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A Day at the Ice Cafe by Charlie Fox

Yeah, I admit it, I’m addicted to coffee.  I’m no connoisseur by any means.  By that I mean I’ll drink anything that resembles coffee.  I hate those little sugary chicks called Peeps, but if they had them in coffee flavor I’d be all over that.

I think I inherited the gene from my father who sucked down coffee as if his life depended on it.  My mother would get up 20 minutes before him just to make the coffee so that as soon as his feet hit the floor in the morning she’d have a cup waiting for him.  At night he’d start heating up the coffee so it would be hot by the time he’d gotten his pajamas on and then he’d chug down one last cup and sleep all night.  Oh yeah, his pajamas; he always pulled the bottoms up so that the waist was up around his chest.  I told him once that I was going to buy him a pair of pants for his birthday but I didn’t know his chest size.

But I’m almost the  same way with coffee.  Not the pajamas part.  When I drive by a coffee shop I’m like a vampire strolling by a blood bank.

While working for the Dane County Sheriff’s Department during one of my many 11pm-7am shifts I was driving down Monona Drive in Monona, Wisconsin.  Yeah, catchy name for that street, I know.  I wonder how many Monona City Council meetings they had to have before they came up with that unique name.  I, along with many other officers, was fully aware of an establishment named Donut Land on Monona Drive.  Besides the doughnuts they had delicious coffee.  Like I said, I’m no connoisseur.  It called out to me quite often, beckoning me with its caffeinated, evil, enticing tongue.  I was weak, what can I say?  Shortly after entering Donut Land and getting my cup, the telephone rang.  This was well before cell phones.  (Okay, I’m old.  Okay?).  One of the other 10 cops answered it and said, “Fox, it’s for you.”  My Dispatcher:  “I bet you’re wondering how I knew you were at Donut Land.”

Me:  “I hadn’t thought of that, but now that you mention it.”

Dispatcher:  “We had a complaint that you were speeding down Monona Drive to get to Donut Land.”  I then recalled passing another vehicle en route to my coffee.  They apparently called to complain.

Bastards.

Dispatcher:  “You’re the only member of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department to get a complaint for speeding to Donut Land.”  I believe my record still stands.

I now frequent a new Dealer, whose given name is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, aka The Ice Cafe.  It’s located in a little town name Kea’au, Hawaii.  I can pretty much figure out how The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf got its name, but don’t even ask how the town got its name.  I know it’s Hawaiian for something.  I’ll have to look it up.

I’ve named it the Ice Cafe because the temperature always hovers just above the freezing mark.  It’s 85-90 degrees outside and as soon as one walks in it feels nice.  For just a few seconds.  One’s first hint that it’s really cold is when one sees one’s breath; or someone else’s.  It still attracts a large contingent of coffee inhalers performing various activities on their computers; none of them doing anything as important as what I do, however.

Regular customers, of which I am one, are smart enough to bring warm clothes with them.  I’ve considered setting up a little booth just outside to rent out parkas and gloves.

Since I’m at the Ice Cafe a lot, I notice others who also visit on a regular basis to get their kicks.  It’s usually quite a different mix of individuals.  This particular day I observed a regular User who I’d noticed in the past as having a habit of talking to anyone.  And talking.  And talking.

He’s about my age, maybe a few years younger; if you can believe that.  He stands about six feet tall( shorter when sitting) with his thinning long hair tied back in a little pony tail, covered by a big baseball cap.  He sports round, wire rim glasses and is quite portly.  Picture Benjamin Franklin on steroids.

This day, after receiving his brew, he was chatting incessently with the barrista who was smiling politley at him and at the long line of fidgety Users bouncing up and down behind him…waiting….not very patiently.  Eventually he became winded enough to cease and then he took a seat.

I had been writing for about an hour when I saw Mr. Chatty get up to get a refill.  I didn’t blame him for that, of course.  I put my head down as he neared my location.  I knew that the slightest hint of Eye Contact would pull me into the Black Hole of Continuous Conversation.  I kept my head down and feigned being busy; something I’d mastered by the time I reached 7th Grade.

I saw his shadow approach my table.  I looked down.  He got closer.  I kept looking down.  He was dangerously close now.  I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep or dead.  It’s hard to tell which with me.  I peeked with one eye and saw him feverishly waving his hand in front of my face as he was saying, “Hey!  Hey!”

Me, regrettably looking up:  “What!”

Him:  “You aren’t the guy hacking into my computer are you?”  Yeah, right.  If he only knew.  I can’t even hack up a bad lunch.  Most days I’m fortunate just to find my computer let alone turn it on.  I must look smarter than I really am.

I mean, a LOT smarter.

And like I would admit it if I had been hacking into his computer.  A good hacker would never do that.  I read that somewhere on the internet.

Me:  “No.”

Him:  “You know, my father worked on the World Trade Center back in 1969.  All the engineers that worked on that died before the age of 70.  I’ve been shot at by Arabs.  And when I was 21 they drugged me.  I guess I’m getting paranoid.”

Gee, ya’ think?

Me, thinking of absolutely nothing else to say:  “Well, good luck with that.”

Then, as if yanked away by some unseen force(coffe aroma)he sped off to get his refill.  Mister Look-Out-Behind-You had taken a seat by the bathroom.  Great.  Like having consumed urns of coffee I’m not going to have to visit the deposit station and have to walk right past him.  I knew I’d have to go there or risk voiding my bladder on the bus ride home.  The Bus Company frowns on that sort of activity, as you can imagine.  Inside the bus they have all sorts of rules about things you can’t do, along with pictures to demonstrate the Forbidden Behavior.  They’ve got a picture of a guy listening to loud music, a guy eating a big ass sandwich, a guy smoking; all with lines through them to let you know you can’t do that.  There’s no such picture of somebody taking a whizz with a line through it.  I think we’re all just supposed to know that one.

So I made the risky walk past him and noticed he needed to place his face mere inches away from his computer screen to see it.  I was able to easily sneak by him and reach my destination.  After successfuly accomplishing my task I exited the bathroom and walked by him.  The thought had crossed my mind while relieving myself to say to him as I passed, “By the way, those are some interesting emails you have there.”

But I didn’t.  Not this time.

 

 

 

SOLOMON QUICK written by Charlie Fox Epilogue

Damn, I can’t believe I wrote that autobiography forty three years ago when I was a goofy kid.  I’m still goofy, but I guess I’m not a kid anymore.  I’ve read it three times since I found it amongst other faded, moldy-smelling, yellow papers I’d kept in that old Pabst Blue Ribbon box I’d left at my parents’ house.  My mom was always asking me when I was going to get it out of there.  I suppose I shouldn’t have waited until she died, two years ago.  I think if Dad hadn’t been in an assisted living home at that time that Box of Recollections would still be there.

It sure brought back a lot of memories; some good and some…..well…..bad.

I sure miss Mom.  The cancer attacked her rather quickly and she was gone so fast I didn’t have a lot of time to tell her all the things one needs and wants to say.  But I was able to let her know how thankful I was for the way she and Dad raised me and apologize for being the punky kid that gave them so many problems.

Mom:  “Solomon, we love you no matter what.  And I wouldn’t want you to be any different than the way you are.”

Boy, talk about feeling great and shitty at the same time.  I mean, it sounded like I could have been even worse than I was and she still would have loved me a lot.  I understand that now though, having kids of my own.  And fortunately, Mom was around long enough to see the birth of her great grand-son.

