Monthly Archives: November 2015

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Five

MRS. SMITH

(Arnold told me once:  “Solomon, whatever you do, don’t upset the womenfolk.”)

Mrs. Smith is not her real name.  I mean, the “Mrs.” part is right.  But her real last name is Saytakhmetov.  She married some guy named Yegor with that last name.  She was my sixth grade teacher.  The school authorities probably had a big meeting and decided we were all too stupid to be able to pronounce her last name, so to make it easier for us they concluded that we should call her Mrs. Smith.  They were right.

Mrs. Smith:  “Solomon, would you like to give us your answer to Question Number Seven?”

Me:  “No.  But thanks for asking.”

I should probably concentrate on listening to Arnold more often.

Mrs. Smith is tall, thin and she has fiery red hair and scalding blue eyes.  She always wears long dresses that almost drag on the floor.  Many times I wondered how she was able to keep from tripping, especially all the times when she was escorting me to the principal’s office.

To say that Mrs. Smith and I didn’t get along would be an understatement.  I’m not going to say it was her fault, even though most of it was.  I tried, but I was the Victim of Unfortunate Circumstances beginning at eleven-and-a-half years old.

The First Calamity occurred almost as soon as the sixth grade session began.  Had I known that was going to be the norm instead of a freak occurrence, I would have done a Tom Sawyer and floated aimlessly down the Mississippi River.

Our school building was one of those ancient things, constructed with brick and old wood.  The window sills were made of oak and they were huge.  You could land a plane on them.  September of 1964 was hot and there were tons of flies who must have believed they’d get to the Promised Land by dying on the window sills.  No matter how often Old Mister Gray, the janitor, cleaned the sills, flies kept dying there.  (Mister Gray’s last name was something else, also, but we had to refer to him as Mister Gray.  I guess the Moon Lake School Board really thought they had a bunch of idiots on their hands).

Cora Lee Brantley was one of those kids who got sick really easily at the slightest provocation.  Just seeing a dead gopher on the playground once caused her to choke and gag.  But she had never thrown up.  I changed that, though.

Some students took the hot lunch in the cafeteria and some of us–like me–brought our lunches and stayed in the classroom to devour the delicacies our mothers had packed for us.  I always used the same old brown paper bag to carry my lunch.  The one I was using this particular day was the one I’d used during the entire fifth grade.  By this time it was rather worn and very wrinkly.  Marion had packed an egg sandwich, two cookies that were way too small, an apple, and a box of raisins.

Cora Lee was sitting across the room from me.  My seat was next to the Fly Cemetary.  I palmed some raisins and said, “Hey, Cora Lee, look, I’m eating flies.”  Then I pretended to pick up a dead fly, tossing a raisin in the air and catching it in my mouth.  After only the second one I saw that Cora Lee was beginning to gag.  Then she retched a little.  Then a little more.  Then she spewed out her bologna sandwich and probably parts of her breakfast.

I learned that some people are VIP’s-Visually Induced Pukers.  They’re the folks that vomit upon seeing others doing the same.  I learned that Billy Watson is a VIP.  So is Linda Crawford.  And Mike O’ Reilly.  Oh yeah, so is Cathy Gibson.  It was one right after the other, like Vomit Dominos.  I just stood there with a handful of raisins.  Then I decided I’d better destroy the evidence so I crammed the remaining sweet morsels into my mouth.  I was also quick-witted enough to go to the waste basket next to Mrs. Smith’s desk and toss in the raisin box.  I had just returned to my desk when Mrs. Smith returned from the cafeteria.

I also learned that day that Mrs. Smith is a VIP.

As soon as she observed her puke covered classroom she ran to her waste basket and quickly got rid of her recently devoured lunch.

I learned that the Lunch Room Offering for that day was salmon loaf covered in creamed peas, a nice tossed salad, buttered boiled potatoes with just a whisper of parsley, and for dessert a slice of either cherry pie or cherry crunch.  It was a little difficult to discern exactly which.

Right away Little Eddie McNeely yelled, “It was Solomon, Mrs. Smith!  He was eating dead flies!”  I learned that Little Eddie McNeely was a tattle-tale who would rat out his own mother if it made him look good.

Mrs. Smith quickly walked over to me, grabbed me by my left elbow, and hustled me out of the classroom.  I knew away right where we were going:  Mrs. Lawson’s Office.  Mrs. Lawson was the Moon Lake Grade School principal.

Mrs. Smith was walking very fast, dragging me next to her.  “You don’t have to pull me,” I said.  “I think I know the way.”

Mrs. Lawson and I were well acquainted with each other.

“Just shut up Young Man!” said Mrs. Smith.  That’s right, the Young Man thing again.  It’s never good.

