Tolkien it to the Streets (Part I) – A Team PCPB Original Storyuser 4 months ago
It’s funny thinking about the things we do for attention. I remember when I was in kindergarten, I got into trouble all the time. Sadly, a lot of the ways I got into trouble back then wasn’t that different from the kind of trouble I get into now. For the occasional grasp at attention, I’ve read stuff in class in Christopher Walken or Donald Duck voices. Those just earned me a talking down to from my teacher. Recently, my teacher asked me a question I couldn’t answer. I pondered things over and just told the teacher “I’ll pass.” My teacher gave me an earful for that one – detention too.
Honestly, things weren’t that different in my younger days. I remember when I was in kindergarten, I did that sort of thing all the time. The one that stands out most in my memory was my teacher asking what a caterpillar turns into. I raised my hand and answered “a turd!” It’s hard to tell if the culprit was my desperate need for attention or the fact that at the tender age of 5, I didn’t know what a turd was. I distinctly remembered another time where I was asked who Martin Luther King Jr. was. At that age, I thought he was the president.
There were other instances when I got in trouble. One of my most memorable instances was when a kid brought in cookies for her birthday. My Cookie Monster instinct kicked in and I ran over and started wolfing down on them. Suffice to say, when my classmate was passing out cookies, I didn’t get one. Another time, when my teacher stepped out of the room, I opened her desk just because I saw other kids do it.
One that really stands out to me is when I clogged up the bathroom sinks so I could get bubbles. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if I did it just once, but I kept doing it and doing it until I got caught. My principal just told me to get some card signed by my mother. I never told mom about it, but I didn’t want to face the music that I never got the card signed. So I faked sick. Unfortunately, that only works for one day. The next day, I was back in school. I had to face up to what I did, I had to face up to not getting that paper signed and I had to face up to faking sick.
I honestly don’t even remember what I got into trouble for all those times. I didn’t even know back then! My principal would ask “Robert, do you know why you’re in here?” I honestly could not answer! I don’t condone the way I behaved back then. However, I think maybe I would have been better behaved if instead of some knee-jerk reaction of punishing me, these people actually tried talking to me.
Some people thought the exact opposite. My uncle Henry thought I’d behave myself if I were just taken to the woodshed. I thought that meant we’d build stuff – which would have been awesome. In reality, he thought I deserved a spanking. Luckily, my mom didn’t believe in corporal punishment. She didn’t believe in sergeant punishment or colonel punishment either. Yeah, my mom didn’t believe in raising the next Ed Gein… okay, those are my words, not hers. Honestly, I have no problem with spanking, I just do it for different reasons than my uncle. He wanted to spank me because I misbehaved, I want to spank Jennifer Lawrence.
I also remember a time when I got in trouble. I was young enough to respond to serious trouble with crying. I’m not proud of it, but that was my age. My principal responded “If you don’t shut up, I’ll give you something to cry about!” I badly wish I was smart enough to know I could call him out on that idle threat. I probably could have gotten him fired.
Besides, you could add being hotheaded to the plethora of problems I was living with as a kid. I wouldn’t say I got into fights all the time, but they definitely happened more than average. I had other temper problems as well. In second grade, I got into trouble while using scissors. When my teacher tried to confiscate them, I gave them to her by trying to stab her in the hand with them. Remember, this was second grade – the only scissors I used were safety scissors. These were scissors that couldn’t cut butter and I tried to stab my teacher’s hand with them.
It was around this time I got into a fight on a school bus. I was in second grade and I was having an argument with a fifth grader. This was back when fifth graders seemed so big and bad. This twerp was pestering me, and my threats of telling him to stop did me no good. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and punched him. I punched him repeatedly in the stomach and he gave me no reaction whatsoever. He did however, report me to the bus driver. I remember trying to plea my case, but the bus driver didn’t exactly believe “what he’s going to tell you is a lie! Everything he says is made up!”
It was somewhat fortuitous that I had this little outburst on a bus as opposed to inside the school. The law of the bus was slightly different from the law of the school. Rather than a suspension, I got what was called a white card. It was in getting that demerit that I learned it was neither white nor a card. It was in fact, a pink piece of paper. However, that pink piece of paper was still a bad thing.
Like that paper I talked about earlier, this called for my mother’s signature. I learned my lesson from last time. I wasn’t going to run away from this one. No, I was going to forge my mom’s signature. I was the age where Mom was no longer mom, I heard enough family members call her by name at that point that I knew her secret identity as Jennifer Tolkien. Unfortunately, spelling was not my forte and my bus driver didn’t fall for the chicken-scratch-looking “Jennyfir Tolkien”. I’m guessing writing it in crayon didn’t do me any favors either. That last story was important because fighting is actually the key theme of this tale, but I will arrive there in due time.
