Flash Fiction #181

School

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Skool Daze

The two grade 11 lads were fascinated to see a tiny bit of pure sodium violently react with water in a lab sink, the heat generating hydrogen, and skittering it across the surface.

One day they were given the lab as a study room. The two monkeys students dropped a much larger piece into the water. Its weight sent it to the bottom, where it produced a large bubble of hydrogen, and the heat to set it off.

The resulting small explosion doused them and the lab, wiped out overhead fluorescent fixtures, and blew a pencil case through a window.

***

Rochelle’s reminiscences about teachers, reminded me of this fact-based bit of high school hi-jinks. Go to her Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Halloween In A Graveyard

Gravestone

I once got the chance to patrol a graveyard on a Halloween night.  I know, I know!  The excitement!  The prestige!  Where do I go to apply for a keen job like that?  Sadly, the unemployment office.

When an unethical manager had pulled the cube-drone carpet out from underneath me, I had found temporary employment with a security-guard company.  They had placed me at a St. Joseph’s Hospital as a glorified ‘Lollipop Lady’ crossing guard.  I didn’t even get to wear an orange, don’t-run-me-down vest.

The hospital had two, parallel, one-way driveways down one side.  Traffic came in on one, swung around past Receiving and the kitchens, and exited on the other.  Work on water mains had them alternatively dug up for about a week.

We stationed a guard at the front and the back, with portable radios.  If a vehicle came in, the guard at the back held any outgoing traffic until the single lane was clear, and vice versa.  Out of sight of any street traffic, the guard at the back could rest in a lawn chair until called.  We alternated every hour….until the Mother Superior looked out the window, and decided that that wasn’t fair, and decreed that no-one could rest.

It was especially busy late in the morning, because they had a Meals On Wheels program.  Civilian volunteers picked up a few meals each and delivered them.  We wouldn’t want them smashing into each other, and spilling all that delicious hospital food.

As Halloween approached, and I still hadn’t found suitable employment, the scheduler asked me if I would consider patrolling a graveyard, from 6PM till 2AM that night to prevent any vandalism or skullduggery.

The hospital sat in the middle of a long stretch of main road that didn’t have any cross-streets.  The Catholic cemetery behind the hospital (where the doctors buried their mistakes) extended back to the next road.  Two pedestrian-access walkways converged through it in a V, toward the hospital.

Another guard and I followed each other around the block-long legs of the triangle.  It never occurred to us to patrol in opposite directions, to stop and talk, and compare notes occasionally.  All went well for the first couple of hours – until the sun set.

That’s when we discovered that there were no street lights on the adjoining road, no light-posts within the cemetery, and no lights between the hospital and the cemetery.  It was a typical cloudy Halloween night…. it was pitch-black DARK back there, and nobody thought to give us flashlights.

At about 9:30, I had emerged from one of the exits, and was walking toward the other, when I saw three 15/16-year-old males enter ahead of me.  While it was light, I had found a two-foot piece of 1½ inch PVC electrical conduit on the path – a tripping hazard, especially in the dark, so I picked it up, and was carrying it, just in case.

I could hear them walking, and conversing, a hundred feet ahead of me in the Stygian gloom, although I couldn’t make out the words.  Then it got quiet.  Often, that’s not a good thing.  Suddenly, something smacked into the gravestone beside me.  Something whizzed past my ear.  Something struck the grass beside me!  Holy Crap, those little f**kers are throwing things at me.

I ducked behind a nearby gravestone, and the barrage continued.  Something bounced off the gravestone beside me.  I felt around in the dark, and found a pulped crab apple.  CLANG!  That wasn’t a crab apple that hit my cover.  More crab apples, splat, whiz, then, another CLANG off the tombstone next to me.  The moon, through a slight rift in the clouds, revealed a sharp stone, as big as a golf ball.

What in Hell am I going to do??!  We don’t have our traffic-directing radios, and if this keeps up, my fellow-guard is going to walk around the corner any moment, right into the middle of this.

“It’s okay, Bobby.  You can come out now.  We won’t throw anything else at you.”  I’m not Bobby!  “Who the hell are you?”  I’m the security guard who’s supposed to keep you from damaging anything.  Are you idiots??!  Throwing crab apples is dangerous enough, but throwing rocks at someone you can’t see, or identify – in the dark….  You could blind or kill someone!  “Sorry, we didn’t think.”  Said every teenage boy ever, just before he qualified for the Darwin Award.

