hands while you type.
I stood in the middle of the big log cabin lounge at Yellowstone Park. I was only six years old and not enjoying my family vacation. Dad decided that we needed three weeks of fresh air and natural beauty to be enjoyed from the back seat of our station wagon as we toured the national parks. I had a swath of freckles and could never sit still longer than five seconds. We had happened to run into our next-door neighbors from Indianapolis, the Fishers. They had three kids: two younger girls and an older boy named Jack. Cindy Fisher, the bubbly blond soccer Mom that was the matriarch of the family, was making small talk with her hyperactive six-year-old neighbor.
"Did you see a bear?" Cindy asked me.
I was holding a small, plastic bear that my father had just purchased in the hotel gift shop. It was a reward for not climbing into any of the mounted animal exhibits in the visitor center. I shuffled from side to side, occasionally licking the bear or making noises that I thought to be bear-like. I peered through the little plastic bear at Cindy. When I would push the bear up against my left eye, it looked as though it was chewing on her poofy, bobbed blond hair. I put the bear in my mouth and tried to say "roarrr" just to see how it would sound. It didn't sound like anything in particular that I could tell.
"Did you see a bear?" Cindy repeated the question, accustomed to the short attention span of a six- year-old boy.
"Polar bear," I said while hopping on my tiptoes across the room. Cindy smiled and laughed.
"You saw a polar bear in Yellowstone?" said Cindy.
"Yes. Polar Bear. Polar. Polar. Polar Bear," I replied, matching the rhythm of my dance steps to a song I had seen on a recent children’s show. I had seen a polar bear at the gift shop. It was in a book for children about bears. The book had each kind of bear, but the only one that I paid attention to was the polar bear. I remember because I decided to sniff the bear just to see what it smelled like. My father grabbed the book from me before he made another inadvertent purchase caused by my ongoing propensity to damage merchandise.
"Come on Tommy, how could you see a polar bear?" said Cindy.
I squatted on the ground and then jumped up. I pointed in the direction of the visitor center and repeated my last answer.
"Polar Bear. Bear. Bear. Bear. Polar Bear."
All this talk about Polar Bears had reminded me of a joke that one of my friends at school told. Justin spent most of the time with his name on the blackboard, just like me. Our teacher, Miss Jenkins, would write your name on the board for any number of elementary school infractions. When Justin and I found a discarded box of rotten tangerines and used these to attack a group of Barbie doll fanatics, our names went on the board. When Justin smacked Derrick Jameson in the nose to find out if it we could see the word “Bang!” like they do on the Batman Show, he got his name on the board.
Justin's joke was really good; an entire group of first graders were enamored with the comic styling of Justin and me, Tommy. This was Justin's joke:
"Why did the bear cross the road?”
The answer to this question is: “Because he had to poop."
This brought down the house. For an encore I added to the punch line, "And he had to fart.” We said this in the middle of the playground, well away from any adults. The joke spread like wildfire through all of the first graders and even through a few of the second graders and kindergarteners. I laughed out loud and covered my mouth when I thought of my classmates faces, doubled over and laughing.
I grabbed the back of Cindy's chair.
"Why did the bear cross the road?” I said coyly.
Cindy turned to the whole family, “Look, Tommy has a joke for everyone. Listen to Tommy.”
I had the attention of Cindy, her husband Bill Fisher, and their three children along with my parents, my brother and sister.
"Tell your joke again, honey. Everyone, listen."
My own mother knew me well enough to know the type of humor that kept my name permanently on Miss Jenkin’s blackboard. She moved forward to stop an oncoming disaster. My father smiled, ready for an adorable childhood moment, even reaching for the disposable camera in his fanny pack. He was not as familiar with my first grade sensibilities.