I used to think that my years attending Moon Lake Schools were pretty horrible, but they were nothing compared to just one year; 2012.  Dad’s health had been failing and his dementia had been presenting itself more frequently for years.  Also, the diabetes he’d contracted in 1976 took its toll on him in the form of the loss of his left leg in 1984.  He still worked two more years after that but he eventually quit the Barclay Paper Company and went on disability.  So we ended up getting Dad into a home in June of 2012.  Although Mom was doing rather well for an eighty five year old lady, she was not doing well enough to care for Dad.  In August Mom’s cancer was diagnosed and she was gone in November.

Just last year we moved Dad to a facility near Madison to be closer to us.  He’s still quite witty and funny.  Not as witty and funny as me, however.

On a happier note, I received a “B” on my autobiography and passed English, therefore paving the way for me to be a proud graduate from the highly respected educational facility commonly known as Moon Lake High School.  See, during those last few weeks of school while I was sitting in Principal Mister Billy Lee James’ Office I was able to actually do homework and bring some of my grades up in a few of my classes.  I was normally allergic to homework, but it was better than looking at Greg Locke who had received the same sentence.  Oh, speaking of Greg Locke, one year after graduating he he died.  He was killed.  Accidentally, of course.  He’d crawled up onto the porch of the Dubois home with a can of black spray paint. He was only successful enough to write “NIG” on the wall of their house before it happened.  I’d written in my autobiography that the porch of the Dubois Estate was in need of repair and quite unsafe.  So Big Ass Greg Locke was too heavy for the worn, rotting boards and when the porch heaved and gave way under his weight, he fell and was impaled on a pointy post that was sticking up under the deck.  It went up his ass, actually.  God does indeed work in Mysterious Ways.

Getting back to Mom, she didn’t remain a secretary long at the Barclay Paper Company.  She’d been promoted all the way up to Senior Vice President.  I don’t think they had a Junior Vice President.  So for awhile there she was actually Dad’s boss.  He didn’t mind.

Dad:  “She bosses me around at home, she might as well do it at work, too.”

See,  he’s not as witty and funny as me.

Mom and Dad have been a wonderful grandparents to my daughters, Elizabeth and Martha.  And when Dad found out he was a great-grandfather at the age of eighty-eight he cried.  Even more than I did when I found out I was a grandfather.

It’s been really nice that Dad’s so close now.  I can see him every week at the assisted living home in Monona, or as Dad calls it, the “Let’s-Just-Get-It-Over-With Home.”

I bring my  grandson, Benjamin, to see Dad occasionally.  Instead of calling him “Benny” Dad always calls him “Kenny”, like he’s talking to our former cat.  It’s the dementia and his ninety years that causes that.  I don’t mind and Benny doesn’t know the difference.

Each visit is almost the same;  I stand next to Dad who is either sitting in a lime green recliner in his tiny room, or he’s laying down on his bed.  In either case, I’m always holding and gently squeezing and massaging his hand.  It seems to relax him.  As if a ninety year old man can relax any more.  But it makes him smile.

During every visit he has to tell me what delicacies they’ve served him since my last visit.  For the most part, the meals aren’t that bad.  But about three months ago he requested pig’s feet and sauerkraut.  His nurse, Louise, quite sternly informed him that he was on a strict diet and his request was not reasonable.  She didn’t smile.  She never does.  I believe she’s incapable of such an activity.

Me:  “C’mon, Louise, he’s ninety years old for Christ’s sake.  What, you don’t want to kill him?”

Dad:  “Solomon, don’t be a smartass.”

So once a month I smuggle some of the Forbidden Food into Dad and I join him in Sin.  I’ve learned to tolerate it for his sake.  It’s not easy slipping the odoriferous present past the guard shack commonly known as the Nurse’s Station.  One time Nurse Louise came into the room just as we’d finished.

Nurse Louise:  “What’s that god-awful smell?”

Dad:  “Gee, can’t a guy fart in his own room without being questioned about it?”

She huffed and stormed out of the room as I began to rub Dad’s hand.

I should also mention that there was a life-changing event that happened in June of 1971.  There was a party held in a farm field owned by the Bowman Family.  The Bowman’s didn’t know anything about it since they actually lived in Minnesota and they just owned the vacant land.  So most of the Seniors who just graduated from Moon Lake High School were borrowing the land to celebrate their accomplishment by consuming large quantities of beer and staring into a bonfire.

I was seated on the opposite side of the fire from Melanie Hero and Thor Magnus.  They were hugging, holding and kissing each other in quite a display of vomitous behavior.  I know, I think I made up that word.

At one point Thor got up, leaving Melanie seated on a log chatting with some of her friends.  Even I noticed that the Perfect Thor had been gone a long time.  I saw Melanie get up and I assumed she was going to search for her Beloved.  I followed along like a stalker to be honest.  I think Melanie and I saw Thor at the same time.  He was leaning against a tree, madly and frantically making out with the Busty Amy Morgan.

The normally pleasant and soft-spoken beautiful Melanie:  “Thor, you fucking bastard son-of-a-fucking asshole!”

And here I thought I couldn’t love Melanie Hero any more.  I stood and watched Sweet Melanie run up to Thor, reach up and pull his hair, then with perfect aim kick him squarely in the balls.  She then ran back to the fire, with me chasing her; Thor’s squeals of pain bringing Sweet Music to my ears.

I quickly sat down next to Melanie before anyone else had a chance to console her.  I wanted to put my arm around her or hug her or something but I was scared as Hell.  She had her face in her hands and she was crying.

Me:  “You know, Melanie, you and I have something in common.”

Red-Eyed Melanie:  “What’s that?”

Me:  “We both belong to the ‘I Kicked Thor Magnus in the Balls Club’.”

She then unexpectedly threw her arms around me, laughed and said, “Thank you, Solomon.”  She called me “Solomon”!  She placed a perfect little kiss on my undeserving cheek.  I’ve washed that cheek since then, but it took awhile for me to decide to wash away the Sweetness.

To make a long story short, we got married five years later.  Melanie is currently an anesthesiologist at a hospital in Madison which will remain unnamed.

I’m a principal at a small high school in the Madison area.  I don’t believe it either.  I figured I’d spent so much time inside a pricipal’s office I might as well become one.  Plus, I tried everything when I was young so nothing this generation does catches me off-guard.  I think it helps that I treat them they same way I wanted all  my principals to treat me.  It works out pretty well.

And I’ve even written a few books thanks to Mr. Heller’s English class.  They’re e-books and can be found on Amazon.  I decided to use a pseudonym, Charlie Fox.  Someone told me once that was a catchy name.  The books are The Lady with the Bow-Legged Dog, Reflecting on Murder, and Too Many Cooks:  A Cecil Livingston Whodunit.  In case you’re interested.  They only cost about 5 bucks.  Cheap.

Last week I was visiting Dad and he informed me that he’d lost his teeth.

Me:  “You what?”

Dad, speaking through a gummy mouth:  “I lost my God damn teeth!”

Then I noticed that his head was completely void of choppers.

Dad:  “I told Nurse Louise.”

Just then Nurse Louise entered the room, carrying a try of about nine sets of false teeth.

Nurse Louise:  “Are any of these yours, Mister Quick?”

Christ, I never knew they had a Special Tray for Found Teeth.  How many residents were walking around in that place trying to gnaw their food with nothing more than gums?

Nurse Louise:  “Do any of these look like yours, Mister Quick?”

I watched Dad carefully examine the platter of dentures.

