By Willy Rickets, Byline Houston’s resident octogenarian and “adult rules” enforcer, scourge of young people everywhere

When I left my house to go to the grocery store this morning, my commute offered me some familiar experiences: the beauty of the downtown Houston skyline, the ever-classic humor of the Dean and Rog birthday scams, the neighborhoods that sometimes make you feel like you’ve travelled through a wormhole and landed in a completely different city.

But then I saw something that made me feel like a stranger in a strange land. I was standing in the snack aisle, and I noticed a man and his preteen-son standing there with me. The son was DEMANDING his father buy him some candy that he wanted. There was no, “Hey dad, can I have this?” or “Dad, can we please buy this candy?”. There was only this young punk telling the man who raised him, “I WANT this candy.”

In my day, you were lucky to get maybe twenty-five cents for an allowance, and that could maybe get you five pieces of candy. Furthermore, if I wanted that allowance, I had to do all of my weekly chores, and I damn sure wasn’t allowed to make any demands of my parents. I was flabbergasted by what I saw, and it stuck with me well beyond me leaving the store.

After I bought all my groceries, I stopped by a corner store for some gas. I went inside to make my purchase, and there was an older teenager working the register (I use the term “working” generously). He had his eyes glued to his cell phone the whole time. Not once did he look up at me, not once did he ask how my day was, and not once did he thank me for my business. What happened to the notion of respect? What happened to customer service? What happened to teenagers taking pride in their work? This country is going down the crapper – and FAST!

Teenagers are taking this world for granted. No one seems to be able to stop them or get them to take a moment and think about if they are treating others with respect. Maybe teens are getting too powerful. The ones in my neighborhood are, at least.

I don’t know why the police refuse to do anything about the teenage gangs that dress up as velociraptors and stand in my backyard and screech for hours on end. I’ve tried everything to deal with them. I installed motion capture lights in the hopes of scaring them off, but when they were activated, the kids started performing what I assume to be a strange mating ritual that my niece tells me is called “flossing.” In my day, flossing was something Big Dental would push on you to increase sales, not something you did as a cry for coital communion!

The cops told me they weren’t going to get involved, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I walked out to my yard, brimming with confidence, but as I crossed the yard, I stepped on a rake, catapulting the handle of the rake straight into my face. The raptor-teens clearly planted this rake as a way to deter me and ensure that I would have egg on my face, but I was determined to follow through with my plan.

I set up a deadfall trap in my backyard and used a sandwich as bait. I went to bed, feeling confident that my torment would come to an end. But I was subjected to a rude awakening! They had approached my bedroom, fully costumed, and were scratching on my window. They yelled out “WE NEED MORE MAYO” and started screeching like dinosaurs. Terrified, I ran to my kitchen, grabbed a bottle of mayonnaise from the fridge, ran to my backdoor and threw the bottle into my back yard, quickly slamming and locking the door afterwards. With fear in my heart, I watched the Triassic teens grab the bottle and run around my yard spraying each other with it. No one would have dared wasted food like this in my day! At a loss, I went into my panic room and waited out the night.

When I awoke the next morning, my back yard was empty, save for the occasional glob of mayo in the grass. I showered, shaved, and dressed for work, but my morning ended up being anything but routine. I stepped outside, and to my dismay, I saw that my car had been vandalized by the teens overnight! They had used the mayonnaise to graffiti my windshield, leaving a cryptic message upon it that read: “WE’RE GONNA TURN YOU INTO A SUB SANDWICH.”

This war of attrition had been rapidly escalated, and I wasn’t going to take this anymore. This was my property that they were trespassing upon and my life they were threatening.

It was now kill or be killed.

So, I bought some dynamite. I set it up in the middle of my backyard, the exact epicenter of their bizarre “flossing” rituals. I dug a small, unnoticeable trench to lay the fuse in and ran it all the way to my house, connecting it to a detonator in my living room. Then, I waited.

Now, naturally, I had been thinking about sub sandwiches all day, so I had bought one on my drive home. Big surprise: Some burnout teenager was working behind the counter. I wanted to eat it while waiting for my neighborhood nemeses to show up, but I couldn’t even enjoy it. They really skimped on the meat, and it was a bit dry. I went to my fridge to grab some mayo and remembered that I had already lost my personal supply in my misguided attempt at a peace offering. This made me all the more incensed and determined to end this feud once and for all!

Finally, three hours after sundown, I heard the rustling of leaves. I peered out my window and saw them approach. There were at least six different teenagers, all wearing identical raptor costumes. By this point, their antics had become like clockwork.

They circled around the yard and moved inward, never suspecting that they were all about to be blown to smithereens. They all looked up at the moon and began screeching, activating the motion lights. Then the flossing began. I watched as they moved closer and closer to the hidden mound of dynamite I had buried underneath them. Then, finally, I activated the detonator.

Nothing. No explosion. The kids kept dancing. I pressed the button again. Nothing. I pressed the button over and over and still nothing and nothing. I felt like I was being driven to madness, so I just ran out into the yard, screaming and brandishing my nine-iron. They scattered like the cowards I knew that they truly were. I went over to the pile of dynamite and dug up some of the dirt so I could inspect it. It seemed that when I was burying it back up, there had been a wire that had come loose. I reconnected the wire, which was the worst thing I could have done.

Instantly, the dynamite detonated in my hand. The explosion was massive and multicolored. When the smoke had cleared, I was covered in soot, my nose had spun around to the back of my head and all of my teeth fell out, making a distinct sound similar to a piano. Had you seen me in person, you would have thought I were just a shadow had I not opened my eyes. I couldn’t believe what passed for quality dynamite nowadays when, in my day, if you wanted a big kaboom, you got a BIG KABOOM!

The cops still refuse to do anything, but I am not giving up. This country used to praise people who picked themselves up by their bootstraps and, by golly, I still believe in that. In a few days I will be receiving Dehydrated Boulders (Just Add Water)™ in the mail, and I can’t wait to put them into action!