Now, dear reader, you may be wondering how I became the awesome man I am today and not some violent thug who robs chicken coups and pushes old ladies downstairs. Some might say it was my maturity and my ability to discern right from wrong. However, in a way it was that ascension into awesomeness that may have saved from the dark side.
Even at a young age, I started regaling my classmates with stories of my accomplishments. Okay, even I will admit that in second grade, I didn’t have the mile-long list of awesome things I do now. So I had to bluff a little. I had to bluff my way through a wild tale here and there: I claimed I bumped into famous people at water parks. There was a popular speed bump that kids liked to jump for while riding the bus so I claimed to be the one behind it. Hey, fibbing a little is what a guy has to do occasionally on the way to becoming a legend.
The stunning irony is that as I became older and actually started doing more, the less people believed me. In second grade, any time I came to my classmates with some story I made up, I was the center of attention. Free ice cream couldn’t pull these kids away when I talked. However, as I became the hero they thought I was, their interests drifted. Seriously, what was wrong with these people that they weren’t in awe at meeting someone who could sing “It’s the End of the World as We Know As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” from memory without stuttering?
Maybe it was jealousy that caused these people to yell at me to shut up whenever I tried to tell them how I brought a sword to a gunfight… and won. I don’t claim to be a god or even a demigod. Though maybe it would be accurate to describe me as demisemihemidemisemigod. I just couldn’t understand. Maybe it was my own vanity, but my thirst for attention may have likely been the cause of all the trouble I got into.
It was a Tuesday. I was in second period science, and boy was I bored. Science was generally my least favorite subjects. It’s not even like I had no interest in that stuff. I liked the space program. Hell, I almost was an astronaut! Clearly that sort of thing requires some kind of science. But we never talked about that. Nooooo, we were talking about photosynthesis (to grasp how that makes me feel, read that in that nasally, obnoxious tone people use to mock stuff).
Then I smelled it. I thought somebody had passed gas. I wasn’t the only one either. I could hear those distinct murmurings of “Did somebody cut the cheese?” There were the requisite rebuttals of “Whoever smelt it dealt it.” Naturally, those earned replies of “Whoever denied it supplied.” Everyone was now chattering quietly while Captain Boring was talking about plants and birds and rocks and things. Mr. Anderson, my science teacher, surely noticed that we were chit chatting and told us “Okay, kids, settle down.”
We tried our best to keep quiet, but that didn’t make the smell go away. We ruled out anyone breaking wind. Did someone smell like that? God, I swear if this one’s actual default aroma I was never going to take a dig at Carrie again. Then again, if someone actually came to school smelling that way, I’m certain we would have noticed sooner, and this stench seemed to arrive out of nowhere. I was beginning to realize that this couldn’t be BO or flatulence. I know how those things smell. Whatever this thing was, it was like rotten eggs or sulfur. I feel like the school abruptly and suddenly moving next to a steel mill sounds like one of those things I’d notice. Common sense helped me realize someone set off a stink bomb.
Class eventually ended. Before I continue my tail of woe, I must explain something. For pretty much my entire high school career, I NEVER found myself lucky enough to have classes in a way that I could actually deposit my books between classes. My classes and my locker always seemed to be on opposite ends of the school. That meant I would have had to walk out of class, walk halfway across the school and walk all that way back just for one class. There was simply no time for that as it was a race against the clock with only two minutes to get from one class to the next. I asked my teachers if they’d cut me a little slack on tardiness so I could swap my books and still be on time. No dice. I actually went as far as petitioning the principal and schoolboard to extending the time between classes – maybe just for me. Even less dice.
The consequence of not being able to visit my locker in-between classes was that I had to carry all of the books I needed for my before-lunch classes at once – I had to lug all four books on top of my trapper keeper everywhere I went. I know someone of my superior strength should have no problem carrying that many books. However, having to carry my books like a pushing a cart while everyone else carried their books under their arms all day made me look and feel like a doofus.
This is relevant to the story because having to carry my science book, math book, Spanish book, history book, and trapper keeper; I had no way of plugging up my nose. I saw everyone else, burdened with only one or two books able to waltz through the halls with a hand over their noses and mouths. The rapscallion behind this scheme with the stink bomb seemed to hit just the right spot. I could smell it all over the school.
Next period was algebra. Most people weren’t exactly enjoying themselves. I hardly paid much attention during match class. However, everyone was chit chatting. The teacher was doing his darndest to keep our attention, but that stink bomb was some serious competition. I guess you could say, math class stunk that day.
