemed, we stepped out from behind the tree, swung the litterbox up, and poured it over his head. As his face turned instantly from pink to bright red, and as he stood there completely covered in brownish-green cat shit, lake water, molasses, and granules of litter, my friend and I both grabbed the cottonwood branches and shook them over him, dancing around him in excitement. We finished, stood there as he lifted his head and cried out in shock and misery, further decimated by the cottony fluffs, and we laughed at him. After a moment, he bolted towards home, screaming and yelling for his mother. Uh oh. Up until that moment, it had not really occurred to either my friend nor I, unbelievable as it seems, that we could get in trouble over this. We ran into the woods to hide out, not coming in as we heard my friend's mom angrily call for us a few minutes later.

Well, of course we eventually had to slink back in. Never one to admit anything, I told my friend to stick to the story that Casey fell in the lake. No one bought it, of course, but other than having to hear how hurt and angry Casey's mother was, that she was crying on the phone, nothing else really happened. I went home soon afterwards, and nothing more was said of it. Our playdates continued, and eventually a much more reticent Casey sometimes came by to play.

I am sorry, Casey. I hope you don't remember it. I have never forgotten it.