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The Time I Slept Through a Fire Alarm

May 31, 2013 2 comments

Lightning Strikes Jesus Statue

As covered before in this blog, I really like sleep. As in, I would gladly pay a stranger $100 each morning to allow me to sleep a few more hours. I would go bankrupt, but damn it, I would be well-rested.

To wake up for work, I have multiple alarms set up all over my room, and none of them work. I will get up in a stupor, walk to the offending alarm, switch it off, and fall back into bed without even realizing what I’m doing. I have snooze alarms as well, which are ignored each and every morning. As a result, my arrival time to work has been getting steadily later and later, but hooray, I haven’t been fired yet!

In junior high school, the smoke alarm went off in my parents’ house since my dad had burned some toast. I mean, the damn bread must have been a flaming chunk of wheat given how far away the smoke alarm was from the kitchen. In fact, the alarm was directly outside my bedroom. I blissfully slept through nearly the whole thing, though I do vaguely remember rousing myself slightly, thinking, “Hmm, that must be the fire alarm. Well, if it’s serious, my dad will wake me up,” and going right back to bed, the alarm wailing the entire time.

After telling my dad this, he said I had far too much faith in him. Evidently, he would’ve fled the house in his bathrobe, perhaps stopping to scoop up a cat, but nothing more. Sigh.

I also once slept through a tree falling on our house. A massive, full-sized Ohio beast of a tree which shook the entire house left not a single impression on me. My sister and her friend once bodily picked me up off a couch where I had been sleeping, dropped me from a few feet up, and I didn’t so much as twitch.

And yet a single tweeting bird these days will wake me up even with ear plugs, so I don’t know. I’m doomed to either coma-like slumber or the delicate sleep cycle of a paranoid insomniac. Lovely.

The Time I Had a Meltdown in Language Arts

May 5, 2013 2 comments

reality_show_meltdown

In 9th grade, all students at my school were required to take Language Arts. To my dismay, this turned out to be a public speaking class disguised as a writing class, which meant that my easy A was about to become a desperate C. Though friends have pointed out that I can be loud as fuck in public, especially while talking about embarrassing stories, I suddenly lose the ability to be coherent when placed in front of an audience.

I start talking about a mile a minute, sweating all the while as my face either turns as red as a drunkard’s, or as pale as someone about to pass out. My eyes will dart all around the room as if trying to identify who from the crowd is about to get up and shoot me. Whatever latent paranoia I have (which is a LOT) kicks into high gear, and I become convinced the audience is plotting my downfall at all times.

So yeah, public speaking and I don’t really get along.

But sadly, this class forced me to do it on a regular basis. It all culminated on one unfortunate day when we had to read a short story that we had written out loud to the class.

The assignment was to write a “funny” retelling of a classic fairy tale, and we all had to choose different ones. As a somewhat angry and depressed teenager, my idea of “funny” was a dark as shit Goldilocks and the Three Bears that took place in an apocalyptic future where weapons were as common as loose change. The body count in my story was startlingly high, and I was probably only saved from arrest by virtue of this being written before Columbine. My tale ended with both Goldilocks and the bears burning to death after Goldie’s flame thrower showers the house with fire. Goldie manically mutters that the temperature is now “juuuust right” as her hair bursts into flames.

I did not know in advance that we would have to read this out loud.

I heard about the change in the lesson plan during lunch, as students who had the class earlier in the day recounted their classmates’ “hilarious” stories. My only thought was, “I’M FUCKED.” I knew very well that my story was going to be seen as the ravings of a homicidal maniac, and I ran to the computer lab to shit out a different story in the ten minutes remaining before class.

I was unsuccessful.

And thus I found myself perched on a stool at the front of the class, having to read out loud some of the most disturbing shit I had ever written. As the bullets began to fly and blood ran from one end of the bears’ cabin to the other, I started to feel like I was watching a car wreck from afar. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop the brutal scene that was unfolding before me. Soon enough, my anxiety crested and I completely lost it. I began to laugh hysterically, describing the deadly fire between giggles as I gasped for air. I actually started crying as I plowed through the morbid tale, laughing so hard that my words about graphic murder came out as squeaks. I eventually slid off the stool to the floor in a desperate attempt to abort the insanity. The teacher insisted I continue reading from the cold linoleum. He did not much care for me.

In the end, I received a C- on the story (my teacher cited disliking “black humor”), and I gained a reputation for being batshit INSANE for the rest of my freshman year of high school. Fucking fantastic.

The Time I Had a Rogue Hair

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

furry_man

So yeah, everybody gets these. If you haven’t found one on your own body, you simply haven’t been looking hard enough, and it’s probably at least six inches long by now. SEARCH THYSELF.

