Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!
And thank you for your loyal following.
This is Yearbook.
The class I am in charge of at Millikan High School.
They are a wild, spirited group and I love them dearly.
One day, excited by the fact that the school had finally turned off the internet filters and had left the viewing discretion up to the teachers, I offered the kids a chance to create a Photoshop flyer for my friend Steve Soto and his band Manic Hispanic, believing that I was giving my students a life experience that would be considered valuable.
Now, being that this is high school, it wasn’t as if everyone jumped up and down and raised their hands to participate but… they did however… begin googling the name Steve Soto and Manic Hispanic happy to finally be unfettered from their technological bonds.
“This is so bad ass, Ms. Wood,” one of my senior editors said. “We can go on Facebook. We can go on Google images. Now we can really get some great Yearbook work done.”
I had my doubts about this statement but they were so excited, so punch-drunk with their new found freedom, that I felt I was in no position to bring them down: that would be like waking up on Christmas morning and finding out that you had received zero presents and Santa had also shit in your stocking.
“Oh,” one of the kids said after looking Manic Hispanic up online, “They do some type of Mexican gangster thing right?”
Everyone looked at me waiting to see if it was okay for us to like a “Mexican gangster” thing in the classroom.
“Well, yeah..” I said. “But it’s like a parody. Can anyone tell me what a parody is?”
Ten hands jumped up.
If we were going to bend the rules a bit… I figured I better find a way to keep the California Content Standards firmly in place while we did it and cover my ass in case someone found our Yearbook curriculum to be lacking.
I listened as they all babbled on about parodies and then I told them what they were supposed to do.
“Steve told me he wants something like Blood In Blood Out for the flyer. Do you guys know what that is?”
But before I had a verbal answer to assure me that they knew exactly what Blood In Blood Out was, a Latino cult classic crime-drama film, I saw twenty little teenage hands hit the keyboards hard and type in the words: Blood In Blood Out and two seconds later, there was a deafening moment of complete and total silence before loud screeches began to echo across the tops of computer stations and fill the classroom.
“What?” I screamed from my desk. “What are you freaking out about?”
I stood up to look at the computer screens and found that each and everyone of them was inundated by photos, photos once highly banned at our school site, now prominently displayed, in full-color glory, on our classroom monitors.
“OH MY GOD!” I shouted as I rushed towards the computer stations.
It was horrific I tell you.
A teacher’s worst nightmare.
A total lack of control.
A total educational malfunction.
Who would have known that the words: Blood In and Blood Out would bring a flood of cancerous anal polyps up on each and every screen?
My students were screaming.
My students were gasping.
Some of them just sat there, so stunned by the visual assault on their senses, that they just stared, mouths agape, at what they were viewing and all I could think was Jesus Christ how the fuck am I going to explain this one?
I knew what I had to do.
I stood tall and put on my teacher voice and said firmly, “Stop what you are doing and take your hands away from the computers.”
Everyone pulled their hands back as we continued to stare… mesmerized by the anal polyps… unable to look away.
“That is so weird,” one of the editors finally said followed by, “Can we Instagram them to someone Ms. Wood?”
Oh my God… NO… I thought to myself but out loud, I knew that if I didn’t act cool about this, they were going to pull out their iphones and start clicking because… that is exactly what teenagers do… when they smell fear in their teacher.
So I pulled out my iphone, snapped a photo of the anal polyps and made a big deal about how funny it was going to be for all of us to send it to my friend Sharla Bafia who was a “real goody two-shoes” and would totally freak out.
They all loved being in on the joke so they sat giggling softly, as if she could hear us, as we waited for Sharla’s response, which of course was almost instantaneous and read: “WHAT THE FUCK DUDE?”
We all had a good chuckle as we shut the images of anal polyps down and tried to strike them permanently from our memory.
I kept my game face on but inside… I was beyond relieved that I got out of that situation without it turning into a total clusterfuck.
“Okay,” I said calmly. “Let’s try this again. But this time, please type in the words: Movie Blood In and Blood Out.”
Everyone did as I asked, with only a sly devious smile or giggle here or there, which I shut down immediately with my most vicious teacher stare.
How’s it going? Steve texted right then.
I didn’t want him concerned about the anal polyp incident, he needed this flyer posted within the next hour, so I just replied: Great!… and went back to watching the students.
And for about twenty minutes, everything was totally calm as they pulled film images off the internet, and all vied to created the best band flyer for my friend until someone shouted out, “What should we use for a background?”
I was typing away on my own computer, not really paying attention to what they were up to once things calmed down, and so I shouted out absentmindedly, “I don’t know… black and gold sounds good right?”
And I heard once again twenty little hands go to type words… this time… black and gold… into the computer… and once again there was a moment of complete silence followed by a series of sharp screams, which this time, was punctuated by a few solidly loud, OH MY GODS!
I jumped, startled, and saw on each screen a large black man, walking two naked white women who were chained and completely covered in gold dust.
“OH JESUS FUCK!” I screeched without thinking.
Each head turned.
Each mouth dropped.
Suddenly, the focus was directly on me.
“You said fuck,” one of the editors whispered.. shocked by the unfiltered internet but stunned by Ms. Wood loosing her cool.
“You said Jesus and fuck in the same sentence,” someone else said in a mocking tone.
“God damn it,” I shouted. “Everyone shut down Google image RIGHT NOW!”
They didn’t move.
“I said RIGHT NOW!” I screamed as I pointed my finger at them and stomped my little feet.
Not one student disobeyed.
Everyone shut off Google image and sat quietly.
Really… what was there to say after what we had all witnessed in the last thirty minutes of class?
I wasn’t even sure how to proceed with the entire situation.
I was firmly in the camp of open internet filters in our high school community but obviously… I hadn’t thought it entirely through.
“Liz,” I said to one of my senior editors. “Make the flyer for Steve. Everyone else. Go on Facebook and just relax for a few minutes.”
Facebook: the crack cocaine of the high school world.
Suddenly, caught up in their social networking addiction, the incidents of the class faded into the background.
I went back to my desk knowing that Liz, responsible and capable, would knock that flyer out in minutes and if once again assaulted with anal polyps or black men with naked gold women, would just shut it out of her mind and continue to get her work done: There was a reason she was the number one editor and had a A+ in Yearbook.
She was an educational bad ass.
Once again I settled down… I prayed to St. Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes, and hoped that I wouldn’t have twenty parent phone calls by the end of the day.
And that was when my computer was taken over remotely… by our staff computer administrator: Mr. Rios… who had obviously been trolling for “inappropriate content” the first day of our unfiltered technology school existence.