Dad:  “I’m not sure.  Maybe these.”

Then he picked up a set and popped them in his mouth.  He moved his mouth around then said, “Nope. Not these,” and put them back on the tray.

I gotta say, I was pretty disgusted.  On the third try he found a set that-if they weren’t his-were at least acceptable.

“These’ll do,” he said.  Then he grinned.  His smile looked a little different but I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t want to ruin the moment and piss on his parade.  I mean, how wonderful that must have been for him to find his lost dentures.  That had to make him almost as happy as seeing me.

As Nurse Louise was about to leave the room I said, “Hey Nurse Louise, I was wondering; what do you do if someone loses their colostomy bag?”

“Simon, don’t be a-”

“I know Dad,” I said, squezzing his hand.  ” I know.”

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Eleven

Dear Mister Heller,

First I gotta say I’m sorry my paper was so long.  I guess I kinda got carried away.  However, if you’ll recall our assignment was “Your Biography has to be a minimum of ten pages long.  Include important events and people in your life thus far.”  I wrote it down.  You can see my notes if you want.  See, you never said there was a maximum number of pages, so please don’t give me a bad grade because I wrote a lot.

The thing is, I tried to include a lot of junk that I thought was important, like you wanted us to do.  I mean, to be honest, I could have included even more people like Gamma and Mrs. Bosco and Father Lucas and bunch of other people.  And I could have said a lot more about Harmony Dubois but I knew my paper was pretty long already.

See, Mister Heller, I really need a passing grade in English to graduate.  And I really want to graduate.  I think you really want me to graduate, too.  I mean, you don’t want me to repeat English again next year do you?  Just think how many more chapters I’d have to add to Solomon Quick for next year.

By the way, before I forget, I almost crapped my pants when you said in class the other day that you might have us read aloud portions of our autobiographies.  I mean, can you imagine what some of the other kids in class would have done if they heard me reading junk I’d written about them?  Maybe not Thor Magnus.  He might not get it.

But if Melanie Hero knew how I felt about her I think I’d have to kill myself or something worse.    I guess I’d run away or something.  I don’t know where I’d go to, though.  Someplace warm more than likely.

And if I don’t graduate Mister Billy Lee James would be upset that he has to deal with me again.  I know I’d rather not deal with him another year.  And believe me, you don’t want Mister Billy Lee James mad at you for failing me, Mister Heller.

Oh yeah, and the reason some portions of my paper, like near the end, have words crossed out is because the correcting ribbon in our typewriter was going bad.  So when I made a mistake it was hard to correct it so I just crossed out the misspelled words.  Please don’t hold that against me.  Arnold said, “Damn, Solomon, are you writing a book?”  He didn’t want to go out and buy another ribbon.  Like that would have killed him or something.  Even if it meant me not graduating.  I guess he wanted to save money for other junk.  That’s why I’m hand writing this note.

I tried to use all that stuff you told us to use while writing the paper.  You know, like similes and metaphors and  junk like that.  Well, not junk I guess.  You said we could use our imagination and I tried to use that.  Don’t dock me a grade because I have a goofy imagination, Mister Heller.  Blame Arnold and Marion.  They created me.  

Now I could go on and on about how you’re the best teacher at Moon Lake High but you’d think I’m kissing your ass or something.  But to be honest, Mister Heller, I’m doing better in English than I am in any other of my classes.  That’s why I need a really good grade in English to bring up my Grade Point Average.  If you don’t believe me just look at my grades in the other classes.  I mean, Christ, I’m barely getting a “D” in History.  You never know, maybe some day I’ll write a book or something thanks to you.

Arnold and Marion would be pretty disappointed if I didn’t graduate.  They might send me to Summer Camp again or something stupid like that.  

I guess I better stop begging now.  My pen is running out of ink anyway and I suppose the world would end if I asked Arnold to buy me a new one.  Okay, so please give me a passing grade on my autobiography, Mister Heller.

Please.

A cool student that really likes you,

Solomon Quick

 

  

 

SOLOMOM QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Ten

HARMONY DUBOIS

Some people seem to be different.  And they can’t help it.  It’s not their fault.  People just see them that way.  I think Harmony Dubois id is ike like that; she appears to be different but she’s really not.  And I think the only reason she’s considered different is because she’s living in Moon Lake.  If she were living someplace else maybe it wouldn’t be that way.  Some people are different in a bad way.  Not Harmony.  And just because they appear different it doesn’t mean they’re bad.  But there’s a lot of morons that don’t understand that.

I gotta be honest, if it weren’t for Melanie Hero, I might be inclind inclined to ask Harmony Dubois out.  She’s pretty, I think, and very smart.  She’s got brown eyes, too, like Melanie.  I guess I’m still holding out hope with Melanie.

A big difference though is that most od of the girls hang around with Melanie and not Harmony.  I mean, Harmony has friends, just not near as many as Melanie.  And, of course, Melanie is dating Thor Magnus and Harmony isn’t.

Harmony’s family came from somewhere down South, too, like Mister Billy Lee James.  She has an accent, too, but not quite like our Beloved Principal.  They live in a big old farmhouse not too far outsie outside of Moon Lake.  The front porch of the farmhouse looks kinda rickety like it might fall over or something.  Arnold said once, “If any of them fart on the porch it’ll fall over.”  That Arnold, he’s a real comedian.

Harmony rides the same bus I do.  I try to sit next to her sometimes but she’s usually sitting with Cathy Dinkle.  It’s nice of Cathy Dinkle to sit next to Harmony and be friends with her, but Jesus, I’d like more chances.  I maen mean, doesn’t Cathy Dinkle ever get sick?  She’s gotta be the healthiest kid in the history of Moon Lake High School.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really wish illness an on anybody, but Holy Crap.

The Dubois Family moved here just a year ago.  Harmony is a year behind me in school.  I guess she has two older brothers who stayed down South somewhere and it’s just Harmony and her mom and a little sister and a little brother.  They’re all pretty nice.  I don’t know why everybody picks on them.

I hear other girls talking about Harmony behind her back.  It pisses me off to be honest with you.  Ocassoin Occasianill Occasionly Sometimes I say something to the girls and they just tell me to shut up. Nice.

At least Harmony talks to me which is better than most of the girls.  I mean, Melanie talks to me, too, even after all the stuff I’ve done to her.  Accidentally of course.  Even though Melane still calls me Simon.  But that’s okay.

thonk think one reason people pick on the Dubois kids is because they’re kinda poor.  In fact, many times Harmony wears the same clothes to school two days in a row.  A lot of the girls make fun of her because of that.  It doesn’t bother me though.  She looks pretty good no matter what she’s wearing to tell you the truth.

I felt kinda bad because I guess I didn’t stick up for Harmony as much as I should hve have.  (Even though that just recently changed).  I mean, she even danced with me once at one of the goofy dances we had.  It was the “Spring into ’71 Dance”.  In April.  Like 1971 began in April.  Jesus, the New Year began four months earlier.  And the Moon Lake School System thinks we’re  idiots.

Anyway, I told Jimmy Stafford I wanted to dance with Harmony and he thought I was crazy.  He said, “Why do you want to dance with that loser for?”  Frankie Dillon was the one playing the music and he was putting on records of fast songs so I thought it was safe to ask Harmony to dance.  Just  my luck, Pamela Willison took over playing the music and being a girl she started to play slow, romantic, mushy songs just as Harmony and I got to the dance floor.   She smelled kinda nice, actually.  Not like soap like Marion; just nice.  Thank God she didn’t smell like Arnold.  I looked over at Stafford and he was laughing his ass off.  I didn’t care.  Harmony was holding me kinda close which made me sweat a little.  I was nervous as hell tobe to be honest with you.

