Friday, October 10, 2008

That's Probably What the Hot Dog's Made of Anyway

A couple of my former students came back and visited me yesterday. That's always an awkward situation. Sometimes they look at me as a huge part of their lives, a big influence, and sometimes I hardly remember them. I don't mean to be insulting, but I have 180 students a year, they only have a handful of teachers. Sure, there are students that I'll never forget, and there are a bunch that I wish I could forget, but with so many new ones filing through my door each fall, some are bound to tumble out of my brain.

Not so for Mitch and Brock. I remember them. Mitch was a good student, a good kid, very outgoing and funny. He sticks in my brain. Brock more so. Brock = nuts. Absolutely insane. Brock is one kid that makes me wish I could wipe my mind clean like a chalkboard and be forever unaware of the hells that he put me through. Brock makes that Jim Carey movie about the spotless mind seem less frightening and more fantasy. You see, Brock will forever be remembered by all of us here, he's legendary around these parts. He's the kid that ate a bug.

No, before you get any ideas, I don't teach Fear Factor at the juniorhigh. I didn't assign the kid to eat the bug, it wasn't homework, and I certainly didn't grade his bug devouring techniques, he just did it. Up to that point, class that day was normal. Discussion, questions, answers, then some sort of independent activity. Somewhere along the line, like some sort of lizard boy, Brock spotted a cricket in the corner of the room. I wasn't sure what was going on, but his eyes got big, his body very still (which was highly unusual for him), and his head kind of tilted to the side like a dog when you ask it questions in a high-pitched voice. He sat like that for a full minute. I didn't say anything, but I started to worry he was about to have some kind of seizure, so much so that I actually began to sneak over towards the intercom button so I could put the nurse on alert. Then he pounced, and I mean pounced, it was like a leopard leaping out of the brush to take down an antelope kinda pounce. This kid could give lessons to house cats on proper pouncing practices.

He scared the bejesus out of me. I must have jumped three feet and then I lunged for the "call the office" button. After that, there was a chain reaction that disrupted the class far more than simply chowing down on insects would have.

I knocked into Emily's desk, almost tripping over it, so she turned to avoid being trampled and inadvertantly elbowed Mallory in the ear. Sure, Mallory probably should have been sitting up and not resting her head on the desk, but did she really deserve bodily injury? Mallorysquealed in a way that seventh graders tend to squeal when bashed in the head unexpectedly. That squeal startled the kid in the back that was kinda sleeping. He jolted awake and knocked his leaning tower of books off the desk. That huge pile hit the floor with a bang that's usually reserved for July Fourth. It seemed the kid had an enitre Office Max stuffed into his pencil pouch and it burst like a pinata when it hit the ground. Pens and pencils and markers, protractors, sharpeners, erasers, a case of white out, and one of those mathy compass things with the dangerously sharp tips scattered everywhere. Most importantly, his Social Studies text slid up the aisle and found itself under Kenny's foot. Kenny, a curious sort of chap, had stood up and started to move towards the front of the room to see why Brock was lying on the floor. He took one last step, not knowing that the slick covered History book was underfoot, still sliding on the carpet. His right foot came down right on Ole George Washington's face and shot out from under him. Kenny lost his balance and toppled onto Ham Sandwich (who for some reason, even though his given name was Robert, asked to be referred to as Ham Sandwich). Ham, not expecting the star of the basketball team to give him a flying backwards head butt and land in his lap, tried to jump back out of the way, which is a difficult thing to do when you're seated in a desk, so he mostly just managed to knock his seat into Caitlyn's who then threw her Crayola marker across the room where it drew an amazingly perfect straight line across Joey's cheek.

With Emily holding her elbow, complaining about the density of Mal's head; Mallory rubbing her noggin; sleeping kid wide eyed and awake for the first time this year; Kenny flailing about trying to remove himself from Mr. Sandwich's lap; Rob attempting to swat away the unwelcome lap dance and making a face like he'd been asked to eat a dog turd pie; Cait searching the room for her marker; and Joey already whining about going to the bathroom to wash his face, the office called down to see why I'd pushed the button.

Mary down in the main office asked, "Can I help you?" through the little speaker box, just as Emily screamed out, "It was an accident,"to try and stop Mallory's revenge smacks.

The office must have thought Emily's plea was me telling them that we'd accidently brushed up against the call button, because Mary replied with, "Okay, thank you," and she went away.
That left me to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Brock all by myself. I looked to the floor in the middle of the room, and there he was, his hands cupped to the carpet, presumably imprisoning the defenseless cricket, beaming up at me like a three year old proud of his latest finger paint masterpiece.

The class calmed down now, and with my demands that Brock return to his seat bringing the attention back to him, he promptly absorbed the glow of the spotlight, rose to his feet, and popped the cricket into his mouth.

At that point, even though there was still twenty minutes left in the period, class was pretty much over. There was no way I was getting control back that day. Instead of struggling on with the lesson we'd, up until the pouncing, been plugging away at, I used the whole experience as a writing opportunity. With the prompt, "The most disgusting thing you've ever seen someone eat," I put them to work.

