Dorothy-Jean (Dody) Christian Chapman

“Dang it!” He threw his weight into his often vandalized and burgled locker in the hallway outside English class. Then he cursed sub-vocally as he entered that English class, but put on his dumb look while shuffling down the aisle to his toosmall high school desk. His thoughts were of another day without the bagged lunch his ma carefully prepared for him. Lunch had become a thing of the past. Not since elementary school had he sunk his teeth into his ma’s pulled-pork sandwiches, back yard apples, milk, and brownies. He did not complain to anyone, and the perpetrators knew that about him. A couple of the boys, preps and jocks dressed in loafers and khakis with thin leather belts, watched him stumble over other students’ books which did not fit under the desk seats. Their smirks, muffled scoffing laughter, and surreptitious glances were not lost on the hayseed. They found much sport in stealing homepacked lunches daily from the hayseed’s locker, and then making his life miserable in the academic preparation classes while they snacked on his ma’s carefully wrapped goodies. When these guys started an undercurrent of jeering, usually three or more other kids joined in the mockery. Their target merely let it slide as he knew he had to in order to maintain his dignity. The hayseed lived a life of abject poverty outside of town. He hand milked cows at a nearby dairy each morning before and after school in order to supplement the meager family income. Lack of plumbing and lack of time meant hopping on a school bus in all his odiferous glory. Many of the other farm kids did not have plumbing either but had the time to freshen up with a bucket of water after chores and before school. The hayseed left the barn on the run in order to catch the bus. And when he did, this new layer of sweat only added to the objectionable outside garb on his person: He wore muddy work shoes which invariably came untied and refused to stay tied throughout the day; blue jeans with flecks of manure and mud; a hand-made gingham shirt with buttons on the wrong side, a pocket sewn on askew; and a home haircut which attempted to tame his wiry dark, curly hair but only served to enhance the wild effect. Not wanting to offend anyone with the base smells he brought aboard, the hayseed usually rode in the empty seat behind the driver. That way he did not have to face any of his oppressors. The bus

driver made sure that front seat stayed empty for the hayseed by placing his lunch box and coat sprawled out over the width. From behind this seat came the usual “ew” and “Take a bath” vocatives and statements. One neighbor of the hayseed, who rarely rode the bus, did sit with him on those occasions because the cows the hayseed milked belonged to this friend’s parents. He would turn around and quell the kids by staring. And this friend was in most of the hayseed’s classes; but he did not step up with the same fortitude that he did on the bus to stare any of the offenders down in school. The hayseed did not tell his friend about the daily swiping of his lunch bag. Again, he felt that he should take care of this on his own. Years of tolerance seemed to build a quiet resolve which took the form of a soft shield. Hurt sometimes wormed its way through, but quick reaction did not occur as it did in so many teenage boys in the high school. A plan, long in the making, ripened over the course of his high school years. Judicious timing would prevail. Spring of the hayseed’s senior year arrived. The hayseed’s locker and lunch continued to be violated. Luckily, he had been assigned a work-study job in the school cafeteria serving the daily fare to the paying students. The cafeteria ladies fed him well. In addition, they gave him a white uniform with an apron and let him wash up in their bathroom. While he served food to all his acquaintances and tormenters, the cafeteria ladies washed and dried his clothes to lessen the taunts directed toward him in the afternoon classes. Spring indeed had arrived; the growth of pasture to mow and bale; the birth of more dairy calves; and the hatching of the plan. The hayseed broke down and finally told his ma about the years of locker cracking and lunch stealing. He was about to graduate and knew he would probably never see these locals again. Ma and the hayseed carefully prepared a feast for the offending classmates. Ma used waxed paper and wrapped up a pulled meat pork barbeque sandwich, a handful of dried apples, three brownies, and a thermos of whole milk from the dairy.

As was custom, Ma placed the lunch items in the bottom of a large paper Safeway bag and rolled the top around the package and bound it with baling twine.

As usual, the lunch disappeared from the Hayseed’s locker and his books were scrambled. But he knew that he would get a hearty meal at the lunch hour. However, in the morning English class, after the students settled into the hour of note taking and discussion of the world’s great poets, the hayseed noticed the preps and jocks sneaking bites of his special bagged lunch and sharing with each other. No different than any other morning. The bell rang, and the ear-splitting sound of desks scraping the floor could be heard as students unfolded themselves, stood up, and exited in a lumbering crowd. An afternoon class was chemistry. A lab had been scheduled with chemicals to be brought to lab tables and chemistry notes to be followed carefully for the proper results to occur. Bunsen burners were hooked up to the gas lines; beakers were gingerly lined up; and tools such as tongs and heavy gloves were assembled in easy-to-reach fashion. Today students would explore boiling point rise and freezing point depression. Exact measurements and observation would be key to the grades. After donning protective eye wear and aprons, students in teams of three and four began mixing their MOL solutions. The Hayseed chose to team up with two girls who demonstrated a modicum of respect for him mainly in deference to his inherent intelligence and academic prowess; otherwise they would not be seen with him in deference to his shabbiness. MOL mixing proceeded uneventfully on this team with the three communicating in correct vernacular among themselves. Other teams fared as well, except one. The one group of three guys and a girl required the help of the chemistry teacher. This group included two of the hayseed’s detractors. These two seemed to be suffering some malady of great proportions, and they requested a quick exit to the bathroom at the same time. School rules dictated one student at a time. But

as these guys pleaded with the teacher to allow dual passage, a third fellow in the class requested a pass. The chemistry teacher, an experienced educator with eight years under her belt, suspected collusion and sent the first needy boy out of the room to the chagrin of the other two.

As the first boy passed the last lab table at a run, he also passed flatulence of the loud and smelly variety. The class members broke out in guffaws in as high volume as the tone of the now wafting flatulence. It was then that the other two guys, imprisoned in the chemistry room, began to explode with muffled burbles of flatulence in apparent sympathetic harmony. The additional smell and melodic notes of methane escapage sent the two explodees galloping out of the room, bumping and tipping over lab stools, and leaving a couple of broken glass tubes in their smelly wake. The remainder of the chemistry groups clustered in a pack of hilarity at the doorway listening to groans and echoing bass booms from the boys’ bathroom. All the chemistry teacher’s directives were overridden by olfactory glands and the deepest parts of the students’ limbic systems. To laugh with total abandonment at three prep and jock students’ predicaments held sway. The hayseed smiled.

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