"Because he had to poop!" I said triumphantly. I squatted down to illustrate my story with a little skit, "and fart!" I said while making an appropriate noise by pressing my hands against my mouth. This joke was so undeniably funny that I just could not see how anyone would not enjoy it. A silence settled over the group. That scared me a little. Then all three of the Fisher kids started to laugh. They laughed slowly at first but then they kept laughing. They got louder and louder. In fact, they laughed even louder than any of the first graders in my class.
My father looked like he was full of tomato soup. His face was almost the same color. I thought that he would congratulate me any moment, proud that his son was such a talented comedian. Maybe he would want me to perform around the neighborhood or at his office. “Come on Tommy, just one more poop joke for my boss. I know that you have at least one more of your world class poop jokes.”
We had not been on the best of terms since the little league incident, I was trying to be on my best behavior in order to redeem myself with Dad. So far I had covered myself with glory throughout the first half of the annual family summer vacation. My hands stayed in my pants pockets whenever I felt an insurmountable desire to touch something that I knew was not supposed to. I needed to control myself after all the damage I had done to Dad’s pride at little league.
You see, I was not particularly interested in little league, but my father was. Baseball involved too much of something that I was simply awful at: standing still. You were supposed to stand still while the kid behind the plate swung, usually pointlessly, at the ball his father threw over the plate.
I had done well during the first game of the season. In the first inning the ball came rolling to my position in right field and I picked it up and threw it to the third base. This was fortunate because my concentration only lasted for two innings.
At the start of the second game, I jogged to my regular position in right field, still thinking about a LaserCats episode I had just seen. It was a really good episode and I smiled as I thought about it. A giant android that the evil Blotar had sent to earth was beating TigerLaser, the head of all five LaserCats. Tigerlaser has incredible tiger instincts and strength. Cheetah laser had Cheetah speed and lasers. Puma Laser could stay invisible. Lion laser had Lion instincts and smell. And Leopard Laser could jump over anything.
Tigerlaser called out the special command known only to him and all the viewers like me.
"Laser! Laser! LaserCats!"
The LaserCats combined into Catopolis LaserCat. The giant Lasercat android could never be beaten because it had the combination of all five LaserCat powers.
I had become very familiar with right field during the last few practices. It was full of dandelions. I joyously rubbed them into my skin and turned slightly yellow. This was my favorite thing about dandelions. At the top of the sixth inning, I looked over at my Mom who was holding the tray of brownies that she made for my team for after the game. I waved at Mom. Dad was sitting next to her yelling instructions.
“Straight ahead, boy, keep your eye on the ball. Hands on your knees!”
I followed a few of Dad’s orders. I squatted over with my hands on my knees just like Dad was doing. This, however, reminded me of a LaserCats episode where TigerLaser was playing baseball with the other LaserCats. I stared off into the Indiana summer sun as I thought of how wonderful it must be to have a secret identity like TigerLaser.
"Laser. Laser. LASERCATS!," I mumbled underneath my breath from left field.
I was commanding the LaserCats to battle. I was also not paying any attention to the baseball game. Dad awoke me from my fantasy by yelling very, very loudly. The ball was coming to me. The ball was coming to right field, and I was supposed to catch it. I was not so bad at catching the ball, but where was my glove? I looked curiously at the bare fingers of my left hand. TigerLaser always wore a helmet, and the glove fit snugly on top my head to form a perfect Lasercat helmet. I ran forward to grab the ball but without my glove. I saw my glove out of the corner of my eye, laying three feet behind me, and my heart stopped. The baseball was moving as through it had just been shot out of a cannon. It thumped me squarely in the back. Instead of recovering gracefully like I should have, I dropped to my knees. I tried hard to hold it together but the pain throbbed against my shoulder blade. My lower lip began to quiver. I felt my eyes watering up as I tried to fight it. I began to cry.
