Chapter 7 of the novel 'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn'
All males in the family bush were unknown, unavailable, missing, or dead.
I couldn't talk to my li'l black dad about anything for fear of upsetting him. Not like I wouldn't have chanced speaking to him, but my moments alone with him were scarce and short, so he was unavailable. It really didn't matter. My problems seemed small compared to his and, for what it was worth, at least I could run away from mine.
Uncle Jay was the one missing. We hadn't heard from him in a year or more. I thought about him a lot and, though he could take care of himself, I did worry about him a little.
He was the only male left in the family bush who could pop up, dropping in to see for himself what was going on. He was the only one who could help put this whole mess into perspective.
I felt my life was in a downward spiral and no one cared. It wasn't enough I was out of control, I had to open my mouth to prove it.
"...don't forget men, the 3-Rs. You can push through life without them, but life is going to push you back a little harder. You'll push again and again and, life is going to push you again and again and, life always wins, unless you're up to the challenge. Only the foolhardy charge into combat, step through the ropes, throw their hats in the squared circle of life, with no game plan. The 3-Rs men, this is the foundation, the building blocks of your game plan. The seeds, the very seeds you need to..."
Coach was on a roll saving student's souls.
Like a Marine drill sergeant, his voice boomed through the gymnasium's double doors I stood the other side of. I was late for gym. Coach hated late and me. No, not really. I just wasn't Coaches rah-rah All Star athletic type. I tried out, but never did play school ball. Truth be told, closest I ever came to playing ball was when I got jock itch.
I gripped the handles, pulling ever so careful, ever so quiet, and peered in. My gym mates sat in a semi-circle, listening, as Coach chewed up and spat out life's little secrets. Judging by his red-faced glow, I had missed a good sermon.
3-Rs? Have my dad's fingers been on the pulse of the puzzle which escaped humanity for so long? Could it be rage, reach, and random reason, in fact, held the answers to life's little secrets? Could it be my li'l black dad's a li'l black wizard?
So many questions, so few answers, so little time; and even fewer people to ask.
Coach stood stiff, rigid, seemingly inflexible. His sparkling white Keds, perfect fit gray sweat pants, shiny blue wind-breaker zipped halfway with a crisp white Polo shirt underneath, collar snapped taut, rigid jaw, piercing blue eyes, stern face, and shiny jock-head crew-cut, made him look like he just stepped from the centerfold of ‘Coach of the Month’.
The only thing missing was the whistle which usually hung from around his neck. Now it hung on my hall room wall. I didn't steal it. I'm no thief. I found it the day we had gym out on the football field. I was just holding it, just to make sure it was his before I gave it to him. I still wasn't positive it belonged to him. Maybe he was just forgetting to bring his whistle from his perfect home. I only found it a month ago. I think it best I hold on to it a little while longer, just to make sure.
Now, if I could just sneak, slink, slither in before he took attendance, I stood a very good chance getting away with yet another late arrival.
I wanted to scream, "Turn around!" He did. I damn near died!
I made my move, quick and low, smooth and quiet, like vapor, not even breathing, with sure-footed conviction. Twelve more, eight more, five more, one more step, and I'm sitting with my mates.
"You're late!" Coach boomed, turning as I squatted. He stood at parade rest, clutching the attendance clipboard behind him. "The 3-R's are?"
"Rage, reach, and random reason?" I muttered to the kid near me. The kid rolled his eyes. 'Well excuse me, you unenlightened little rich shit!'
"On your feet!" Coach barked.
"I'm not sure."
"You're not sure?"
"Yes. No. I mean, I don't know."
"You knew ten seconds ago!"
"No I didn't."
"You a funny boy, funny boy?" I looked away, shaking my head, no. "Think you'll find the answer over there, clown? Think one of your buddies will tell you, funny boy? They're laughing at you, not with you! Get it? The 3-R's? Entertain us!"
"I didn't, I---"
"That's not funny! Who thinks that's funny? No One? Make me laugh, clown boy! Give it your best shot! The 3R's are?"
"Rubbers. Ribbed, or Regular."
’C'mon Coach, let it go. You can do it. You wanna laugh. I can see it. Let it out. Laugh goddamn you!’ I hoped the floor would open up and one of us, preferably Coach, would disappear.
My skinny legs trembled. I wished I had long pants on. 'You'd be grateful for what you have, if you had no pants at all,' I heard my li'l black Confucius say.
Or, at the very least, I wished I'd worn any other pair of socks than these brown, sheer, just-above-the-ankle ones. 'To the boy with no socks, you are envied.'
Or, at the very, very least, I wished I had on a pair of Keds, not these ratty Hush Puppies. 'A pair of Hush Puppies will take you further than no Hush Puppies.'
I just wished I owned a pair of Keds. 'Wish in one hand, shit in the other.'
But number one on my wish list, I wished, at the very, very, very least, I had proper gym shorts. Not these crotch clutching, gold lame` trunks I wore per my mother's orders, which Geraldine was so generous to offer in place of my long lost gym shorts. They looked like a guy's bathing suit, but were baby poop yellow in color and fit so snug, too snug! Tight, smooth, and shiny, baby poop gold lame`! I’d never seen anything like them, and nobody else would either.