Having fun with those unfiltered computers in there Ms. Wood? The message read.
I leaned my elbows on my desk and covered my face with my hands.
I had no response.
The jig was up.
He had witnessed everything from his secret post.
I wanted to type back: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Or just the numbers: 1984.
But instead, I just sat there… eyes covered… mentally taxed… and listened to the happy click of my students fingers in the background as they blissfully went on with their Facebook instant messaging… until I heard another beep to let me know he had messaged me again:
Okay, it said. Being that I’m Latino I get the whole Blood In Blood Out mishap and obviously… they are enjoying the whole Facebook freedom right now but… how did you guys end up with the black man and the naked chained women covered in gold dust?
And right then my phone went off.
It was Steve of course asking about the flyer: Is it done yet? he asked innocently but already worked up from the entire event, caused by my need to please my friend, make my kids feel like big shots by having them create a hip band flyer, and show how totally cool Ms. Wood was in her “alter band world” I so wanted to respond from my flawed shadow self and text in all caps: SHUT THE FUCK UP STEVE SOTO! YOU’LL GET YOUR GOD DAMN FLYER WHEN YOU GET IT!”
But instead… I wrote… Almost done… and covered my eyes again with my hands… hoping that it would all just go away.
There was another “beep” signaling once again a new message from my computer administrator.
Well Ms. Wood? It said.
I had to concede.
And I hated to concede but in this case…. I had to admit that I might be wrong.
I’m rethinking my whole opposition to the internet filters, I typed.
You bet your @ss you are! He wrote back and then unlocked my screen and let me get back to work.
“Done,” Liz said from her station and I walked over to find that she had made a fantastic flyer for my friend.
“That looks great,” I said.
“You sure you wouldn’t like me to add an anal polyp or a black man with chained naked women covered in gold dust?” she asked.
I gave her the evil eye.
“Obviously not,” she said sarcastically. “So who am I sending this to?”
Five minutes later, Steve had his flyer and was posting it on Facebook, the bell rang and the kids left, and it seemed that maybe they were not permanently scarred after all… And I sat down for a moment to calm my mind and let go of the atrocities of the last hour, praying to God that I would never see an anal polyp, a black man with naked chained white women covered in gold dust, or a message from my computer administrator, in my classroom, ever, EVER again.
It was a Friday.
A long Friday.
We were all worn.
Who knows what had been going on in high school that week but obviously it had been one drama too many for all of us:
A broken heart.
A poor score on the SATs.
A confiscated phone.
A confiscated blunt.
Whatever it was, 6th period was spent and so… I did what any experienced teacher would do when the entire class arrives, flops into empty chairs, and each head drops into cradled arms where they lie listless and limpsy:
I put on the Simpsons and let them watch cartoons until the end of the period.
You cannot imagine the joy I find in watching my sixteen and seventeen-year-old students revert back into grade-school babies.
They giggle at the screen.
They drool on their arms as they smile sleepily and watch Bart and Homer and Lisa and Marge.
They parrot the dialogue.
They snack on goldfish crackers and jelly bellies, as they glance at each other with conspiratory glee, pleased in knowing that our class is having a secret afternoon nap break.
I always feel like Patton in these moments… bonding with my troops… knowing that because I have given them this delicious moment of relief from the war that is high school, they will trust in my future leadership, accept my push towards greatness as we study Whitman and Dickinson and will be my loyal educational soldiers forever.
I sat behind my desk, happy in the cool calm of the dark classroom, drinking my ice tea, grading essays by the computer light, the soundtrack of the Simpsons punctuating the quiet of the room, my babes soothed and content: I tell you… it was lovely.
Seigi, my senior classroom aide, had scored the prime spot on the back couch: the back couch which was coveted by many of my students.
It was the cool place to hang… the best place to sleep if you had a sport’s meet in the afternoon and needed a bit of a break before you were required to swim a 50-meter fly, or a grueling scrimmage on the field or in the pool, or before a 5-mile roundtrip run through El Dorado park and back.
It was against the far wall, hidden by a row of old covered wooden desks, but if you laid out flat on it, and looked underneath the desktops, you had the perfect, comfortable, vantage point, for viewing the large movie screen where my LCD projected.
Nobody questioned Seigi’s dibs on the couch that day. Being that he had senority, top man of the class, no one fussed, the caste system of high school finite… the pecking order… unchallenged… and so, Seigi sauntered over, stretched out, face down on the black sofa cushions, and settled in to watch the show as he faded in-and-out of consciousness.
The ninety-minute class period seemed but a moment and when the bell rang, there was hardly a child that made a move towards the door. Happy, tired and content, they preferred to stay put as the cartoons continued to run until I said quietly, “Time to go people,” unwilling really to send them out into the world but knowing I must do so.
After a moment or two of hushed fussing and shuffling, they grabbed their gear, quietly headed out the door without even turning on a light, barely a “Bye Ms. Wood have a good weekend” before leaving me alone in the dark.
I sat for a moment longer before I forced myself to rise, shutting down my computer, making my way through the dim light towards the door, where I locked it, gave the handle a quick security shake, before walking slowly to my car and going home.
I was so glad it was the weekend.
Put on my pajamas.
And laid down on my bed to watch mindless TV and flip through magazines until bedtime.
I was completely oblivious to my mistake.
I was completely confident that I had done everything right in my classroom that day.
However, I believe Seigi would beg to differ.
About seven that evening, Seigi woke up.
No… not from a nap at home… not from the comfort of his own bed… but from his nap in my classroom.
He woke up to a pitch black room… in fact the bungalow so dark at night that the darkness is palpable… suffocatingly close to your face.
Now imagine that just a few weeks prior to this event. Ms. Wood had taught you about the horrors of Poe… had shared the film El Orfanato with you… had scared you to death with the Poe-esque elements in this foreign film where a haunted Victorian orphanage holds mysteries of the past, and creepy little orphan ghost children run about from room-to-darkened-room scaring you repeatedly through each cinematic moment.
I tell you… it terrifies even me and this… was Seigi’s nightmare.
From what I gathered over the course of several weeks and numerous renditions of his guilt-inducing retellings to each and every child who would stop and listen… it was beyond horrific.
Seigi had woken, become completely disoriented, sat up screaming then tried to run out of the room, sure that a creepy little ghost orphan was about to grab him, but was physically assaulted by first, the old wooden block of desks, then… a row of metal and formica desks that stood strong behind the front line that held him back.