Harmony Dubios is really nice, too.  I mean, besides agreeing to dance with me, she’s nice in other ways, also.  Like, I don’t think she’s ever been sent to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office.  It could be because she’s only been here a year.  Give her time.  Of course, I’ll never know if she gets in trouble next year, if I graduate.  Yeah, if I graduate.

Like I said before, Harmony is really smart.  In fact, in chemistry class all the Juniors take a test that all Juniors all over the country take.  I guess they want to see where the smart kids are and where the dumb ones are.  Well, Harmony scored the highest of anyone in the country on that chemistry test.  When I took that test last year I scored the lowest in the country.  That must have confused the shit out of the people that made us take the test; knowing they had a really smart kid in chemistry and a really dumb kid in chemistry at the same little school.

Arnold:  “Well, Solomon, it looks like your dreams of being a Rocket Scientist just went out the window.”

Sometimes I just can’t stop laughing at that hilarious Arnold.

The reason I got sent to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office the last time was because of Harmony Dubois.  Well, actually it was because of Gregg Locke, not Harmony.  It was a Friday and we just got off the bus to begin that wonderful last day of the week.  When Harmony and Cathy Dinkle got off the bus, Gregg Locke was standing there with a bunch od of his knucklehead friends.  They’re all football players and jocks and they think they’re pretty tough.  Well, they are, but that’s knda kinda besides the point.

Gregg Locke started saying stuff to Harmony as soon as she exited the bus.  He was telling her she was a loser and she smelled and she was ugly and all sorts of crap.  I was really getting pissed.  Finally he said something and I guess I just lost it.  And I thought of how that Jack-O guy stood up for that kid in camp years ago.

So I walked over to Locke and kicked him in teh the knee, his right knee.  I would have hit him in the face first, but you see Gregg Locke is over six feet tall.  And from where I stand he kinda looks eight feet tall to be honest with you.  So I had to kick him first.  When he bent down to grab his knee, well, that’s when I punched him in the face with my left fist.

It was pretty smart of me if I must say so myself; using my left first fist.  That way I wouldn’t hurt my good hand.  I guess I really didn’t think much of the consequences until a split second after I hit him.  It was kinda like in class as soon as I say something smartass and regret it immediately.  Yeah, it was kinda like that only this time I knew the punishment was going to be much, much worse than being sent to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office.  I was right.

I recall Gregg Locke swearing, saying stuff I can’t repeat here.  I remember his mouth was bloody.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have laughed when I saw his face because that’s kinda the last thing I remember.  I always asumd assumed Gregg Locke’s Pummeling Technique would be quite effective.  I never wanted to be on the recieving end of it, however.  And my situation didn’t end as successfully as Jack-O’s.

So a half hour later we were sitting in Mister Billy Lee James’ Office.  I was still able to scratch Patton’s head with my good right hand.  Looking over on the other end of the couch and seeing Gregg Locke’s swillen swollen mouth helped me deal with my pain.

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Do you know why y’all are here?”

This time his “y’all” actually made sense.

Me:  “We’re here because we got into a fight at the bus stop and I kicked the shit out of Locke.”

Locke started on a tirade of swear words that I knew would get him in even mre more trouble, especially knowing that he actually kicked the shit out of me.  I also knew he was dim-witted enough to start cursing in front of Mister Billy Lee James.

We each got detention for the rest of the year, which is only a few more weeks.  And for me it was worth it.  I was aware that people pick on Harmony and call her names, most of them are pretty bad, but I guess I never thought they were that bad until then.  All those things Locke was saying were pissing me off but not enough to want to hit him.

What got to me and really pushed me over the edge is when Gregg Locke called her a nigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Nine

MISTER BILLY LEE JAMES

Throughout my many long, boring, trying, difficult, crappy, uneventful years enrolled in the Moon Lake School System, I’ve gone through a few school principals.  I really don’t intend to drive them away or piss them off.

It just happens.  It’s not my fault.  Well, maybe partly.

The last principal to impart their wisdom onto me was Mister Billy Lee James.  Yeah, he likes to be called that.  He’s got more first names than the Dillon Family; and they have nine kids.  I’m mentioning him because of all the principals I’ve had to deal with, he was the hardest to figure out.

He’s from down South, like Alabama or Kentucky or someplace like that.  He talks with a southern accent and he has a crew cut hair style.  I guess he used to be a Drill Sergeant in the Army.  He’s large and has big broad shoulders.  He kinda scares the shit out of me if you want to know the truth.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t deter teachers from sentencing me to his office on a regular basis.  As soon as I say something smartass in class I think, “Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.”  Of course, by then it’s too late.

In fact, one of the teachers, Mrs. Morrison, just has to look and nod towards the door and I know I have to take the long excrutiating walk to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office.  Mrs. Morrison was nice enough to seat me right next to the door so my almost daily exit wouldn’t disrupt her class and to make my departure easier.  Very thoughtful of her, I must say.

Mister Billy Lee James’ Office is decorated in Early Torture Technique Style.  The walls are painted in Depression Gray.  He started out having me sit in a cold metal chair.  I was already used to that ploy thanks to Mrs. Lawson.  They must learn that in Principal Training Class or something.  Then he tried to make me uncomfortable by having a bright light behind him, shining in my eyes.  It was like I was in an NYPD Interrogation Room.  That didn’t work either.  I still visit him quite frequently.  He gave up and now there’s a nice comfy sofa for me.  I think he naps on the couch because the cushions are always dented in like he’s been snoozing there and the pillows are stained from the Butch Wax he uses on his hair.

It took me some time to get used to Mister Billy Lee James.  Like the first time I was sent to his office:

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Do you know why y’all are here?”

I looked around the room to see if there were more kids in there.  I saw no one else.

Me:  “No, Mister Billy Lee James, we don’t know why we’re all here.”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “We?”

Me:  “Yes.  We’re sorry for whatever we did.  We’re sure it was an accident.  We know it won’t happen again.”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Are y’all making fun of me?”

Me:  “No, we’re not.  None of us all are making fun of you.”

I was confused as Hell.  I have to admit, no other principal had tried that tactic on me before.  He really caught me off guard, I have to give him that.  I thought I may have met my match in Mister Billy Lee James.

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Drop down and give me twenty!”

Drop what down?  Surely not my pants.  This was getting way more challenging than I’d ever thought possible.  So I ignored that “drop down” part and reached into the left front pocket of my Lee Jeans and yanked out two crumpled up one dollar bills I was saving for lunch.

Me:  “Sorry, I don’t have twenty.  Only two.  I guess I can owe you the rest.  You may have to wait awhile though.  Like maybe a year.”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “What the Hell are you talkin’ about, Son?”

Good.  We were both perplexed.

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Push ups, Boy!  I want twenty push ups!”

Jesus, why didn’t he just say so?

So I did twenty push ups and kept my pants on.  I was able to hang on to my wrinkly-faced George Washington bills,too.  I thought that was it but he gave me a week’s worth of detention, mostly for making fun of him.

That was just the start of a relationship that would last for four long years.  Long for both of us.  There were times when I felt sorry for him; having to deal with me.  But those feelings never lasted very long.  I wonder if he ever felt sorry for me.  I doubt it.

