Series: Growin’ Up

This page is a collection of recollections from my youth–some precious, some not so much.  They may be blogged on the bloggy part of the blog, but will always be compiled here.


Why Did Ed Johnson Try to Make Rich Heschle Eat Dog Poop?

All right, I’ll admit it, Rich Heschle was kind of a tool.  What was with the wavy, Hasselhoff-esque hair?  Dude, you’re 12!  And those braces…man, those metal works truly put the “brace” in “brace face.”  But still, he was just trying to do his thing, trying to eke out an existence in one of the least popular families in the greater Weaver Lake Area (his sister Nelly, though also considered “different” would turn out, improbably, to be kinda hot).  This kid had to face grief every, single, day of the week, and often from Ed, who would sit behind him intrusively and loudly uttering “Ri-ich” in one ear, then the other, followed maybe with a sharp flick of the earlobe or five for painful good measure.  It got so bad that on more than one occasion I saw Rich tearfully flee the bus.

One warm spring day, Ed appeared to turn over a new leaf.  He greeted Rich with a smile, told him to “sit right here buddy” in the seat in front of him, and offered him a delicious, individually wrapped piece of Bubble Yum bubble gum.  Oh, how I wanted that Bubble Yum!  Rich eagerly unwrapped this unexpected treasure.  He held it to his mouth, and seeming to preternaturally sense the gum too good to be true, turned the blocky chewable sidewise, and rather than popping it in with abandon, chose to bite halfway through.  His brace-faced smile turned quickly into a hideous grimace as dog pooh spooged between his teeth and tinny hardware.

Thankfully, mercifully, Ed had delivered the unholy candy just before Rich’s stop, allowing him the opportunity to run, book bag a-flying, to a relieving and hopefully antiseptic beverage of choice.

While I was supposed to be on Ed’s side, I wasn’t.  Tool or no, that shit was just plain cruel.  God, I hope that guy’s all right.

The Flexed Arm Hang is the President’s Evil

The Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, designed to get kids up off the couch and out and up to the highest realms of (alternately) glory or embarrassment, was a popular fixture in the elementary school days of my youth.  Measuring performance in a variety of activities, such as the 50-yard dash, pushups, and other displays of speed, strength, and agility, the Presidential Fitness Challenge was to the young fat boy evil incarnate.

Most humiliating of all, at least for 8 year old me, was the “Flexed Arm Hang.”  The idea was simple…grab the chin-up bar, pull yourself up, and hang, for as long as humanly possible, with your chinny-chin-chin above the bar.  Eddie so-and-so, who never struck me as the athletic type but did on second look have an unusually muscular upper chest, held it for 59 seconds, setting the flexed arm hang bar high.  I set mine low, thinking if I could hoist my considerable mass up that high for a solid ten seconds I could claim if nothing else at least a moral victory.  I sidled up and hoped for the best.

Almost comically, the gym teacher checked in intently, making sure I was fully ready when she forced down the stopwatch’s hammer.  “GO!” Oh, Mr. President, how I longed to make you proud!

My flexed arm hang clocked in at a notable 0.00 seconds.  That’s right, I wasn’t even capable of pulling my fat ass up to the bar to get my chubby arms into a flexed position.  I just literally hung there, for 4 or 5 seconds, trying to defy gravity or futilely hoping for sudden change in the laws of physics. I may have murmured something about my hands burning against the bar, trying futilely to draw attention away from my utter failure, but the writing was on the wall right up there with the torture device they innocently called the chin-up bar.  What it read was that I was an embarrassment to my President and indeed the nation.

Growin’ Up: Part 3–Why I Pushed My Beloved Into a Pile of Dirt

One fateful third grade day, in the chaotic moments just before class ended and students were allowed to gather up their belongings (i.e. manically stash all their shit in their desks), Mr. Saddler, chrome-domed and four-eyed “teacher” extraordinaire, took it upon himself to plunk his ample Montgomery Wards’ slacks-clad bum on the desk next to mine, scoop up my unguarded yearbook (I had, in the commotion, momentarily stepped away) and peruse it as if it were his, not my, personal property.

Combing through our class’ section (the annual was organized not just by grade but by teacher), he noticed the heart I had carefully and affectionately drawn (with my best blue pen, I might add) around the lovely image of my beloved, Jennifer Drury. Seeing this, a wholly private expression of intense, longing emotion, old Saddle-bags slovenly sat there chuckling and giggling.  CHUCKLING & GIGGLING!  This drew the attention of one Eric Marcaccini, who I knew to be fleet of foot but only then realized was snakelike too, who peered around the chubby, shiny headed, cheap-loafer wearing “educator” who was illicitly enjoying my intimate secret (I hadn’t yet revealed my “like” to Ms. Drury or anyone else).  Is it me, or is that, like, a serious breach of teacher protocol?

It took exactly one class period for word to find the delicate if slightly dumbo-d ears of my queen (thanks a ton, macaroni, I mean uh Marcaccini). At recess, I innocently found myself in a game of tag or some other completely cosmically insignificant game when the object of my affection approached.  She might have said “Hello” or at least “I heard you did something in your yearbook” but instead opened with an insistent and only slightly melodic taunt of “You like me! You like me! You like me!”  As if that passed for some sort of meaningful sing-song.

What happened next I hasten to say, and the details are grainy.  Okay, they’re not.  But let’s just say that after insisting several times that “No I don’t!” I fairly well had a young man meltdown.  I grabbed Jennifer’s arm, awkwardly giving it a tug and sending her bony 60-pound frame tumbling to a grassless patch of sandy earth in a shallow ravine at the edge of the playground.  To say I was confused by the procession of events would be putting it lightly…this isn’t at all how it was supposed to go!

I moved toward her, wanting to help, proclaiming my sorriness.  She gazed up at me with teary eyes and an outstretched hand that clearly said “stay away from me you crazy boy.” The oddly prominent vein that ran down her adorably large forehead, which always seemed so cute and quirky, now obviously coursed with anger and confusion, that is if veins can in fact course with anything other than blood.

Man, that whole thing sucked rotten eggs.

Forehead Veins: So Cute On Fourth Grade Chicks

In my defense, looking back, I’d like to clarify that this was the only time I’ve thrown a female into a ditch, culvert, or other topological depression, and I am confident I can safely chalk it up to adolescence and the concomitant fear of being teased by one’s peers.

But to you kids out there, I relay this small bit of wisdom—blue ink hearts are forever.  If you must, draw that shit in pencil.

And to Jennifer…baby girl, I’m still sorry.  I hope you and your vein are doing great.


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