When my late husband and I moved into our first home together, among the “treasures” he brought with him were a brick from his old grammar school (he’d grabbed it during the school’s demolition) and a WWII hand-grenade that his dad had brought home from the war. He assured me was completely safe, inactive and was used as a paperweight.
A couple weeks ago, nearly 50 years later, I located the grenade packed away in a box in the basement. It had rust on it and looked as if it had been through yet another war, so my first instinct was to toss it out. My second instinct was to try to sell it on Ebay. I looked up “paperweight” grenades on Ebay and discovered they were selling for an average of $25 each – some lower and some higher, depending on whether they were authentic hollowed-out grenades or just newer replicas.
I did notice, however, that just about all of the grenades on Ebay were hollow, with a big hole in the bottom. Mine wasn’t hollow, nor did it have a hole in it. In fact, it weighed over a pound. And the handle still had a pin in it.
I gave the grenade’s serial number to the guy who answered and asked him if he was familiar with it.
“Oh, those are common,” he said. “They hollow them out and use them for paperweights or decorations.”
“But mine’s not hollowed out. And the pin still is in it.”
“Really?” His surprised tone did little to ease my growing tension. “Um, maybe you should take it to the police then, and have them check it out.”
“You want me to walk into a police station while I’m carrying a grenade?”
“No...I guess that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Maybe you should go down to the river then, and just toss it in. I’m sure there are a lot of worse things down there.”
I couldn’t believe this guy was serious.
“With all of the surveillance cameras people have nowadays?” I asked. “What if I’m caught on video, throwing a grenade into the river?”
“Yeah, I guess you have a point. Well, just to be safe, you probably should call your local police and ask them for advice.”
So I called the police department and talked to the desk clerk.
“I found a hand-grenade in my basement...” I began.
“You found what?” she interrupted, her voice growing higher with each word before I even could explain any of the details.
I told her the grenade had been used as a paperweight for years, was supposed to be inactive, and was only a training grenade...but it wasn’t hollowed out and still had a pin in it, so I wanted to know if it was illegal to own it and if so, what I should do with it.
She said she would contact the officer on duty and have him call me back.
About ten minutes later, my doorbell rang. I opened it to find two very serious-looking police officers standing on the porch. They didn’t say anything, they just stared at me. But the expressions on their faces made me feel as if they thought I was hiding the grenade in my bra and was about to remove it, bite off the pin and fling it at them.
“I suppose you’re here about the grenade?” I asked.
“It’s in the basement. Follow me.”
The two officers cautiously stepped into the house, drew their flashlights, and began shining them on everything – the floors, the ceiling, the closet door – as if they expected a gang of thugs to leap out and ambush them. All the while, all I could think about was whether or not there were dust kitties under the furniture where they were shining their lights.
Even as I led them downstairs to the basement, they continued to rapidly look back and forth and up and down with each step. I was going to warn them about the elusive spider down there –the one big enough to have its own zip code –hoping they might shoot it, but I decided against it.
I pointed to the box where the grenade was hidden and said, “It’s in there.” I figured if the police already were feeling so uneasy, it might not be wise for me to grab the grenade. One false move and I was pretty sure I’d be shot full of holes.
One of the officers opened the box and picked up the grenade. The first thing he said was, “At least it still has the pin in it.” He then said, “We’ll take this over to the State Police and get it checked out.”
I had expected them to bring some sort of protective container for it, but the officer just carried it upstairs.
The only time I finally got a slight smile out of them was when I told them the guy at the gun shop had told me to bring the grenade to the police station. That pretty much convinced me it would have been a bad idea.
The police gave me some paperwork to sign and then they left. I was relieved that everything had ended quietly – no bomb squad, no neighborhood evacuation and my house hadn’t been blown away to Munchkin Land.
The next day, I found the following note on my front door.
I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing (I think the smiley face had a lot to do with it). I also thought, “This has to be the craziest note anyone’s ever received on their front door!”
So I headed down to the police station. In the lobby was a wall-phone I had to pick up so I could talk to the woman at the front desk.
“I’ve come for my grenade,” I told her.
“You’re what!?” she fairly gasped.
I was beginning to think that grenades really weren’t all that common in my town.
I had to wait about 15 minutes before an officer, carrying my grenade in his hand, appeared. He told me the State Police had x-rayed it and deemed it to be safe and inert. It also was a genuine practice-grenade, not a replica. To my surprise, it still was completely intact. I’d expected it to be dissected into pieces and handed to me in a baggie.
He had me sign more paperwork, then gave me the grenade.
“Do you have a bag or something?” I asked him. “I’m not comfortable walking out of here holding a grenade in my hand.”
He shrugged. “As long as you’re not walking in with one, you’re okay.”
Just for the heck of it, I asked him what would have happened if I had walked in with it.
He laughed and said, “We’d probably have tackled you!”
Actually, he was so tall, dark and handsome, especially in his uniform, I momentarily regretted that I hadn’t.
I ended up selling the grenade for $36 on Ebay.
Now I’m waiting to see what happens if the US Postal Service decides to x-ray the package.
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