I think we both have the same unspoken agenda for dealing with each other:  Try to confuse the Shit out of him.  Ever since that first encounter I’ve tied to prepare defensively.  He still catches me off guard and then I try to adjust.

I mean, studying and trying to get good enough grades to graduate is hard enough, even for a real intelligent guy like me. Having to try to outwit a scary principal just adds to my adolescent dilemas.

Oh, I almost forgot.  He brings his dog to school with him and he’s got a really big head.  The dog, not Mister Billy Lee James.  Well, Mister Billy Lee James does, too, but not as big as his dog’s head.  I think the dog is like a Mastiff or something.  He drools a lot.  The dog does.  Then he shakes his head and the spittle wraps around his nose.  It’s kind of gross if you want to know the truth.  I think it’s a scare tactic on Mister Billy Lee James’ part but I’m used to it.

Mister Billy Lee James puts a big spikey collar on the dog to give the impression his dog is mean and will bite any innocent kid that happens to stroll into his office.  His dog’s name is Patton after some War General.

To be honest, Patton did sort of scare the shit out of me the first time, but now I carry little pieces of hot dog in a plastic baggie in my pocket.  While I am meandering through the hallways to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office I open up the baggie so Patton can smell the meat.  When I sit down Patton starts whining and comes over to me and sniffs me and I reach down and pet him.  Sometimes Patton tries to hump my leg.  I want the dog to like me, just not that much.  Boy, he must really like hot dogs.

One time Mister Billy Lee James said, “Looks like Patton likes you.”  You could hear the disappointment in his voice.  I thought he was going to cry he was so crushed.  Patton just drooled.  All over my pants.

As I said, we like to try to confuse each other and catch the other one off guard.  It’s kind of a game, to be honest.  One time Miss Salzman sent me to the Principal’s Office.  I guess I was talking, being a wise guy, and disrupting the class.  According to her that is.  She teaches History and she had asked if we knew how Moon Lake got its name.  I raised my hand and you could tell she didn’t want to call on me.  Nobody else volunteered to answer the question and she kept avoiding eye contact with me.  I’m used to teachers doing that, though.  They think I’m going to say something smartass which I usually do, but sometimes I actually know the answer.  This was not one of those times.

I started waving my hand frantically.  Mary Ellen Monson yelled, “Miss Salzman, Solomon knows the answer!”

Mary Ellen Monson isn’t as sharp as Miss Salzman.  The latter knew better but she caved in.  “Yes, Solomon,” she said and rolled her eyes.  I’m used to that, too.

Me:  “The Indians only wore clothes that covered their fronts so their butts were hanging out mooning each other.”

Miss Salzman gave a sigh and I knew she was close to sending me out of the room but she didn’t.  Then she said, “No.  It’s called Moon Lake because from the air the lake looks like a half moon.”

Me:  “How did the Indians know that if they couldn’t fly?”

Miss Salzman:  “They just did.”

Karl Monson(Mary Ellen’s twin brother, even though they don’t look anything alike and it’s really easy to tell them apart):  “But how could they?  Do you think they could fly, Miss Salzman?”

Miss Salzman:  “No, they couldn’t fly.  They just–”

Terry Coffey(Nobody’s twin brother):  “Maybe it was aliens.  My Uncle Ray saw a UFO once–”

Miss Salzmnan:  “Okay, that’s enough!”

Johnny(whose last name I can never pronounce or spell):  “Why didn’t they call it Half Moon Lake?”

Other kids started asking more questions which confused her and got her nervous.  When Miss Salzman gets nervous she has a habit and that’s what ended up getting me sent to Mister Billy Lee James’ Office.

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Do you know why y’all are here?”

He always uses that tactic; getting you to tell him why you are there even though he probably knows damn well.  Kind of like Confession in front of Father Lucas.  He always wants you to confess right away, too.  Only with Father Lucas I don’t have to do push ups, just Hail Marys.  I guess I’d rather do twenty push ups than twenty Hail Marys to be honest with you.

So now I was in front of Mister Billy Lee James with a chance to confuse him.

“Well, it’s like this,” I said, scratching Patton behind his smelly ears.

Me, continuing:  “I was in Miss Salzman’s class.  You know, History.  I suppose you already know that she teaches History.  Well, she got a little flustered because we were all asking her questions.  I mean, that’s how we learn, right?”

Mister Billy Lee James just slowly nodded his head and I knew he was thinking, “Where in the Hell is this going?”  But he didn’t say anything so I kept blabbering.  I knew I was kind of getting to him.

Me:  “You may or may not know this, but Miss Salzman is an Eye Picker.  And the more upset she gets the more–”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “She’s a WHAT?”

Me:  “She’s an Eye Picker.”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “What’s the Hell’s an Eye Picker?”

Good, I got him to swear.

Me:  “Well, she picks at her left eye with the thumb and index finger of her left hand.  Like she’s trying to pick out eye boogers or something.  She keeps tugging on her eye.  Today she must have really been in a snit because she was furiously picking at her eye and pulling her fingers away and looking at them, expecting to find some kind of prize or something.  Like Eyeball Cracker Jack or something.”

By now Mister Billy Lee James was sitting back in his chair with his folded hands in front of his mouth.  I could see in his normally unforgiving eyes that he was baffled.  His eyes were sort of glazed over and he stared straight ahead like he was hypnotized or something.  So I kept going.

Me:  “Well, suddenly Good ‘Ol Miss Salzman pulled a stringy thing from her eyeball.  One end was between her fingers and the other was still attached to her eyeball.  She pulled it out about seven or eight inches away from her head.  It was like a thin yellow tightrope, kinda like something the Flying Wallendas would use to go across Niagra Falls.”

Mister Billy Lee James’ eyes got real big.

Me:  “Then she let go of it and it snapped back into her eyeball.  It was pretty gross if you want to know the truth, Mister Billy Lee James.  My Gamma for sure would have called it a Miracle.  So I looked over at Cora Lee Brantley and said, ‘Did you see that thing pop back into her head?’  Well, Cora Lee Brantley pukes quite easily and that did it for her. She made it to the garbage can bfore before she ralphed, I gotta give her that.  But now, every time Cora Lee Brantley vomits, I get blamed.”

Mister Billy Lee James:  “Okay, Son, that’s enough.”

Me:  “Fortunatley there weren’t any VIP’s in class.  Do you know what VIP’s are?  They’re people that puke when–”

Mister Billy Lee James, kinda yelling:  “I said that’s enough! You can leave now.”

I patted Patton on top of his grsy greasy head and stood up.  I didn’t want to appear to be in a hurry to leave even though, to be honest, I wanted to run out of there.  I made it out of his office and got almost to the end of the hallway before he yelled down the confining corridor, “Oh, Son!  Two weeks worth of Detention.  Starting tomorrow.”

Damn.  It almost wrked worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Eight

THOR MAGNUS

I hate Thor Magnus.

I think his family is related to some royalty from Norway.  Like kings or queens or whatever they have over there.  They’re rich and decided to send Thor to the United States to go to high school.  Why they chose Wisconsin, and more specifically, Moon Lake is beyond me.  Actually, I kind of have an idea why Thor ended up here.  I’ll get to that.

He started here in ninth grade when I was in the ninth grade; just in time to spoil my plans for Melanie Hero.

Of course, Thor is “perfect.”  He’s tall, about 6’3″ and  very athletic.  He’s got wavy blond hair past his ears and blue eyes.  He’s got muscles where muscles don’t even belong.  I think Fat is allergic to him.   Every girl in school is in love with him.  They say he’s gorgeous.  Actually, he kind of is.  I think even some of the boys are in love with him he’s so good-looking.