Patrolling a graveyard on Halloween is an…. interesting task.  Ghosts and ghouls don’t exist, so they’re no problem.  It’s the live ones who cause all the troubles.  😯

Jack O Lantern

Happy Halloween!  Trick or Treat.  😀

Horse Sh…Play

Clown

My life has been built around humor and comedy. I’m a great believer in amusement and entertainment.  I’m all for fun and frivolity.  Want to get into horseplay?  I think you’re a stupid asshole!

Sooner or later, horseplay ends in injury, damage or death, often sooner than later. At least, most times it ends there.  There are people (I’m sad to say they most often have an XY chromosome mix, though not always.) who go beyond asshole on the stupid scale, and continue.  Almost every workplace has a rule against horseplay.  There are good reasons for that.

The young man who formed the vinyl parts on my auto plant line was quiet and well-behaved. Management changed the part we did, and now we required two formers.  The second one we got was an industrial strength asshole.

The line beside us had four young women behind the press. He and one of them immediately started throwing small, hard balls of vinyl at each other.  One day he said to Mr. Niceguy, “Here, toss this at Elaine.”

He did so….just in time for Janet to step around the press, and get hit right in the eye. The guy who had never before thrown anything, got a written reprimand, and we had a lost-time accident after six months injury-free.   BTW, Mr. Asshole continued throwing stuff.

We bonded thin vinyl to foam rubber, then cut pieces out, usually discs, to fit over steering columns, etc. One of the parts had a steel support added, about the size of a cell phone.  Four protruding feet were hammered over like staples.  One jokester came by and found one near the supply crib.  He picked it up, yelled at our installer, and then scaled it toward him like a Frisbee.

It would have landed six feet short, and clanged across the floor.  Spinning in the air, it looked just like a soft rubber knockout, so my guy stepped forward and caught it in his bare hand.  Fortunately there was no blood, but their friendship was strained for several days.

When I worked at the steel warehouse, management had Southern Ontario carved up into six sections. One outside salesman serviced each piece.  The Inside Sales Dept. had one clerk for each of them.  It was a most redundant system in my opinion.  Three or four bodies could have easily handled the volume of calls, but I guess one-on-one ensured familiarity.

It meant that there was often a lot of free time. Two of the clerks were in their early 20s, like me.  One of them was a convicted kidder.  If anyone was away for washroom or coffee break, and there was a call, another clerk took name and number and left a note, for the customer to be called back.

There are two local Universities, one of them Lutheran. A call-back note might get you the recorded ‘Prayer of the Day.’  With the African Lion Safari fifteen miles away, another note might tell you to call a number and ask for ‘Leo.’  The other University had a Performing Arts Department.  They had a dedicated line that you could call to purchase tickets.  When shows were not running, it played recordings of things like ‘Money, Money, Money’ from Cabaret.  All very amusing.  😳

One day, the fall guy returned to his desk and found a note. A Mennonite he’d never dealt with had decided to set up a metal fabrication shop, and wanted to order a significant amount of material.  When he phoned back, he was answered by a Mr. Bierschbach. (Beersh-bock)

Expecting another prank, he heard ‘Beer Box’, a 24-bottle case, so he went along with the joke.  He told the customer that his name was Carling Labatt, the names of two of Canada’s largest breweries.  This wasn’t terribly unreasonable.  At the time, Carling Bassett, a young female member of the brewing clan, was well-known in figure-skating.

The call went on and on, with him nodding and agreeing, and calling the new customer Mr. Beer Box – but not writing a thing down. When the kidder returned, he had a big laugh about his ‘buddy’s fake call.’

After being assured that the call was genuine, and given the man’s name and pronunciation, he then had to call him back and apologise and explain – and write down the entire order. This was not a good introduction for a new client.  If there’d been another, sufficiently-large local warehouse, I’d have gone with them.

It’s all fun until somebody loses an eye – or a customer – or their job. Fun’s fun, but this ain’t it.  Horseplay is for horses’ asses.

W.T.F. Inc. II

Co-workers that make you go Hmmm??!  A couple of happenings recently reminded me of a couple of the gems I’d been honored to work with over the years, and I thought I might regale you with more tales of clerical buffoonery.

