By Kurt Muzikar
From the new book “From Bozo to Bosons”
“I’m going to pull down your pants and spank you right here. What do you think of that mister?” Sister Nazarita pulls me into her class by my left ear. She’s not only the principal; she’s the meanest nun in the school.
Now she’ slapping her hand with a yard stick. I think, when are we going to join the rest of the world in the metric system?
I know my hand-me-down salt n’ pepper pants will easily fall down without my belt cinching them up at the waist. It won’t be too difficult for her to expose my bottom. I blink hard looking around the class trying to compose myself. My older sister Maureen is hunkered down in her seat watching with a horrified expression on her face.
“Look at me,” Sister Nazarita barks as she pulls my face in her direction by the ear.
Like jousters our eyes size each other up. Hers are cool and steady; mine are pin balls frenetically bouncing off the walls of my sockets. I’ve always had trouble looking people in the eyes.
This year I’ve spent more time in the limbo of the hallway than in the class.
“Young man if I catch you in that hallway one more time…”
Oh no! A familiar bubble rises from my navel up into my chest, up, up it goes, moving through my throat. I clamp down my lips, trying as hard as I can to contain it, but like always it has its own will rendering me helpless. The bullfrog leaps out.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I bellow.
Some people call this a gallows laugh. In Sanskrit it’s translated as excessive hilarity.
Her yardstick falters. I feel the tug on my lobe as I’m lead back to the hallway.
Holy Toledo, She’s gotta bad “habit.”
My distended earlobe aches yet the pun makes me guffaw even more.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I double up holding my belly.
“My God son compose yourself!” She turns and slams the classroom door leaving me alone in the hallway to pull myself together.
After school Maureen tells me my ears are starting to resemble Alfred E. Neuman’s.
The next day, I’m back in class with a new seat up front where my teacher Mrs. Heard can keep a close watch on me. Unlike the nuns who are strict disciplinarians with eyes in the backs of their heads, the petite Mrs. Heard is a vivacious teacher with warm blue eyes who prides herself on keeping the class engaged.
Today David and I are practicing our precision targeting techniques by writing messages to the class on the chalk board. We take the stem off our Bic pens, load them with salivated pulp from torn pieces of notebook paper, aim, and fire. SPLAT … after the first one hits the chalk board we give each other the thumbs up. We repeat. This one is a little off to the left.
Mrs. Heard’s eyes have narrowed into tiny shards of blue ice. Her mouth forms a thin white slice of displeasure. “Okay, you two, if you think you’re so funny, why don’t you entertain us all?”
“Come up here,” she demands.
I look at David. We didn’t see this one coming.
“Come up here to the front of the class.”
Seventy-six pupils are eyeing me. She coolly sits behind her desk, leaving us on stage to fend for ourselves. I look towards the door – the easy way out. We’re on the second floor. Jumping out a window isn’t an option. I shuffle nervously looking down at my big feet which our busting out of my Buster Browns. They must have grown three sizes this year.
Heat rises in my cheeks as I stammer, “I’m Bozo.”
My accomplice shuffles his feet and comes up with the brilliant line, “I’m Chucko.”
We don’t know what else to do or say. Again I repeat, “I’m Bozo.”
Again I hear “I’m Chucko.” We get a little rhythm going and repeat this a multitude of times. A few kids laugh at first, but then an embarrased hush descends on the room. This may have been the beginning of my performance anxiety problem. Not knowing what else to do we walk back to our desks, disgraced and deflated.
Mrs. Heard outwitted us. I become more respectful in her class, afraid of being called out again and having to perform. Soon thereafter, I begin my serious quest rather than my humorous jest of life.