At first I tried walking next to him all the time since the girls go out of their way to see him, I figured one or two might actually look down and see me.  Well, that idea sucked.  You wouldn’t believe how many times I’d be walking next to Mister Wonderful and a group of girls would walk by, all smiling and giggling as they got closer.  They’d be so busy looking up at him they’d bump into me.

“Look out, Solomon!” they’d yell.  Gee, sorry to bother you while you’re drooling over Joe Cool.  Of course since Melanie is a girl she’s infatuated with Norway’s Dream Child.

And, naturally, Thor Magnus is perfect at every sport.  Christ, I think he’s probably perfect at croquet.

I hate him.

And Mister Quayle, the gym teacher and basketball coach, is in love with him.  Thor made the ‘A” team as a freshman.  Mister Warren, the football coach has a crush on him, too.  Just because Thor can throw the football farther than anyone ever has in the history of Moon Lake High School.  Big Deal.

Thor is staying with a family in Moon Lake, the Olsens.  I guess they put him there because the Olsens are Norwegian, too.  I imagine they sit around and talk Norwegian to each other or something.  The Olsens have two sons, one of them is Eric and he’s the same age as Thor.  Lucky guy.  All the girls are hanging around Eric hoping to get a look at Thor.

One day Marion said, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Me:  “Sidney Poitier?”

Marion:  “Of course not.”

Arnold:  “Really?  He’s not?”

Me:  “I didn’t even know that you knew Sidney Poitier.”

Marion:  “I don’t know him.”

Arnold:  “Then who invited him to dinner?  Surely not Gamma!”

Marion(a little flustered):  “Thor Magnum is coming to dinner!”

We had been at the dinner table, devouring Marion’s famous Meatloaf a la Bologna.  You can actually see the chunks of bologna floating amongst the real meat.

When she made the dramatic announcement I spit a mouthful of the Mixed Meat onto my plate and yelled, “What?!”

Marion: “Yes.  I spoke with Doris Olsen and we arranged that Thor Magnum will dine with us on Saturday.  She said Thor really likes fish.”

Me:  “Marion, we can’t have him for dinner.”

Arnold was attempting to say something but he was also trying to separate the bologna from the real meat in his mouth so he said, “Whimmph nunmph?”

Marion and Me:  “What?”

Arnold, after a dramatic swallow and a big gulp of whole milk from Edison’s Family Dairy:  “Why not?”

Me, trying to think fast which usually works but of all times for that to fail me:  “I think he’s got the mumps or measles or something.”

Marion:  “Doris didn’t mention that.  I think we’ll have fish sticks.”

Then I had an idea:  “I heard Thor really likes pig’s feet and sauerkraut.”

Marion:  “Doris said fish.”

Me:  “He told some kids at school that he’s getting tired of fish and would love some good ol’ pig’s feet.  He doesn’t want to hurt Mrs. Olsen’s feelings so he didn’t tell her.”

Marion:  “Oh, what a delightful young man.”

Me, trying not to puke(and not from the Meatloaf):  “Yeah, he’s a real Gem.”

I couldn’t wait to watch The Impeccable One trying to consume Marion’s Nasty Entree.

So two days later, our Family Unit was seated at the table with our guests, Gamma and Thor the Wonder Child.  I noticed that he hadn’t even made funny faces while smelling the rancid sauerkraut.  Then I found out why.

It looked like Thor, Gamma and Kenny were competing in the Moon Lake Pig’s Feet Eating Contest.  They were shoveling it in like cheetahs attacking a gazelle.

Marion:  “Thor, you can thank Solomon for suggesting pig’s feet.  I’m so glad you like it.”

Thor the Adorned One didn’t really say anything, he just looked up and grunted, not wanting Gamma or Kenny to overtake him.

There must have been a few dozen footless pigs hobbling around Moon Lake that night.

Hours later, after Arnold had left to drive Thor back to the Olsens and deliver Gamma back to the Broken Hip Home for the Everlasting Elderly, Marion said, “That Thor Magnum sure is a cute boy.”

I retired to my room.  Have you ever tried to kill yourself by burrying your face into a big pillow?  It doesn’t work all that well.

It’s common knowledge around school that I detest Mister Magnificent.  Everyone is asking me why I don’t like him.  I’d rather not tell them.  Even Captain Fantastic himself is aware of my contempt for him.  When he sees me walking in the hallway he purposely runs into me, knocking me into the lockers.

I think I got back at him during gym class, though.  One day  we were scheduled to play basketball.  Thor came into the gymnasium in his short shorts and tight t-shirt and I saw all the other boys staring at him.  It was like he just sashayed into a Gay Sauna.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against gay people.  One of my friends who shall remain nameless is gay.  I confided in him my adoration for Melanie Hero and he said if he were straight he’d probably be in love with her, too.  But since he’s not, he’s madly in love with Thor Magnus.

Gee, what a surprise.

So anyway, we were playing basketball and I was under the basket when Mike Whitman shot the ball.  I knew I could never get the rebound, but Thor was next to me and he jumped up so I jumped, too.  I stuck my foot out just as Prince Charming was coming down and I guess my foot just sort of kicked him in the crotch.  He went down and couldn’t really break his fall since both hands were holding his Family Jewels.  He was rolling on the floor in pain as I just stood there.  Mister Quayle ran over to him and held him in his arms like he was cradling Baby Jesus.

Mister Quayle:  “Quick, what did you do?”

Me:  “It was an accident.”

Mister Quayle was comforting The Adorable One and was actually stroking his perfect blond hair and cooing, “It’s ok.”

I wanted to say, “Gee, why don’t you kiss it and make it all better.” I knew damn well that would have definitley gotten me expelled so I just tried to put a sad look on my face and I said, “Is he going to be okay?” hoping for a negative answer.

Mister Quayle:  “Never mind, Quick! Start running laps, now!”

So I slowly ran around the gym.  All of the other kids in the gym were huddled around Thor, as if their Superstar had just fallen.  Mister Quayle gave me a look like I just shot his dog.

Fortunately the class was almost over so we got to retire to the locker room.  Mister Quayle helped Thor to his feet.  I think I saw tears in Thor’s eyes.

I have to say, it took me a long time to perfect that Ball-Breaking Move.  One day I was in our driveway at the basketball hoop Arnold had put up above our garage door.  I didn’t even have a basketball with me; I was just jumping up, practicing my leg kick move.  Arnold saw me and came out.

Arnold:  “Solomon, what in the Hell are you doing?”

Me:  “Just practicing my jumps.”

Arnold:  “So what’s with your leg sticking out like that?  Do you realize how that looks?  The neighbors probabaly think you’re going to try out for the ballet.  Stop it this instant.”

That was okay.  By the time Arnold stopped my behavior I’d had the move down pretty well.

But that plan may have backfired.  After the Nut Crushing Scheme every girl wanted to console the Darling Norwegian.  And I got tons of mean looks from the girls.

If Bad Luck were a burglar I’d be its favorite victim.

To be honest, Thor isn’t the brightest guy, however.  He’s got Dumb he hasn’t even used yet.  That fact doesn’t seem to resonate with the girls, though.  They still get red and giggly when they see him.

