Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lesson learned? Revenge is pretty sweet

The homecoming float was almost finished.

I hopped in the cab of the John Deere tractor and pulled the lever controlling the hydraulics. The cylinder, used to lift and lower farm implements into the ground, was now connected to a giant Orrick High School mascot.

The mascot, a bearcat made out of chicken wire and stuffed with black and yellow napkins, stood on a wagon hitched to the tractor. It slowly lifted a plastic barrel over where its head would eventually be and brought the barrel down again.


Our senior float captured the wholesome, romantic and Shakespearean essence of Donkey Kong. I just hoped the wind kept down during the parade, or it would end up naked.

The art kids were finishing up the giant papier mâché head, then our float would be ready for the parade, “Homecoming ‘83: Video Maniacs.”

I don’t know who came up with that theme, I just hoped they weren’t very proud of themselves.

It was cold in the barn our float was hidden in, and I was glad. I’d stashed a couple of Dad’s beers in the tractor cab for the parade and I’d hate for them to get warm.

I was going to be the driver. Kaz was riding shotgun, keeping his eye on the float to make sure it didn’t go out of control and kill bystanders.

Yeah, that “Best Float” ribbon was going to be ours. The senior class almost always won first place. Sure, it took some of the fun out of the competition, but high school seniors are petty, and we wanted that ribbon.

Our only threat would be from the junior class. We’d heard rumors they had a lot of parents helping with their float, but that was all we knew. High school homecoming float construction holds a certain level of secrecy, much like crashed flying saucers do in the government.

But what their float was didn’t matter.

Tomorrow, I’d smile and wave at everyone lining Front Street, sipping stolen beer out of a paper cup and celebrating the junior class’s second-place finish with whatever lame video game they’d chosen.

Oh, yeah. Tomorrow was going to be sweet.

The next day, the junior class won. All that mindless napkin stuffing, all those nights of actual work for nothing.

Kaz and I were sitting in the cab of the tractor before the parade when the float committee gave the first place ribbon to the junior class’s Pac Man float. Even with our creative treatment of Donkey Kong getting even with his oppressors, in this case the opposing football team, the juniors won with something cutesy. Oh, sure, Pac Man’s mouth opened and closed, but … who cares.

“This sucks,” I said.

Kaz looked at me.

“Somebody’s got to do something about this,” he said.

So we did.

Going down Front Street, our second-place Donkey Kong tossing a make-believe barrel at an effigy of a pirate followed the junior class’s Pac Man, with its first-place ribbon. The stolen beer tasted good to me, especially since we’d probably get in trouble if we drew any extra attention to ourselves. Of course, we got lots of attention with the big “Juniors Suck” sign we’d thrown together and hung in the tractor window.

We got in-school suspension for that stunt, but yeah, it was worth it.

Stupid juniors.

You can order Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at amazon.com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who needs pets when you have children?

The kids screamed as my wife pulled the minivan to a stop next to a great tree-strewn lawn and slid open the doors. They popped from their car seats, giggled and ran into the park to chase squirrels.

My wife and I stood there, smiling as our four- and two-year-old dashed between trees, fell, scratched behind their ears, got up distracted by something blown by the wind and took off again.

Yeah, it’s nice to let the kids out to run.

The Girl fell and her brother stopped to help her. Good boy, I thought, and was happy my wife had brought treats. Then, as the Girl took off in a random direction, the Boy peed on a tree.

This behavior in children is, of course, normal. However, the following thought might encourage a personal visit from the Division of Family Services, a court-appointed counselor or Jesus. As we stood watching our children do things they’d better not do when they go to kindergarten, my wife dared say that in the first few years of a child’s life, parents treat their babies like dogs.

I was embarrassed to agree with her.

During the course of educating our children, we encourage them to roll over, sit, stand, shake hands, speak, eat out of a bowl and let us know when they have to go to the bathroom.

Children pace at the front door when they want to go outside. They crawl under their bed. We wake up to find they’ve crawled into our bed. They lick. They jump on the couch to look out the window. Their noses are usually wet. They splash in the bathtub then run around the house dripping wet. They hate to have their hair brushed. They whine when they’re hungry. They eat off the floor. They bring you random objects. And, yes, sometimes they have accidents on the carpet.

We parents don’t help. We take the kids for walks, play catch with them, teach them to stay in the yard, encourage them to do tricks, and some parents even put leashes on their children when they go to the mall.

When they’re tired, a small child will crawl up into a parent’s lap. And what does the parent do? Pet them.

We take our children to parks and lakes so they have room to run and some parents even put their kids in shows.

We tell our children how to behave, and tell them, “no,” when they don’t. Then, when the child does something right, we pat their head.

When our son was two, he said he wanted a dog. Instead, we gave him a little sister. I’m not sure he’s satisfied with that; she’s too stubborn to fetch.

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

You can order Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at amazon.com.