Thursday, April 19, 2007

some folks call it a sling blade; i call it a kaiser blade

And some folks call it Speedball; I call it Cecilball.

One of my favorite high-school stories is the saga of Mr. Cecil. He was my gym teacher for one or possibly several years of high school. One of those years, I had gym first period. Because who doesn't want to begin her day in the pre-dawn winter hours of western Pennsylvania shivering on the track field with the majority of the football team playing what else but football?

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce you all to Mr. Cecil. Mr. Cecil is what I imagine Mr. Potato Head would look like if he became a real boy. He had the sensitivity and grace of a retarded Kodiak bear. He liked to add extra syllables in the middle of his words. He also had a somewhat skewed concept of what I was willing to do in terms of a 7:00 AM gym class.

So, getting back to football with Mr. Cecil. Now, I'm what you might call a "hardy" woman. Or "mooselike." I'm built like a Steeler, except I wear my cups farther north. But there's no amount of money you could pay me to play football with the Woodland Hills football team.

So one of these mornings, Mr. Cecil suggested we do just that. There was some guy roughly the size of a Volkswagen Bus across from me. I don't remember his name, but we'll call him Tyrone. Mr. Cecil looked at me and at the array of football players before him. I think the rest of the girls in the class were off menstruating or something; I'd been abandoned like a three-legged zebra. Mr. Cecil conjured up a mental image of John Madden and said, "All right, Amanda, you're going to run a buttonhook pass."

I looked at him. We both blinked. No words were necessary.

"All right, Tyrone, you're going to run a buttonhook pass."

So now you have a pretty good idea of Mr. Cecil and of the kind of relationship we had; to say that he didn't much care for me would be to say that the universe is roomy.

Mr. Cecil had a bit of a penchant for combining things, like the aforementioned extra syllables. But he also liked to combine several sports together. And by "several," I mean all of them. Plus several things that were not sports. I base this statement on the lack of scooter events in the Olympics.

We always knew when we'd be playing Cecilball because it looked like a small bomb had been set off in the equipment closet. The floor-hockey goals, basketballs, badminton racquets, kickballs, hockey sticks, and, of course, scooters, would be strewn about. Also, those horrible green mesh shirts were always out -- because in a game like Cecilball, you need to not only keep score, but have huddles with your teammates concerning strategy:

"Okay, you go down the left and then I'll pass you the kickball --"
"I thought we were using the basketballs."
"No, just the basketball hoops."
"Then what are the hockey goals for?"
"Those are base."
"Wait, I thought whoever had the badminton racquet was on traveling base."
"No, we're going to use those to kill Mr. Cecil."

And of course, that was all supposed to be done on scooters. Who remembers scooters? Even in second grade, no one's ass fit on those things. And there was always someone whose finger had been broken, so we got the safety lecture. ("No one put your hand on the ground.") Because when you set a bunch of 18-year-olds on paper-sized pieces of plywood with swiveling wheels that didn't swivel all the way around, you need to be mindful of their well-being. And everyone's hands were always on the ground anyway because being on a scooter is just doing a crabwalk, only more annoying and less attractive. Only slightly more humiliating than being on the scooter is falling off a scooter. You only fall two inches, but somehow it's never expected and extremely painful. And you can't just get back on the scooter. You have to stand up and completely readjust yourself. And that's if you were lucky -- generally, one person falling set off a chain reaction wherein every other scootered person in the room would crash into that first person like water droplets running into each other on a pane of glass.

Sing it with me now: Glory days! Well, they'll pass you by, glory days! In the wink of a young girl's eye...

She's not winking -- someone just broke her thumb with a scooter.


Cindy said...

My darling wife. I was thinking the other day that with Kurt Vonnegut dead and gone, you'd be the perfect replacement for him. This blog only proves taht point.

Scott said...

::giggle:: I just have flashbacks to Junior High where Brian K. was rolling at me on a scooter and his testicals fell out of his short gym shorts. Damn that boy had big balls...

Nate said...

I remember back when I was in Elementary School, we somehow combined bowling, dodgeball, those scooters, and a giant parachute.

I think it was called "Bowling for Crack-babies"

Don Guitar said...

Back in nineteenmumble I worked on a survey crew one summer. We were surveying the preliminary high-water line for lake DeGray (near Hot Springs, Arkansas). We used Kaiser blades to clear passages that were six feet wide and ten feet tall between survey stakes (so that the survey scope could later get a clear view). I haven't seen a Kaiser blade since then and it won't hurt my feelings if I never see one again. We used to meet at a cafe in town every morning and, on days they were needed, we sat on the tailgate of the truck in the cafe parking lot and sharpened our Kaiser blades with nine inch mill bastard files. Keeping in mind that I was seventeen at the time, one morning a couple of very attractive ladies walked past as I was sharpening my blade. By then I'd gotten pretty good at it so it really was sharp, and, as I'm sure you've guessed, I darn near cut my hand off. Lisa commented, over my shoulder just now, that the little head gets you in trouble every time.

The coach I remember was a sadist who's name I've mercifully forgotten. We has grades seven through twelve in our gym class. I was grade seven, around 5'6" and well under 100 pounds. He divided the class into two teams with one team at each end of the gym floor, dumped an enormous box full of those inflated red rubber balls (in various sizes) on the floor and we played dodge-ball. His method of allowing us boys to let off a little steam once in a while was to have a free-for-all and let us have the freedom of the court and throw balls at one another for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. The smallest of those hellish balls was about half again the size of a softball and some high school seniors could throw that thing with enough velocity to leave a whelp on you that lasted for days. Nor could a seventh grade dweeb throw one fast enough to avenge himself. You ran for your life, took whatever licks you couldn't avoid without wasting valuable time on histrionics and kept running until "Hitler" blew his goddamned whistle and it was finally over.

One of those gigantic high school seniors stands out in my memory. This fellow was a bully and all of us little guys watched him carefully because he liked to trap us in a corner and throw one at us, as hard as he could throw it, from point blank range. There was only one other guy in the class as big as him, a normal, gentle natured big fellow who was content to throw a little more gently and mainly at his friends. Like a bunch of young native Americans, he and his pals "counted coup" on one another without doing any real damage. One of us little dweebs got smart and, as the free-for-all started, told the gentle-giant that the sadistic-giant said he was a (popular euphemism for vagina) and the two giants wound up in a one-on-one ball throwing fight. What a glorious day that was. The nice guy took a real blast and came back with a vengeance. He threw the ball so hard it was almost invisible and the bully contemptuously jumped into the air with his legs spread wide to let the ball pass under him only it didn't. It hit him HARD, right square in the cojones. His eyes glazed over, he rolled backwards and landed flat on his back. Then he placed both hands in the expected position and cried like a baby while a half dozen or so of his diminutive peers openly cheered and applauded. A few of our classmates who didn't have a clue gave us funny looks but that didn't even slow us down.

That may have been the day I started to believe in justice.

honeykbee said...

Reminnds me of Calvinball.

Would love to hear some examples of those extra syllables. Like... kickballaball?