Up next was Spanish class. Mrs. Newcastle actually had to leave because she was severely allergic to that stuff. I had seen that sort of thing before – students had to be careful about wearing perfume around her because her allergies were that strong. Spanish was one of the few classes I enjoyed, and today was even better – it was when that stink bomb FINALLY died down. We were only allowed to speak in Spanish in Spanish class and we hadn’t quite learned the Spanish phrases for “What is that smell?” “We can breathe again.” (I know it’s Nosotros puedemos… something todavia – like I said, Spanish was one of my better classes.)
The rest of the school day was fairly uneventful, but I was enjoying class a hair more without the quiet soundtrack of people murmuring and mouth breathing. Lunch eventually came around. I knew what subject would be on everybody’s mind. At least I thought I knew – Conversations about that stink bomb were generally limited to “That was awful, but I’m glad it was over.” There was the occasional accusation here and there. Even Simon asked me: “Robert, did you do it?”
“Moi? Such juvenile pranks are beneath me!”
Simon and I didn’t say much about it, I just told him the same things that have already been stated so there’s no point in being redundant. Simon told me his version of the story, which was pretty much the same as mine so there’s no point in being… Hmmm, I guess sometimes in life redundancy is inevitable. After those quick bits about the stink bomb, we mostly continued our usual dialogues about girls, what we were going to do over the weekend, global conquest – you know, the usual.
I thought it would be during that fateful lunch time I might discover a clue that would help me figure out the perpetrator of such a vile crime. I didn’t count on anyone bragging about it, but that would surely lead to scorn (and possibly a beatdown) from his fellow students. Even less likely was some kind of Perry Mason style confession. Did I expect someone to stand up on a table and proclaim “It was me! I can bear it no longer! I am so wracked with guilt, I must proclaim it to the world what I’ve done!” Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.
Instead it was during history class when I received any kind of hint. Our teacher was taking her precious time to show up. As one would expect, that was our invitation to talk again – or for some of us listen. I don’t even remember who exactly said it. There were 23 other people in that class who could be narrowed down as the voice. Granted, it was slightly easier because it was a male voice so that helped me narrow it down to 11 voices. However, even in hindsight, whoever said this was a moot point. The thing that mattered was they named a name… or at least a description. But that description narrowed it down: “I heard something about the 18 year old freshman being behind the stink bomb.”
Ah, the 18-year old freshman! If I heard “that guy with red-hair”, there would have been a handful of candidates. If my classmate spoke of “the tall-guy,” I still would have needed to narrow things down. However, there was only 18 year old freshman and I knew exactly who my anonymous classmate was talking about. Lyle Hewett was a year older than me, but somehow two grades behind. I’d say repeating freshman year multiple times would give him a chip on his shoulder, but he was a troublemaker to begin with. His story was a real chicken or the egg situation – did he misbehave because he was held back constantly or was he held back constantly because he misbehaved? Actually with his family history, I think it was one from column A and one from column B.
He was from the poor side of town, lived in a broken home. The Hewett brood was one of those families that seemed to breed like rabbits. That’s how I knew so much about Lyle without meeting him in the flesh – the Hewett family had a long history of rabblerousery. Their offenses were nickel and dime stuff, but it was also frequent – pot-smoking, truancy, shoplifting, underage smoking, underage drinking, vandalism. If it was illegal because it was more of a nuisance than a serious offense, you bet they did it. One of Lyle’s brothers was a frequent guest in juvenile hall before eventually dropping out of high school. The guy had a sister who was pregnant in high school. That always feels like one of those things that someone you know doesn’t actually do. It sounds like one of those things that would happen on Shameless or My Name is Earl, but I saw someone who was in fact pregnant in high school.
I’m sure Lyle was embarrassed that he was the biggest freshman in the school, but I can guaranteed he’d be the biggest guy in whatever class he was in. Horizontally and vertically, Lyle was bigly. As if he wasn’t already a walking, talking white trash stereotype, the guy also wore hunter’s orange to school. It was like he was a character in an animated series because that seemed to be the costume he wore daily. I realize he wasn’t exactly the Rockefellers to buy more clothes, but with his scurrilous record, I’m surprised he didn’t just steal more clothes.
I had my dalliances with the dark side, but it was always in good jest. With this delinquent’s history, present and future of petty offenses, why wouldn’t he be the one who caused that malodorous malady on our school? I know off-hand comments – where I can’t even put a face on who said it – aren’t exactly the most reliable of sources, but it made too much sense to be incorrect! But what to do with my newfound power?
Copyright 2017 Alex deCourville