Strange

Once upon a time, a long way back,

an intelligent boy of eight, bumped into a cat.

 

“Hey, watch it stranger.” said the cat.

 

“I’m not the one whose strange.”

the boy said back.

 

“How can you say that?

Just look at you—

and what’s up with your hat?”

 

“It’s called a ten-gallon; I found it at a store,

on top of a rack.

Now,

can you please just scat.

I’ve had quite enough of this chat.”

 

“Sure, sure,” said the cat, “I’ll let you be.

As long as it’s clear

you’re stranger than me!”

 

“Oh, yea? And to what degree?”

 

“Well, you see,

You’re the one talking to

a cat on the stree”—

 

“Well!”—the boy interrupted—

you’re down right, right…corrupted!”

 

“Whoa, whoa, there.

Now,

how do you…”

the cat stopped and shook his head,

just before he calmly said,

“Let’s leave it at this,

dear boy:

what might be strange to you,

may not be strange for me.

You see?”

 

“Yes, I guess I can agree.”

 

With that said,

the boy took his leave.

All the while

thinking,

a talking cat.

How strange is that?

The Sloth: Part 3 of 4

For the most part—every single day; let’s be honest—the inside of the bus was a mosh pit at a rock concert. But on this specific morning, the bus ride was rather quiet for Carter and Tony, as they both were lost in thought. Carter, was thinking of Stacy Bordals, how this plan will increase his popularity, and how he will use his new popular status to win Stacy’s heart. Tony, was thinking how, if he gets caught, this prank may cause him to miss part of the basketball season he worked so hard for. And both were replaying the content of the plan over and over in their heads.

The plan was simple: gather snacks from home—brownies, chips, cupcakes, candy, more candy, more cupcakes, almonds (to make him extra sleepy), place them in plastic containers, stack the containers in their book bags, write a note saying, “thanks for being a great teacher” on top of each container, drop two containers next to his door before every class period; and by sixth period, he’d be sleeping as sound as a bear during hibernation, giving Carter and Tony enough time to snap a picture, show it to the principal, and save the school from this slothful teacher. It was the perfect plan!

The bus came to an abrupt halt, and the students strolled out like zombies with no desire to feast on…anything, really. Tony and Carter were last to reach the school doors. There was no exchange of words between the two friends; there didn’t have to be. They went over the plan countless times the day before: at lunch, the periods after lunch, at Tony’s house during dinner, on the phone just before bed, and a few more times in their dreams. They were as ready as they’d ever be. There was no going back. The two friends gave each other a glance and a fist bump, pulled open the glass door, and walked into the school with champion-like confidence. The plan was in motion.

Inside the school, Tony and Carter began their evil plan with great precision. Tony peered around the corner, with Carter no more than two-steps behind. The school was a two-story building in the shape of a square; and if you were tracing this square-shaped school on a blueprint, Mr. Chestnut’s room was just before the top-right corner. And that is where Tony and Carter stood hidden.

Tony waved to Carter, who was holding both containers (one in each hand), as if to say the coast was clear. Carter ran with feet lighter than a ballerina’s, and placed the containers side-by-side in front of the classroom door. He knocked on the door, and like a game of ding-dong-dich, he was back behind the corner with Tony by his side. Both troublemakers peered from the corner in anticipation. Mr. Chestnut swung the door open, paused, and looked around in confusion. Tony and Carter took a quick hop back, and both sensed it would be smart to just listen. Meanwhile, Mr. Chestnut glanced over his round belly and saw the treats sent from heaven. “Hm, what a generous gesture.” he said to himself while reading the note. And then, with the motion of a penguin, he returned to his room and closed the door behind him.

Tony and Carter tiptoed to the door so they could see through the clear, glass window near the top of the door. “He’s eating it!” said Carter.

“Man, he’s devouring it.” said Tony. “This plan is gonna be easier than I thought, man.”

Carter heard a gang of footsteps coming down the opposite end of the hall. “Come on, man. Let’s get outta here.”—he motioned the direction they would escape with a head nod to the left—”I’ll meet you here before second.”

“Alright, cool!” said Tony, and they both took off in the same direction, before splitting like a “Y” to go to their separate classes.

The next four periods went by without a single flaw in the plan. Carter and Tony dropped off the treats, Mr. Chestnut picked them up, brought them into his room, and ate them. The only difference the ninth graders noticed was in Mr. Chestnut, himself: his shirt was untucked by second period; his tie was loosened by third; he began to sweat through his shirt by fourth; he unbuttoned the top-two buttons of his shirt by fifth; and all the while, the pace of his movements decreased like a kid’s electric car running low on battery. The plan seemed to be working.

