Friday, February 19, 2010


In Which We Report Some Startling Results...

During lunch, Patrick, the Dingleberry I was saddled with as my lab partner, came over and sat at my table, his hand out in a gimme-gimme gesture.

“Need your lab report,” he said. “I forgot to copy down the results from the experiment.”

I stared at him for a moment, wondering if he really expected me to believe this obvious lie. I had watched only a few days earlier as he scribbled down the results from our latest experiment—something to do with the effects of certain acids on various materials, including baking soda, modeling clay, and several other things (I forget, really. After high school, my interest in the area of acids and bases didn’t extend beyond understanding how a handful of Tums works the morning of a really bad hangover, so it’s all a bit of blur).

I was automatically cagey. You would have been too if Patrick had been a pain in your ass for the previous three years. “I didn’t finish it yet. I’m working on it in study hall next period. But you can copy the results from my notebook right now,” I offered, handing him my spiralbound lab book. I figured it was the quickest way to get rid of him.

He shook his head. “Nah. Just gimme the whole report when you come in for history,” he said. Patrick and I also shared history class, the class just before science.

“What do you need my whole report for?” I asked.

He sneered at me across the lunch table. “Whayaneemywholereporfor?” he mimicked in a whiny, nasally way. “Just give it to me, butt-munch,” he said, chortling to himself. “Butt-munch” represented the absolute zenith of name-calling humor for Patrick. Then he glowered at me. “I’ll be waiting for you out in the hall. Don’t be a dickwad about it or you’ll be sorry,” he said, then shoved himself away from my table and slouched off to join his cronies over in the Dingleberry quadrant of our high school lunchroom.

I sat there for a moment, drumming my fingers on the table and staring at the remains of my lunch—hot dogs and potato chips—for which I no longer had an appetite. Pat hadn’t threatened me in quite this way since 8th grade, but he was still a pure-D bully. And I must confess, back then I was the poster boy for wimpy, bespectacled 98-pound weaklings everywhere (not like the taut ball of muscularity I am today, baby). If I didn’t give him what he wanted—

Just then, I realized I was being watched and looked up. From the next table over I locked eyes with a guy I’ll call Mac, a rather portly member of our class. He was good friends with my missing lab partner—poor Harry, who had broken his leg and was going to be out for several weeks. Mac was just smirking at me and shaking his head, but not in an entirely unkindly way.

“What?” I said.

“Nothing,” he answered, then laboriously got up and squished himself into the seat across from me. “Just wondered how long that was going to take. Let me guess: Pat wanted your lab report.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Says he just needs the results, but he wants the whole report. I think he’s just going to copy the whole thing.”

Mac snorted at my naivete. “Well, no duh. Harry’s been writing them for him all year.”

This bit the biscuit. “What?”

Mac nodded. “Patrick copied one of Harry’s whole reports—word for word—and when the teacher compared them and confronted them, they both got detention. After that, Harry just wrote a different one for Patrick and he’d recopy it and hand it in.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I hadn’t known about any of this. Harry certainly hadn’t said anything. But then, Harry and I weren’t exactly buddies. And it occurred to me that in Harry’s shoes, I wouldn’t have said anything either. It would have been too humiliating to admit I was writing two lab reports every week just to keep the class bully off my back.

Mac nodded sympathetically as this sank in, then he looked earnestly at me. “Hey, if you’re not gonna finish your lunch, can I have it?”

As I watched Mac inhale my leftovers, I gathered my books to get ready for next period, study hall. I opened my organizer and stared for a second at my lab report—of course it was finished, I had been lying to Patrick. I looked at the first page, the introduction and the hypothesis and all the other stuff we had to explain in our lab report. Then I flipped the page to where we were supposed to explain the experiment, analyze the data and explain the results. I sighed. I sure wasn’t going to give him my only copy of my lab report, but this was going to take me forever to recopy. I had (still have) terrible handwriting and it took a long while for me to write something legible in long-hand.

Then the bell rang and I stuffed everything into my bag and hurried off to study hall. I threw myself into my seat and grabbed a fresh piece of paper. I only had an hour to write a new copy for Patrick—not much time for me.

“Hey,” said Dino, the guy who sat in front of me.

“Hey,” I responded without looking up.

“Writing Patrick’s lab report for him?”

Now I did look up. “What the hell? Was it on the news?”

Dino just smiled sympathetically and returned to his book. I glanced around, imagining that everyone in the room was looking me, knowing that I was Patrick’s mutt. Suddenly, I was annoyed. The wheels started turning in my head, which was often a bad thing for me at that tender age. When I got annoyed, those wheels often spun off in directions that weren’t very good for me.

Alas, that didn’t stop me. I began writing.

My hand was pretty cramped up from 45 minutes of writing, and I was shaking it vigorously as the bell rang and I walked upstairs to history class. Good as his word, Patrick was waiting for me at the door. Wordlessly, I handed him the lab report I wrote for him and brushed by him into class. And immediately began to second-guess what I’d just done.

I loved history, but I confess I have no clue what the class was about. I spent most of the next hour watching Patrick as he furtively read off my paper and copied what I wrote in his own degenerate hand. Any minute now, I thought. Sweat wasn’t just rolling down my back, it was flying in drops from the top of my head like a cartoon character’s.