He tried to move forward but imagined tiny little creepy hands grabbing at him from every direction.
He lost his mind.
Tried to jump over the desks and somehow hurl himself to safety but caught his foot on a metal leg, fell to the floor, wreathing in mental and physical pain, where he then crawled across the back of the classroom, hands pressed firmly down on the dirty linoleum, until he bumped into the far wall, reached up for the door handle, pulled the metal latch down and rolled out onto the landing and laid panting heavily on the dirty anti-slip covering, shell-shocked and crying… stunned and out of breath.
My phone rang at exactly 7:03 pm.
I didn’t even look at it.
I ignored the call to duty believing that I had lead all of my soldiers to safety and had not lost a man that day.
I was wrong.
So very wrong.
At 7:45 my curiosity got the better of me and so, as I stood looking in the bathroom mirror, slathering my face with my favorite Vitamin C cream, my phone laying next to me. I reached down, pressed the hands-free setting and waited to hear the message that I had missed.
At first, there was a loud commotion, as if someone had dropped their phone and was rushing to pick it up. I had no idea that it was Seigi rolling around on my bungalow landing. What followed was almost an incoherent babble before a rough, bark of a harsh whisper reached out and electronically slapped me with a verbal assault across my face:
“Fuck you Ms. Wood,” the voice snapped at me. “Do you hear me?” It repeated. “I said FUCK YOU.”
There was a loud thump and then a sudden click.
“DOH!” I shouted out.
A bright flash as if a camera click illuminated my brain: the couch, the dark, the SEIGI!
I looked around as if I could somehow do something right now to immediately lead my Seigi to safety.
Of course… I couldn’t.
I had failed at my command.
I had left a man behind.
I’d like to say that I called Seigi right away but I didn’t.
I knew what I was up against.
I knew what I would hear.
I knew what I would see when I returned to my room and this is what it was:
Yes… the thousand yard stare.
And not just the unfocused gaze of my battle-weary soldier but behind that gaze a look of complete disgust for his commanding officer.
I knew that I would have to bear Seigi’s wrath for weeks to come but to be honest, it was hard to look remorseful each time he told the story when really the image of him running blindly through my room, his imagination a battlefield of blockades and creepy orphans, amused me terribly with each retelling.
And today, Seigi and I share a camaraderie over this story, a joy in the shared brotherhood of our bond. Forever locked together in time… even though as a commander I failed miserably and left my man behind.
I don’t think people should be punished for having bladder issues.
But that is exactly what happened.
Annika, Dylan, Stroosma… all shaming me in the line of the Disneyland Matterhorn ride because I had to go pee super bad right before we were about to get in the bobsled.
“If you go now we’ll lose our place in line,” Dylan fussed.
“You’re tough,” Stroosma said. “You can hold it until the end.” Obviously… he was a teacher already exhausted from a long grad night… ready to hit this one last ride before cutting out, what was considered early, at 4 am.
“Ms. Wood,” Annika, my student, whined. “Come on! I don’t want to wait in line like two more hours again.”
“Alright,” I said… giving in… though my bladder was past the point of full… actually ready to balloon out as if I was hiding a boda bag of urine.
I stepped into the bobsled and sat in seat #4, considered the brake position in a real four-man sled, with Annika between my legs, Dylan, my son, in front of her, and Stroosma between his legs, in the first position as the “driver.”
“Don’t pee on me.” Annika laughed as she settled in, sure that her teacher would never do such a horribly nasty thing.
But she would live to regret those words.
I knew things were going to go terribly wrong when we hit the first stop in the track and I felt my whole body lurch forward and my bladder just about shake loose.
Oh my God… I thought to myself… I’m not going to be able to hold this pee. I’m seriously gonna lose it.
I felt my heart beat faster… and panic set in.
If I pee’d my pants and actually urinated on a student… I would NEVER be able to live the moment down.
I tried to wave to the ride operator, ready to beg for him to let me out of the sled, but it was too late.
We glided into the cavern of man-made rock and began our ascent up the track to the top of the Matterhorn and each click, click, click of the sled chugging up the rail… seemed like the sound of a time bomb ticking:
Go!… tick tick tick… Go! tick tick tick… Pee! tick tick tick…. Pee!… the track beckoning me to give in.
I worked to give myself a pep talk.
You can do it, I said. Just a few minutes and you can get off this ride and pee.
I even thought that this might be a good time to practice those Kegel exercises I’d been putting off for years, when suddenly, I came up with a brilliant master plan.
“QUICK Annika!” I shouted. “Let me put both my legs on one side of you.”
Annika turned around and looked at me as if I were a demented stranger. She couldn’t even imagine Ms. Wood EVER putting a child in peril during an amusement ride.
“Are you out of your mind?” She screeched. “Ms. Wood! You can’t do that in the middle of the ride. We could be hurt! And you’re a teacher,” she snapped. “YOU should know bet…”
But she didn’t have a chance to finish her scolding and I didn’t have a chance to cross my legs and close them tight.
Stroosma and Dylan began to scream, Annika threw her arms up into the air and wailed wildly with joy, and I knew that in a matter of seconds I was going to decimate everyone in the entire bobsled with a long stream of urine.
I tried not to scream as we rocketed down the hill but as soon as the first abominable snowman popped out and scared me from his perch…I screamed bloody murder and the peeing began.
Annika was so engrossed in the moment that at first she had no idea that I was actually peeing all over her.
She screamed and squealed with glee until we hit a calm curve and catching her breath looked around before saying, “Wow. I really got wet.”
Stroosma grabbed the edges of the sled and turned back to look at me as if I were Judas. “You are NOT peeing on us are YOU?”
My face full of shame and betrayal… he knew immediately I was.
“It’s just water!” I lied. “I swear! Just water from the ride!”
“STOP IT!” He shouted. “STOP NOW!”
And then we hit the next big drop as we all screamed like mad.
My peeing escalated.
It was now a violent river rushing forward at an alarming rate.
“STOP PEEING MS. WOOD!” Annika shouted. “STOP!”
But I couldn’t.
We hit a drop and screamed again.
By this time… I was laughing so hard and screaming so loud… Stroosma’s yaking GUFFAW punctuating the moment as we barreled down the mountain… Dylan holding on for dear life screaming, “STOP MAMA! STOP!” as my urine saturated my jeans, rushed out towards Annika, and flooded the bobsled floor.
I began to cry and curse my lot in life.
Why hadn’t I thought to wear an adult diaper?
Sure I was only 40-years-old but maybe the battle of old age was won by building reinforcements early.
