Rammstein’s “Du hast” except there aren’t any singing Germans.
Cue scene: An old rickety house. Old fogey Michelle is sitting in her rocking chair, stroking her silvery beard and screaming at the birds to get off her lawn. Four kids jog up the pathway toward the steps . . .
Dennis nears the rail. “Hey, Ms. Michelle. How are you doing?”
“Get off my lawn!” I wave my cane.
Lucy curtsies. “Ms. Michelle, have you seen little Timmy?”
“He fell into the well and his blasted collie went to get help. Stupid boy can’t watch where he’s going.” I snort and then spit into my spittoon by the chair. “Get off my lawn ‘fore y’all fall into my well.”
Opie picks up his little bull terrier, stroking his ears. “Ms. Michelle, we thought we saw Timmy go flying by here. We were playing Stuntman and made a gigantic slingshot to shoot him over three parked buses on fire. But the hook holding the giant rubber band broke before we were ready and it flung Timmy off-target. We found his rollerblade in your mailbox.”
I tap my chin, thinking. Then I chuckle. “Butt skate.”
The four kids exchange puzzled stares. Little Orphan Annie scratches her dirty cheek. “What’s a butt skate.”
“It’s what y’all be doing when older as horny men throw pennies onto the stage while y’all dance along the greased pole.” I cackle at the crude joke before quieting down. The neighbor, Mr. Dagwood, casts a disapproving frown from over the fence. I clear my throat and gesture at the porch. The four kids hurry up and take a seat surrounding the rocking chair.
“I’ll tell y’all a true story that happened when I was right around y’all age.” I pick up my glass of lemonade, gargle, and spit out the liquid into my spittoon. “Listen well, ‘cause this story could save y’all life one day.”
The children nod. I lean back in my chair and begin my tale . . .
Three days before the end of every grade school year, the teachers herded all their students into the auditorium/gymnasium/cafeteria. The large room was found in the middle of the building with a stage and four entrances almost set as compass points at opposing sides.
Each student would take a seat on the floor in rows before the stage. A teacher walked along the stage holding a pole with a hook on the end. She reached up and snagged a pull ring way up high near the top curtain. She pulled down a large movie screen. Then the lights went dark and someone would . . .
“Ew. Dennis farted.” Lucy waves a hand before her face. The three other kids scoot themselves away from the blushing Dennis.
“I can’t help it. My mom made bean burritos for lunch,” he says.
I chuckle. “Ah, those were the good ol’ days. Yup. Someone would rip one the moment the lights went dark. Always knew where it came from by everyone shouting and the shuffling of butts. Heh-heh-heh. Although I don’t remember the cafeteria ever serving burritos, y’all could expect the gas from the mystery meat.”
“Ms. Michelle? What color was your mystery meat?” Annie taps toes playfully.
“Grayish with just a hint of red from the tomato sauce.”
“Ours is purple and green.” Opie rubs the sleeping terrier’s belly.
“Purple and green?” I lean forward and place one hand on Opie’s shoulder. “Son, get y’all parents to take y’all to the doctor tomorrow.”
Lucy huffs. “Ms. Michelle? What about the butt skates?”
“Impatient whippersnapper. I should beat y’all with my cane,” I mutter before clearing my throat. “Like I was saying . . .”
Then the lights went dark and someone would turn on the movie projector. They used to show the same movie every year.
This was basically, as how I remember it, about some software engineers being digitalized into a computer game to stop an evil program from taking over the Pentagon.
This concept has been done and redone over the countless years. But back then, in the early 1980s, such sci-fi movies were one of a kind and all the rage after the first Star Wars movie came out. Then, one year, they mixed it up and showed a different one.
*batteries not included.
This one had to do with small extraterrestrial living machines that save an apartment block under threat from property development.
You should have heard the younger kids crying when they thought the poor little alien machine had died. The “ahhhhh” could have been heard blocks away. Some older kids complained about not being able to see Tron.
You can please some people some of the time, but not everyone all of the time.
“But what does the movie have to do with butt skates? And how does this story save our lives?” All four children get snippy.
“It means that if y’all sit there behaving ya’ll selves and listening to my stories, y’all not out running on my lawn and I don’t have to come smacking ya’ll on the head with my cane. That’s how it saves y’alls lives.” I smirk. After another swallow of lemonade, I push on my rocking chair and stare at the clanging wind chimes.
“The butt skates has to do with the cafeteria/auditorium/gymnasium. Y’all see . . .”
The other times when the lunch ladies didn’t serve mystery meat and we didn’t watch movies, we had gym class. One activity in gym was soccer, yet not played like what you would expect. Imagine the cafeteria trays without the little compartments to keep each type of food separated. Imagine this made out of wood, perfectly square, with four casters underneath.
The students sat on this and used hands and feet to scoot ourselves around the gym. Those were butt skates, although the gym teacher called them scooters. Add in a ball and a net and you have butt soccer. If the janitor had been smart, he would have just squirted wax on the floor and we would have shined the tiles up with our socks.
“Cool! I wish we had that at our school.” Opie claps hands. The other three children nod enthusiastically.
I sigh. “Those were the days when parents weren’t so overprotective. Now and again, someone might get a ball or a foot in the face and no one complained. A few scratches or bumps? No big deal. Those heal right up. I suppose schools nowadays can’t get away with something like that, or shooting people with giant slingshots over fiery buses.”
The kids bow their heads, looking sheepish. I wave my hand. “Don’t y’all worry. I won’t tell so long as y’all come by for the next five years and clean up my lawn.”
“Okay,” Lucy says before frowning. “What’s that noise?”
We listen. Faintly, scratching noises and a distant, “Help me” comes from somewhere above us. We hurry off the porch and stare upward. Two little legs are kicking from out the top of the chimney stack.
“There’s Timmy!” Annie points.
I blink my eyes in amazement. “Well I’ll be. So it is. Took a header down my fireplace. Like to see how Lassie gets his stuck butt out of there.”
“How ARE we gonna get him out?” Dennis asks.
I shrug. “No worries. I’ll smoke him out come winter. As for the rest of y’all, get off my lawn!”
*note: all the school instances within the parentheses are true stories*