• Jeff South

KILROY WAS HERE: An Excerpt

We met on a playground in fifth grade. I was sitting under a tree after not getting picked for kickball, when a scrawny kid I'd not met before asked me if I wanted to play. He introduced himself as Jeff Harper and said he was new to our school. I said sure and after navigating through a conversation about what we should play, I soon realized Jeff was very off. The look in his eyes was different than most kids. I couldn't describe it then, but in retrospect I'd say the lens through which he viewed the world was cracked. His hair wasn't combed, apparently by choice. His clothes appeared to have been put on directly after he discovered them on the floor in a dark corner of his closet. I learned he only lived a couple of blocks from me with his mom, who was a single parent. He said he had never met his dad.


"Let's be monster hunters," he said in a bout of inspiration.


"How does that work?" I asked, new to the whole monster hunter live-action role play thing.


"Easy," he said with surprising intensity. "Follow my lead." He then formed a pistol with his thumb and forefinger, looked off at some invisible target, and started firing. "Look! There's a wendigo! C'mon!"


I ran after him firing my own imaginary gun because he was the only other kid I had met who knew the term wendigo.


He soon decided to name us Kilroy and Mr. Roboto and he shared his love for the song "Mr. Roboto" with me for the first time. We listened to the song on repeat for about half an hour.


"So, I'm a robot?" I asked him.


"Yes. My robot sidekick built by a mad genius scientist." This addition confused me because no mad genius scientist is mentioned in the song or in the entire album of Kilroy Was Here.


"So, we're a monster hunting rock star and his robot companion built by a mad genius scientist?"


"Yep."


I decided to roll with it because he was my friend and our times together were fun. We roamed the playground ridding Michael Dukakis Elementary School of imaginary monsters, protecting our unwitting classmates, teachers, and administrators. As we progressed through middle school and, eventually, high school, we grew out of hunting imaginary monsters and focused on taming the beasts of adolescence. Dating. School. Bullies.


One day our junior year, while we sat eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking green Kwench-Aid, I showed Jeff an ad for a job I found on Craigslist.


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