I had a quiet epiphany:
If I had truly been smart… I could have been peeing and shitting myself comfortably right now in my adult diaper, while totally enjoying the ride.
“Noooooooooooooo!” Annika cried as we hit the last big turn… Stroosma still hysterical… Dylan disgusted by the entire episode.
And then the ride came to a stop.
“How could you do that?” Annika turned around and screamed at me. “How could you Ms. Wood!”
I sat in silence… my arms crossed… my brows knitted into an angry frown… pouting over the fact that they wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom…. furious at my idiocy for not thinking of wearing the adult diaper sooner… and distraught that I would have to walk the full mile to the exit with my pee-pee jeans rubbing and rashing my legs, while all of the grad students pointed and mocked me.
“Fuck you all,” I whispered. “If you would have just let me go to the bathroom, none of this would have ever happened.”
I climbed out of the sled, pulled my sweatshirt roughly over my head, wrapped it around my soaking butt, and stomped off towards Main Street: a dirty mess trapped in the Happiest Fucking Place on Earth.
Dylan James Wood is my son.
Those that know him know that he is like a giant bear: large and fuzzy, hands as big as grizzly paws.
He stands about six-foot-one and even on my BEST day… I can no longer take him.
Well… actually… I might get away with running him over in the mini-van… but he’s quick for a big guy… so I would have to catch him by surprise which… is exactly what I did the day I slapped the holy shit out of him.
Now, feel free to judge, I really don’t care.
If I want to slap the shit out of my 22-year-old, 250 pound bubba of a baby, who is completely out of line with his mother… then I will damn well do it.
I don’t believe in the “no beating” policy.
To quote M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs: “Tell Graham to swing away.”
I like to live by the laws of nature: swift, painful, parental punishments.
And probably right now… someone out there is mumbling, “I hope one day he hits her back. Abusive old bitch.”
And I would say to you… he better start running after he takes a swing.
It would be a good show though… and actually… it was.
I don’t know what started the incident.
Who knows how he incited me into violence… but he did.
We were in the middle of the kitchen, standing toe-to-toe.
I was screeching at him about something that I deemed incredibly important at the time, when he mouthed off and I went to slap him.
I watched as his giant paw of a hand reached out and grabbed my wrist.
My arm stopped mid-swing as my face registered shock.
I looked up at him, this furry Baby Huey of a man, and stared… stunned that he quit my vigilantly justice with one grasp.
I actually heard the sound track from Clint Eastwood’s, A Few Dollars More, reverberate inside of my head as I raised my other hand, furious in my inability to control him, and took another swing.
No way in hell was “Indio” gonna get the better of Clint aka “Monco:” I was gonna wind this little jackass’s pocket watch and good.
I swung at him with all my might and watched as he easily bested my shot and now had both of my wrists pinned within the grip of just one of his giant hands.
I was beyond furious: I was enraged.
It was as if I lost my mind: I literally could not control myself. I bent towards him and tried to bite him repeatedly.
He laughed as he used his strength to manipulate me into various positions by changing the degree of bend on my trapped wrists.
I began to growl and snarl like a wild animal as I kicked at him… all the while… Dylan laughing at my idiocy and the fact that I no longer had any control over him.
I exhausted myself with the effort and like Santiago in the, Old Man and the Sea, crumpled to the floor, worn and beaten, yet still refusing to admit defeat.
“You promise not to hit me if I let you go?” Dylan said, lauding his youth and new found bravery and power over me.
I said nothing.
I glared at him.
A beast ready to snap.
I watched as he walked towards the backdoor, before I shouted, “You will pay for this!”
He chortled with glee as he kicked open the door, kicked it closed behind him, and strutted off to the garage, whistling a little tune of satisfaction that soon faded off into the distance.
That little shit. I thought to myself. I am going to make that mother fucker pay.
And as I sat on the dirty linoleum floor, I quieted my mind and came up with a plan.
A three day plan.
I would lead him to believe I had forgotten all about the upsetting incident.
I would act “as if” and bide my time until I could slap that little bastard but good.
I regained my footing and stood tall… I had lost the first battle… but I was certain that I would win this war.
The next few days passed by just as I expected:
Dylan flinched each time I walked by him: sure that I was about to retaliate at any moment… positive that I had not given up within the first 24 hours.
I ignored him… busied myself with the tasks at hand.
48 hours later… he was eying me pensively from the corner of the living room: trying to figure out if I had truly forgotten the incident or if this was some type of new defensive tactic.
I folded laundry and once again pretended I hadn’t even noticed him in the room.
He fell for the ploy.
By the third day, I was beyond excited. I couldn’t wait to get home from school and make my son pay.
My anticipation was rabid by the time I pulled up to the curb.
I could hardly contain myself as I ran up the porch and opened the front door.
There he was.
My baby Sasquatch.
My furry Yeti.
He was in the kitchen, large bowl of cereal cupped in one hand, spoon midway to his mouth, crumbs of a cheerio hanging tentatively off of his beard.
“Hey mom,” he said.
His sweetest voice.
His best cherubic face.
But I did not falter in my anger: revenge had gotten the better of me and my “higher spiritual self” had exited our home days ago.
I laid on like I have never laid on before.
My slap hit his chubby pink cheek so hard that his whole giant meat pie of a head sharply snapped at an angle before his eyes rolled back and his mouth fell open.
But still…. my blow barely made a dent of pain.
He centered his head, and looked at me: his bowl still set neatly in his hand, his spoon still resting mid-air… shocked but for a moment, before he laughed, this beautiful genuine boy of a laugh, and then said, “Good one” as he walked past me and climbed the stairs to his bedroom.
I stood in the kitchen and watched as his giant Fred Flintstone feet disappeared up the stairs.
The moment was bitter sweet.
I felt the relief, the joy of revenge washing over me, the sense that all was right in my world… and then the horrible realization that my son was now completely immune to any physical punishment I would ever try to dispense in the future.
Suddenly, I felt old… truly old… until I heard from the top of the stairs, “Damn mom, that really hurt.”
And I smiled… knowing that my son was indeed a good man… I had raised him well.
I knew he wasn’t hurt at all… he was letting me “save face” unwilling to swing away at his mother’s pride.
I don’t ask for much as a parent.
Well, at least I don’t think I ask for much as a parent.
Dylan and Lexi may choose to disagree with this statement and it’s fine if they do because I AM THE PARENT and I don’t care.
Every once in awhile I ask for a minor thing to be done:
Pick up the dog poop.
Change the Sparklett’s water bottle for Nana.