I was going to inform her that she still had some of her lunch on her chin, but if she believed Silence was in order at that moment, I wasn’t going to argue with her.

Mrs. Smith deposited me on a bench in the hallway outside the Interrogation Room known fondly as the Principal’s Office.  Some of the old ladies in the office saw me sitting on the hot seat and looked at me and just shook their heads.

Mrs. Smith came back to fetch me and we entered Mrs. Lawson’s office.  Mrs. Smith took up a position behind Mrs. Lawson, just to her right.  Her arms were folded in front of her.  I noticed her chin was now clean.  Good Ol’ Mrs. Lawson must have told her to clean up.

Mrs. Lawson is one hundred and fifty years old if she’s a day.  Her face is brown and wrinkly, not unlike my lunch bag.  I was sitting in a cold metal chair in front of Mrs. Lawson.  She always put her elbows on her desk with her hands folded in front of her mouth.  She tries to hide the fact that her false teeth keep dropping out of her mouth when she talks; especially when she yells. I get that a lot.

Mrs. Lawson:  “Well, what do you have to say for yourself, Young Man?”

What kind of a question is that?

Me:  “It was an accident.”

Mrs. Lawson:  “Were you eating flies?”

Me:  “Of course not.  They were raisins.”

Then I realized I’d eaten the evidence that could acquit me and the box was in Mrs. Smith’s waste basket, bathing in salmon loaf and creamed peas.

My penance for causing the Regurgitation Rally was to write on Mrs. Smith’s blackboard, “I will not make people puke again” fifty times.  And I was to do this every recess for the next week.

When the Principal Experience ended, Mrs. Smith dragged me back to the classroom.  By the time we returned Old Mr. Gray had placed a piece of tape across the doorway and wouldn’t allow anyone in the Crime Scene until he was finished cleaning up.  I peeked in and saw him, donned in overalls, big rubber boots, mask, and huge gloves; like he was mopping up a radioactive spill.  He was using a snow shovel and scooping up the mess and dumping it into a big garbage can.  I guess you can’t be a VIP and a janitor.  I imagine at the interview for the janitor position the interviewers have a few people puke and see if the applicant tosses their cookies.  If so, they give them a job mowing the lawn or something.

The remainder of the class day was spent outside in the shade of  a big oak tree, a fact that I never received one tiny bit of thanks for.  I was in sixth grade with a bunch of ungrateful urchins.  But I learned a lot that day.

Several months later, as the school year was drawing to a glorious termination, I was home after school and Arnold had just arrived from the paper mill.  He picked up a Popular Mechanicis  magazine so I was watching him read.  He moves his lips when he reads and I try to see if I know what he’s reading.  That skill may come in useful someday.  Marion walked up with her fists on her hips and fire in her eyes.  “What have you got to say for yourself, Young Man?”  Everyone knew who she was talking to.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it was probably an accident,” I said.

“I got a call from Mrs. Lawson, your principal.”  As if I didn’t know who Mrs. Lawson was.  Hell, I saw her more than I saw Marion.  I knew Mrs. Lawson had not called to congratulate Marion for having such a bright student as her son.  But for the life of me I didn’t have any idea what I had done.

Then Marion said, “She said you started a fire in Mrs. Smith’s class.”

Oh yeah, that.

“It was an accident.”

It really was.  Again, it was partly Mrs. Smith’s fault.  I mean, who gives matches to a bunch of goofy sixth graders?  She didn’t know what else to do with us during an art class so she had us make candles from beeswax.  Rather juvenile, but at least we got to play with matches in class.  I had constructed a very nice yellow candle, one I was going to give to Arnold since yellow is his favorite color.  Jimmy Stafford, Karl Morris and I were standing in the back of the room with our candles lit.  Stafford nudged me and said, “Hey, let’s pretend our candles are flaming swords.”  Then he knocked my candle with his and mine felI into a waste basket next to me.  Normally, the candle would have extinguished before doing any damage.  But not this one.

Flames immediately leapt from the basket.  “Fire!” yelled Little Eddie McNeely.  Mrs. Smith ran into the hallway and grabbed a fire extinguisher and came in and doused the flames.  “It was Solomon,” squealed Little Eddie McNeely.  “He dropped his candle in the waste basket.”

I still need to strangle Eddie McNeely at least twice for ratting me out.

Mrs. Smith and I repeated our “Dance to the Principal’s Office.”  She tossed me on the bench again.  Now I noticed a sign made out of red construction paper that was placed above the seat outside Mrs. Lawson’s office which read:  Reserved for Solomon Quick.

