You won! Congratulations! When I saw the name in the local
elections, I knew it was you. In the 60’s, my family had the
little brick place on Brocker and our school bus stopped at
your farmhouse every morning. Sometimes
you boarded with a niece in tow and on the
side of your barn once hung a string of pelts. Remember the fat kid across the aisle
who copped a feel from you, the one whose
hair you tugged till Mr Brown had to pull the bus over and tell you to quit? Well, never too late
for apologies. I often sat with his son, Lanny, who did Jack
Kennedy imitations (better than Vaughn Meader--and dirtier).
Later, you might recall, three-fingered Mr Jewell took over the route, followed by a droopy
lidded Mr Welch whose leering through
the mirror at the senior girls once sent us into a ditch. Tammy Dean was the star. When the bus drew up she’d pitch her fag and strut the steps working a wad of Juicy Fruit like a popgun all the
way back to where the big kids kept. The barely pubescent of
us found her rimmel lashes and ratted hair intimidating and, after a night of pining over those glossy lips and laddered tights, we heckled and teased her relentlessly.
I’d almost forgotten Tammy’s little brother, Harold. Every
day, he too would board, largely unnoticed, behind her. He appears
now first at--then suddenly beneath, a table in the cafeteria.
A little kid with a rather large braincase, he is not, save
for today, the first to puke on the tuna noodle casserole. Against all orders to the contrary, our classmates
have polished off their canned peaches and cottage cheese first. Now, like the good little soldiers they
aren't, they've begun the final assault on the double dollop of what looks like to some, and tastes like to most, barf on a bed of worms. Thanksgiving is coming, however. Bright-colored turkey cut-outs line the mint green cinderblock. Their construction paper feathers are still damp and puckered from this morning's activity, yet a fistful has already been plucked and lies dried and curling on the floor beneath. Paste eaters. Nearby sits Rosemary Lutz. She's a tall and pretty
redhead with long curls and a reputation for tattling on swearers (the bitch). She is
also the daughter of a prosperous doctor and never eats cafeteria
food. As usual, today she's brought her lunch and, to our chagrin, has just noshed an open steak
sandwich on lettuce. Rosemary now smoothes the paper sack bearing her name in front of her. Her middle finger is wrapped
in a jagged brown strip and, when she has folded the sack into a neat square,
she unravels the paper ring and pops it
into her mouth, then, pinching the end, she slowly draws it out, savoring every pasty inch
before letting it drop discreetly onto the pile behind her.
Across the room a whine draws
the attention of the day's minder, snowy haired Mrs. Ivory.
Ivory’s is the class whose students, when instructed to make
flowers, usually draw her pushing them up. She’s a slip
of a woman but hard as nails, and as Ivory scurries down
the aisle, pinching necks and ordering her troops to dig
in, dig in, because by-God-people- it's-good- for-you! she barely notices old Crampton with broom and gunny sack shuffling in. Cafeteria detail. Worst part of the day. He is
sprinkling sweet sawdust over Harold's meal when Danny Haber
drops forward three seats down and lets fly with his own.
Old Crampton lifts a hand and nods. At Haber's elbow, a mangled pair of Scotch-taped glasses, an overturned three
cent carton of milk, and Donnie Stern blubbering over the
state of his shoes. Across from me, little Julie Stacey warbles a strand onto her tray.
"Clean your plates, now,
people--or no recess! Do you hear that, people? People!"
Mrs Ivory is barking. She was forever calling us people.
It was a defence mechanism born of fifty years' teaching goofy kids. The mechanism isn't working too well today, though,
as she bounces a bundle of napkins off Danny's shoulders
and orders him to wipe up his mess. It is kindergarten teacher
Mrs Pratt, on the way in from the parking lot and a stalled Rambler, who spies her colleague's distress.