After what seemed like about 30 years, the bell rang. I tensed, waiting. But Patrick simply scribbled furiously for a few seconds more, then got up, Frisbee’d my paper at me and sauntered out the door to science class. Numb, I collected the paper, stuffed it way in the back of my organizer, got out my original copy and went on to class. As we all filed in to the lab, I dropped my paper at our teacher’s desk and took up my seat at Lab Table #2 opposite Patrick, who made a face at me. I just goggled at him. How could he not have realized--? I wondered. Then Mr. Schelder, our teacher, came in with a handful of explosive and caustic chemicals and announced that day’s mayhem.

A couple of days later—and it was a long couple of days--Mr. Schelder handed back our lab reports, except for one. He held it up for the class.

“I’ve got a really interesting lab report here,” he said, trying to look a little stern, but he was smiling too broadly. “Patrick,” he said. “This is some paper. I’d like you to come up here and read it to the class.”

Oh shit, here we go, I thought, looking down at the table and breathing hard. Then I hazarded a glance up, expecting to see my death in the Dingleberry’s eyes. Instead, he had a startled, somewhat frightened look. But he quickly rearranged his face into a smirk and sauntered up to the front of the class. He started reading from the first page, a slightly reworded but more or less accurate introduction and explanation of our hypothesis for the lab work.

“You know what?” Mr. Schelder said, interrupting him. “Skip to the results.”

Patrick looked at him, then out at the class, licked his lips and began to read in a slightly cracking version of his usual drawling voice. He read through our results in applying acid to the first two samples we tested in lab, then went on to the last sample, reading word for word exactly what I had written just for him. And it went something like this:

In sample 3, we observed unusual results in applying three teaspoons of the acid compound to the sample, a block of modeling clay. Instead of dissolving the sample or being neutralized, however, the acid caused a chemical reaction which transformed the clay into a cylindrical organic compound composed of meat and meat byproduct.

This rare reaction was first observed by Dr. O. Mayer in the early 20th century. The phenomenon, known in scientific circles as mayermorphosis, revolutionized the food industry. Dr. Mayer patented the discovery and made a fortune as a purveyor of these tubular miracles of science.

To confirm that the process of mayermorphosis was complete, we applied a teaspoon of chemical formula CA(t) Su P to the phenomenon and consumed it.

Half the class was giggling at this point, much to Patrick’s confusion and Mr. Schelder’s great joy (I was busy staring at the floor, willing myself not to crack a smile or laugh in any way, knowing I would be struck dead if I did).

“Wow,” Mr. Schelder said. “So you mixed acid with modeling clay and the whole thing turned into an Oscar Mayer wiener?”

Well, you can’t say the word “wiener” in a room full of high-school sophomores without explosive results. Everyone cracked up (except me), while Patrick just stared, looking back and forth helplessly between the class and the page of the lab report I’d written just for him.

“Wow,” Mr. Schelder said again, with forced wonder. “Spontaneous mayermorphosis here in my lab. Good job, Patrick. Enjoy that F, you clown.”

Then a little cheer went up from parts of the class—mostly from Patrick’s friends—and everyone laughed and clapped. Patrick did a little bow, and on his way back to the lab table, he tromped on my foot, hard.

I knew I wasn’t going to get in trouble with the teacher for writing Patrick’s report—the Dingleberry wouldn’t dare admit he’d copied off of me. But I spent a few weeks after that waiting to have my ass handed to me by Patrick and his friends, especially since Mr. Schelder ran with the joke in every single class thereafter, both when taking attendance (“Lisa? Bill? Dr. Mayer? Dr. Oscar Mayer, are you here?”) and while walking among the tables to check on our results (“How’s wienie roast going over here, guys?”), but the ass-handing never happened. Gradually, it dawned on me that Patrick had let me off the hook. After all, I had given him exactly what he wanted—more attention—so I guess my plan backfired on that score.

On the other hand, he never bugged me for my lab report again.

After that year, I didn’t have Patrick in any more of my classes. I was on the college track (I assume Patrick was on the loser track) and so I went on to a tougher chemistry course, once again in Mr. Schelder’s lab, although this time my lab partners were all girls, who were a significant improvement over my previous partner, let me tell you: pretty and fresh-smelling, all of them gorgeous samples of clay shaped by a kind and loving God. And they never, to the best of my knowledge, lit their farts with Bunsen burners.

I rarely think of Patrick any more—once you lose a Dingleberry, you don’t spend a lot of time imagining what he might be up to, circling the drain of life. But every so often, I do wonder if he ever thinks of me, perhaps at a cookout or a ballgame, just before he takes a bite of his hot dog. I wonder if he ever thinks of the kid who transformed him, however briefly, into the biggest wiener in class.

And then I don’t think about him anymore.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

that is awesome. you rock, mm!
So glad to read a story told by you again! Thanks
Checked it out - he's now Sgt. Patrick Riley of a local police force. Unbelieveable. Loved the story!!!!!
you are, and always have been, a genius...
I'm so glad that you (and Blazey) are back....

especially Blaze. :)
Brilliant. I would have gone for the chemical formula MU(s)+ T + Ar(d), but yours was probably a bit more subtle. Great stuff.
HAHAHA! That was great! I would have never been that clever in your situation at your age.

Thanks for the story, MM.
Nicely done, MM!
You're back! I didn't realize you were back. Planets are realigning themselves correctly now. Thanks.
Wow back with the family. Life is good!! Stories were great. Thank Blaze for updating us. JAG
hahaha :D

"And they never, to the best of my knowledge, lit their farts with Bunsen burners."

Love it.

I think ensuring Patrick never asked you for another lab report was victory enough!
The most fun I ever had in Science was when a classmate asked me very loudly if I was a nymphomaniac because I liked setting fire to everything...
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