I remember discovering mine for the first time, growing out of the right side of my abdomen like it fucking belonged there. It looked like it came off Gandalf’s head (the White, not the Grey), several inches long and as glossy as a unicorn’s mane. I plucked it with horror, only to have it grow back again and again, the thin strand as white as purely driven snow. Now I monitor the spot with grim vengeance, razing the area as soon as it pokes it’s tiny silky head out of my stomach.

I remember a girl in my class in college who had a massive two-inch black hair emerging from her chin, like Satan’s own pube. I couldn’t understand how she had never noticed it before, but it became more clear as I watched her glance in the mirror in the bathroom. She always angled her head in such a way that she never saw the offending hair curling in the breeze. My God, had nobody ever told her? I didn’t know how to approach that situation since we were merely acquaintances, and she soon ceased coming to class altogether. Had she been strangled by her rogue hair in the night? Perhaps she looked on it fondly, stroking it gently before drifting off to sleep each night. I will never know.

The Time My Boss Showed Me Her Boobs

April 7, 2013 Leave a comment

fireant

So, my former boss had boobs.

This, in of itself, is not remarkable. However, when she sustained an injury to said breast that she insisted was my fault, I found myself face to face with a lot of boob meat.

It all started when I decided I simply had to have a pet in the office. Our soulless span of cold grey cubicles seemed like a parody of a stifling office, and I was beginning to crack. I had already decorated my cube with a lava lamp, a Rubik’s cube, some putty, and other assorted toys, but it still felt like a desk of despair. Perhaps it was the lack of visible windows, or my beautiful view into a dangerously overcrowded supply closet that maimed many a fellow employee.

Whatever the reasons, I somehow felt that introducing LIFE would be a good start.

The natural cubicle pet is, of course, a plant. But given my previous experiences with plants of all shapes and sizes, I knew that I would somehow manage to care it to death within a few weeks. Either that or it would thrive, but then become infested with tiny mites that would then spread across the thinly carpeted floor. Plus the aforementioned lack of sunlight would doom all but the heartiest vegetation.

No, I wanted something that would move.

And so came the purchase of an ant farm. To save myself time and frustration, I opted for the creepy blue gel version of the farm, in which the unfortunate ants would both dig, eat, and shit out only a space-age gel the color of Windex until they ultimately died from despair. Because owning an ant farm as an adult is truly one of the more depressing experiences out there. As the Onion so eloquently observed, an ant farm is a “fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death.”

The ants are all female, and fucking PISSED OFF when you receive them in the mail. I placed mine in the workplace fridge to calm them down, which upset many coworkers who felt I was doing some sort of cruel experiment. In a way, I suppose I was. After depositing the now semi-comatose ants into the enclosure, they quickly perked up and began to dig. And die. And dig. And then muse on the ephemerality of life. And then die some more.

The bodies piled up quickly, and the living ants seemed determined to dismember the dead rather than dig more pointless tunnels. A fat ant with glasses was at some point hunted down by a roving pack of insects covered in war paint. The conch lay forgotten at the dead end of a tunnel into which no one dared enter, for a spectral beast lurked within.

Anyway, each day the environment within the farm became more and more bleak. I occasionally had to pry open a corner of the lid to allow the ants some precious oxygen. But upon lifting the plastic, every ant who still possessed the will to live immediately tried to swarm out. They were shockingly fast, and had large mandibles that would leave fiery welts on your fingers.

And so the day finally came when my coworkers begged me to set the ants free. Most were now lying on the surface in a stupor, unwilling to eat, drink, or move. They were waiting for their inevitable extinction.

My boss, a kindhearted soul, took it upon herself to empty the remaining ants into a nearby park. Tired of looking at a constant reminder of my own mortality, I gave her permission to do what had to be done.

She came back with stings on her boobs as the imprisoned ants had ravaged her chest in their haste to escape. She threw the empty ant farm, which resembled some sort of horrible chemical bomb, into a park trash can. I imagined it being surrounded by the NYC bomb squad and detonated within hours. She showed me her battle wounds with a mixture of anger and pride, as if to show me that she had been strong enough to do what I could not.

But she still blamed me for the whole fiasco, and ant farms are now not permitted in the office. However, her boob scars were showed to all for weeks afterwards.

The Time I Fainted Regularly

March 31, 2013 1 comment

So right around puberty, my body decided it could go fuck itself.

I mean, not literally. Well, maybe a little bit literally. But more like my body thought that betrayal of itself was the order of the day.