Mom was waiting for me when I got back to the dugout. I pulled my hat down around my eyes so no one would see my tears. Mom led me away by the hand. She pulled me against her and dried the few remaining tears. When she lifted up my shirt I had a big black and blue welt on my left shoulder blade. Later I looked at it in the mirror. I could see the faint outline of the baseball's stitching in my swollen red flesh. The pain was not as bad as Dad’s disappointment. All of Dad’s buddies from the insulation sales division were at the game, including Dad’s boss Jerry Rusele. Dad spent a lot of time trying to head off this sort of disaster. We went to the back yard after work every day so that Dad could throw the ball up in the air and I would run underneath to catch it. I think I disappointed Dad.
Luckily for me, I had been provided with an opportunity at Yellowstone Lodge to redeem myself. I was sure that Dad would appreciate that I more than made up for a lack of athletic ability with a wide comic repertoire. Maybe Yellowstone lodge would even give me my own night to do standup comedy and entertain the guests. I would call the night "Jokes about Poop”. I smiled when I thought about how proud my parents would be. Dad stood up abruptly and grabbed me by the arm.
I could tell by the way that he was pulling on my hand that he was not at all pleased. He opened the door of our light blue minivan and sat me down. He pressed his face up against mine. It was sheer terror. I could feel Dad’s pudgy belly beneath his Indiana University windbreaker against my knee and could hear the quick stabbing breaths he was taking. I often got in trouble, but Mom was usually the one that handled my reprimand. She talked a lot about something called “appropriate behavior” and “self-control.” Dad, however, was not inclined to such enlightened theories. He preferred an older model of child rearing, something more medieval in its approach.
"GET IT TOGETHER NOW! I don’t know what the hell you were thinking in there. Were you thinking at all? HEY, I’m talking to you Big Shot!” yelled Dad.
I turned my head, but Dad grabbed my chin and turned me toward the eye of the storm. After five minutes of yelling at me and calling me ‘Big Shot,’ he was breathing hard and slammed the sliding door of the minivan. He left me locked in the back seat of the minivan to collect myself and lick my numerous emotional wounds.
One of the advantages of my six-year-old Attention Deficit Disorder personality was that I could never keep my mind on anything longer than five minutes. I pulled the plastic bear from my pocket and sucked on the head to comfort myself. Soon I was off to sleep, dreaming about the LaserCats and drooling on the seat belt over my shoulder.
I managed to curtail a few of my impulsive behaviors but the effort was excruciating. I figured it was only a matter of time before the dam broke and I ended up back on my Dad’s bad side.
It had been a long summer for my parents. A few weeks after the big show at Yellowstone, the school year began. My teacher, Miss Jenkins, called my parents in for a conference three months into the year. She was concerned about my continued lack of concentration.
In the latest incident, I was caught free-basing Elmer’s glue in the back of the art room when I was supposed to be working on my snowman Christmas project. I started off with grandiose plans of building an award-winning snowman. It was just too tedious trying to cut those perfect little circles. As my mind began to wander I decided that it was more fun to just paste the papers together. After a few minutes I gazed across the room to see Justin looking curiously into the nozzle of the Elmer’s glue. He stuck out his tongue and tasted the glue. Several nearby children watched as Justin then proceeded to lick the front of the glue bottle. My teacher was in the hallway talking to her friend, the second grade teacher. Justin had the attention of a large group. He began licking bigger puddles of glue from the bottle. I could just not stay out of the fun. I put my hands in my pockets and closed my eyes. “Fight It!” I told myself, but it was too much. I was out of control and I could not stop myself.
“Look!” I yelled as I gleefully grabbed a giant bottle of glue and jammed it into my left nostril. I was rewarded for my disregard of social customs and sanitation with squeals of joy from the class. Little girls held their mouths, giggling and pointing. I needed to do something for an encore performance. I decided to squeeze the bottle. A big white string of glue dripped from my left nostril onto the table in front of me. The effect was perfect and almost the entire class burst into laughter. My nostril burned, but I was too excited by the success of my performance to care.
