Monday, June 3, 2013

Battered by Whimsy

As summer looms, you may find that this blog goes into hibernation.

It's not because I have run out of ideas.

HA! As if that could happen. As if I could ever exhaust my creative energies, or spend the atomic fuel of my dying star, leaving a sucking black hole of well-worn dookie jokes.

No way.

Well, maybe.

I guess that is part of it.

But also, unlike most of you working class mugs with your silver spoons and gold-plated Slap-its, I don't get paid throughout the summer, so I have to shlump my wares all over Ebay to keep bread on the table.

Any time I get on the computer is used up managing auctions, making craigslist deals, researching items. The window for blogging is squeezed tight; the one for drawing pictures is shut almost entirely.

I hope you folks don't abandon me.

On top of that, I am most likely going to be transferred to a different classroom, and if that happens, I will absolutely have to find myself a new job.

I am burned out on all of this, and starting over with new butts to maintain and foreskins to degrime is just not something I can stomach.

If anyone has a job out there for an unemployed english major with a masters in library science that pays something in the low millions, please message me.

I was mowing the lawn the other day. Sometimes I take my shirt off when I do this, but all the jiggling scares away the feral cats I hope to someday hug and love.

I was mowing the lawn, and I thought, maybe I should write a book about special education. Like a humorous expose of it's failures and that one triumph it had that one time, laced with little history lessons, maybe the odd interview here and there.

Maybe I would become like an expert consultant on the subject, someone they bring in to keep the discussion real.

How much do you charge for a speaking engagement? I decided pretty quickly I would not be one of those jerks who make all kinds of odd requests: "Yes, I will accept your honorary degree, but I must have a bottle of Colorado Springs water waiting for me in my hotel room upon my arrival. It shall be room temperature, and half of it should already have been consumed by a beautiful Chilean chamber maid named Consuela. She shall have left a single moustache hair upon the bottle's lip."

Nope. I'll just show up and tell it like it is. Given my record of public speaking, 'like it is' will consist of some nervous stammered statements and then a deterioration into full blown tears.

"Was he spitting or just popping his lips? Because he pops his lips like this." Martin's mother, a stern middle aged black woman in a fashion forward lady suit, pulls her lips inwards and then pushes them quickly out, making a delightful popping sound.

We are in a meeting, a disciplinary investigation into why my student Martin has been suspended from riding the school bus.

The bus aide who filed the incident report is already shaking her head.

"No no no, I know that popping he does. It be different. This be spitting." She imitates the sound and the quick forward head jerk of a person projecting spit. "Not that popping". She pops her lips in the exact way that Martin's mom did.

"Well you know, when he does that," Martin's mom pops her lips again, "sometimes spit can come out."

The bus aide is more insistent now. "M-m m-m, this be spitting, not popping. I know what you mean and this be different. It's not this-" Pop! "it be like this-" Spit motion

Our director of transportation, a weary looking businessy guy with greasy white curls leans forward onto his finger tips.

I wonder if he is smelling his fingers. Because that's what I might do right then, sneak a little sniff, take the edge off. Long to be anywhere else than facilitating such a ridiculous conversation.

He clears his throat and turns his attention to the bus aide.

"So you would say this was directed spitting?" he asks.

"Definitely directed, definitely. Not no pop." She glares at the mother, who stares back unblinking.

After a moment, Martin's mom makes a little note on her yellow office pad. From my position next to her, I can see she has written "directed spitting" in quotes, followed by a question mark. Her copy of the incident report has been marked up feverishly in red pen. Things underlined or stricken through; notes and half sentences in the margins.

They move on to the next charge against Martin.

"When you say he blew snot, I want to understand exactly what you mean," Mom says.

The aide rolls her eyes all around.

"Lord, I don't want to tell it. Make me sick. I tole that boy to be quiet and he jus sprayed-" she hesitates, suddenly reluctant to say the next word, " he sprayed boogers just over everything. The seat, the girl in front of him, everything."

"Now he has a sinus condition, you know, a condition that causes his nose to have a lot of discharge. Was it just that his nose was running?"

"Oh no! No no! This ain't no runny nose, he did like this" and the aide lifted her finger to block off one nostril, and mimed blowing snot out of the other.

"He did this?" Mom asked, and copied the bus aide's imitation of Martin shooting his boogers.

"Just like that," said the aide, and she did it again. The two of them passed imaginary snot projectiles back and forth across the table.

I looked at the transportation director; his eyes were focused out the window, dreamy like.