The first time it happened, I was in the kitchen getting some breakfast around 6:30 am before school. Suddenly, while in mid-sentence, I keeled over and thwaked my head against a counter before slumping to the floor unconscious. I had no memory of what had happened, but came to with my parents’ concerned faces floating above me, and a goose egg slowly forming on the back of my skull. After testing that I had my full wits about me, I was sent to go catch the school bus with little fanfare. My head ached the rest of the day, but I otherwise felt fine.

This scenario would replay itself several more times over the next few months, finally culminating in a fainting session where I stopped breathing and my mom had to call 911. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was conscious and talking, but couldn’t stand up without immediately passing out again. But I refused to go into the ambulance, and simply sat on the floor slowly eating cereal until I could get myself onto the couch.

We never really figured out what the problem was, but it seemed to be related to blood sugar. I started swallowing spoonfuls of sugar whenever I started feeling a bit out of it, which usually preceded a fainting spell. I began carrying hard candies around with me always, for a quick sugar boost on the go. To this day, I know I need some candy or soda if I start getting the “sweats and shakes,” as I call it.

It’s bizarre, but luckily the days of collapsing like a felled tree seem to be behind me.

Three Checks Walks the Deadman (Part 2)

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Click here to read Part 1

We now continue my brother’s 1980s Ohio paddling saga…


 
So, I went home that weekend and told my Mom I was going to be paddled. She’d always thought it was barbaric. She said if it ever came to that, she wouldn’t allow it. She asked what I’d done. I said, “Talking, basically.” She nodded.

Saturday, Sunday. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I had a migraine the whole time. I thought of nothing else as the hours slipped away towards Monday morning. I’d never been hit. By anyone, or anything. Never been in a fight, never been punched or slapped or beaten by my parents. I’d avoided conflict wherever I could. I suppose I knew my days were numbered; that sometime, somewhere, I’d have to take a punch like everybody else. I never imagined, though, it would come from someone I trusted and obeyed, never imagined it with a piece of wood.

My mom said she’d intervene if I wanted her to.

I thought of her charging into the front office with me in tow, stabbing her finger at the secretary, then the principal. I’d stand behind her, quiet, incapable, impotent.

I thought of Tuesday morning and the questions. “Why doesn’t he have to get paddled?” “Because Damian’s mommy won’t allow it. Because Damian can’t take it. Because Damian is special.”

I told her no.

Monday morning came. I rode the bus to school. No one brought it up. Maybe they’d forgotten. Maybe everyone had forgotten.

After the bell, the Teacher called roll. I said, “Here,” and a few kids tittered. They hadn’t forgotten.

I’d have a shot at that badge of courage after all.

After roll, the teacher looked at me, not unkindly. The rage she’d felt 48 hours ago had abated. But rules were rules and everyone knew them. Three checks walks the deadman. No waiting. No reprieve.

“Damian?” she nodded like a rancher about to put down her favorite horse.

Thirty faces lit up. They’d have their show. And on a rainy Monday, of all days, first thing.

I stood on wobbly legs.

I lifted the top of my desk, took the inhaler out of my pocket and held it a moment.

“Damian can’t take it. Damian is special,” I heard the voices.

I placed it inside the desk next to my books and fruit. Then I closed the lid.

I stepped to the open space between the tall bookshelves. The teacher and her Witness came up behind me. Then I walked around the corner.

Teacher said, “Everything out of your pockets, please.” I took out my milk money, an orange-colored eraser shaped like a Volkswagen, and a tiny Rubik’s Cube keychain and put them on the floor by my feet.

I stood again. The teacher made no speeches, no pronouncement of guilt, though she and the Witness wore the same smile as always.

“Bend over, please.”

The world inverted as I took the small bones of my ankles in each hand. The blood rushed to my head and dampened all sound. Blood throbbed in my neck. My heart counted down the seconds. I heard the engine of the entire world humming all around me. I remembered my Mom’s “A’right, then,” remembered her resigned look and the pat on my knee when I told her I’d make the walk alone.

Then the first hit came. It sounded like someone had dropped a book three rooms away. The walls around me shuddered as my body took the force, then steadied. I was still standing.

The second hit, I didn’t feel at all. There was heat, a rather cozy-feeling heat, actually. I could see the impact points perfectly in my mind, two paddle-shaped infrared slaps across my backside.

“You’re done,” she said. I stood up and smiled at her. Not a belligerent kind of smile but the kind that comes when you realize that the world is still there, and that it isn’t all that bad.

Teacher and the Witness parted and I passed between them. I turned the corner and saw the thirty faces, some grinning, some not, many confused and disappointed. I smiled at them, beaming. Immune.

I took my seat and every moment of the life I was about to resume, all the days I’d live in comfort, in safety, without fear, without war, without pain, yawned before me.

