Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Smell of Christmas

"Children, behave!" screamed Mrs. McGowan. But she'd already lost control of the class. It all started when Scott Headley turned a stunning shade of red seconds before ripping a loud one during the midst of a threat-induced silence. The entire class probably believed they would remain silent until that pre-holiday break dismissal but no child can resist the siren call of the wind. Like it or not farts is funny.

It wasn't just a fart, mind you, this was an epic, echoing emission that featured an engaging structure similar to a short play. There was a defining beginning, an entertaining middle and a climatic finish. It varied in tone and pitch. It was operatic, covering at least a full octave. Those within a few feet of Scott would later claim that this fart might have had an epilogue as Scott's bowels slowly recovered from the taxing affair.

This was an experience for all the senses. It was long enough in duration to attract the eye and those who had a clear view of Scott could see his large body lifted on a small cushion of air. At least they hoped it was air. Of course there was sound, so much so that the echoes charged through the door, down the hallway and bounced off the single-pane windows at the front of the building. The rumors that the vibration was detected by the U.S. Geological Survey in Ashtabula are probably untrue, but those in the classroom felt its presence.

Mrs. McGowan heard it and went to her grave believing it was not flatus at all but a juvenile sound effect perpetrated for the sole purpose of ruining her holiday. And ruined it was for all she could think about was getting even with those horrible children in Mrs. Schaub's homeroom and maybe getting even with Schaub as well; after all it was her untimely absence that forced that unruly mob on her. McGowan was so angry she quit teaching and became a police officer in the hopes she would be able to shoot children and that's where she met her untimely demise, but that's another story for another time.

Had Mrs. McGowan stayed in the room instead of slamming the door and storming away, she would have realized that it was real. A strange aroma of eggs and bologna wafted through the air giving everybody pause. The smells were so distinct and recognizable the entire class first wondered if they were unrelated to the rectal release...perhaps somebody had opened up a lunch box. Then an odor that seemed to emit from whatever level of hell sweaty socks and dirty diapers are sent to crept into unwary nostrils and almost everybody threw up in their mouths a little.

Only one student was spared the horrifying aroma that seemed as though it would cling to everybody for decades to come. In fact, Chad DeVaughn developed an obsessive compulsive disorder linked to the experience that drives him to shower no less than four times each day. To this day, at 40, Chad can't hold down a job because nobody wants to work with somebody drenched in Old Spice. It's the only cologne strong enough to mask the imaginary smell Chad believes is now embedded in his DNA.

One student, Fred Debord, was spared the smell but, moments after the last nose suffered the consequences of going to school that day, Fred suffered the cruelest fate of all. Fred had allergies. Not the fake allergies so many people claim to have so others fawn over them and ruin entire dinner recipes on their behalf, but actual allergies. Fred suffered from chronic nasal congestion and always had a concretion of boogers preventing public access to his nose. The mucus was so thick and dense that it looked like somebody had packed each nostril tight with yellow Play-Doh. Fred was a mouth breather.

At first he thought it was funny. He might have thought it ironic but as an eighth grader he had only just begun to see that word in context and didn't quite understand its complex meaning. If he really understood irony he might have held his laughter because he would have known that sometimes irony keeps on twisting. This time it twisted right back to him and he got to experience Scott's assault on the last of the senses: taste. Due to the embarrassing nature of public emissions, it's not hard to imagine a fart making somebody cry. It happens everyday. A person might not realize that the gas is there but then they reach for a folder in a meeting and out comes flatus. What do you do? Nobody knows until it happens to them. It's like asking what you would do if you were stranded on a desert island. The possibility seems so remote none of us ever really fathom it. But farts happen a lot more often. Sometimes the farter is reduced to tears while the fartees laugh uncontrollably. Tears of laughter don't count as crying. Even so, farts rarely cause true physical anguish.

Most eighth graders have no idea what mustard gas can do. Those soldiers who survived the attacks in the trenches of World War I never recovered from the horrific images of people writhing in pain as the gas slowly sucked the life out of them. Nobody died the day that Scott broke wind but when the molecules of that heinous compound bonded with the enzymes in Fred's saliva the class was witness to one of the most pitiful displays of human suffering anybody could ever imagine.

One second Fred was laughing, in that wheezy way mouth breathers laugh, enjoying a rare moment of coming out on top. His boogers had saved him. Then his eyes widened and he clamped both hands over his mouth desperately trying to prevent what had already started. Then he gagged. The combination of laughter and revulsion in the classroom turned into horror as Fred heaved and coughed so forcefully it seemed as though he might turn inside out. His compacted boogers oozed from his nostrils like thick worms and tears squirted from his eyes. He fell to the floor, writhing and gagging and crying trying to force the toxic stench from his palate.

But it was too late. For what seemed like hours, Fred's body raged against the fart trying to keep it from doing whatever it would eventually do to Fred's fragile body. If cat hair could send this poor boy to the hospital, what would something as potent as Scott's fart do to him? Eventually Fred's body just gave up and the convulsions stopped, leaving Fred in a crumpled pile on the floor sobbing. He moaned over and over, "I can taste it. I can taste it."
When it became evident Fred would survive, his misery inspired more spirited laughter. Something so profound should be appreciated in all its glory. The new round of laughter and ensuring antics such as the mocking of Fred DeBord and the nicknaming of Scott Headley drew the stern attention of Mrs. McGown who stormed back into the room to demand what everybody thought was so disgusting.
Her rage made it clear she meant business and laughter abruptly stopped which is a dangerous thing. Genuine hysterical laughter must be contained through a progression of physiological devices. Laughter should subside into chuckles and chuckles into giggles and then giggles can be carefully stifled into silence. Packing the energy of laughter into respectful silence in one fell swoop only compounds the hysterics.
Again, Mrs. McGown demanded to know the source of the laughter. In her tiny little world she must have assumed the laughter was at her expense and she intended to confront the hooligan who saw fit to make her the butt of a joke. The laughter remained trapped behind a wall of deafening silence, but you could sense the unstable nature of Mrs. McGowan's control.
"For the last time," she yelled, " What is so FUNNY?" She bellowed the last word and her face turned a pulpy shade of red that looked like the inside of a watermelon. It was clear that she was going to kill everybody if somebody didn't answer.
Mark Wright, coincidentally seated directly behind Scott, broke the ominous silence with something so outrageous and unheard of that the entire class was stunned. Even Mrs. McGowan who had assumed, up to that point, that she knew everything...after all she had a teaching degree from the esteemed Youngstown State University...was shocked by it.
Mark Wright told the truth:
"Scott farted, that's all."

He didn't laugh. He looked Mrs. McGowan right in the eye and simply told her exactly what the ruckus was all about. He was stoic. For that one moment in time (that would be a great prom theme) Mark Wright was a god.
McGowan's head seemed to spin 360 degrees and her eyes might have actually exploded in their sockets only to be instantly replaced by the second set of eyeballs everybody from her home planet had stored in the place humans have their senses of humor. Scott, upon being identified as the culprit shivered in his seat and let out a lone whimper.
McGowan stepped toward Scott and looked down on him with a degree of loathing so intense the entire class was certain Scott was going to burst into flames, which was a frightening prospect given the fact that subtle hints of his fart still lingered in the air. But Mrs. McGowan must have realized that she was on the verge of revealing her true alien identity and she reigned in her powers. "You're a disgusting pig," She seethed at Scott. "and the rest of you are a bunch of dirty little poop monkeys."
That was it. There are two things teachers should never say if they wish to maintain control over their students." Hump Day" is one and "Poop" is the other. There are lots of words and phrases that will trigger jokes and laughter but "Hump Day" and "Poop" are universal. In fact, the word "poop" tends to trigger laughter in the most serious adult. It's a funny word. Even though it's not considered a curse word, "poop" is far more powerful than the allegedly vulgar "shit".
The improperly suppressed hysteria exploded into uproarious laughter. Eighth graders were rolling on the floor in uncontrollable spasms of full-body guffawing. Guffawing! Can you imagine that? Some laughed so hard they passed out for lack of breathing only to come to and laugh again. Everybody was laughing, except for Fred who could still detect the taste of unholy death on the back of his tongue. For the rest of his life Fred existed in a semi-catatonic state mumbling incoherent things to anybody who approached him.
Again, she stormed out of the room in a huff slamming the door behind her as she left, convinced she has been lied to and that the joke was really about her. In her hateful little mind she had every intention of leaving that classroom full of idiots locked in the school over winter break to freeze to death, but the principal happened to walk by as that final class period eded and he let Mrs Schaub's homeroom go, unaware of what had happened but making a mental note to inform the cleaning crew to give room 118 some special attention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How dare you insult Mrs. McGowan. She was by far the fairest and most knowledgeable at Grand Valley Middle School. Watching her stroll about the halls was like watching, a knight watch over the holy grail. She was the best Study Hall teacher I ever had.