Sixth period rolled around—the moment of truth! Carter and Tony walked into class to see Mr. Chestnut stuffing his face with the last brownie he’d been given. He had no care where the food came from. It was delicious, and that was enough for the heavyset teacher.

“Take your seats, boys!” Mr. Chestnut said with a mouthful of brownie. Carter and Tony, overwhelmed with joy, couldn’t help but smile at each other.

“You got it, sir.” said Tony with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“Aye-Aye, captain!” Carter said while saluting.

“Enough of the disrespect. Sit down. We have a great video today: The Life of a Beekeeper.” announced Mr. Chestnut. His voice was muffled and low.

The class sighed and moaned, but Tony and Carter knew they’d be watching a different movie; a movie where a mean, lazy teacher falls asleep and falls right into the evil trap of two ninth-grade boys.

No more than ten minutes went by before Mr. Chestnut was sound asleep and snoring like a lion.

“This is it,” said Tony, “I’m going for it.” Carter gave a nod of approval, and Tony snapped the picture.

“Did you get it?” asked Carter, who was leaning over Tony’s shoulder in attempts to see the picture.

“Yea, I got it, man! And look,”—he held the phone behind his left shoulder so Carter could see—”he’s got brownie all over his shirt and face. This is too perfect!”

“He’s a goner.” said Carter. “He…is…a…goner!” And, with the feeling of success creeping through their body, Carter and Tony leaned back in their seats, placed their hands in a relaxed position behind their heads, and smiled while watching the new worst movie ever made.

Watching Over Me

He’s there.

I know he’s there, watching from above.

We can not speak;

him and I—but we do communicate.

 

And,

as I sit here,

on a wooden bench,

staring at the worn-brick wall of a loft…

I wonder:

Does he understand me?

Does he even see me down here on this bench?

While he sits snug on his throne!

 

Well,

I see him—and in a minute I’m going to humiliate him with insults!

Then, he will hear me.

 

He,

is a cat.

 

His throne,

is a cat bed atop a window-sill;

and both need to be washed.

 

The window-sill is in the loft.

 

And the cat is staring at me.

 

I wish he’d stop.

His way of communicating is unpleasant,

and I don’t care if he understand me or not.

The Sloth: Part 2 of 4

The class bell rang, and the students of Newville High rushed through the halls like early-pass holders at an amusement park. Carter and Tony slugged behind their anxious classmates, who were in a rush to get a good seat in the cafeteria. “I don’t see what all the rush is about.” Tony said to Carter. “We’re all gonna sit in the same spots anyway. Nothing ever changes.”

“Yea,” said Carter, “and you know the food ain’t something to fuss about.” They both chuckled, and Tony made his body shiver just thinking about the cafeteria food. On Thursday’s, the day it currently was, the cafeteria served a heaping pile of mashed potatoes—which looked like a momma bird chewed it and spit it out for her young—there was turkey that tasted like paper (they only knew it tasted like paper, because the cafeteria served paper on Monday), and bagged gravy the lunch monitors likely stole from the dumpster behind the school. So yes, Carter and Tony saw no real reason to rush to the cafeteria.

The two friends received their toxic-waste lunch, and were headed toward their regular spot to sit and poke at their food. It was rare for them to actually eat their school lunches. On most occasions, they would toss it and stick to the snacks they brought from home: a bag of chips, a pack of fruit snacks, and two brownies, where the usual snacks they’d consume. Their regular lunch spot was in the back of the cafeteria. So, to get there without any food casualties (just imagine the sort of riot one would start if they spilled mashed potatoes and gravy on an unexpected student), they had to zigzag around the room like a mouse looking for cheese in a maze. First, they passed the brains of the school: they sat at a table front-and-center to the entire room—even at lunch they made sure to sit up front, just in case there was a spontaneous assembly. To the left of them, were the jocks: the kids nobody liked, but most wanted to be like. Opposite of them were the party girls, who at the moment, couldn’t believe Melony would ditch them to eat lunch with Trevor, the class clown. How could she! The three tables in the middle of the room were reserved for the loners, the gamers, and the skaters. Then, there were the two tables way, way back. One was where Jimmy had conversations—of high intellect—with himself; and the other was where Carter and Tony ate their lunch. Since the first day of ninth grade they had chosen the back table, and they’ve been sitting there ever since.

“Alright, Carter. What’s the plan?” Tony spoke with a mouthful of brownie, and the gaps in his teeth seemed to be storing some for later.

“Okay, so here it is…” Carter paused, eyes staring at his pile of glob the school calls a “healthy lunch.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Um…sorry. I guess I don’t have one yet.”

“Man,” said Tony sporting a look of disbelief and waving his hands to the air in disbelief, “you mean to tell me you don’t have a plan? What were you doing during that whole movie?”