One day we were in Miss Monroe’s class.  Her first name is Marilyn.  Can you believe it? Her name is Marilyn Monroe.  Of course, we have to call her Miss Monroe.  That’s okay, she doesn’t look anything like the Real Marilyn Monroe.  In fact, she’s the antithesis(is that a word?)of the Beautiful Marilyn Monroe.  As often as I try to picture the Real Marilyn Monroe naked I try to imagine Our Marilyn Monroe with more clothes on.  Our Miss Monroe is as short as I am and rotund.  She wears black horned rimmed pointy glasses that look quite scary.  Her hair is thinning and she always smells like cigarette smoke.  I think maybe she hangs out in the Teacher’s Lounge and puffs away.  Her teeth-if you can call them that-are skinny and brown.  She teaches Science.

So we were in her class and Norway’s Boy Wonder raised his hand and asked:  “Does the sun rise in the East everywhere or just certain places?”

Me:  “It depends on which way you’re facing.  Now you are facing West, right?”

Genius Thor:  “Yeah.”

Me:  “And this morning the sun is in back of you, right?”

Brainiac Thor:  “Yeah.”

Me:  “So today it rose in the East.  Now tomorrow if you face South, the sun will rise in the North.”

Miss Monroe:  “Solomon, don’t confuse Thor.”

Me:  “It’s sort of hard not to.”

Miss Monroe:  “Be nice or you’ll be going to the Principal’s Office.”

Me:  “Well, he is a little slow.”

Miss Monroe:  “Solomon, tell Thor you’re sorry.”

Me:  “Thor, I’m sorry you’re slow.”

Marilyn Monroe trusted me to find the Principal’s Office on my own that day.

One day, in tenth grade, I was chatting with Eric Olsen.  He told me that Thor mentioned that his family tried to get him into schools in Wauwatosa and Green Bay.  They realized Thor wouldn’t even make any of the teams in those larger schools so they zeroed in on quaint little Moon Lake.  Whenever I would mention that fact to other kids they would say, “Oh, Solomon, you’re just jealous.  Leave Thor alone.”

I really do dislike Thor Magnus.

So now Thor is a Senior and since he invaded Moon Lake four years ago he’s made All-Conference in basketball, football, baseball and track all four years.  He and Melanie have been Homecoming King and Queen three years in a row.

Coach Quayle and Coach Warren had to beg some of the teachers to give Thor passing grades so he could stay on their teams.  I begged them to pass me, too but it didn’t do much good.  I’m barely passing.  I guess if I were Mister Universe like Thor it would be easy.  It would probably help if I kept my mouth shut during class I suppose………naaah.

But of course the worst part is, Melanie Hero is in love with him.  I’ve seen her get all goofy when he’s around.  Her face turns red and she giggles a lot, just like all the dopey girls.

In fact, Thor and Melanie are dating.  They’ve been dating since the Freshman Year.  She’s wearing his stupid class ring around her sexy neck.

Everyone says they’re the Perfect Couple and they’ll get married and have a bunch of beautiful children.  If Thor can figure out how to do that.

See, I knew there was a good reason I hate him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLOMON QUICK by Solomon Quick written by Charlie Fox Chapter Seven

MELANIE HERO

Melanie is a goddess.

Her family moved into the Moon Lake school district when she was in seventh grade.  It was also when I was in seventh grade.  My eyes were first blessed by her during the Seventh Grade Orientation Day in the school gymnasium.  I was walking up the bleachers with Jimmy Stafford and Phil Brink when I saw Melanie off to my left.  I kept gazing at her and tripped over one of the steps, causing me to fall into Stafford pushing him into a few more students and instigating quite a scene.  Well, I guess I got her attention.

The Heros own a popular Greek bakery in Moon Lake.  Actually, it’s the only bakery in Moon Lake, but that shouldn’t detract from its popularity.

Melanie is only slightly taller than me, which is delightful since most of the other girls in school are much taller.  I hate looking up their noses when talking to them.  Her hair is dark, dark brown; maybe even black and she has dark eyes, too.

Melanie has one older brother and one younger brother.  When the Hero Family came to town, Michael was a Sophmore and Matthew was in fifth grade.  Neither of them is as good-looking as Melanie, in my opinion.  Maybe some of the girls in Moon Lake think otherwise.

I was never afraid of Matthew.  Even though he’s bigger than me I think I can outrun him.  Michael is a different story.  He’s not only taller, older and bigger, I think he might be able to catch  me.  I think zig-zagging while I run helps.  It would be disasterous if he did catch me.  Michael is a boxer(not the dog breed, obviously).  He likes to box and knock people out.  Those particular people are probably not too thrilled about that.  I know I wouldn’t be and I sure don’t want to find out.  I’ve made it this far without losing consciousness and I’d like to keep that streak alive.  Michael’s been smacked in the head a few times, that’s why I think the zig-zagging works; it confuses him.

You may wonder why I give any thought at all to what Melanie Hero’s brothers might do do me.  If you read on, you’ll see.

I didn’t know if I was in love with Melanie then, but I always broke out in a cold sweat and had a difficult time walking, talking and breathing when I was around her.  If it wasn’t love, then she was carrying some nasty, communicable disease.  I did everything I could to get her to notice me; in a positive way, of course.  But everything I did just seemed to prove to her that I was a complete moron.

My first chance to actually talk to Melanie was at our Seventh Grade Halloween Dance.  I still tried to dress up like Gamma, but Marion put a stop to that for the sixth year in a row.  Then I wanted to put my wrinkly lunch bag over my head and go as Mrs. Lawson.  Marion halted that idea, also.  Boy, she sure knew how to put the “low” in Halloween.

So I went as Eddie Munster.  Like I really wanted to draw attention to my height poverty.

At the dance Melanie was dressed up like a hot Gypsy Woman.  She was wearing a long dress and had her hair down with a band around her forehead.  Her white puffy blouse was short and showed off her stomach.

She was sitting off to the the side of the gymnasium with a bunch of girls of much lesser importance and I was on the other side with the boys.  I was with Stafford and a few other guys.  Stafford kept encouraging me to ask Melanie to dance.  Finally I strolled over to where she was sitting.

Me:  “Excuse me, Melanie.  Would you like to dance?”

Several of the moronic girls giggled.  But Melanie said, “Sure.”  Not a very wordy response, but at least it was positive.

I about crapped my pants.

As she stood up, it was discovered by almost everyone at the dance that I had been standing on her dress.  Naturally, when she arose, her dress was pulled completely off.  There she was, standing in her pure white underwear.

She screamed along with just about every other female in the gymnasium.  A couple girls grabbed her dress and pulled it around her as they rushed off to the bathroom, cursing me the entire way.

As I got back to the comfortable side of the dance floor, Stafford said, “Nice one, Quick.  Give me five!” and held out his palm.

Me:  “It was an accident.”

Stafford:  “Who gives a shit.  Nice job!  Give me five!”

I didn’t give him five or ten or fifteen.

When the girls returned, Stafford said I should go ask her again.

Me:  “Are you insane?”

Melanie Hero was sure getting to know who I was.

Naturally, Melanie was a cheerleader for the Moon Lake Junior High School basketball team.  I made the team not because of my height, but because I lived up to my surname and I could steal the ball and pass really well.  Coach Tyler always said to me, “Quick, don’t ever shoot.  You’re lucky if you can even hit the floor.”  I guess that was supposed to be pretty funny.

