IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER SO I DON’T’ GET SUED: This is a rough draft of the first of what may or may not become a random series of stories about life in Catholic school. I apologize in advance for the tasteless humor contained in this story (And in all future stories) but tasteless humor is what got me through Catholic School.
There is no moral to this story and I am not trying to make a point. I just remember laughing a lot while attending Catholic School and writing about those days brings that laughter back to me.
Although St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas is an actual school that I actually attended this is a work of fiction. Events depicted in this story may or may not have happened and if they did happen the names of the people involved in the events have been changed. Some names have been changed to protect identities and others have been changed because I can’t the actual names.
Hey, it was a long time ago.
It was either the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed.
Or the dumbest.
It’s been almost 50 years since it happened and I’m still not sure.
Brave? Or Dumb?
It was 1969. I was in the eighth-grade at St. Xavier’s Catholic School in Junction City, Kansas.
I was supposed to be in Coach Turner’s gym class but, instead, I was wandering down the hall of our junior high.
With me were Bob Hecker and Kevin Busch.
Bob was my best friend and Kevin was one of our two class bullies. Most classes only had one bully but we were fortunate enough to have two. Kevin and co-bully Jim Sanders.
Kevin and Jim had been left behind a few grades. No one knew for sure, how old they were. We just knew that they were older than we were and that’s all we needed to know.
Kevin and Jim really weren’t bad guys. As long as you avoided making direct eye contact with them.
I liked Bob because there was nothing he wouldn’t do for a laugh. I also liked him because nothing seemed to faze him.
Once, when Coach Turner was away, Sister Agnes, our eighth-grade social studies teach, took over our gym class.
Because Sister Agnes had absolutely no experience running an eighth-grade boys gym class so she opted for the classic nun fallback plan.
Sister Agnes told us to start running laps around the basketball court. When Gerald Timmons asked her how long we had to run Sister Agnes said: “Until it’s time to stop.”
She said it the same way nuns say “Well, it’s a mystery,” when you ask them a question about religion that they can’t answer.
“Sister, if God loves us how come my dad’s off fighting in Vietnam?” a kid might ask.
“Well, it’s a mystery,” the nun would say as if that made all the sense in the world.
So, we started running. About 15 minutes into the running Bob made a series of fake fart sounds using the classic hand-under-the-armpit method.
All of us, of course, could make fake fart sounds using the classic hand-under-the-arm-pit method but Bob was the unquestioned master of the fake fart.
Bob’s fake farts were so good that you could almost smell them. And Bob could do any fart you could imagine. Popcorn fart, broccoli fart, cafeteria chili and cinnamon roll fart, stale cheese fart, hot dog fart, and “whoops I hope that’s a fart” fart. You name it and Bob could fake fart it. Bob was so good that he could make his farts travel across the room like a ventriloquist.
So, when Bob’s ripped off a series of stunningly, authentic, fake farts while we were running laps around the basketball court, we all started laughing.
Sister Agnes, who was quite familiar with Bob’s work, glared at him from across the court.
“ROBERT,” she yelled. “COME HERE. IMMEDIATELY”.
Knowing that he was in trouble Bob jogged over to Sister Agnes and, while still running in place, said “Yes, Sister?” with an angelic smile on his face.
Sister Agnes looked at Bob for a long second. Then she slapped him in the face.
Bob never stopped running in place. Nor did he lose the smile. He just turned around, ran back into line and continue running laps around the basketball court with the rest of us.
No one said anything at the time but every one of us in that gym class knew that, years later, we would still be talking about the Bob Becker Fake Fart Slap.
It wasn’t my idea to ditch gym class and wander down the hall of the junior high school. I was never the brightest kid in our class but, even back then, I was always looking for the end game and I didn’t see the end game in ditching gym class just to wander down the hall of our junior high.
Just 30 minutes earlier, while sitting in Mrs. Aldrich’s algebra math class, I had been desperate to get out of my desk and into the gym.
That, to me, was the point gym class: To get out of the classroom and into the gym.
But there I was wandering down the hall of our junior high when I could have been in gym class.
It was Kevin who suggested that we ditch gym class and wander down the hall of our junior high.
At the beginning of gym class, Coach Turner told the three of us to pull out the wrestling mats from underneath the stage in the gym. So, we opened the wooden slats in front of the stage, crawled in and pulled out the mats. Then we took them to Coach Turner, laid them on the gym floor and went back to the stage to put the slates back into place.
That’s when Kevin suggested that we crawl under the stage, put the slates back in place from the inside, crawl under the very back of the stage, make a left, continue crawling until we reach the exit that leads out from under the stage and into the hallway of the junior high.
Now, you would have thought, after hearing Kevin’s plan, Bob or I would have asked “Uh, why?”. But if you thought that you obviously have never been in the eighth grade.
Instead, what Bob and I said was “OK,” and started crawling which is how we found ourselves wandering down the hall of our the junior high.
I remember, while wandering down the hall of our junior high thinking, “Now what?” but then I saw Coach Turner at the opposite end of the hallway slowly walking towards us. At that point, I stopped thinking “Now what?” and started thinking, “Holy crap.”
When Coach Turner wasn’t terrifying junior high kids, he was the high school football coach. Legend had it that, in the five years Coach Turner had been at St. Xavier’s, no one had ever seen him smile. Not once.
And he wasn’t smiling now.
He was just slowly walking towards us with a “WHAT IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING WANDERING DOWN THE HALL OF YOUR JUNIOR HIGH WHEN YOU SHOULD BE IN MY GYM CLASS? DO YOU THINK I’M A COMPLETE IDIOT AND WOULDN’T NOTICE YOU WEREN’T IN CLASS?” expression on his face.
In retrospect, his expression did have a petty, good point.
As Coach Turner got closer, I noticed that, in his right hand, he was twirling his coaches’ whistle. Back then, all coaches had whistles and they loved to twirl them. I guess coaches probably have whistles today but I think they’re probably connected to some sort of Wi-Fi.
But I don’t really know that for a fact.
Coach Turner had one of those tightly compressed faces. It was if, at a young age, he had somehow gotten his face stuck in a vice for a week or so.
At least that was the rumor.
The combination of a tight and unsmiling face gave Coach Tuner a, “Yeah, I stabbed my cellmate 38 times in the back. What are you going to do about it?” look.
That was the look Coach Turner had on his face as he continued walking towards us.
I don’t know what Bob or Kevin were thinking at that point but I know what I was thinking.
I was thinking, “I hope my parents will be able to identify my body.”
As Coach Turner, got closer we could hear the “whoosh, whoosh” sound made by the twirling rope on his whistle.
It was just as Coach Turner got close enough to grab us and the “whoosh, whoosh” was at its loudest that Kevin did either the bravest or dumbest thing I had ever witnessed.
“LOOK,” he yelled, pausing for effect. “IT’S UP ON IT’S HIND LEGS AND WALKING.”
For the first time in his life, I think, Coach Turner smiled. It wasn’t much of a smile but it was a smile.
Then, he sped up the twirling rope on his whistle just a bit and whipped it across Kevin’s face.
The sound of that rope, whipping across Kevin’s face, sometimes still keeps me up at night.
Coach Turner didn’t say a word. He just pulled back his whistle and walked back to the gym, leaving the three of us standing in the hallway.
“We should probably go back to gym class,” Kevin said.
So, we did.