My freak show impressed everyone but Miss Jenkins, who caught the last of my act through the window in the door. She sent me out of the room and to the school nurse. She wanted to see if I had done any permanent damage with the Elmer’s now caked and cracked across my nose and lips. The real damage came when my mother received a phone call from Miss Jenkins requesting a conference with both parents. Dad burst into my room. I had been constructing a fort for the LaserCats out of legos. Dad lifted me off the floor by the back of my neck.
"All right Big Shot! I'm going to wait ‘til after I talk to Miss Jenkins before I whip your rear end. For your sake, you better straighten up and fly right at this after school meeting."
The parent teacher conference could not have been worse. The teacher held up Chong Kang's finished snowman. It consisted of three perfectly cut circles neatly accented with the cute button eyes and a carrot for a nose. It looked just like Frosty in the “Frosty the Snowman” song. Dad looked at the snowman. Exhibit B was my snowman. I cut a variety of random shapes in white, orange, and black. My snowman consisted of four circles instead of the traditional three. My circles were of what appeared to be random sizes and two actually looked more like squares or perhaps hexagons.
My father held my pathetically random collage and compared it to Chong's Mona Lisa of holiday art. As if the snowman was not evidence enough of my inadequacies, the teacher explained my unusual affinity for Elmer’s glue. Sitting next to mom and dad in the little blue plastic chairs felt horrible and wrong. I looked at them, wishing so badly that I could take it all back now. I wanted to hug them and tell them how sorry I was for everything I had done to disappoint them. Dad was solemnly nodding his head as Miss Jenkins continued to expand on the large list of charges against me: not sitting still, causing disruptions in class, disturbing other children, fighting on the playground, the list went on and on. We were all seated around a semicircular table made for tiny first graders. I will never know how Dad managed to get his huge ass into one of those tiny little chairs. I saw the plastic buckle under his immense frame and the coat tails of his tan suit reach down to the green-tiled floor. I was spending a lot of time looking at that floor. I traced the patterns cut into each tile under my feet. I was trying as hard as I possibly could to not pay attention to the discussion that was going on around me. Unfortunately, for once, it simply would not work.
On the way out I passed none other than Justin Stone, my first grade buddy and the only kid in school who was as talented at inappropriate behavior as I. Justin was standing beside a woman in a waitress uniform. His Mom must have just gotten off work because she forgot to take off her nametag, which said, "Welcome to Flakeys, my name is Charlene.” Justin looked like he had been doing some crying. We exchanged knowing glances, and our parents averted their gaze as we passed in the hallway.
When we got outside, I pulled on my Mom’s hand and whispered, "That’s my friend Justin.”
She looked down at me and said, "We know."
When we got back to our blue house with the trailer in the driveway on Cape Cod Lane, Dad turned around to look at me.
"All right Tom, I wanted to talk to you before your brother or sister gets a chance to interrupts us. I want you to meet your mother and me in the back bedroom in fifteen minutes. Just get your clothes changed and come on down. Do not even think about the LaserCats while you’re in your room. Do you understand?"
"Yes," I mumbled nodding my head.
They were both seated on their king-size waterbed covered with a mustard colored bedspread and pillows that Grandma embroidered with words like “family” and “love.”
Mom had a big stack of books sitting on her nightstand. On the covers of the books were pictures of happy families embracing each other under blue skies with white clouds, or standing together in church holding hands. I think Mom decided to get these books because she was so worried about me. I suspected that those books were all about appropriate behavior and that was where Mom found her new words. I only found out about these words when I had done something wrong. Mom told me that Miss Jenkins thought that I might grow up to be something called a ”juvenile delinquent.” I had no idea what the words meant but whenever Mom or Dad spoke them their voice changed to a tone that I recognized. It was the same tone Mom used when she talked about Aunt Nancy’s live-in boyfriend. It was the tone that Dad reserved for Purdue fans and Democrats. I certainly did not want to grow up and become a Democrat or a Purdue fan, and a juvenile delinquent sounded about a thousand times worse.