“Okay, people. Open your Reading books to page 28, please…” said Teacher.

I got out my book and, like everyone else, turned the pages.

Three Checks Walks the Deadman (Part 1)

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

paddling-in-school

Today features a guest blog by my esteemed brother, who has been mentioned on this blog several times before. Keep in mind that my brother was born in 1971, so this story takes place well into the past. Enjoy!


Rex Ralph Elementary. Sixth grade. I’m a quiet kid, I’m a nervous kid. I know too much about Star Wars. Also, my hands shake. They shake from all this asthma medicine I take. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious. “I have asthma,” I say, like that’ll help. One kid grabs my wrists, holds my hands out all the time, “What are you, nervous or something?” He makes a big scene of it; he’s the same one who waves his peanut-butter sandwich under my nose saying, “Go on. Sneeze!” I told him I was allergic to it. He smells the weakness in me. I’m slowing down the clan. He’s got a natural-selection hard-on for me. Somewhere back in time, his ancestors place boulders on mine and leave them for dead.

But yeah, the hands. The shaking hands. I tell everyone it’s the meds and it is, but it’s also this place, this school, the teachers, the kids, everything. Some people can handle it, some people can handle anything, some people are Han Solo. Me, I’m an Ewok. But not Wicket. I’m the one with the hang-glider that dies.

Our classroom is a pressure cooker of E. Coli, Rotavirus, gummy bears, and craft glue. The hours plow forward through the airless haze made by 60 peanut-butter-stinking mouths. The stultifying minutes are differentiated only by the list of names growing down the side of the blackboard: one name for each person caught talking, caught fidgeting, caught giggling, found passing notes. A name for sneezing, a check next to it for sneezing again. Two checks if it was done for comic effect. Names and checks, names and checks, until someone scores three. When that happens, everything stops and the lights come up on the Thunderdome. Then the three-checker gets up and takes the deadman walk around behind the bookshelves. No waiting. No reprieve.

Back there, the teacher makes him take everything out his back pockets, pens, combs, keys. She makes him bend over and grab his ankles. She says a few words about his crimes so everyone can hear it. She concludes with, “Perhaps in the future you’ll learn not to…” Then, in the manner prescribed by the county, she raises the paddle high in the air. She nods to the Witness, the teacher from next door, her smoking-buddy, her trenchmate, her second. Witness smirks, shrugs, “What are ya gonna do?” They grin, despite themselves. Their eyes twinkle like Japanese businessmen at a live sex-show.

We’re all on the other side of the shelves, breathless, waiting for the “CRACK!”, which comes twice. Some of us giggle. Some of us reach for our inhalers. Then the victim comes back in, usually in tears, though sometimes not. The ones who don’t cry, who swagger in, beaming, immune – they’re a breed apart. Everyone knows this.

When the teacher comes back in, there’s a row of dew on her upper lip, she tucks her hair behind her ear but she can’t hide how good it feels. She puts a girl “in charge” for five. She’s gotta have a smoke.

I know all this because I walked the deadman once.

It was late on a Friday, near Halloween, lots of sugar around and names were going up on the board like a murder of crows. Everyone was frantic, the teacher was in a frenzy, nailing people for reaching too abruptly for a sheet of paper. Everyone screaming, laughing, kids sprinting from seat to seat, teacher bellowing something unintelligible into the gale.

Then someone asked me a question. And just as the class fell silent, I answered, “No, ‘droid’ refers to all robots, not just…” Searchlights locked on my position. I’d transmitted in the clear over radio silence. Teacher had me dead-to-rights. I was supposed to be one of the good ones. I never made a peep. I’d betrayed her. She reached for the chalk and next thing, I was staring down the barrel of three checks. I didn’t even know my name had gone up.

Then the bell rang.

Everyone sat, mouths open, looking at me, looking at her, looking at me again, all thinking the same incredible, impossible, delicious thing: Damian Baldet is gonna walk the deadman. Me: shaky-hands, inhaler-boy, Johnny-weak-link. They were looking at a ghost. I’d never survive it.

But there was something else was remarkable about the situation:

It was Friday. End of day.

True, I had three checks. And everyone knew: Three checks walks the deadman. No waiting. No reprieve.

But:

It was Friday. End of day. The bell had rung!

There was room for a technicality here. It was in her power to be merciful.

Pity tapped on the blackened shell that encased her heart. For a moment, she fought her addiction.

In the end, though, it had been a bitch of a day and pity didn’t stand a chance.

Her expression darkened.

“On Monday morning, Damian will serve his punishment.”


Click here to read Part 2

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