Most of the class wrote about Brock, but a few had a doozy up their sleeve about childhood cat box dares and mud pies and even a couple of spider stories. I, as I like to do sometimes, took part in the assignment too, writing about my buddy Jim's sixteenth birthday party.

Jim was one of those sheltered kids who's mother coddled him well into his twenties. He was babied and protected from the big bad world out there in a way that was well on the bad side of the embarrassing line. It shocked us all when Jim's mom called all our friends one summer, planning a surprise birthday bash.

The party was pretty fun, volleyball and card games and Marco Polo int he pool. His mom even cooked for all of us, hot dogs on the grill and a full on picnic spread, potato salad, pasta, watermelon, someother unidentified melony type things, a half dozen varieties of chips, pops, juices, Kool-Aid, and the largest selection of pickles I'd ever encountered. Til that day I'd never known there were that many pickle decisions a person could make. The most remarkable thing on the buffet was the largest bottle of ketchup I'd ever seen. This was before the days of Sam's Clubs and Costco and the like, so to see a bottle of ketchup that I could almost crawl inside of was quite memorable.

Jim's birthday was the weekend before school started up again, so we were all a little extra wound up and out of control. I blame the heat, the chlorine, and the massive amounts of sugar for my behavior, so don't think too badly of me. I had no control over what I did. If fingers need to be pointed, aim them at the sun, the water, and that giant Kool-Aid pitcher that crashes through walls all the time, they're the ones to blame. I also blame our friend Owen, trouble and bad decisions seem to follow him around.

The party was dying down and we came to the realization that Jim's parents either really liked grilling hot dogs or they couldn't count very well, because there as a huge plate of probably twenty wieners still sitting out on the table. For whatever reason, Owen and I thought it would be a good idea to unscrew the giant cap on the monster ketchup and drop a few of those frankfurters in. So we did.

Two years later, the sixteenth birthday extravaganza long forgotten, Jim had a Fourth of July party when his parents went out of town. That was the first in a long line of legendary Independence Day bashes that Jim and his two brothers were responsible for, all of them memorable in their own way.

A wild night of drinking, swimming in the pool, climbing around on the roof to see the fireworks from all the neighboring towns, and and ill-advised series of jumps off said roof back into said pool, was highlighted by Jim's big brother Wally and his masterful barbecue ability. Wally (yeah, of course with a big bro named Wally, Jim was known as The Beav) cooked up some of the most amazing burgers I'd ever tasted that night, and when we all sat down at the picnic table to eat, out came a gigantic bottle of ketchup.

I looked at Owen, and Owen looked at me. Surely that had to be a different bottle. That couldn't be the same one from two years back. There's no way a family with three teenage boys has anything in their fridge for more than a forty-five minutes, let alone twenty-three months. Wally dished out some burgers and hungry teenagers held out their plates. The ketchup slowly made it's way around the table, but Owen and I passed. With a sick feeling in our stomachs we watched each party goer unsuspectingly potentially tainting their burger with decomposed... well decomposed whatever hot dog is made from.

Finally the trough o' catsup made its way down to our end of the table and Wally grabbed a hold of it. Nearing the bottom, amazingly, he had to beat the side of it with his palm to get the last bit of tomatoey goodness to spill out onto his plate. With a sound that was both sucking and slurping at the same time, a sound that reminded me of opening a space shuttle airlock and trying to vacuum up a giant pile of Jello all mixed together, Wally got the bottle to give up the goods. One last smack and a slightly greenish ketchup coated hot dog slid out of the bottle onto Wally's burger. The entire group was speechless, no one understanding where the wienie had come from

"Cool. Bonus dog," Wally exclaimed, and he put the top bun on his double meat sandwich and bit into it.

Several people clapped, some groaned, Owen cried, and I nearly threwup. Wally took another bite and exclaimed, "Best damn new burger slash mystery dog I ever had."

The only thing that could have made it worse was if he'd emptied outthe bug zapper on there too. That's something Brock probably would have done.

If Wally and Brock's adventures got a chuckle out of you, throw me a few votes over at or for Humor Blogger of the Year at


Nanny Goats In Panties said...

No. Way!

I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Thanks for that gross-out!

PlainOleMike said...

Nanny - You're welcome. I'm here to provide a service to all.

PuNiao said...

Well, so much for chain reaction. He set forth chaos and got a cricket for tea..

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I have fictional characters who'd do these sorts of things. I'm glad I found you; I think you're going to be a new favorite of mine!

PlainOleMike said...

Puniao - There's really got to be a less violent way to get a snack though.

Susan - Welcome to the fold. I think all good fictional characters have some root in the truth - lucky for me, I have idiotic enough friends that I don't need to make anything up.

PlainOleMike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Brantley said...

I believe it.
That's why I don't shop at Sam's or Costco anymore.
It takes forever to get rid of those giant bottles of ketchup.
And all to save 13 cents?

Great stuff. I am now inspired to write about Gin Hill, a blast from my past.


Kiersten said...

Keep up the good work.