Turns out that juvenile delinquents are people like me who don't know anything about appropriate behavior. One day you get an incredible urge to stuff Elmer’s glue up your nose and next thing you know, you’re doing five to ten for robbing a gas station. It takes a few years before the gas station robbing starts so, luckily for me, I still had some time to quit being a juvenile delinquent.
My parents pointed out that it was not their fault. They raised me right with Jesus’ love and plenty of good food. It was I who did not appreciate their effort. They pointed out that my brother and sister were doing quite well. Jackie was two years older than me. My pigtailed, jump-roping nemesis was at the top of her third-grade class, liked to read, and even managed to win lots of ribbons at swim team. Jackie kept my parents’ expectations high. Robert, however, was only two years old. How did they know he was such a genius? His great passion in life was putting things in that black hole that he called a mouth before my Mom could jerk his hand away. I could at least find the toilet while Robert had yet to show much consistency with this.
Mom and Dad outlined a few things that, according to them, "were going to change around here.” The LaserCats were banned from my parent’s house until I got some decent grades; no LaserCats television, Lasercat Action Figures or Lasercat popsicles. Even my favorite Lasercat underwear, the ones that I wore when I needed to run extra fast or perform amazing feats of strength were cruelly confiscated.
But LaserCats…" I stammered. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. Life without the LaserCats was not a life worth living as far as I was concerned.
"Please. Pleeeeeeease. I need to watch LaserCats. It’s important." Dad's face was beginning to turn red again and his eyes were widening. A small slap on my bottom, and I jerked to attention.
He placed a small pink card with a grid on it in front of me. Miss Jenkins was going to give me good and bad marks for my new appropriate behavior on the pink card. I had to bring this card home at the end of the week so that my Dad could sign it. If my effort fell below a certain level, my punishment would be swift and severe at the hands of my father.
Finally, My parents decided that Justin Stone and I would not be seeing so much of each other. I found out that Justin, my six-year-old best buddy, was actually something called a "disruptive influence”. If I had known that he was so insidious and diabolical I am sure I would have been more careful around him. It turns out that it ran in Justin's family because my parents didn’t have anything better to say about his mom, Charlene. Miss Jenkins did not want to see us together, even on the playground. A violation of these rules meant that a bad mark would be placed on my pink card, and I would be forced to deal with my father’s terrible punishments.
I sat in my room that night thinking. I practiced putting my hands in my pockets and standing still. Every time I would forget and start pulling my hands out of my pockets, I would mentally scold myself and jam them back down as deep as they would go until I almost pulled my shorts down.
On Monday morning I walked up to Miss Jenkins desk with my pink card and a renewed conviction. I told Miss Jenkins that my life of crime was now behind me. I was going to walk the straight and narrow with my newfound respect for appropriate behavior and loathing of disruptive influences. Miss Jenkins nodded her head and said that she really hoped that I would manage to live up to my lofty goals.
That first day was one of the absolute worst of my entire elementary school career. Five minutes did not go by without me jamming my hands down in my pockets and counting to ten. My demons kept calling me back to the dark side, “Tommy, don't read that stupid book about the puppy and the tennis shoe. Wouldn't it be more fun to stick it down your pants and hop around the room?” “Tommy, what would it be like if you tried to stick your head inside the desk? It may be the most fun and you will never know because of that stupid, stupid, appropriate behavior."
I needed recess. It would be the only chance that I had all day to actually move my body. It seemed like years went by, but finally the class was dismissed. I ran in circles as soon as I reached the green grass of the playground. I grabbed a stick off the ground and immediately became TigerLaser again, screaming at the top of my lungs and leveling imagined laser bursts at my surrounding classmates. I was not even paying attention as I ran straight into Justin Stone, who had his face buried in the grass and was pretending to be a grazing cow. I fell over Justin and we both stopped for a moment to look at each other.
"I’m not supposed to play with you," I told Justin.
