Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that you could not pull something back out of the air and have a second chance at doing the right thing? The ache of knowing you have screwed up and you pray so hard in that moment that maybe no one will know it happened, but it does and you are the most outraged one by its occurrence.

Mr. Hallcocks was not a pretty man, and most people thought of him as being one of the stooped hairy men on the evolutionary chart, two or three back from modern man. His head seemed to be just a skull with the skin drawn very tightly over it, and you were afraid his chin would soon poke a hole through it.

Beyond this, he was a very nice man – a quiet man that always dressed in a suit and nodded his bony head at everyone he passed in the hallway. His specialty was English and best I remember he was good at what he did.

I sat in the back of the classroom with two of my friends, Barry and James, both, the “Fonzie” or “Danny Zuko” characters from my high school days. Each had the classic black hair combed back into a “ducktail.” They did not wear leather jackets, only because none of us was from families that could afford them, although dark shirts and jeans were our usual attire.

Now “Mr. Hallpussy,” as us tough guys preferred to refer to him, had a propensity to brag a little about his exploits in the military. If you played the timing just right, and asked a military question about ten minutes before the bell rang, he would often times get sidetracked into telling one of his yarns and forget to make assignments.

Barry played the Army card near the end of one class and Hallcocks began a story. He also liked to illustrate on the board as he talked and turned to diagram a maneuver, the field of play, or something, drawing a circle on the blackboard.

James nudged me and handed me an eraser he had gotten off the blackboard rail in the rear of the classroom. I took it and looked puzzled. James motioned toward the front of the class to where the “war story” was getting into full swing. I still did not understand what he wanted me to do. He then made a throwing motion.

James and Barry both looked at me and looked toward the front. Everyone was naturally focused on Mr. Hallcocks' story, and the thought passed through my brain that it was harmless and no one would ever know who it was.

I really did not think about it much further than that. I just looked at James and Barry and felt the pressure to follow through. What the heck?

Mr. Hallcocks would occasionally turn toward the class and then look back up at the board. Each time he turned away, James and Barry would whisper, “Go on…do it!

I decided that I would throw the eraser, hit the board, and then look nonchalant. Surely, he will not think it was I and blame someone else. He turned and I threw the eraser!

Somehow, the eraser seemed to pick up momentum as it traveled the fifteen yards to the front and my heart sank into my stomach. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself, “It is going straight at the back of his Neanderthal skull!"

I do not remember ever seeing anything travel as fast in slow motion as that eraser did that day. “Please God! Let it miss, please!

In a split second God did intervene – the chalk broke as he drew; he bent over to pick it up off the floor, and…POW! In a cloud of white chalk dust the eraser hit the board exactly where his little bony head had been a split second earlier!

In the second it took for Hallcocks to stand up and whirl around, I had thanked God for not letting me kill him, and then recoiled into an “I didn’t do it!” pose.

It was then and only then, that I realized that James, Barry, and I was the only three students sitting in the back of the room, and were the only people in the room who could have thrown the eraser.

I tried looking the most innocent, all the while thanking God for saving Hallpussy’s life! But then, the prayer changed to “Oh please don’t let him find out it was me!

Luckily, no one in the front of the room, who might have been more prone to “rat us out,” saw anything, but you could tell they had their suspicions. Hallcocks had the same suspicions and immediately asked, “Which one you guys threw that?

Long story short, neither of us said a word, except, “What?

I do not, for the life of me, remember how it all turned out, only remember him saying, “We’ll stay right here until someone tells me who did it!

I do not remember a “paddling,” but it seems to me since he could not decide between us, that he punished us all in some way…probably some writing drill like “I will not throw things a Hallpussy’s Neanderthal head ever again!”

The things we do trying to fit in with a tougher gang!


Zep said...

"The things we do trying to fit in with a tougher gang!" Yep, that's what made me start smoking. I still quit it every day...

GoingLikeSixty said...

Heh. Tougher gangs: the eraser throwers and smokers. You hoods!
I never got past spit balls and chewing gum in class - well sometimes I did. We did some pretty rotten/cool things to our blind english teacher.

Shrink wrapped scream said...

Oh, Mushy, keep 'em coming, bonny lad.. you have the unerring knack of the true story-teller - and we hang on every word. Beautiful story, all the more so for it's authenticity.

(AND it's reminded me of one of the worst, embarrassingly shameful events from my own school-days..)

Great post, as ever.

Suldog said...

Everything you write reminds me of something from my own youth.

I got wrangled into shoplifting by the older guys. I had never stolen anything in my life at the time - I was 9 or 10. I was sweating and I had to be suspicious looking, but I got away with it. I felt bad about it for weeks afterward, even after I went to confession.

The guys had told me to steal anything, just to prove I was "a man". What a load. Anyway, you know what I stole?

A box of rubber bands. God, what a stupid thing.

Fathairybastard said...

What is it about being bad that feels so good, at that age? I never threw anything at a teacher, but I did have a period,, freshman year, when I ran with a group that stole and vandalized stuff. Man, that stuff was fun, but stupid as hell. I'd beat that kids ass if I caught him (me) doin' that stuff today.

Les Becker said...

When I was in high school a "friend" of mine once threw a stale cookie from my lunch the length of the cafeteria, at the back of the vice-principal's head. He went down.

BRUNO said...

And like good ol' Mushy himself says---"You just can't make shit like this up!" REMEMBER it, yes! Make it up---NO WAY!!! (Besides, it's got the VOLS notary-stamp of approval on it---just check the sidebar!)