"For Heaven’s sake, give them air, Mildred, not noodles !"
she cries, pulling off gloves and scarf. Crampton by now is
on his second sack. His broom is getting soggy and, lacking reinforcements, he is starting to fall behind. Beyond the serving counter, our two cooks gaze on, slack-jawed and arms folded. Neither is about to go to the boiler room for shovels (where, to their eternal bemusement, they might have come across principal Smith’s cat o' nines, paddles and thumbscrews). Chairs topple and trays fly as classmates duck and cover (Lanny would later call it a puke-ular attack)
and goofy Glenn Van Horn seizes the moment. In a flash, the wiry little twerp leaps onto our table and launches into the twist. He’s
pretty good and his resemblance to Sammy Davis Jr. is frankly uncanny. In later times, Glenny would have been on medication
and the rest of us denied a superb, if fleeting, performance. Now he is collared--pant
legged, rather, by Fat Roger, his cousin, and dragged off kicking
But alas, Mary! How much if any of this really
happened? Save for a lifelong aversion to tuna casserole, following
orders, and panting, tobacco-breathed, disciplinarians like
Miss Smith (was she ever released?), I can offer no clues
as we’re led out, dazed, green and gagging, to the
playground by the kindly Mrs Pratt.
Hope you are well. Please
If you prefer, do the interactive Vocabulary Matching Activity.
1. farmhouse - granja, cortijo 2. in tow - en compañía de 3. barn - granero, establo 4. pelts - pieles de animales 5. cop a feel - tocar a alguien inesperadamente en las zonas
íntimas 6. tugged - tiró de 7. pull over - detenerse en el arcén, etc. 8. took over - asumió el control 9. droopy lidded - párpados caídos 10. leering - mirando lascivamente, 11. ditch - la cuneta 12. drew up - hizo parar el vehículo 13. pitch - arrojar 14. fag - el pitillo 15. strut - pavonearse 16. wad - una masa (de chicle, etc.) 17. pop gun - pistola de juguete 18. lashes - pestañas 19. ratted hair - pelo escardado 20. pining over - suspirando por 21. glossy - brillante 22. laddered tights - una carrera en las medias 23. heckled - interrumpía 24. teased - se reían de 25. relentlessly - implacablemente 26. puke - vomitar (fam.) 27. casserole - guiso 28. polished off - zampó 29. cottage cheese - queso blanco grumoso 30. dollop - pegote 31. barf - vomitar (fam.) 32. worms - gusanos 33. Thanksgiving - Día de Acción de Gracias 34. cut-outs - recortes 35. cinderblock - ladrillo grande 36. damp - húmedo 37. puckered - arrugado 38. fistful - puñado 39. plucked - arrancado, desplumado 40. curling - rizado 41. paste - engrudo, cola, pegamento 42. curls - rizos 43. tattling on - denunciando a alguien 44. swearers - los que usan palabrotas 45. chagrin - disgusto 46. noshed - engulló 47. bearing - llevaba 48. jagged - dentado 49. strip - una tira 50. unravels - desenmarañar 51. draws it out - lo saca 52. pasty - pastoso 53. whine - lloriquear 54. minder - monitor (persona) 55. pushing up flowers (usually “pushing up daisies”) - criando malvas 56. a slip of a woman - una mujer menuda 57. scurries - corre a toda prisa 58. dig in - hincar el diente 59. barely - apenas 60. gunny sack - bolsa de arpillera 61. shuffling - caminando arrastrando los pies 62. sawdust - serrín 63. lets fly - él lanza, arroja 64. nods - saluda con la cabeza 65. mangled - destrozado 66. blubbering - balbucea mientras se llora 67. warbles - cantar (como un pájaro) 68. strand - un hilo 69. recess - el recreo 70. barking - ladrando 71. goofy - tontorrón 72. bundle - fajo 73. napkins - servilletas 74. wipe up - limpiar, secar (con un paño) 75. stalled - calado (un coche) 76. Rambler - Marca de coche antiguo 77. distress - angustia 78. soggy - empapado 79. fall behind - retrasarse 80. serving counter - mostrador de un autoservicio 81. gaze on - miraba fijamente 82. slack-jawed - boquiabierto y con poco que decir (imbécil) 83. boiler room - cuarto donde se encuentra la caldera 84. shovels - palas 85. bemusement - desconcierto 86. cat o' nines - especie de látigo usado para la
tortura 87. thumbscrews - instrumento de tortura antiguo que aplastaba
los dedos 88. topple - caerse, venirse abajo 89. duck - agacharse 90. seizes the moment - aprovecha el momento 91. wiry - enjuto y fuerte 92. twerp - tonto, idiota 93. uncanny - extraordinario 94. fleeting - fugaz, efímero 95. collars - pescar, agarrar 96. alas - ¡Ay! ¡Ay de mí! 97. panting - jadeando 98. released - (a un preso) poner en libertad 99. dazed - aturdido 100. gagging - nausea con arcadas