"You smell like skunk poop, and you read like a dummy!" I replied. This was all true as Justin stumbled over even the simplest words in the Apple School House reader. I could tell by the look on Justin’s face that he was humiliated and ashamed. I wished that I hadn’t said those words as soon as they left my lips.
Justin grabbed me and I whacked him in the nose. I then had to run off because I did not want to screw up the marks on my pink card. When we lined up to go inside from recess for our Social Studies class, I saw Justin at the back of the line. His nose was a little red and his eyes were puffy as he wiped a tear away. The rest of the week was very lonely for both of us.
I did not have many friends in the first grade outside Justin. The other students were too docile for my tastes or they were shy about being associated with one of the “pink card kids.” There were now three “pink carders” in the class: me, Justin, and Monica, a black girl with braids sticking out of her head in every direction and each braid ended in a big, colored plastic ball. Monica was not really a disruptive influence in the same way that Justin and I were. Monica just loved to sing. She sang on the playground and on the way to school. She had a very pretty voice and a wide repertoire of popular songs. She knew all the songs from Sesame Street, word for word and most of the other children’s shows. She even sang songs from Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, one of her mom’s favorites. She could not stand silence, so she was always humming a song or singing softly until Miss Jenkins added a star beside her name on the pink card.
Us “pink carders” became a separate social class, the untouchables of playgrounds and cafeterias. No one wanted to sit by any of us at lunch. When it was time to choose partners in gym class, Mr. Lichleiter always had to assign us a partner because others did not want to be associated with us. When I got in an argument with Sandy Wilson over who could use the last pair of scissors she told me that she should use them because Miss Jenkins would give me a mark on the pink card if I did not let her. This really made me angry. I was about to start hurling insults at her, but I restrained myself. I would save my "poop head" comments for the playground.
In eight weeks I had managed to keep my pink card fairly free of bad marks. Dad and Mom were pleased, and Dad only yelled at me once. Mom worried because I was spending more time in my room than usual. Both parents were happy with the steady improvement in my grades, but I was growing lonely under the weight of too much appropriate behavior. I went from one of the most popular kids in the class to a social pariah complete with the pink card as certification of my inadequacies. I don't think that Justin was doing much better; his good-natured joking had recently taken an ominous twist.
He enjoyed his class clown status but instead of cracking jokes he was now actively challenging Miss Jenkins’ authority. The pink card did not seem to bother Justin one bit. Justin's pink card was so full of marks and comments that it hardly looked as though it had room for any more. Justin treated being a disruptive influence like an Olympic sport, and I'm sure he would have won a gold medal if it were one.
During Miss Jenkins’ history lesson about our first president, George Washington, Justin sat in the back making funny faces at Miss Jenkins every time she had her back turned. Finally, Sandy Wilson, the queen of all tattletales, raised her hand to rat out poor Justin. I saw Justin glaring at her as Miss Jenkins grabbed him by the hand and took him out into the hallway. Justin sat in the hallway while we learned about George Washington chopping trees and not wanting to give his money to the King of England. Justin stared in the long, rectangular window of the classroom door while we listened to Miss Jenkins.
I felt sorry for Justin. I had spent some time staring in that same window and I never liked the quiet shame of being alone in the hallway. When I bothered to glance over at Justin again he had his nose pressed up against the window. He looked just like a pig with his nose pressed in like that. My classmates were starting to notice the show that Justin was putting on. I have to give Justin credit; he was a born showman. He opened his mouth and pressed his lips against the window while puffing his cheeks in and out.
Justin had been spending as much time in the hallway as he had in class. I think that Miss Jenkins just did not know what to do with him. More and more of the class began watching Justin and forgetting about our founding father George Washington, who was now using a boat to cross Delaware. Miss Jenkins had to say something. She could see Justin as well as anybody in the class. I could not figure out why she did not say anything or yell at Justin. Justin continued his act for ten minutes. He licked the window, put boogers on the glass, and pretended like a hand was pulling him down and still not a word from Miss Jenkins. Her voice became a little louder, and her movements more rigid, but she did nothing about Justin.