Take out the trash.
Don’t forget to move the car for street sweeping and…
For God’s sake give me a bun when I ask for one.
It was Dylan who refused me the bun.
All I wanted was one bun for my chicken.
It was Matilda’s first night at our house.
She was a guest.
I had no chicken feed and thought how nice it would be to give her a lovely fresh bun.
Dylan actually snatched the bun bag from my hands.
“You can’t have a bun,” he said and I looked at his face and saw that he was totally serious. “I have exactly eight buns and exactly eight hot dogs. Do you understand?”
Oh, I understood.
Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive was refusing to give me a bun.
I couldn’t believe it.
He was lucky to be alive.
If I hadn’t grown him in my magical uterus he wouldn’t even be standing here with a bag of buns in his grubby little hands… the little shit.
I almost got in a knock-down-drag-out with him right then and there but we had company… not just Matilda… but a whole house load of guests. So, I had to let it go and I honestly planned to let it go forever until I found the bun bag in the trash can exactly one week later.
The whole bun bag.
All eight buns… moldy and in the trash can.
I looked at those buns and I felt like they were mocking me.
Dylan would pay for this injustice.
I waited until he was making his way through the house, walking with one of his little band friends, when I stopped him, pulled the bag from the trash can, and in my best motherly voice said, “What is this?”
Dylan looked at the bag as if he was unable to fathom the alien object in my hand.
“What?” he said but I could tell from his tone he knew he was busted.
“I asked you for one bun. One bun! And look,” I thrust the bag towards his face. “You didn’t even eat one. Not one! Here they sit, molding in the trash.”
“I’m gonna feed them to the ducks,” Dylan said.
This sent me over the edge.
“The ducks? The ducks!” I shouted. “You wouldn’t even give me one for my chicken!”
“Well, you fed your friends my spaghetti sauce!” He snapped, throwing out this minor counter point as if he could win an argument against me with such a weak comeback.
“How much is your rent?” I asked.
He was silent before mumbling, “It was just a bun.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Just a bun.”
We stood quietly for a moment pondering that thought before Dylan said, “We’re going out to the garage to practice now.”
I watched as he walked away wondering what he might refuse me next:
An adult diaper?
My pills and ice cream when I’m 102 and unwilling to eat anything else?
I could see now that I would have to keep my eye on this little man.
It starts with a bun and ends up with a trip to the convalescent hospital for a nice long vacation.
Oh… but he had underestimated his opponent.
My wrath would be legendary.
I would be the old woman who would pee as I walked down the supermarket aisle each time my son took me to the store.
I would be the old woman who would sit in the back seat of his mini-van and flip people off in other cars for no apparent reason.
I would be the old woman who would feed his children candy and play Grand Theft Auto with them when they turned 4.
Refuse me a bun.
We’ll just see about that.
This… is Matilda.
Matilda is a chicken.
A Rhode Island Red to be exact.
I didn’t go out and purchase Matilda.
I wasn’t given Matilda.
Matilda, like most of the animals in our home, including Jax, my pet squirrel, just appear to me, usually in dire need, and being who I am… I can’t seem to walk away.
Case in point: Matilda
It was Thursday night, 8pm, after hours at El Dorado park and my favorite time to walk there.
This night I was walking with my two adult friends, Frank and Abe and my 10-year-old friend Finn.
Finn, like me, seems to be some type of “animal whisperer” and so I was a bit concerned when we jumped the rail of the flood control and ran down the embankment to enter the park after hours that we might run into an injured skunk, coyote, goose, hawk, or owl… but I had no worries that we might run into a chicken. For God’s sake…. a chicken?
We were barely past the LBPD shooting range when we saw a small reddish animal bopping about in the grassline…
“Is that a chicken?” Frank asked.
We all stopped to watch as she made her way closer to us.
“It is a chicken,” Abe said.
We didn’t know what to do… I voted to finish our walk and when we looped back, see if she was still around. With Frank, Abe, and Finn all hailing from Arizona…. I knew that this chicken wasn’t going anywhere unless it was going to Ms. Wood’s house and I was trying my hardest to make sure that didn’t happen. I mean the menagerie was really getting ridiculous: Jax (my squirrel) her babies, three chihuahuas, four cats, seven dogs and a partridge in a pear tree; I wasn’t looking to add a chicken to the mix.
I swear I didn’t want to leave her because I’m heartless… I just thought… Maybe if we give it some time… she’ll magically go back to where she came from and I will be saved from care-taking yet another pet… but the boys weren’t having it.
The Arizonians were looking at me with pitiful sad little faces.
The chicken was looking at me with her pitiful sad little face.
“Come on…” I said to the boys as I strided ahead with purpose trying to get away from the bird, only to turn and find the chicken running after us all as she made the saddest little cooing sounds that seemed to say, “If you leave me I will be eaten by a coyote and you will never be happy when you walk in your park at night again, because you will always remember that you left me to die.”
I couldn’t do it.
It was horrible.
They were pulling at every one of my heart strings and they obviously knew just how to work me.
So… I just gave in and turning on my heal, marched towards the exit, while shouting in my best authoritative tone, “Come on, Matilda. Let’s go home!” and watched as she hustled to catch up and walk beside me… as if I were her best friend and we had never been parted.
After a few feet of walking, we realized that it would take forever to get Matilda out of the park at this pace, so Frank picked her up and carried her with both hands, arms extended straight out in front, as if Matilda were a hood ornament on his human car.
It wasn’t five minutes later that the Park Ranger pulled up next to us, rolled down his window and said, “My God! Is that a chicken?”
Apparently he had never seen a chicken in the park either and now, Matilda startled by his big shiny car and flashing police lights was out of Frank’s hands, on top of the hood of his car and pecking at her own reflection in his windshield, like this was all good fun.
Obviously, the park was a wonderful place for Matilda as long as she had humans to protect her.
I asked him if he wouldn’t mind driving Frank to my van and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed.
I smiled as I watched Frank drive off with a Park Ranger and a chicken and I spent the rest of my walk back to the Wardlow Street bridge whistling to myself and making up my own stupid little jokes about it:
So… a chicken and a Ranger walk into a bar……
Or…. Is that a chicken under your arm or are you just…
How did the chicken cross the road? By getting a ride in the Park Ranger’s car.
Before hoping back over the rail and walking to the van.
Frank was in the back when I got there, Matilda running around on the floor, pleased that she was in some type of cage that seemed more comfortable then the cold park at night.
We took her home… gave her some water… and watched as she climbed to the top shelf of the squirrel cage and bedded down for the night. Already content in her new environment.
