For most of my elementary school years, I had to take the music class taught by Mrs. O’Neil. In a class with the same teacher year-after-year, I’m not quite sure how the semesters were supposed to be distinct — all I can remember about the classes were Yamaha recorders, way too much “Frère Jacques” being sung, and the following story.
Each one of us has a God-given talent, I’m sure. My talent is being entertaining, especially to a bunch of immature boys. One day in fourth-grade music class, I was entertaining my peers with a boisterous round of fake farts. Take wet palms pressed against the mouth and combine them with forceful and steady breaths, and soon the hills were alive with the sound of flatulence.
The only Jehovah’s Witness I ever knew was a chubby, red-headed kid named Andreas. I remember him as the first obnoxious person I ever met. As he was about to display, Andreas’s God-given talent was tattling. After the first chorus of my “symphony,” he raised his hand for attention. When called upon, Andreas said, “Mrs. O’Neil! Matt keeps farting!”
It took far longer than usual for the hoots and howls of our fellow students to die down before Mrs. O’Neil gave the best comeback I’ve heard in my life. “Andreas,” she said, “farting is an uncontrollable action. I can’t control it, and neither can you.”
And so I sat back smiling, secure in knowing that I had won this round. But by the end of the afternoon, I was to encounter the wrath of Jehovah. Or better yet, the wrath of the Jehovah’s Witness.
After school, I was walking home with my usual gang. Suddenly, I was smacked upside the back of my head. Streaking past me was Andreas on his bicycle — he had surprised me with a sneak attack. He was cussing up a storm, apparently angry at being humiliated.
Andreas circled around for another sortie and soon was blazing towards me. My friends had scattered, not only to get out of the way but to assume prime viewing spots. I was alone, a target out in the open. My looked left…right…. “Wait!” I thought, “That’s it!” Nearby was a broken tree branch.
I quickly grasped it, and immediately was face-to-face with Andreas. He swung at me from his mount — I used my illegal ninja moves from the government to duck. Then with a swift jab, I jammed the stick between the spokes of his front wheel. Within an instant, his bike came to a complete stop. The same cannot be said for Andreas, for over the handlebars he went.
At this point, excited applause filled the air.
Andreas got to his feet, growled, and lunged at me. Soon enough, we were wrestling around on the ground, and two 9-year-olds were flailing and rolling across the ground.
Suddenly, the sound of screeching car brakes could be heard. Immediately, Andreas was torn away from his position over me. I looked to see my father. He apparently had driven by and seen me in a fight. He had firm grasp of Andreas’s shirt collar, and he barked, “Don’t you ever touch my son again!” Dad then let go, and Andreas proceeded to retreat full-speed on foot instead of on his bicycle. He continued to run until disappearing around a distant corner.
My father turned to check on me. “You OK?” he asked. I choked back some tears and nodded. I was only a block away from home at this time. So my dad finished driving and I completed the walk, taking with me Andreas’s bicycle.
I kept that thing for about a year before my parents, who were the sole purchasing authority in our household, finally realized that their child had a bike that they hadn’t purchased for him. I had to give the thing back to him, but after that length of time Andreas had already gotten a new bike, whose frame better supported his own bulky one. I don’t know what he told his parents about the old bike, but I am sure that Jehovah was a witness to that one as well.
Photo credit: The Stillman