Finally, she stopped what she was doing and told the class that she would not stop Justin's behavior anymore. Instead, she was going to punish the first person in the class that looked at Justin. If she could not kill the comedian she was going to make sure he did not have an audience. The class stared straight ahead while Justin peered in the window confounded that his jokes were not working. He tried even harder. He put his finger in his nose. He hopped up and down jerking his head back and forth. Not a single word was said and no one turned to look at him. He tried everything, but nothing seemed to captivate his audience. I thought that Miss Jenkins had finally gotten the best of Justin. Eventually, Justin could not even be seen in the window. I thought that Justin was probably just tired and bored in the hallway. He probably sat down on the floor to have a rest after his extensive floorshow.
Five minutes past and still there was still no activity from Justin. I could see the corner of his shoulder as he leaned his back against the big oak door with the window in it. Miss Jenkins also seemed more relaxed. She spoke quietly and even joked with the rest of the class a little. She seemed to be a little happier than usual.
When I heard giggles and shuffling noises from the back of the class I knew something had happened. The giggles built to outright laughter and then to hysterics. Everyone ignored Miss Jenkin’s order and turned to the window. I did not see Justin's face -- what I did see were two glowing white butt cheeks pressed up against the window. The cheeks were shaking back and forth and I saw Justin's upside down smile grinning backwards between his open legs. Miss Jenkins emitted a bonafide LaserCats war cry. She didn't even bother walking to the hallway; she was off at a full sprint.
I sat in my seat amazed at Justin's audacity. What he had done was unspeakable by first grade standards. I had never seen anyone that would openly challenge the authority of a teacher with complete disregard for the consequences. Everyone laughed but it was sort of a nervous laugh as they all imagined the horrific tortures that Justin would soon experience. I had heard of kids getting spanked, but I had never known anyone who had done something like Justin. I figured that the Principal, Mr. Peterson, would have no other choice but to shoot Justin. I felt bad that I did not have a chance to tell him I was sorry for hitting him in the nose before he faced his gallows.
I don't know exactly what happened to Justin. I did not see him in class for the next three days and assumed the worst. I looked around the playground to see if I could find a shallow unmarked grave that I was sure would contain Justin's bullet-ridden body. I wanted to say goodbye to Justin and tell him how sorry I was for hitting him in the nose. When I walked by Mr. Peterson's office on the third day, I saw Justin sitting at a small desk in the office writing on a big yellow piece of paper. I was so happy. I waved like a maniac at Justin. I didn't care what happened. Justin smiled and stuck out his tongue. Justin continued his ongoing battle with Miss Jenkins for the rest of the year and managed to get a record number of pink card comments. We still could not hang out together even on the rare occasion that Justin was allowed to go to recess.
After a miserable six months of the pink cards, the school year finally ended. I could not have been happier since school had become unbearable with the advent of those accursed pink cards. During the summer my Mom sent me to Jay Cliner Summer Day Camp. The camp had all kinds of summer activities like swimming, making things with clay, scary stories, eating stuff you put on a stick over a fire, and games like kick ball.
Little did my parents know that Justin's mom decided to send him to the same day camp. We stayed away from each other for the first few days, suspiciously exchanging glances as we stood in line for the rope swing. Neither of us knew anyone else at the camp so eventually we were drawn to the same lunch table by the fifth day.
I sat down next to Justin. He looked at me warily, and I looked down at my food.
"Hey you Poop Head,” said Justin suddenly. I started laughing and flipped a pea from my lunch down his shirt. His body jiggled back and forth as he tried to remove the pea before it got as far south as his Batman underwear. Fifteen minutes and twenty-two peas later we were back to being Justin and Tommy, best buddies. We had a great summer, splashing in the water, attacking everyone in sight with giant squirt guns, and making farting noises during movie night. I may have been well on my way to becoming a juvenile delinquent but I did not care and neither did the disruptive influence seated beside me.