“Good night Matilda,” I said as I turned off the porch light for the evening…. trying not to be attached to a chicken… but knowing… I was already totally in love.
If you look closely at the photo above… you will see one little shoe.
That is because just outside of the frame… just outside of the observer’s view… is my little broken leg.
Look at that baby.
The perfect Gerber Cupie Doll mix right?
How could anyone break the leg of such a nice, sweet, little baby girl?
Well… you’d have to ask my sister.
The practically perfect person pictured here:
Only, if you did go to ask my sister, she would probably throttle you. In fact… she would probably throttle me.
I used to tell the story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg” in my classroom each year and when I got to the good part… I would call her on the cell phone, press “speaker,” and let her tell the whole class how she damaged me for life.
She hated it.
I don’t do it anymore.
Because she verbally throttled me.
She waited until she was at my house, vis-a-vis and shouted as she bordered on slapping me, “Why the hell do you have to call me and make me relive something I feel terrible about? Can’t you see you’re causing me pain?”
“I’m the baby,” I said smugly. “You broke my leg… I think you should have to pay for that the rest of my life.”
She gave me “theeeeee” big sister look… the I will kill you right now look… and I never, ever called her during class time again.
My students beg me to…
They do I swear…
But I stop them and shout, “Listen! She won’t let me… and you know how big sister’s are.”
Many of them nod their heads in silent solidarity. (Obviously, having been throttled by big sisters too.)
I don’t know what my sister was thinking that day back in 1966 when she broke my leg… She was seventeen… one of the most popular girl’s at Millikan High School. TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE IN EVERY WAY. Or so I thought… all of these years even AFTER the leg breaking incident but when I told my sister that I was writing this story she said, “Me? Practically perfect? Get real. I used to run around Millikan in my head cheerleader outfit, show all of the teachers the “forged” note from my mom and say, “I have to leave school immediately” before I’d flash them my all-American smile as I exited campus to ditch class with my friends.”
I was actually stunned for a moment when hearing this.
After years of taking the wrap as the “bad sister” the “bad seed” it was interesting to find out that the “good sister” the one who was always “so wonderful” was actually quite a bit of a naughty.
My sister has always been like a mother to me, so I don’t doubt that she had the best intentions when she hopped on her Schwinn Cruiser that day and propped me on the handle bars. I’m sure she thought I would giggle and squeal and love her all the more for it… but unfortunately the short ride went terribly wrong.
She lost her grip on my petite baby body and watched in horror as I slid off the front of the bike, where my small leg entered the turning spokes of the wheel, and snapped in several places before I landed helpless on the ground, caught as if a small animal in a snare, with my tiny leg twisted like delicate ribbon between the rough metal spokes of the rim.
My sister was beyond distraught and ran, frantic for help, to our neighbor: Mrs. O’Grady.
And though they both tried to free my leg, they actually had to remove the wheel from the bike, my leg still ensnared in it, and bundle “us” off to the hospital where the doctors could release me from it’s cruel grip.
The worst part, according to my sister, was not the break in my leg, but the break in her heart, as she held me in the backseat of the car, my little arms raised up to her, my hands opening and closing as I begged for understanding and a hug saying only three of the ten words I knew at the time:
“Sissy, Sissy sweet. Why? Why?”
“I would have preferred you to cry,” she said. “At least that would have been normal. But for you to lie there, like a little Buddha, not one tear on your face, as you asked me to explain in your tiny baby voice why this happened to you… was unbearable.”
The evil baby in me always smiles when she tells me this… I like that I was a master manipulator even at the age of one… assigning guilt and blame a talent passed down effortlessly in my genes.
My leg was “casted” from toe to hip, and my mother was enraged when she found out what my sister had done. It was weeks, no months, a constant barrage of angry words, that my sister had to endure from her parents for that “one” fatal mistake.
But oh… the story gets worse.
When the time came for the cast to finally be removed, I was beyond ecstatic.
They were taking me to see Santa that day for being such a brave girl through the months I had suffered my casted leg.
My sister said she was full of joy, so relieved that finally the day had come when she would no longer look at my cast as the “albatross” around her neck.
They took me from the hospital, straight to my grandmother’s, who was anxiously awaiting my arrival, just one of the many relatives who wanted to witness my full recovery and my visit with Santa.
I remember climbing from the car.
I remember skipping towards her house.
I remember tripping into a giant sprinkler hole and hearing a loud “SNAP” as my leg completely re-broke for the second time.
My sister said that I laid on my back, disbelief engulfing my pretty baby face, before I threw my arms outstretched over my head and WAILED, tossing my body from side to side screaming, “WHY? WHY!!!!!!!!”
Before my father picked me up, a writhing wild animal of a child, a snake ready to bite and hiss at anyone who tried to get close to me.
The next photo you see of me as a child is not a pretty one.
And if I could find it and post it here, I swear I would… but I have a feeling my sister has already burned it.
It’s me, a red corduroy jumpsuit, full leg cast, crooked bangs, a doll wedged tightly under my arm with no head, and a look in my eye that clearly shows that I have changed from a sweet little doll to a demon seed.
A look that seems to imply that I have already suffered the weight of the world and LORD HELP YOU if you try to cross me.
Today… I still limp when tired, the only reminder of that fateful ride… other than my yearly classroom story of how “Sissy Broke My Leg.”
I don’t ask for much from my substitute teacher.
You can ask any of my students: Stroosma’s job is cake.
Silent Reading for 30 to 40 minutes… followed by a nice “book to movie” dvd and his day is done.
So when I left for four weeks in the early spring of 2008 for a Writer’s fellowship in Vermont, I assumed, stupidly, that I could somehow trust that my classroom would run smoothly for the entire time I was gone… as long as I had Stroosma at the helm of the ship.
Stroosma is definitely one of the “beloved.”
A small group of teachers, substitutes, and staff members at Millikan High School that students actually really do enjoy being with…
The kids would be super stoked to have him as their substitute teacher for four weeks.
He’s good looking…
A very talented musician (former fantabulous bass player for the Sea Monsters) and…
My Facebook husband; which earns him TOTAL cool points in my book.
Girls have crushes on him… (and boys too)
Boys want to be like him… (and girls too)
He is “Thee” substitute and the kids know, when walking into the classroom, that “YES! STROOSMA’S HERE TODAY!” and that they are going to have a lovely day of respite from their regularly scheduled teacher.