“I was just,”—he was thinking about Stacy Bordals—”just trying to learn something, I guess.”

“Yea, and I’m thinking about how delicious this food might be. Come on, man! Get real.” Tony smacked Carter’s shoulder with the back of his hand.

“Alright, alright.” said Carter. “There is this one idea I had—but it could get the Chestnuts fired!”

“Go-on. I like the sound of this.” Tony drew out his words, and began stroking his imaginary mustache to show his seriousness.

“Okay, so you know how Chesticals likes his food, right?”

“Uh, I think the whole world knows that.” said Tony.

“Well, I noticed—and we don’t have to do this, but I noticed he eats everything in his path. Like…EVERYTHING! And I was thinking, maybe, if we kept giving him food during the day, by sixth period, he’d be knocked out and sleeping like a chubby baby after his milk.”

“Dude—I love it. But how does that help us?”

“Because, if he falls asleep, we snap a picture, and—vwah-la! He’s out of a job, and we get a teacher who might actually teach.

“Man,” said Tony, “that is messed up! But you can count me in! Mr. Chestnut-crunch is outta here!” Tony threw a fake pitch in the air, Carter motioned the swing of a bat, and they both pointed to the ceiling, as if to signal a home run.

“When should we do it?” Tony asked.

“Tomorrow. Let’s do it tomorrow.”

Just as they finished their mischievous plan, the lunch bell rang, signaling the end of seventh period, and the students, bellies full with garbage, trudged along to their next class. At this time tomorrow, Carter and Tony would be heroes, and Mr. Chestnut would be in serious, serious trouble.

The Sloth: Part 1 of 4

“Psst. Hey, Tony.” Carter Wilkens said in a quiet, classroom voice. “Are you getting any of this?” Carter sat in the far-left corner of Mr. Chestnut’s ninth-grade history class. Standing at 6’3”, he was the tallest kid in his grade, and also the skinniest, by far. The top of his head could be seen from miles away, and he had a voice incapable of whispering.

“Man, shut-up. Are you trying to get us detention? You know I get one more and I can’t play this weekend.” Tony Atwell was the starting guard on Newville’s varsity basketball team: a feat no other ninth-grade student accomplished this year—not even his best friend, Carter, made the team (although, that’s because Carter was a tall bundle of skin and bones who would fall over if a light breeze tickled him). Tony was the exact opposite of Carter. Whereas Carter could be carried around by a single ant, Tony could stand his ground against most things. It would take the strength of a hurricane to knock him off balance. He was short and sturdy; with a physique well beyond his peers. And he made sure to show off his muscles—given to him by what had to be God, because he was doing nothing else to gain them—by wearing a tank top everyday. “Just,” he paused to look around the room and make sure no one was paying him any attention, ”just talk to me after class, alright?” he gave Carter a stern look to show he was serious. Tony was not one to mess around

“Yea, whatever—but I can’t take this teacher anymore, man! He doesn’t do squat, and I…”

“Excuse me, Mr. Wilkens! Is there something you’d like to share that’s more important than this video on how the early colonists planted seeds?” Mr. Chestnut, his chest puffed out and breathing heavy, waited for a response. He didn’t get one. “I didn’t think so! Now please, watch the film and try to learn something.” Mr. Chestnut was the ninth-grade history teacher; or, a-fat-tub-of-lard-who-sat-and-did-nothing-but-yell-and-eat-all-day, if you asked any of his students. He looked like his name: His skin was light brown and covered with hair like spider legs; on top his head—where hair should be—were a few strands of wet hair mushed to the right; his face was round and produced never-ending beads of sweat. His body was a run-down, bounce house, and his shirt, the size of a tent cover, hid all but a few chest hairs trying to escape the smell of two-day-old sweat. No one has ever seen the lower half of his body; which was concealed behind the desk he never left.

“I just can’t fail this class or…” Carter sighed and brought what he thought was a whisper a level softer, “or I have to repeat this class. We have to do something.”

Tony nodded in agreement, and the two friends went back to watching the worst video ever created: now you see, the seeds must be planted in moist ground or the lives of the colonists could be ruined.

“We have to do something.” Carter repeated into his notebook. And something, they would do.

Free

The world has lost its master grip on you.

The wind, the rain, they call your name in vain.

At that—you laugh, and keep on walking through.

Your heart, your soul, they will not ‘er attain.

Dare I, then, seek your unimpeded love?

I, a desolate fool so far from pure;

You, admired by the heavens above.

Masks we wear don’t dare touch a face so sure.

Though…you know all of this to be most true.

And still, you choose to look beyond the lies.

I wish but a glimpse of your point of view!

Then maybe I, could rid my false disguise,

And hand-in-hand we can dance on the moon.

Bound by none on earth—we choose our own tune.