Supernatural phenomena normally steered pretty clear of Mr. Gardner's eighth grade social studies class.
Maybe it thought it could do more good on the dodgeball court, where some of us needed all the help we could get...
Maybe it saved its eye-poppers for the kids at the Catholic school down the street, so it could enjoy a really jazzy entrance...
Or more likely, it was just as face-hitting-the-desk-bored as we were, from learning about the American Revolution eight stinkin' years in a row.
Mr. Gardner himself, however, was a pretty cool guy. Each day, he'd let one of us out of class a couple of minutes early, if we could answer one of his trivia questions.
Now, this was extremely valuable tender for our young years. See, with two extra minutes of liberation, in the 80s, you could easily:
- Drink your weight's worth of lukewarm fountain water
- Whip someone in the butt with your Trapper Keeper notebook
- Tease your bangs straight up and top-coat them with AquaNet
- Swap three Garbage Pail trading cards for some Joe Bazooka gum
- Or any number of other critical social interactions
No other teacher had ever given opportunity for such unbridled freedom. So, yes, Mr. Gardner was a little unconventional. And one day, the man even extended to us the open hand of trust:
"I just have to take these papers to the office. I'm going to leave you all unattended. But you stay here quietly in your seats and read chapter 12 while I'm gone. And we'll discuss it when I get back."
Of course, the moment he left, the paper airplanes were flying. The boys hand-wrestled. The girls squealed over the latest 16 Magazine photo spread featuring An Abundance of Guys Named Cory. And general mayhem broke loose.
The classroom looked like it was directed by John Hughes.
But suddenly, the giggling, the shouting, the sound of running high-tops all stilled...
...As a deep ancient voice resonated from the very heavens... or, you know, the classroom PA system:
"This is God! You should be reading chapter 12! I command you!"
It was striking how much this Maker of All Creation... this Do-It-Yourself-in-Seven-Days World-Builder.... and Mr. Gardner doing a Charlton Heston impersonation sounded alike.
And that's when one boy— a kid we called "Fig" Newton, whose vast talents included making the perfect sound of the bell and convincing substitute teachers he was, in fact, a new student named Tyrone— decided this whole Chapter Twelve Commandment thing could be resolved with a single philosophical explanation:
The classroom exploded with laughter.
When Mr. Gardner returned, his Magnum P.I. mustache was turned up in a smirk.
Funny, we never did speak about the important spiritual moment we'd shared in his absence.
You'd think something monumental, like hearing the crackly voice of God, would have been worth filling the man in on...
If, you know, if we'd believed in that sort of thing.
Apologies to my fellow blog friends that I haven't gotten a chance to come check out your posts lately. It's not that I'm ignoring you or became a blog-snob or anything. I've been crushed with two work writing projects due at the very same time. It's a little like playing dueling banjos, only I'm the only banjo player for 50 miles.
I promise I'll be around to see what you're up to, soon, once I can get that banjo duet down to a manageable one player riff.