Now, I’m sure you have already duly noted that I did not mention academics in the above description and this is why…
Don’t get me wrong… academics are important and Stroosma can teach…
But when you’re going to be 1,500 miles away from your students for four weeks… academics runs a FAR distant second to CLASS CONTROL.
You don’t want the Principal rolling around to your classroom every day, amped up because your substitute teacher can’t keep 180 high school students entertained for a 90 minute period… SERIOUSLY… you just don’t.
You need a “show” man…
You need A HEADLINER…
You need a man with a plan that can handle your clan.
And that’s Stroosma.
Sinatra would have wanted him in the “Rat Pack” every day of the week.
So… I spoke to him WAY in advance… because a substitute like Stroosma is always in high demand… and said:
“I’m going to be gone four weeks, and I need you to take my class. All I ask… (and I paused here for emphasis) is that you and the kids don’t burn the room down while I’m gone. Okay?”
Stroosma smiled his little Stroosma smile…
Winked his little Stroosma wink…
And gave me the thumbs up.
“No problem,” he said.
And like a FOOL… I believed him.
Two weeks later I was in Vermont… sitting in a beautiful Victorian house, content in my warm room, looking out the large bay window at the snow falling gently all around me, as I typed out the first full draft of my novel.
The view… serene…
The icy river… crystal crisp.
The rolling snowy hills… the water wheel of the old red mill.
I couldn’t ask for more of a picture postcard moment if I had planned it with God himself when suddenly… it was like a text bomb went off on my phone.
There must have been 30 alerts within 10 seconds and I am not exaggerating.
My students were bombarding me with messages all of which read: STROOSMA JUST ALMOST BURNED OUR ROOM DOWN. COME BACK.
Oh funny… I thought… look how much they miss me… I smiled to myself… they just love to tease me… such a funny game… Aren’t they silly children…. like I can just magically get back to Long Beach in a blink of an eye…. aren’t they just so cute…
I was sure Stroosma must have put them up to this and I’m telling you, I thought that right up until message number 31 which was from Stroosma himself and that’s when my little warm and fuzzy moment fled my little writer’s room and my brain almost exploded from my head:
HEY D, THE ROOM WAS ON FIRE BUT EVERYTHING IS OKAY.
Now… “WTF” was not even being used in text vocabulary at this time… but if I had been in my right mind at that moment… I would have made it up on the spot and typed it to him.
I called immediately.
I started to panic and dialed again.
I dialed again.
My mind was racing…
I could imagine my students, scared to death after their classroom burned down, all lined up next to the chain link fence… out on the field in a School Wide Fire Drill all because I had left to go to the Writer’s Colony in Vermont.
I was a bad teacher.
I had abandoned my flock.
I dialed again.
Stroosma picked up the phone and I heard all of my students shouting and frolicking in the background… their voices not full of terror and pain but ringing with complete and total joy and ecstasy that they had just had a memorable “event” in their English classroom…
“What the hell?” I shouted at Stroosma. “It was the one thing… the ONE thing I told you not to let happen! Shit… Stroosma!”
My students were suddenly silent… my voice can cut through a classroom even when I’m on a cell phone across the Great Divide and though they couldn’t hear the words… they most definitely heard the tone… and like the well-trained students they are… they knew that when Ms. Wood was going “insane” you better shut the fuck up.
Stroosma was silent as well.
“Well?” I snapped. “What the hell happened?”
“We put a pad thai box in the microwave and then forgot about it.”
I waited… unwilling to give him one inch without more description.
“It caught on fire and the smoke started to billow throughout the classroom,” he tried not to stumble on his words.
“IT WAS TURNING AND BURNING” I heard a wise-heimer shout with glee somewhere in the background, followed by a long barrage of slap sounds and shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs… vigilantly justice being handed down by the “citizens” while the Sheriff was out of town.
“Nothing happened,” Stroosma said. “Not even the fire alarm.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that my students were safe, my room was still standing, and my Principal would not be signing my pink slip out of Millikan when I returned to Long Beach.
“Miriam was the one who told me,” Stroosma said.
Miriam… my German foreign exchange student… who could barely hold a basic conversation in English had raised her sweet little hand, pointed her militant little German finger at the microwave, and in heavily accented broken English said… Summ theeeeng ES burn ING!”
I could have had a God damn international incident on my hands because of him.
“You having fun?” He asked.
“Oh yeah…” I said sarcastically. “Great time… getting a lot of good writing done.”
“Okay then,” he said. “Talk to you later.”
I hung up the phone and spent about another 45 minutes retrieving text messages from students who wanted me to know that they loved me, missed me, and thought everything that had just happened was super funny…
I sat back in my chair and watched the clock… as I pictured my classroom back home… sad that I was minutes away from the actual Vermont Ben and Jerry’s factory… and I had none of the children I loved with me….or Stroosma… to go eat some ice cream with and enjoy a good laugh over the day’s event.
Something you must know about people who swim or play water polo.
We tend to get naked a lot.
Because when you spend a life time running around in a bathing suit… changing behind towels at meets, at the beach, somewhere in public… you stop caring who sees you.
And… back in the day when we were all swimming, playing water polo or whatever…. our bodies had no wobbly bits… no bouncing blobs of fat… just nice sleek tan taught muscle.
It was lovely.
Ryan Ballance and Erik Prosser two of my high school friends, were both polo players at Wilson… I of course was a Millikan girl…. you weren’t SUPPOSED to like the Wilson boys…. but we often did…. maybe because it was “forbidden” fruit… going against school spirit to want to make out with the “red and the gold.” How extremely unsportsmanlike.
It didn’t matter to me… I adored them both.
Erik and I had a friendship that went back and forth from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend for years… and I still miss him today… I hate that he is gone from this Earth… a fluke accident.. leaving all of us to miss the beauty of his spirit…
Ryan… was always my buddy… maybe a casual flirtation here and there… maybe a moment of sexual “wit”… but nothing more than that… and today… I take great joy in seeing photos of him in love and happy in Florida where I imagine he still runs around in speedos, mostly naked, with his girlfriend probably shaking her head as she says to herself: “Christ, everyone must think I’m dating a European.”
Anyways… it was the year of Wilson’s 10 year high school reunion, and Ryan and Erik invited me to a night before “pre-party” at Ryan’s parent’s place down on the Peninsula.
Now… I remember that Ryan was dating someone at the time…. but I cannot for the life of me remember who… but… if you are reading this… I’m sorry we were such complete idiots that night. You must have been mortified and by the way… “Well done you!” for taking the high road and not smacking the shit out of all of us drunkards.