Everyone in that room was a government employee; all of our paychecks coming from your tax dollars. There were three classroom aides at 27,000 a year each; one teacher at 70,000, bus driver at 25,000, bus aide at 19,000; transportation director at 95,000; and Martin's mom, a government worker making 100,000 plus.

390,000 tax dollars so we can all sit around discussing the physical consistency of Martin's nasal mucus.

"No no, this was green, and it was everywhere!" The bus aide is raising her voice to be heard over Mom's objections.

The bus driver finally decides to weigh in. A stout Irishman, he looks like one of those guys who turns beet red after one can of Molson and goes to his woodshop to miter saw things. His seems to have a low threshold for guff-taking.

"What I don't understand is, why can't they get some kind of Rosetta Stone for Martin, so he can communicate? I mean, scientists can get monkeys to read with a Rosetta Stone, why can't they do something to..to.." he trails off in a way that means 'you know what I am saying', only none of us know what he is saying.

When he says the word "monkeys", the bus aide's head snaps around to make seething eye contact with Martin's mother. Things are about to become very real.

It takes everything, all I have, to not start giggling.

Not until the meeting is over, and Gary and I are on our way off garage sailing, do I let the laughter come. A small, wry chuckle I have perfected through hours of practice in the mirror, right after my Frenching lessons I do on my closed fist, but immediately before I tweeze my ears. If that mirror could speak, I wonder if it would beg someone to mercy shatter it.

Gary is a stocky man with Down Syndrome. He and I share a love of thrift stores and garage sales, but as he is graduating this week, this is to be our last outing together.

Storm clouds hang low over miles of Michigan farmland, threatening to cut our shopping off. I forget sometimes how close the land is to the city here. How you can eat Italian gelato with a frustratingly miniature spoon one minute, turn left, and suddenly be surrounded by the smell of manure and Massey Fergusons burning diesel.

I forget how easy it is to get lost, and then I realize that we are indeed lost, and have been for perhaps forty-five minutes now.

"That barn looks vewy familiar," Gary tells me. I would take hope from that, like we are finally headed back in the right direction, but he has said that about every single plain red barn we have passed.

"Thats the way to my house. Stwaight down that road." He is pointing a chubby finger at someone's driveway.

"No, I don't think so buddy."

"Oh really? Cause I have a gweat sense of direction."

Each time we come to an intersection, he dramatically swings his arm in front of me and tells me to turn a certain way, like an Indian scout listening to hoof beats in the ground.

"We are pretty lost," I tell him. Gary ignores me; he is holding a videotape he purchased at our last stop, and gently stroking its slipcase cover.

"This movie has my favowite actor in it," he tells me.

"Oh yeah? Who's that?"

"Billy Way Cyrus."

I can't think of anything to say.

Eventually, we find an old farmer mowing his lawn and I ask him for directions. It begins to rain.

Nothing I find at garage sales is for myself; it all goes to fuel the Ebay machine I need to keep my family afloat. On a good day, there is the thrill of the treasure hunt and the promise of a nice profit; on this particular day, we are just lost and unlucky. I did find a tin chicken pushing a space age stroller that houses two fuzzy little chicks. As the chicken rolls along, it lays little plastic eggs and shrieks. Some things are just for me I guess.

As we hurdle along back to town, now in the right direction, Gary produces a bendy action figure of the mother from The Incredibles. He holds it up and pulls at her limbs.

"Have you seen that movie? The Cwedibles?"

"Yeah. You like that movie?" I ask.

"I just like the mom. She's very...fwexible." Gary bends the rubbery figure in half, then lifts its backside up to me. "I like her costume, how da booty sticks out." He taps the crudely sculpted buttocks. "When I get home, this is what I'm going to do with it-" My blood freezes, anticipating a reenactment of some unspeakable man/toy union, but he merely bends the limbs enough so that they can hook around the handle above the car window. "Hang it just wike that."

The wind blowing through the open window makes Mrs. Incredible dance. Gary licks his lips.

I am mowing the lawn, trying to beat the rain, thinking about my book. The problem is that I can't stay interested in anything, ever. I am like a child. I want to take my shirt off but I don't want cancer. My grey flock of chest hair depresses me anyways.

If I wrote a book about special education, it would be about a paragraph long, and then have a picture of a talking butt wearing corduroy pants.

The butt would make terrible butt puns and no one would find it funny.

No college would give me an honorary degree. No bottled water.

Very few people win accolades for drawing butts.

Even fewer write books.

And only one person, only one, cares for my particular brand of expertise.

That one person is you, several people on the Internet. That one person is you.