The Coolest Classroom Prank Ever Conceived in Our Junior Year
If you went to school at anytime, place, and mental attitude, you lived inside a classroom. In high school, many classrooms. They were eeriely-similar to small houses where we lived in measured moments of our weekly Education Process. Sometimes, no, lots of times, I let my mind drift. Quiet classrooms mixed with boredom can prove harmful. But not to me. I know. This nostalgic-narrative is more like a tell-all piece about how I engineered one of the best practical jokes (probably) in our school's history. Enjoy. (Kenneth).
Classrooms, tell the truth, are smelly, (from the previous students not (or not wanting to) shower), the teacher is mostly-on edge from students (like me), and there is that feint-but-visible scent of someone outside of the school building smoking a "J," just before morning break was over and the slightest scent of weed would waft through the air. These students who medicated themselves were highly-intelligent and brave. Then there were our rebellious-students (if I can use that noun) did not have much on the ball enough to try and smuggle homemade whiskey on campus.
Two that did get by with the 10 a.m. break was Jeff Burleson and Tim Burnette--two guys who, if they had applied themselves in our day, would own chains of automotive repair and speed shops. At exactly 10 a.m., the two would bolt from the school building and sit in Jeff's brand-new, 1971 Chevy Nova and sip dry martini's who took turning mixing them the night before. I was always amazed at how clean they beat the system.
Now let's introduce more of the players who were at the Coolest Classroom Prank or helped engineer it. Don't get too excited--I tell you that the prank was afterward called genius by the innocent by-standers who witnessed it and potentially-dangerous to the person whom I pranked and if he hadn't been so cool, he would have kicked by butt.
There was: Gladys Jennings, English/Literature teacher--an expert on teaching last year's lesson plans. I am a grown man right now. And if Jennings were here, I would tell her that our class should have named her The Steel Woman, because even at her very advanced age, she was NEVER sick. Not one sniffle, sneeze, or pain in bones that are brittle as in the elderly. I never heard of her needing a substitute or calling in sick at the last minute. I sometimes wonder if she was way too mentally out of the loop to even realize that she was physically ailing.
The late Donnie Avery -- my cousin, who was killed in 1977 by a drunk driver. He was my assistant sitting in the row next to my "mark," Stevie Sullins, a sure-fire Wally Cox look-alike. And intelligent was not the word. He never made anything below a B on any test or report card. Plus he was an Expert Percussionist in our marching band.
Why did we choose Sullins, of all people, to prank? Remember at the first of this piece when I told you how boredom mixed with a quiet classroom can only lead to trouble? It does. And our Cool Classroom Prank was designed and executed with such finesse and painstakingly-careful movements that not even any member of the fictitious "IMF Force: Mission: Impossible," on CBS, in the late 1960s could come near our patience and manual dexterity. In fact, I can tell you this right now: after our prank had lifted-off and the "mark," Stevie Sullins, had been humiliated by gales of laughter by those students who were in the Study Hall, in this last period of Junior High, 11th grade. Maybe humiliated is too harsh. Naaaah. He would laugh if he were reading this.
Truthfully speaking, my friends and I, (maybe Mrs. Jennings who I always believed was fast-asleep), meant to connive such a prank--although the joke was harmless and clean, still, there was the thing about Sullins' feelings in the aftermath of a joke that took all but ten slow, painful minutes that actually took the life out of me after the joke was set-up.
Imagine if you will, (salute to master mystery writer: Rod Serling), you are seated in a quiet classroom almost filled with students. Some students were getting a head-start on homework and others were just acting the part of studying for some test they would be taking the next day. Me? I was bored out of my ever-living skull. Somebody run in this room and dare me to jump out of this window! I kept thinking to myself while staring right at the door. The only sounds we heard was the sounds of students' shoe soles scuffing the tile floor and in the distance outside someone's car radio (probably a 12th grader) blaring away "Fire," by Jimi Hendrix. Some afternoons I could hear the distinct sound of a dog barking at another dog or a salesman trying to get someone to answer his master's doorbell.
Donnie, usually the "brain" of most of the Junior High pranks was preoccupied. Something or someone was definitely preying on his mind. But ever so often, he would glance over in my direction while I was meticulously maneuvering a length of white string that I found underneath my desk underneath my desk and through the back of Stevie Sullins' Hagar slacks which had belt loops--I was after the loop in the back of his pants. It was as dangerous as any medical surgeon taking out a gall bladder and almost as painful if Sullins had caught me. I was be in deep trouble and I knew it.
Inch by inch, little by little, the string grew ever so close to the prize: the back belt loop. I would duck underneath my desk ever so often to see how much I lacked in getting the string to get through the belt loop and then slowly and carefully pull it back so I could tie it to the rest of my string and then tie the other end in my hand to the steel frame of my desk.
By the time I had gotten the string through the belt loop, all of the students who were studying or doing homework were too entertained by what Donnie and I were doing to perform any schoolwork. And besides, it was great fun to see me strain and almost freeze while Sullins would squirm in his desk and there was Mrs. Jennings who tried, I think, to look asleep just so she could get me and whomever into trouble for I always secretly thought that she hated me. Why? I will never know in this life.
There! I let out an almost silent sigh of relief as I tied the famous last knot into the string onto my desk. Now all we had to do was wait for the last bell of the evening and watch the fun. The time now was 2:55 p.m., we were dismissed exactly at 3 p.m. on the dot and I am telling you that our clocks were perfect. Never missed a minute. But we wished that for once, they would go fast so we could watch Stevie react to the sudden surprise that was only minutes away.
Tick . . .tock. . .tick . . .tock . . .you should have seen it. Our eyes were moving in perfect rhythm. More precise than any performance by the The Kirov Ballet company (now known as the Marinsky Ballet) and the Bolshoi Ballet companies combined as we would keep one eye on the clock just at the top near the classroom ceiling toward the door and the students' eyes were now glued to my hands as I just sat and breathed silently as the Second Hand did a slow dance on the dial making our laughter now going to be more pleasurable than any pep rally in our Junior High.
Suddenly. Time, I tell you, stood still. Hearts didn't beat. Lungs ceased from drawing clean air. The dramatic intro's can go on, but not "as" the bell rang, but in the first cling and clang . . .the next few moments were scripted to be lived in super-slow motion. Stevie got up, picked up his books and by now he had taken taken up the string and when he took his first step, my desk came right along with him. Shock! Stunning! This could not begin to describe the scared look on Sullins' face. I was standing with Donnie and both of us were caved-over laughing. The rest of the students were pointing at Sullins' clever predicament and in a flash . . .it was over. History. Just another memory for us to savor on those cold, September nights when we would go camping and sit by a hefty campfire.
I told Stevie then, afterwards many times over how sorry "we" were for this prank. Then later I spilled the whole truth and took the blame for it all. Stevie in his usual quiet, cool, and stoic manner, just gave me a halfway sly grin and never said a word as we walked away.
The years went by and there was hardly a moment that I didn't keep a keen look over my shoulder as I was being prepared for a great dose of Sullins' Payback and even today . . .I've yet to see it. That is not to day that I won't. We are both still alive and when there is breath, there is another thing to consider: Karma.
I won't go any further.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery