I wrote this story several years ago- just out of high school and very paranoid. It first appeared in the paper-based forerunner to this web site, Little Cube Journals.
I ate the cookies because they were hot, drinking the punch because it was cold. But I didn’t enjoy a minute of either. It was like swallowing a load of treason. Treason is sour and I hate sour things…
Through high school, I was most always enrolled in a study period or two. This altogether defeated “homework” and “taking advantage of free education”. With all the extra time I had, I was invariably left to carve things into tables and chairs. One day as I was talking with my friend Robby (he was just as educationally inclined as me) I chipped an odd elliptical shape into a library desk. Although Robby had been balancing on the back legs of his chair for a new Tuesday record of 2 minutes, he took a moment to remark the carving kind of looked like a hot dog. I switched to an easier medium, recreated the original shape with a pencil and paper, then added wheels, a cockpit, and a huge face on its side. My creation was soon christened as “The Markley: One Big Ass Hot Dog Monster Truck” .
Since I’m sure that makes no sense to most everyone, let me explain. The greatest English teacher I ever had was a man who called himself Mr. Markley. He taught me the ins and outs of creative writing and, more importantly, never told me to rewrite my Shakespeare final just because it was called “Green Eggs and Hamlet” and didn’t have any critical merit. Perhaps it was reasons like this he actually taught Driver’s Ed. most of the day. Who knows? I still respected him. When I overheard him, however, tell someone that I was “one of the greatest writers Red Mountain High School had ever produced,” I realized I’d fooled a gentle, innocent man and was ashamed. I figured there was no better way to atone than allow his face the privilege of being mounted on a big ass monster truck shaped like a hot dog.
Though the drawing of a truck is a surprisingly insignificant part of this story, it did promptly inspire a poem, which me and Robby called, “Ode to Markley.” It is excerpted here:
|“…Across the district he rides, king of the rally,
King of the dog, selling his dreams and wieners.
The relish is on the house, and the mustard is free…”
Keep in mind Mr. Markley was a vegetarian for all we knew. Still, we were quite pleased with ourselves and treated each other to some ice cream at lunch.
One month later, the flyers for Mind’s Eye 1994 began popping up around campus. The student body became very atwitter about a new “journal showcasing the best writing, art, and photography of our high school.” This seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to submit out poem. We would finally be popular! “Wait,” Robby said, “We might finally be popular, but isn’t this a sell out? What about what we believe in?”
I was confused. He was responding in the past to a statement I just made in the present, four lines ago! Plus he wasn’t the kind to complain about things like artistic integrity or morality. It turned out he just didn’t want to take part in something so closely involved with school. I understood but convinced him otherwise – poems were our ticket to a “sweet senior rep’”. He eventually agreed, then suggested we actually author several more in an attempt to increase our odds of getting accepted. I concurred. If only I knew then what I think I know now.
We stayed up late one Friday night and composed over twenty sonnets. Among the subjects tackled: the decomposition of the American dream, bigotry, hatred, the environment, and this kid we liked to make fun of named Fred DiSano. We were sure they were all shoe-ins for a coveted Mind’s Eye slot. Here is one of my favorites:
I really like your neck.
A hard rain fell the day our rejections came. All but one of our pieces received a little pink slip saying, “Try again next year.” This made perfect sense seeing as how I’d be wasting my time somewhere other than high school by then. The worst thing was that the one poem they did accept was titled “Man Trapped In Closet”. The implication of the entire school reading a poem with that title written by two males was, for some reason, lost on both of us at the time. Years later we realized our naive verse about a guy locked in a closet by a clown might have been the reason we had such a hard time finding girlfriends.
Anyway, I let the whole thing slide for awhile. Perhaps the accepted entries to Mind’s Eye were just exemplary instances of creative genius. You can imagine my surprise when it was published and revealed itself to be a complete load. Let’s just say there was a poem that ended with the author thanking Queensryche for “teaching me how to rage.” Our poems included no reference to any heavy metal bands, plus were better than most of the other stuff included. I smelled a rat.
After thinking about it even more, I was convinced the whole thing was a conspiracy, a concentrated effort by the administration to suppress free thought and individuality. I had no proof, of course, but the theory appealed to the part of me that also listened to Rage Against the Machine. I started an investigation. It turned out the woman behind Mind’s Eye 1994, the grand majestrix, was none other than Mrs. Baach – aGerman!
With this in hand, I went to see the principal. This was unthinkable. I was being censored! What always happened to the other guy (i.e., 2 Live Crew) was happening to me! I was sure that this sort of thing was not what was supposed to be taught in school. By the time I finally got to see him I was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore – unless I had to.
“Principal,” I said, “Do you know what’s going on here? Are you keeping tabs on your staff? Are you aware that your student body is being violated?” He remained calm and did so as I continued with my story. When I was finished he asked my what my names was. I told him it was Fred DiSano to avoid any disciplinary actions down the line. He proceeded with a lecture the theme of which seemed to center around my ignorance. I barely heard him because the phrase “You can’t handle the truth!” was recoiling in my head. The name plate on his desk read Mr. Kohl… another German!
That night I stared up at the stars reflecting. If I could be silenced in the confines of my own school, what would the real world be like? What business does the word censorship have in a “free” country? Would pornography ever be banned? If so, where would I have to go to get it? How much would it cost? I was really scared for the first time in my life.
The next week, Mind’s Eye was throwing a party for all those lucky enough to be part of the collaboration. Technically, Robby and I could have attended because of the “Closet” poem. The only logical course of action , however, was for us to hold a protest rally outside their fascist celebration. The pickets signs we made, or at least thought about making, were very incendiary. “Join the Propaganda Machine? Never!” and “Mind’s Eye? Blind Lie!”
When we got there and prepared to make those signs for some circle marc
hing, I was already very hungry. The refreshments inside looked even more appetizing than usual…
Eventually, I gave up, went inside, and ate. Perhaps I was a traitor to the cause, but my stomach thanked me later.