A Brush with Greatness

The Grape Catcher

The year is 1988. The season? Summer. The cost of a gallon of gas was $1.08. It was a time of big bangs, fluorescent leggings, breakdancing, and giant high-top sneakers.  Above all that, the greatest book known to mankind was published. The 1988 Guinness Book Of World Records. No book before or after has matched its glory.

        As we all know, the best parts of any Guinness Book Of World Records are the human freakshow parts and the giant vegetables. However, the 1988 version of this book was so engrossing that I couldn’t help but review it cover-to-cover, nearly memorizing every record.  Biggest Strawberry Shortcake ever? I know it. Tiniest violin? I’ve got it covered. My brother was sucked in to its magnetic pull of greatness as well.

As you can imagine—and no doubt relate to—we wanted to be part of it.

All we needed was a record that we knew we could beat. And then it came to us in a brilliant ray of illuminating inspiration. GRAPE CATCHING. My brother could catch stuff in his mouth like nobody’s business, and the world record of 161 seemed doable. VERY doable.

We quickly ran to the fridge, and to our delight we found two big bags of grapes. It was go time.We studied the requirements, calculated the trajectory and the wind velocity, made sure the sun would not be in our eyes, and headed to work on a mission greater than any that had come before it.

In order to meet the rigorous grape catching standards set forth by “The Book,” I needed to climb on the roof so that there was a sufficient distance for each throw. My brother positioned himself on the ground below.


And we were off. It was just as we’d hoped and dreamed. My brother caught every grape. We quickly got through the bag of green grapes and moved on to the red ones. Each throw and each catch was more perfect than the last. We were on our way to fame and fortune.

And then…it happened.

“KIDS! Dinner.” We knew that Phase 1 was to pretend we didn’t hear it.

“KIDS! Dinner! Now!”  Damn.

“KIDS! COME TO THE TABLE RIGHT NOW!” But we couldn’t respond. Didn’t our mother know that we were on the precipice of the greatest accomplishment of our lives, maybe of anyone’s life?

But it came again, “KIDS!!! NOW!!!!” The sun was about to go down. It was now or never. We were almost to 80 grapes.

My brother sprang into action, “Mom, we’re about to break the world record. Just a few more minutes?” My brother didn’t ask for much. Surely she could sense the urgency and seriousness in his tone.

She didn’t.  “Absolutely not. Get inside, both of you!”

My brother tried to use logic and reason to sway her, saying “But I’m not hungry!”

My mom was too wiley for that rationale. “That’s because you ate two bags of grapes. Inside NOW.”

“BUT MOM!!!” we begged in one last desperate hope to cling to our dream. But it was futile. We could not stand up against the all-powerful call of the “Come to the table” siren.

We were so close we could see the finish line, but it was not to be. And so, it was there that our dream of being in the Guinness Book of World Records died. Though the years have worn away the rough edges of that pain, we still carry a piece of it with us. On a sunny day, while throwing crap off of a roof, we still think about what could’ve been.

My brother said it best:

Our work was for the betterment of mankind.  Sure there were some selfish motivations: global fame, untold riches, the ability to tell that other so called ‘grape catcher’ to suck it.  But in the end, we were artists, just trying to create something beautiful for all to awe at and enjoy. “

Needless to say, we were never quite the same again:


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