During one game I tried to steal the ball and I knocked it away from this big guy from the Horicon team who had no business trying to dribble.  As the ball rolled towards the out-of-bounds area I was chasing after it.  I made a diving attempt to get it but I ended up rolling into the gaggle of Moon Lake Junior High cheerleaders lounging around on the sidelines.  Of course, I tumbled into Marion which-for a split second-for me was a good thing.  Until she yelled and started crying, holding her left arm.  It was later discovered by the experts at the Moon Lake Clinic that Marion had broken her arm.  Well, she didn’t break it, I did.

Two days later she returned to school and received a lot of attention with her left arm in a cast. Not that she didn’t warrant attention minus the injury, but she really got it then.  By the time I approached her to sign her cast there was just a tiny spot reserved for my signature.  I scribbled, “I’m sorry….Solomon.”

Then I mustered up the courage to actually speak to her.  “I’m sorry, Melanie.”

She looked at what I’d written and said, “Oh, that’s okay, Simon.”  Alright, so she couldn’t read very well, but she made up for it in every other way.  She still looked gorgeous.

Me:  “Well, at least it wasn’t your right hand.”

Lovely Marion:  “I’m left-handed.”

Me:  “Oh.”

Then I walked away.

A few weeks later we were in Mister Briggs’ biology class and we had to poke our fingers with little needles and rub our blood onto slides so we could look at it under a microscope.  Another waste of time if you ask me.  If you couldn’t tell it was blood without looking at it under a microscope, you have to be pretty dense.

Mister Briggs said if someone was too squeamish to prick themselves with the needle, they could ask someone to do it for them.

Sexy Melanie:  “Who wants to prick me?”

Me, soflty under my breath:  “Oh my God.”

Still Sexy Melanie:  “Who wants to prick me?”

I was really sweating as she approached me.  “Simon, will you prick me?”  Jimmy Stafford just stood there with his mouth open.

Beautiful Melanie:  “Simon, are you okay?  Your entire head is beet red.”

Me:  “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Hot Melanie:  “Can you prick me?”

Me:  “I sure can.”

She stuck out her right index finger and looked away as I gently grabbed her cute little digit.  I was actually touching Melanie Hero’s flesh.  I began to get dizzy.  I took the needle and jabbed it in.

Adorable Melanie:  “Oh, that didn’t hurt at all!”

Me:  “That’s because I missed and poked my thumb.”

My bloodletting talents were successful on my second attempt.  Maybe too successful.  Blood began rolling out of her index finger like an open fire hydrant.  Even I was amazed.  But poor Melanie Hero.  One look at her injury and her pretty eyes rolled back into her perfect face and she fell backwards like a dead tree.  Her gorgeous head bounced off the floor.

Little Eddie McNeely:  “Mister Briggs!  Solomon hurt Melanie!”

Even lying on there on the cold, dirty Biology Room floor with her shallow breathing she looked perfect.

Mister Briggs:  “Solomon, what did you do?”

Me:  “I pricked her.”

Mister Briggs:  “You did what?”

Me:  “I just poked her finger and she dropped.”

Little Eddie McNeely:  “He hurt her, Mister Briggs.”

The Moon Lake ambulance crew was becoming quite familiar with Melanie.  Not as familiar as I would  like them to be with Little Eddie McNeely.

It was the day after this gory incident that I had my first encounter with an enraged Michael Hero.  I was strolling past the Hero Greek Bakery in downtown Moon Lake, just minding my own business, thankful that Melanie had eventually regained consciousness.  Suddenly, Michael stormed out the door and grabbed me by the front of my shirt with his left hand.  He lifted me up a little so I was on my toes.  I found myself looking up into his nose.  I remember thinking that for a fifteen year old, Michael Hero had quite furry nostrils.  I wondered how much more hair he’d grow in there by the time he was an ancient sixty year old man.  He’d probably have a lot of trouble breathing.  I would have mentioned my observation to him, had he not had a Death Grip on my throat.

He waved his right fist in front of me which looked like a twenty-two pound ham.

Michael:  “What did you do to my sister!?”

Me:  “Ingh perkedth hhuur.”

It was becoming increasingly more difficult to speak with Michael squeezing my throat.

Michael:  “What?”

Me:  “Ingh perkedth hhurr.”

Just before all went dark,  Michael released me.  After several gasps for air I said, “I pricked her.”

As I reflect back to that moment, I realize that was perhaps not the most appropriate way to word it, given my perilous situation.

Michael:  “You WHAT!?”

Just them Emily Bomkamp walked by.  Emily was eighteen years old, quite attractive and very popular.  She won the Miss Moon Lake Beauty Pageant, she was the Portage County Miss Robin Redbreast Festival Queen, and was First Runner -Up in the Dewey Marsh Frog Calling Contest.  Like I said, she was very popular.  As she walked by she said, “Hello, Michael.”

As soon as Michael’s big head turned toward her he let go of me and  I ran. I zig-zagged all the way to Stanley’s Shur-Fine Grocery Store parking lot, where I knew Arnold and Marion were waiting for me.  I ran up to the car.

Arnold:  “Solomon, you didn’t have to run.”

Me, panting:  “Yes, I did.”

Marion:  “Why were you running so funny?  You were weaving all over the place.  Are you okay?  Oh, God, Arnold, what if he has a concussion?  Solomon, put your head between your knees, hurry!”

Arnold:  “I never taught you to run like that.  Don’t do it again.  It looks stupid.  What if someone we know saw you.  Quick, get in the car.”

Marion:  “Let’s drive him to the clinic and maybe they can scan his brain or something.”

Me:  “I’m fine!  Let’s just go home.”

Then I crawled into the backseat and saw Gamma squatting there with a big, lipsticky grin on her face.

Gamma:  “Give Gamma a kiss, Solomon.”

Me:  “I think I’m getting a cold, I better not.”

Marion:  “Arnold, he’s got a cold, let’s get him to the clinic.”

Gamma leaned towards me, her lips parted revealing lipstick stained teeth.  On one tooth was a green substance that looked like either parsley or spinach.  Gamma grabbed my head between her two old hands so I couldn’t move.  My head was in a vise.  I saw this bright red oval of lips and brownish teeth heading for me.  I closed my eyes as she planted a big, wet, slobbery, smooch right on my mouth.  I quickly rubbed my mouth and looked at my hand and saw the slimy green thing on my palm.

It was spinach. Definitely spinach.

Me:  “Okay, take me to the clinic.”

Yeah, that, they ignored.

Arnold:  “Marion, remind me to practice with Solomon on his running technique.”

That was just the beginning of my elusive behavior.

My infatuation with the ever-stunning Melanie Hero continued through junior high school with a few more minor glitches.

During a game of Dodge Ball I threw the ball hard at Jeffrey Larkin who ducked and the ball smacked Melanie in the eye, causing it to turn several shades of black and blue almost immediately.  The rapid color change was quite spectacular, actually.

I rolled over her leg with a toboggon, tipped her over in a canoe on Moon Lake,  sprained her ankle in a soccer game, spilled a large glass of orange soda in her lap in the cafeteria, dumped a glass of ice down the front of her shirt(don’t even ask how that happened)and caused a minor flooding problem at the Hero Bakery.  All accidentally, of course.

Other than that, things went quite well.

Let me tell you, if zig-zagging would have been an Olympic Event, the Gold would have been mine.  I was getting way too familiar with Michael Hero’s nose hairs chasing after me.

But in spite of those pesky setbacks, I was determined to finally ask Melanie out.  I was able to construct the courage throughout the summer before high school.  By the time ninth grade began I was ready to find out once and for all if Melanie would go out with me.

But then, as Luck would have it, Thor Magnus infected Moon Lake High School.