I sat down in physics class two days before Thanksgiving and went through this trail of amazingly satisfying thoughts. First, it was my last physics class before a four-day holiday. Second, the view out the window almost made the class worth having. There's something about old, tall buildings and taller, new buildings, and cabs, and horns, and traffic rushing along JFK Boulevard that is almost as good as television. After Thanksgiving, Christmas lights and store windows would be a decent enough distraction to keep physics boredom from killing me.
Which brought me to my final satisfying thought: I considered it my solemn duty to amuse my friends and fellow humans in the meantime, and some fun with physics was on its way.
People were groaning because Mr. Maddox had come in with his laptop, which meant a Maddox superdeluxe-o PowerPoint presentation (super in his opinion only). I had "borrowed" a copy of his file to make it less sleep worthy, and I now was doing my straight-face relaxation exercises. All my friends say I have some genius for disrupting classes, but that's not really true-there's just one major trick involved. It is majorly important to keep a completely straight face.
Mr. Maddox lowered the lights, and up on the big-screen TV we saw, MR. MADDOX'S SUPERDELUXE-O PHYSICS IN MOTION, FEATURING...
People were yawning. I yawned, looked at Harley Ehrlich, and winked.
She did a double take, having seen the wink. Then she groaned and whispered, "Are we going to have pea soup dripping from the ceiling again? If so, I don't know how you expect him to see it in the dark."
I kept my bored face. She cracked up. She said once that the more bored I look, the better it is.
FEATURING...SISTER AMOEBULAS...THE SCIENTIFIC NUN.
And there beside Mr. Maddox's superdeluxe-o lettering was his little animated nun icon, which he had fallen in love with back in September. She zipped across all his slides, pointing at this and that with superdeluxe-o sound effects. We'd quit wondering back in September if the superdeluxe-o sound effects would have Sister Amoebulas quacking like a duck or breaking glass or honking like a car horn.
Mr. Maddox clicked to the first screen, which was supposed to explain to us the difference between the guts of a proton and the guts of an electron. Harley sat forward slowly, staring. She had noticed, though I'm not sure anyone else had yet. This nun icon was just slightly different than Sister Amoebulas. A little taller and thinner.
"You touched his nun?" Harley turned to me. "In a Catholic school? I'd have left the nun alone and had my fun with some other graphic."
But she didn't understand the whole story. The night before I had seen up on farts.com this little nun character that looked alarmingly like Sister Amoebulas, only with a whole new and different set of sound effects. I was a victim of circumstance.
"They call her Sister Mary Flatulence," I whispered. "She's...a rip?"
Then this little cartoon nun's habit blew out in the back, and a spark cracked, and she broke this way-nasty-sounding wind. Mr. Maddox froze, and I think everyone else did, too, except Harley, who murmured, "Touching a man's software. That's got to be worth a couple of Saturday detentions."
It took most everybody a couple of more sound effects before they believed they were seeing a nun run all around the energy equations, her habit billowing backward to the sounds of yesterday's Fart of the Day.
Harley turned to me, shaking her head. "What'd you do, steal his laptop?"
"Just copied the file onto a disk. Do I look like a hood?"
Mr. Maddox was not being very smart. He kept fast-forwarding through the screens, hoping this edit job would end, but he was just giving the class more and better effects. On the sixth slide, the nun was twirling, dancing on top of a molecule, bowing to one side. Pooooh...She bowed to the other side, and a fatal car accident resounded instead of a fart.
"All right. Mr. Barrett, do you have my real program, please?"
People were laughing more at me, I think, than at Sister Mary Flatulence, because they could never believe I could look so totally clueless. I didn't think he'd point the first finger at me. We had a couple of big-time comedians in the class who were better computer whizzes.
I sat up, coming out of my half sleep. "Wasn't me."
He flipped on the lights, and I blinked sleepily, casting confused glances around at the Cheshire cats having fits up the aisle. He had turned down the volume, but had failed to stop running slides. I watched the nun dancing all over the top of Mr. Maddox's lightning bolt, her dress billowing with what now amounted to SBDs.
"I think it was you, Mr. Barrett."
I shook my head, tiredly. "It wasn't me. I don't think that's funny." I looked at the nun's billowing outfit with stunned awe. "I don't think that's at all funny. I'm a mature person who was raised better."
I watched people cracking up in that desk-pounding way, and it was going over the top. The two cheerleaders in the class were away at some competition, and the queen of the bitch patrol, Grey Shailey, had gone to Maine because her grandmother was dying. That left no one to groan and cast me disgusted glances. The laughter was ripping with nothing to cut it.
"Mr. Barrett, by virtue of the fact that you are the only person not laughing, I would say your guilt is apparent. Between today and yesterday, I've lost about a half hour of teaching, thanks to your comedy shows." And then, he was waving the orange hall pass at me, orange meaning proceed to the gestapo's office, do not pass go.
I had forgotten the pea soup thing was just yesterday. Seemed like a hundred years ago. Clever class pranks are a necessity, in my heart, because most people got tired of doing them after, like, sophomore year. We were seniors, in a barren wasteland of yawns, which my big brother said would change again in college. A couple of his dormies at Penn reprogrammed all the phones in the dean's office so the Three Stooges answered the voice mail. I just couldn't wait to graduate to college, where immaturity reigned supreme.
The class was all moaning, "Come on, let it roll!" Mr. Maddox's ears were red, and I could see hurt in his eyes. I didn't think most people could see hurt in a teacher, but I was like that. I could read eyes like most people could read the title on a book jacket. I was seeing maybe a couple hours' work in this presentation when he could have been watching Monday Night Football.
I moved over to his laptop and started pushing buttons. "Mr. Maddox, put yourself in my shoes. Some of your less apt friends send you up to this...this really rude Web site. And you see a nun who looks so much like dear, sweet Sister Amoebulas. I'm sorry, I just lost all of my self-control."
I had restored his program off the hard drive while blathering. Then I kept scrunching my face in a way that said, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I think most people hate to say "I'm sorry." But it is a secret weapon, because teachers don't expect it, and if they look completely mean next to someone who is being totally apologetic, people will think they are jerks.
Sometimes it works, and I needed it to, because of how they stack up things to have a domino effect in Catholic school. My brain started to follow the trail of dominoes, and I wished I would think harder before I pulled stuff. This orange hall pass would mean my third Saturday, which would mean my third missed soccer game, which would bench me for my final season. Three Saturdays also meant Emmett or Aunt Mel would have to show up here and have a charming conversation with the principal about how I don't apply myself. That meant both my car keys and transit pass would end up in Aunt Mel's desk at th...