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Keeping That Monster-Size Promise

I DON'T remember what year I told the boys we were going to do this. The three of us were watching television one Saturday afternoon in midwinter when the commercial came on. It was obvious my two sons were interested.

Monster trucks. That's what they were called. They looked like regular pickups but they were riding on tires as tall as an adult. Spewing out smoke. Kicking up dirt. Crushing junk cars. Coming soon to a stadium near us.

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``We ought to go to that,'' I said casually. ``Yeah,'' said Tom, then around 9. ``Yeah,'' agreed Andy, who must have been 4 at the time. So it was set.

But the morning of the show it was cold and cloudy. Soon snowflakes began to fall. There would be no going out in this storm. They stood in the living room staring out the window. ``Sorry, guys,'' I said. ``We're going to have to stay home.''

``But you said we could go,'' Tom reminded me.

``These shows come to town all the time,'' I said to them. ``We'll go another time. I promise. We'll have plenty of opportunities.''

``There's a show next week?'' Andy asked me.

``No,'' I said, ``but soon. Next year.''

We didn't go the next year. Or the one after that. Time just slipped by. The commercials were on TV, but I was too busy. Either the money was too tight or the family had other plans for that particular weekend. Tom was around 12 and Andy was 7 when we did get to a car show. It was no monster-truck rally, but there were a lot of hot rods and luxury limousines on display.

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As it tends to do in family life, time continued to fly by. Each winter when the commercials began to run for a monster-truck rally, the boys would mention the snowstorm that kept us from going. I would remind them of the car show and they would nod; but still, no monster trucks.

Suddenly Tom was 18, a senior in high school. Andy was 13, in the eighth grade.

``Ten dollars any seat,'' the commercial said, ``this Saturday night. No reserved seating.''

``We're going,'' I told the boys, but I could tell they didn't want to get their hopes up.

Two days later, I walked into the house and handed each one a ticket. ``We're going,'' I repeated. ``This time we're going.''

That Saturday we headed for the stadium early to get good seats. And so did thousands of other fans. For more than an hour we stood outside waiting for the doors to open. There was no way we were leaving - no matter how long it took to get inside.

``We can sit anywhere we want,'' I reminded the boys when we finally got in.

``There,'' Tom said and pointed.

``Yeah, there,'' Andy echoed. The top row. Right in the middle.

``That's probably the noisiest spot in the place,'' I argued. ``It will bounce right off the wall and the ceiling. And the stink, too. That's where all the fumes are going to end up.''

``Yeah!'' my sons replied.

``Here,'' I said to them after we had climbed into our seats. ``I got these at the store this morning.'' I handed each of them a pair of ear plugs. They didn't like that too much.

That evening we watched as trucks with gigantic tires crushed junk cars as if they were bugs. We pointed and gasped as a dozen or more clunkers smashed into one another in a demolition derby.

We held our breath as two monster trucks raced side-by-side and one nearly tipped, almost crashing into the wall at the end of the race track.

We stared in amazement as a daredevil driver sped up a ramp and launched his car through a wall of flames.

You should'a seen it!'' they told their mother as soon as the three of us got back home that night. ``There was this truck that looked like it was going to lose the race,'' Tom began.

``And it tipped over on its side, like this far,'' Andy continued, showing with his hand how close the truck had come to flipping.

``And it was heading straight for the wall, and at the last second, the very last second, it landed on all four tires...''

``...and the driver slammed on the brakes, and you could hear them squeal, and see the tires smoke!''

Their mother smiled and nodded, oohed and ahhed, at our two sons who looked and sounded more like little boys than teenagers. It had been a long time since I had seen those little boys. A long time had passed so quickly.

They rattled on with their story, and their mother smiled at me. I was sure she saw them too: the two little boys to whom I had made a promise a long time ago - and finally managed to keep.

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