I let my gym shirt hang loose, hoping to hide the humiliation, but then it looked like I had nothing on underneath! Some days you just cannot win.
"Okay, funny boy, up the rope!" Coach barked.
Despite past attempts, I never made it up the ropes, and I feel an attempt now is not going to end any different. 'Leave me alone!' I yelled, silently.
"Climb, funny boy! That's an order!"
"Coach, I don't have---"
He barreled through the class, stopping short of my first facial hair. Poking at my chest, spittle flew everywhere. "Do not call me Coach! Never call me Coach! You’ll never be on any team of mine! Got it, funny boy? I’m your Phys Ed teacher, that's it! That’s all I’ll ever be to you! You’d never make the cut on my team! Do you understand?’ I nodded. “I can't hear you!"
"What?" Why won't he just die? This is not going to have a happy end, I just know it. Now I wished I'd skipped gym like I had planned in the first place. The only reason I changed my mind and came at all is so I could take a shower. Look at me. My nerves are shot, my self-esteem is Swiss, and now he wants me to call him, 'Sir’! I'm sorry, but I just don't see it.
"Yes, what, funny boy?"
"I don't…what?" I stammered, confused, but adamant.
"Get up that f'ing rope!"
Well, seeing as he put it that way, I, uh-oh, "No, no sneakers."
"You offend me. You disrupt my class and you come unprepared? Get up or get out of here! Get up there or get out!"
Remember Tarzan ropes hanging, suspended from an I-beam?
The idea: make it to the top of the rope, sign your name to the I-beam, and you are Jock-Man or some damn thing.
So, I'm at the rope, pen between my teeth. With a hop and a twist, hand over hand, up the rope I go. Maybe it was an adrenaline rush from the way Coach had spoken to me, or a sugar rush from this morning's double dip into the sugar bowl which I added to my already Sugar Sweetened Sugar Smacks, whatever, I don't know, but, by some Divine Miracle, I made it to the top of the rope, ratty Hush Puppies and all. ‘Thank-you very much, I am Jock-Man.’ Yes!
Now, I'm at the top of the rope, staring up at the I-beam, at all the names of all the successful Tarzan rope climbers before me. I really didn't care who'd made it up here before me, but there were only two places to look and I was not about to look down.
Holding on for dear life with one hand, I took the pen from my mouth with the other, and I started to write my name. FFFF-RRR-AA---
"What the…?" Coach chortled. "Are you wearing gold lame`?"
I froze. In mind's eye, I clearly saw a cartoon character plummeting from a cliff, wearing gold lame`. I took the vision for what it was...an omen!
"DON'T YOU LET GO, FUNNY BOY!"
I knew I was going down.
"DON'T YOU LET GO!"
Many last words ran through my mind. 'Oh, we're not laughing now, are we? Now you wanna help? Now, now you wanna lead me? Hold on for the team?' But all I heard come out was, "UP YOUR…ah...ssshhhhhhh..."
In desperation, I slapped my hand atop the beam, leaving the pen behind. Then, clutching at, gripping to, squeezing that rope like a lifeline to Hell, down I went! Burnt flesh, human sacrifice, trailed the rope above me!
My butt slammed to the mat! My face smashed to my knees! My teeth mashed into my lips! My head crashed back to the floor! Dazed and bleeding I lie there, gazing straight up.
It's over, right? Wrong!
Remember the pen? The pen is now descending on me at about 177,000 miles per hour! It was a Paper-Mate. This is way before they came out with the Bic Banana. That pen weighed at least fifteen pounds!
It bore straight down on me like an arrow with eyes! Impaled!
To this day, I am the only person in Tarzan rope climbing history to get ink poisoning...of the right nipple!
Site: 'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn' Amazon
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"Nipple Piercing (the hard way)"
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|Reviewed by Debra Conklin
|Being female, I used the same excuse every other week in order to get out of gym..."I got my period." Gym was and still is the ultimate humiliation for anyone "not popular" or "not into sports". Thanks for sharing the horror of your story with us.|
|Reviewed by Carvin Wallson
|I thought this was funny, although I'm at work and won't be able to laugh to loudly. Good use of language and wrapping dialogue around actions. It seems a little odd out of context, and a little hard to follow without having read the whole thing.|
|Reviewed by David Thompson
|This is oh, so funny. I've just got to read more of your stuff. I was never the athletic type either and always considered myself one of the low-life's because of it. But the way you poke fun at yourself over the entire situation is hilarious. I can see myself so much in your writing, even down to the rope climbing I had to do in junior high back in the '50s. I attended my grandson's basketball game in that same gymnasium a month or so ago, imagined that huge rope dangling from the I-beam high above, and the yellow streak running down my back began to pulsate once more. In a final note, I have to tell you that you will be placed in my "favorites" for further reading. Thanks for the laugh. With all the problems in the world, I needed this today.
From the hills of West Virginia...
David Lee Thompson
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Hilarious write, Frank; very well penned! BRAVO! Enjoyed this one; loved the part about the Marine drill sergeant! YIKES!
(((HUGS))) And much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
|Laughing too hard to review - gym teachers are sadists!!!!!!! Know mine was *cringe* Still can't climb a rope - well done.
(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.