I was beckoned into her office again and Mrs. Smith took up her regular position behind Mrs. Lawson with her arms folded in front of her under her bosom.  She was breathing quite heavily.  This caused her chest to heave up and down.  I’d never really noticed Mrs. Smith’s breasts up until that time.  It looked like Boob Trampoline.  I was rather transfixed by the event.  So much so I wasn’t listening to Mrs. Lawson until she said, “Well, do you, Young Man?”

I couldn’t really tell her that I wasn’t listening to her because I was hypnotized by Mrs. Smith’s undulating breasts.  So I had to guess what the question was. I guessed that she had asked me if I felt sorry for what I did.  “Oh, yes.  Very much so,” I replied with a smile.

Well, I’d guessed wrong.  The question had been, “Do you intend to burn down the entire school?”

Mrs. Smith’s hands went down to her sides as she gasped and Mrs. Lawson’s hands slapped her desk as she pushed herself backwards in her chair, her teeth dropping out onto her lap.

Me:  “Shit.”

I knew then that my punishment was going to be more severe than simply writing on a blackboard.  I had to apologize to Mrs. Smith and also to the rest of the class.  I was also going to spend the next two weeks after school performing various chores around the school.  Arnold was going to have to drive to the school after work to pick me up since I would be missing my bus home.  It was five miles out of his way.

My apology to the class:  “Dear Students of Mrs. Smith’s sixth grade class:  I apologize for accidentally dropping my candle into a waste basket, causing a small fire which some believe put your lives in danger.”  Here I rolled my eyes for effect.  “However, had I not made such a perfect candle it would have extinguished before ever hitting the waste basket.  The construction of which I believe I should have afforded me a grade of A instead of the F I received.”  I saw a few students nodding their heads in approval.  I continued:  “I think we should thank Mrs. Smith for her quick actions in putting out the fire.  I also think we should all be trained in fire prevention and we should learn how to use fire extinguishers.  Now, all those in favor of us practicing with fire extinguishers during recess, raise your hands.”

Mrs. Smith ordered me to sit down after that.  But for the remaining four weeks of the school year, at least once a week a student would ask if we could spray fire extinguishers around outside.

Arnold:  “I told you, don’t upset the womenfolk.”

I was very happy when the sixth grade year ended.  I thought all my problems were behind me.

Then Marion and Arnold informed me there was something called, “Summer Camp.”

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Four

KENNY THE CAT

Don’t ever let your kids name your pets.

Kenny is the biggest cat ever created. He never used to be that way and no one really knows how it happened. It seemed like it was an Overnight Sensation.  One day he was Normal, then suddenly he was….well….not.

Arnold was apathetic about it, Marion concerned, and Gamma thought it was a Miracle.

He looks like a hairy bowling ball.  If Gamma described Marion’s hair as “dishwater blonde” then she’d have to say Kenny’s hair is “toilet water brown.”

Most days, Kenny just rolls around the house, not moving very fast at all.  He’ll come to you when you call, but you have to start beckoning him at least an hour before you actually want him to arrive at your location.  But he can really move if he wants.  If you drop a toothbrush, pen or even money on the floor you won’t see him.  But drop a piece of salami or bologna and he’s all over that like a Pit Bull on a bloody Chihuahua.

Twice a year Marion gives Kenny a flea bath.  It’s an event that no one looks forward to, especially Kenny.  He always seems to know when it’s going to happen.  When he gets excited or scared he’ll let out a scream like he’s just seen a mouse.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Kenny screams when he sees a mouse.  He won’t stop screaming until one of us finds and disposes of the rodent.

It’s normally not too difficult to find Kenny.  It’s like not being able to find our refrigerator.  But when Flea Bath Day arrives Kenny seems to blend into the surroundings like a Kitty Chameleon.  Marion used to mark it on the calendar and then she got this creepy idea that Kenny could actually read the calendar and know when to hide.  So she stopped doing that.  But the dimwit always hides in the same place, behind the sofa.  How he gets back there is a mystery.  Gamma calls it a Miracle.  There’s a lot of Miracles in her life.

It takes the entire family to get Kenny out from behind the sofa.  One person pulls the sofa away from the wall and one person stands at each end and Kenny tries to run out but ends up running into one of us.

Marion had a brainiac idea one time. She saw on television that they cover a horse’s eyes when a stable is on fire to lead the horses away from the flames.  So she thought we could cover Kenny’s eyes and lead him into the bath tub.  Yeah, that was a brilliant scheme.  After all, most cats just stand there, waiting for someone to cover their eyes. Of course, Arnold was in charge of holding Kenny while Marion tried to wrap a sock around Kenny’s eyes.  By the time the bloodbath ended, Arnold looked like Jack the Ripper had played Tic-Tac-Toe on his arms.

