My brother Ronnie and I grew up as Air Force brats. We lived for several years in a housing complex that was off of the Air Force base in Yokota, Japan. The complex was also home to dozens of other Air Force families " and was bordered by small Japanese villages and farm fields.
Japan was hot and humid in the summer, so our"gang" of kids endured seemingly endless, hot and humid summer days. Days that never seemed to end. The days of summer were games of marbles, kick-ball, parking lot soccer against the Japanese boys, capturing fireflies or bees in jars, or "visiting" a nearby Japanese village to buy firecrackers or candies. Boredom eventully took hold and our thoughts turned to conning our parents for some money for the daily visit of the ice cream truck or a visit to the base swimming pool.
Ominous and exciting to our gang was a character named;"Car Wash Charlie" and his weekly forays to our neighborhood. "Car Wash Charlie" was in our neighborhood looking for customers who might want their car washed. "Car Wash Charlie's" oily dark black hair was long for a Japanese, and unruly. His hair nearly covered his sinister, thin slitty eyes. His aging dark tanned face never spoke or showed any hint of interest in us kids always looking down at the road when he passed. He wore a stained white tank top t-shirt and khaki tan pants like many Japanese work-men did. His pants were loosely tucked into his well worn rubber boots. But most disturbing to us kids, was that Car Wash Charlie had a handicap-a twisted foot. We could spot his distinctive gait and silhouette from blocks away, as he made his way around our block looking for a customer. Dad was a good customer and often had Car Wash Charlie wash his old Chevy. So, by the time Car Wash Charlie had set up and had begun washing Dad's car, most of our gang had gathered at a safe distance to watch him and speculate about what heinous crimes Car Wash Charlie had committed this week.
When a rumor went around that a woman had seen someone looking in her bathroom window as she showered, our gang converged on the house where the purported crime was committed. It was early evening and the light was fading as we ran into the back yard. The grey gravel stones used as fill in the back yards of homes crunched under our feet as we ran to the area directly in back of the bathroom window. We promptly discovered several extra large footprints imprinted in the gravel. We speculated that "it had to be Car Wash Charlie". In fact, so certain it was Car Wash Charlie, because one of the kids said their Dad said that Air Force Police had said the woman had seen yellow eyes through the smoky bathroom window. Yup, it definitely had to be Car Wash Charlie! All of us were scared and excited about the discovery and this seemed to be heightened by the looming darkness and the slight chill in the air. I don't know about the rest of the kids but I had trouble sleeping for weeks-no months after that. I knew Car Wash Charlie and his hideous yellow eyes were lurking outside, and would grab me through the screen and open window with his soapy brown hands and choke me. Or he might slip through my bedroom window before bedtime and be waiting under my bed or in the closet . I spent many restless and sleepless nights after inspecting under my bed and looking in my closet, expecting the worst to happen. When I told Dad about it later, he said I was being ridiculous, and told me that Car Wash Charlie was a nice fella, and added that Charlie had a handicapped foot, so he could not possibly have climbed up the wall to look in the woman's window. It didn't matter then, because it seemed then that Car Wash Charlie would always be some yellow eyed, twisted foot, soapy handed kid killer.
It's interesting to think back and reflect on those innocent years and realize that as children, we didn't view things with a whole lot of objectivity. I try to remember that now that I am well along into adulthood, an adult who should use objectivity and diplomacy as I deal with the latest hotbed political issues, irate customers, or in dealing with my own children's and family crisises. When you're a child you don't realize or know better. As an adult in most cases, we know better. It's just that we don't want to admit it sometimes. That's why it's great to reflect, and better yet to put it things in writing, which I've found can prove to be a real eye opener. Writing and reflecting can help you to put things back into perspective, even things that happened way back when you were a child.
I look out the window as darkness prevails and the sun is fading, and decide it is time to be heading for home. I feel a bit uneasy as the computer shuts down. So, I look over my shoulder and out the window behind me and into the parking lot next door, and am greatly relieved to not see any ominous silhouettes or any yellow eyes looking in at me through the window.