I don’t drink often… I really don’t… but with Ryan and Erik… I don’t remember much of that evening except that we thought it would be a really good idea to strip down to our skivvies and go for a swim in the Bay sometime around 2am.
Okay everyone… listen up….
1. Don’t swim drunk. It is probably one of the stupidest things you can EVER do…
2. If your last name is Wood… don’t swim drunk… do you really want me to bring up the whole Natalie Wood incident? I don’t need people running around Long Beach using me as the butt of their driftwood jokes… I’m sure I’m already the butt of so many Long Beach jokes that we don’t need to add another. And Tim Grobaty… if you are reading this… DON’T get ANY ideas.
3. As you are stripping down to your skivvies don’t prance around and prattle on about your body… and how you STILL have it… you just sound like a COMPLETE AND TOTAL conceited MORON and… nobody likes a show off.
Don’t go out in the Bay at 2am.
People will come.
And not in the cool Field of Dreams sort of way…
They will not pay money to watch you play and frolic in the water… as they sit satisfied… content in nostalgic memories of their own high school reunions… no… they won’t…
They will call the cops.
They will have you arrested.
You will be cited for Disturbing the Peace…
Drunk and Disorderly…
YOU NAME IT…. their ON IT at 2 am when a bunch of yahoos wake up the Peninsula.
The ENTIRE Peninsula.
Now, I do remember Erik went in first and he was half way to the buoy before I shot in after him… we were always competitive so I busted my ass… or what I believed was busting my ass… who knows what I was really doing… probably floundering around in circles believing that I was somehow moving forward and catching up to him.
I looked for Ryan… who started to follow but then seemed to pause and disappear… either he stopped because he had a moment of clarity and thought better of it or his girlfriend grabbed him and forced him to the ground….. either way…. he never made it into the water which ended up being a really good thing for him.
Erik and I frolicked about from buoy to buoy laughing and screwing around up and down the tow line, spitting water at each other, slap fighting waves, until someone turned on their porch light and stared us down…it was a BIG SOMEONE… a hulking MAD MAN SHADOW of a SOMEONE… ready to call the cops… we reverted back to high school…. hid behind a buoy whispering God knows what, until he went back inside and turned off the light, leaving us to giggled as we backstroked our way over to the beach grabbed our towels and headed back up to the house.
We were about to enter the gate when I grabbed the pull string… realized the latch was stuck… pulled harder and watched as the string broke, and the metal washer that had been weighting the end flew straight at me and cut a half moon slash right between my eyes.
Erik didn’t even flinch… he just started laughing at me which of course led Ryan’s father to become involved.
He wiped off the cut, told me I would live and then insisted on me spending the night… and rightfully so… here is another thing you NEVER do after a 10 year high school reunion pre-party:
YOU NEVER… EVER… DRIVE HOME DRUNK.
Do you hear me children?
I slept on the couch until about 5 am, when I woke up in a Homer Simpson moment and shouted “DOH!” before I rushed home in a plain white over-sized man’s t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans.
I knew I had more clothes somewhere… but I couldn’t figure out what had happened to them.
I drove home at an alarming pace, all windows down, blowing the stink off, praying to GOD that my husband didn’t see me and think the absolute worst because… if he would have seen me… no matter how innocent that evening had been… I would have paid for it over the course of a lifetime.
I looked like I was heading home from a “walk of shame” and you don’t want your wife showing up at home… 5 am… no shoes… another man’s t-shirt on her back and a crescent moon shaped bloody cut in the middle of her forehead… EVER at 5 am… trust me people… it looks bad.
Now, I learned a lot by being sneaky in my youth and I knew that if I cut the engine as I crossed the Cohn’s house… I could coast up to the front of my childhood home (where we all still lived) in complete silence…
I cut the engine at the appropriate time, and let the car roll easily to the front walk.
I jumped out, quietly shut the door before I crept up the steps, into the house and lay down on the couch to wait and see if the coast was clear.
After about fifteen minutes… of shallow breathing and twitching at every little noise… I knew I was safe… no one was awake.
I tip-toed into the back of the house and found my husband asleep with our son…
I went into the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, cleaned the wound on my head and covered it with make-up before putting on my nighty, that was hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I was going to have a hell of a hangover day and I had to get some time alone to recover.
I knew what I had to do… I had to find a way to get my husband out of the house and his love for surfing was my ticket.
I went back into the bedroom and shook my husband gently…
“Babe,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Babe?” I whispered again.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“The surf is supposed to be really good today,” I said. “It’s 5:30. Why don’t you get up and go catch some waves… I’ll watch the kids.”
“Okay,” he said as I climbed into the bed and he exited out the other side, grabbed his car keys and flip flops, before heading out for the day.
I’m surprised he couldn’t hear my sigh of relief from the driveway. In fact… I’m surprised he couldn’t hear it from the Huntington Cliffs for that matter.
I slept my stupor off for several hours before heading off to load up my system with a lot of greasy junk food and coca-cola and was right as rain by the time my husband was back home.
I returned to the Peninsula later that afternoon in search of the rest of my clothing… and that is when Ryan’s father informed me that my cowboy boots, my black t-shirt, my jacket and my belt had been strewn in a long path across the bay in front of a block of his neighbor’s houses… and that he had to gather them up, apologizing for our behavior, before he placed them in a brown paper bag which… he was now handing to me… as if it were a bag of something dirty… secret porn… and I took it with my eyes cast down, embarrassed and ashamed, as I rolled the top of the bag over and hurried towards the door.
“Oh,” he said. “By the way D.D….”
I turned back to look at him.
“You and Erik might like to know that the Bay was closed yesterday due to bacteria contamination. So… you were basically swimming in shit. Probably wasn’t such a good idea to go for a swim last night… right?”
I suddenly felt like I was seventeen again.
My face flushed red and my mind flashed back to Erik and I swigging mouthfuls of dirty Bay water and spitting it at each other…
I was sure for a moment… that I was going to vomit… but I didn’t… I just nodded my head slowly and said, “Yes Mr. Ballance. I completely understand Mr. Ballance. It will never happen again Mr. Ballance.”
As he looked at me…. fatherly sternness radiating like laser beams from his eyes… Ryan standing behind him…. laughing his ass off.
Erik and I didn’t get sick from our late night misadventure…it’s amazing really that we didn’t… and I’m just glad that neither one of us drowned that night.
I don’t regret it though… I really don’t… it’s a good story… contaminated… or not and it is one of many great memories I have of Erik and of Ryan…. most of which involve some type of inappropriate activity.