Long ago, I worked in the inventory department for that steel fabrication company.  There was another young man who worked with me as a clerk.  He was honest, reliable and hard-working, but so was my Labrador Retriever.  He wasn’t stupid in any way.  He did the job well, but he definitely came to work each day on the short bus.  Does anyone but me, remember Candice Bergen’s father, Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist?  This guy was like the dumb dummy, Mortimer Snerd’s even dumber brother.  For the younger crowd, imagine Jeff Dunham’s character, Bubba J, without the urbane smoothness.

Reality could sneak up on this boy.  Hell, reality could come dancing in wearing wooden shoes and a bright pink tutu, and he wouldn’t notice.  He wasn’t even distracted by squirrels or shiny objects.  He had a one track mind, but it was narrow-gauge.  I worked with him for over a year but never asked him if he was a local city boy or if he was raised in the country.  Country seemed likely, but I thought I might not survive the story.

The fourth in the series of James Bond movies had recently been released.  I had seen them all.  The wife and I had attended the most recent, a couple of weeks before.  He came bubbling in one morning all agog about this movie he had found.  It was a real action/thriller movie about this English spy.  I should go see it.  The guy who played the hero, whose name he couldn’t remember, was this really good actor, whose name he DID remember.  It was Seen Conaway.

He lived in a front apartment, in a fairly big apartment building on a main street.  He told me one day that he had asked the supervisor if he could hang planters from the windows and balcony rail.   I asked him what he wanted to plant.  Apparently the super had also asked him what kind of flowers he was going to put in.  He told the super that he wanted to grow vegetables.  Interesting, but if he wants some fresh radishes or beets, more power to him.

Later that summer I had to be in his section of town and looked up to his apartment on the fourth floor.  I almost crashed my car.  He was growing corn.  Each planter box had three corn plants, one at each end and one in the middle.  The roots were already three feet off the ground because of the height of the window-sills and balcony.  The guy in the apartment above him might have been able to reach the cobs, to harvest them, but I don’t know how he ever did.

The best Newfy jokes I’ve ever heard have been told by Newfies.  The best Polack jokes I’ve ever heard have been told by Polacks.  I’ve never heard a Paki tell a joke, because, when they packed to come here, they only had enough room for all their attitude, and had to leave their sense of humor behind.  Both Newfies and Polacks insist that, no matter how dumb the joke, one of them has actually done it. I worked with a Polish-Canadian woman who was so dumb, she didn’t know that she was Polish.  She was animal-cunning and street-smart.  She parlayed a divorce settlement into three houses.  Two she rented.  The first was paid off.  The rent from #1 paid the mortgage on #3.  The rent on #2 paid the mortgage and helped on #3.

All names have been changed to protect the writer, in case she finds out that the internet exists.  She and three other Polish women used to sit together and gossip at lunch.  There were two Skis, and two Polish toboggans.  For those of you shaking your heads, many Polish names end in SKI, they’re the Skis. Most people know about the Polish heritage, but, other names, like Zuwala, or Yantha, or Dueck, are also Polish.  These are the Polish toboggans.

I kidded her one day, about the four Polish women, sitting around, plotting to take over the world.  She had no idea who I was talking about.  I named all four of them and said they were all Polish names.  She explained to me that her name, Gutowski, was not her maiden name.  Remember, she was divorced!  I had just assumed that she had gone back to her maiden name, so I asked her what it was.  Pacheski!  But that’s still a Polish name.  “But Dad spoke perfect German!” she insisted.  What?  And if he could speak Mandarin, you’d have slant-eyes?

She was a prank-playing shit-disturber.  One day she had four people, including me, willing to wring her neck, all at the same time.  To her, this was fun.  She couldn’t understand why anyone would get upset.  She started a water fight with a guy in the plant, that ended with her getting three gallons of water dumped on her, and couldn’t understand why he would do such a thing.  I saw it happen, and reminded her that she had started it.  “No I didn’t.”  She got a drink from a big thermos of cold water and threw the last of the glass at him.  He went and got a full glass and threw it at her.  She grabbed a hard-hat and filled it and poured it on him, so he grabbed the pail of process water and poured it on her.  “But HE started it!”

Nobody wants to take responsibility for what they’ve done.  Some are so stunned, they don’t even know that they’ve done something.  Looking back now, I can find things like this amusing.  I’m just so glad that I no longer have to put up with this s**t, any more.