I woke up this morning with the image of those yellow carnival ducks in the shooting gallery at carnivals quietly slipping forward in a row , one after another after another . There’s a lot of noise around : guns popping , hundreds of voices in high exhilaration in a free-for-all clash , carnival barkers barking , sometimes their distorted voices humming on bad PA systems . The Octopus ride is turning overhead full of teenagers and the kiddie roller coaster is grinding up and down tiny slopes and it is surrounded by parents who mirror the excitement on their child’s smiling face .
Most are smiling . Always there are one or two little ones who wear anxious expressions and are holding on for dear life . The parents are there trying desperately to coax a smile . When the ride finally stops after that endless two minutes of terror the parent will ask Did you like it ? and the grave expression will change to a wide smile . It’s a I’m finally back to earth and happy to be alive smile . The little body has relaxed and the little being’s little heart is beating again .
Yes ! says the recently terrorized child passionately . Yes !
Looking way back to elementary school I think that I was one of the ducks , faithfully following in line , not really knowing where we were all going . I say faithfully following , but the truth more accurately is that there seemed to be no other option . That was the system of school : You were there , you got in line , you went along .
In my case there was a strong sense of and a fear of the chaos around . Maybe there was safety in numbers , or more likely a sense of safety in going along to get along . Leave your personality at the door and get in a straight line . Get right behind the guy in front . So the ducks lined up , I got in the line , and we went . There wasn’t much to it , once you gave in . You could settle in and do exactly what the other ducks did . That was what was expected . And , as I said , in my case I figured that at any rate there was no other choice . There was comfort in that .
There were those who wanted to buck the line . Dusty Wooten was one of those guys. Dusty was in my class . He had too much of a sense of humor to be content there . It probably bored him to death to follow along . He was a saboteur . He went down to the dime store and bought fake vomit and fake thermos bottles filled with spring loaded snakes that would with a sudden and fantastic ferocity jump at the teacher’s face as she opened the thing because Dusty had pretended to be unable to do so and had begged her with Lawrence Olivier’s talent to please help him . Please , teacher ! As she was doing her good deed , twisting the thermos lid and sealing her fate , Dusty was placing the rubber vomit right under her chair .
He was good , Dusty . At sabotage and doing his own thing . He was the Thomas Edison , or the Steve Jobs of the fourth grade . And he was always in trouble , of course .
And now we get to my story of the fourth grade fart .
I should say first that Dusty was a friend of mine . But , when in a pinch , and all you are is a little yellow in-line ducky , you don’t know any better . You’re just a one dimensional yellow thing thoughtlessly gliding along the moving belt of life ready to be shot down by anyone at any time . It’s a duck eat duck world in fourth grade . All things being equal , you want another duck to be shot down , not you , if it comes to that .
I felt a fart coming on just before recess . I saw the big classroom clock , the oversized clock that every school puts up on the front wall of every classroom to torture students . It’s brilliant strategy ! It’s the big lie . It’s just a clock . Everyone can know what time it is . It’s just there . It’s centered up there on the front wall , large enough to be seen by ships at sea , loudly ticking , big minute hands leaping from number to number .
What do you mean it’s ticking your fourth grade life away , stealing your play time , making you ache for the next break and ultimately for end of the day dismissal , relentlessly taunting . So ? It’s just a clock . Marquis de Sade invented clocks in classrooms , for despairing students to stare at so they are forced to see their freedom stolen , sliced away , bit by ticking bit .
Dusty didn’t let the clock bother him for two reasons : 1st . all day was playtime for Dusty anyhow , and 2nd. Dusty never had bothered to learn to tell time .
But my fart in fourth grade was building far down there somewhere in my bowels . I didn’t have much experience with farts as a fourth grader . They were rare events in my young life . So I didn’t know that I shouldn’t try to hold one in for five minutes when the gas was building with such rapidly increasing pressure . I was young .
Just four more minutes until recess . Now just three . Now two and a half . Has the clock slowed down ? Two minutes to go until I am out on the yard and free to let it rip . Hold it just a minute more ! You can do it . That clock should go a little faster . Any time now . Just another minute . Get ready !
And then it happened . Of course it would . The loudest fart possible from a fourth grader . It filled the classroom . The teacher , about to dismiss the class , froze in her tracks . She looked down my row . Everyone turned . There were forty of them , at least . The boys all had that irreverent smirk on their nasty little mugs . They were , each and every one of them , ready to do emotional mayhem on the poor fartist . Not mealy-mouthed at all in cases like this , a chorus of Good One ! came along with the mischievous stares . It was instantly clear that the teacher would assume that the farter did the noisy deed on purpose . Sure ! Just before recess . A conveniently timed fart with an escape route in mind . To disrupt the class and then slip out . The accusation was clearly plastered on her face . The boys’ vicious noise was confirming her suspicions . The girls were beginning to join in on the merriment .
I was caught . Every face in the room was turned toward me .
But I realized that I had one out . I sat second to last in my row . Who do you think was last ? Yeah . He sat right behind me , last guy in the row . An evil devious plan popped into my tiny fourth grade brain . Every duck for himself in this case !
So I turned and joined my fellow fourth graders looking back . I turned around in my desk and looked directly at Dusty . I cold-bloodedly stared him right in the face .
It was him ! he said . It was him ! I said nothing . I didn’t need to . It was Dusty of the fake vomit behind me. It was Dusty of the snake-spiked thermos . It was Dusty . I didn’t need to say a word .
Dusty ! said the teacher . You stay when I dismiss the class for recess . But it was him ! , Dusty pleaded . No , Dusty , we all know it was you . You always do things like this .
Now you’ve gone too far , Dusty , I heard the teacher saying as I followed the other kids out the door on their way to recess .