We all have to lift Kenny up and carry him into the bath tub.  People with normal cats can give them baths in a sink but we need the tub.  Now Arnold wears these big leather gloves like he’s waiting for a falcon to land on his arm.  Kenny puts up a fight for a while, then realizes the inevitable and lets out a big sigh.  By that time Marion has soaped up his face and a huge bubble appears over his mouth.  Good thing Gamma isn’t around for that.  She’d probably see The Virgin Mary in the bubble and have another Miracle on her hands.

Every Halloween we set Kenny out on the front porch and folks think he’s our Jack-O-Lantern.  That was my idea.  When the little kids come up to the door, Kenny will let out one of his screams and the little beggars run away crying.  It’s pretty funny. I think so, anyway.

About two months ago we took Kenny to a vet in Stevens Point.  We used to take him to the vet here in Moon Lake but they banned us.  Well, not us, just Kenny.  Since there’s no reason to go there without Kenny, we switched vets.  So we drove the twelve miles to Doctor Carson’s office.  Normal cat carriers are too small so Marion found an old orange crate and we crammed Kenny into that.  He pushed his face against the side and started to scream.  I was not happy being the one to ride in the back seat with the crated Kenny.

By the time we got to the vet’s he’d settled down a little bit.  Arnold and I carried the crate in and sat down.  Soon a woman with a Yellow Labrador came and sat next to us.  She kept staring and finally asked, “What kind of animal is that?”  She said “animal” like she was disgusted.  So I said, “It used to be a Yellow Labrador, but we had him here last week and Doctor Carson gave him some shots and look what happened.”

Her eyes got big and she inhaled sharply.

Arnold:  “Don’t be a smart-ass, Solomon.”

Soon we were called and Arnold and I lugged Kenny and the crate back to the exam room.  Doctor Carson was a pudgy, red-faced little man.  I noticed six framed diplomas on the wall.  We extricated Kenny from the crate and Carson began his exam.  After a few minutes he was able to locate Kenny’s backside and he rammed a thermometer in Kenny’s butt.  It even made me squirm a little bit.

After listening to Kenny with a stethoscope and finally removing the thermometer from its unwanted location, Doctor Carson came to fantastic conclusion:  “Kenny is grossly overweight.”

Arnold, Marion and I just looked at each other.  After a silence that was not at all uncomfortable I said, “So you had to go to six different colleges before you finally figured out how to be a vet?  Because we never would have guessed Kenny was grossly overweight.  We just thought every other cat in the universe was grossly underweight.  Thanks for the brilliant diagnosis, Doctor.”

Arnold:  “Don’t be a smart-ass, Solomon.”

Doctor Carson:  “What are you feeding Kenny?”

Marion:  “Just cat food, and not that much.”

Doctor Carson:  “Are you giving him table scraps?”

Marion:  “No.”

Arnold:  “No.”

Then they looked at me.

Me:  “So Doc, anything else wrong with Kenny besides being a little overweight?”  I learned early on that changing the subject would get me out of a lot of things. Not everything, but a lot of things.

Doctor Carson:  “I think being him overweight is enough, Young Man.”

God, I hate the “Young Man” thing.

“If this continues, your cat will die at a very young age,” the Six-Diploma-Vet said.

Marion:  “He’s sixteen.”

Doctor Carson: “Oh.”

We left without Doctor Carson coming up with any more spectacular conclusions about Kenny’s health, or lack of it.

On the way home Marion said to Arnold, “Oh, we need to stop at the butcher’s and get some pig’s feet for dinner tonight.”

I can’t be sure, but I think Kenny plastered his face up against the crate and gave me a wink.

I was two years old when Arnold and Marion shoved this little ball of fur in my face.  “Look, Solomon.  Look what we got you!”

They were excited as Hell for some idiotic reason.  I guess I was supposed to giggle and smile and wet my pants because they got a kitten for me to play with.  I didn’t recall expressing any interest at all in spending my free time with a goofy kitten.  “We got you a kitten!”  Great.

Then the morons wanted me to name it.  Did they even realize that I was only two?  I mean, I’m sure I exhibited signs indicating I was on my way to becoming a Child Protegé and breaking the record for the highest IQ of any two-year-old in history.  But really.

Arnold:  “Look, he’s trying to pet it!”

No, Arnold, I was trying to squeeze its little head. I was only two!

Marion:  “Go ahead, Solomon, name him.  Give him a name.”

The only names I knew at that time were Arnold, Marion, Gamma and Kitten.

I was trying to tell them I didn’t want to name the thing but all that came out was “kitten, kitten,  kitten”

Arnold:  “What did he say?”

Marion:  “I think he said Kenny.”  He wants to name him Kenny.”

Me:  “Oh for the Love of God, no.”

Arnold:  “Okay, that’s it then.  His name is Kenny.”

Don’t ever let your kids name your pets.