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Friday, January 07, 2005

Go back, Jack. Do it again.

When I was eleven, I was known as the funniest kid in class. I wasn't the class clown, although it seems that those fourth through sixth grade years were the beginning of my troublemaking. When I was eight, I started what would be my legacy by winning the 1989 Dodson Elementary Funny Hat contest. My hat smoked every other entry in the contest, most of which were mesh baseball hats with the company logos of a father's company, or Kangols. The closest thing to mine was a really nice top hat, which was classy, but not funny. The winning hat was a rubber number that had been formed into the shape of a molehill of green peas with a pat of butter on top. It's unbelievable to me that this hat even exists, but what is even more unbelievable is that my dad had it in his posession, and was able to produce it at the mere mention of a funny hat contest.

My prize was a meager York Peppermint Pattie which I gingerly ate later that day, but it was then that the kids in my class began to look to me for as the kid who would crack them up over our government-sponsored lunches.

I drank the glass of milk that had breadcrusts, carrots, and mashed potatoes in it, which established me as a spectacular gross-out artist (but not the best--that title was taken by Alex Yanez, who picked up a dead bird by its wing and flapped it around, pretending that it could still fly). I drew charicatures of our overweight and stern teacher Ms. Cook, that featured her even fatter than she really was, and attacking a city in a Godzilla-like fashion (this scene drawn after a sleepover in which we fashioned the chorus to Frank Sinatra's "New York New York" into "Ms. Cook ate New York," and did the can-can, our hands behind the neck of the fellow next to us). My crowning achievement in humor however, was when Jennifer Salinas, the girl we all had the hots for, came into the math room, where Sergio, Michael, and myself were doing our Scholastic Reading Assignments (SRAs). All of us were totally hot for Jennifer, but she never seemed to pay us any mind, preferring instead the attention of the bigger, blacker, sixth grade boys who were consistently getting us out in kickball with a swift peg to the head. Jennifer walked into the math room, and I called her over, drawing her over ostensibly to ask about Fun Friday, a series of activities that was rewarded to those who finished all their assignments for the week (I never got Fun Friday even once. I decided that I would rather draw pictures of the sitcom re-runs I watched when I got home from school, which included Happy Days (The Fonz), Charles in Charge(Charles), and Small Wonder(That little diamond thing that represented the robot girl's dad).), but in actuality just to talk to her, and show my friends that I could do it.

She came over, and we started talking about our assignments. Michael asked her if she had completed the SRA assignment that we were working on. She said she had, and there was a question that was tricky that involved the placement of a comma in the sentence "Tina went to the market and then visited Jennifer's sewing store." The question had already piqued our interest because it had Jennifer's name in it. Then, for no reason at all besides the fact that it struck me, I read the question as "Tina went to the market, and then visited Jennifer's Purple Heart Store." (The Purple Heart being a thrift store that only the poorest of the poor in our area shopped at.) Sergio and Michael lost it. After a few seconds, so did I. We were laughing so hard that tears streamed down our cheeks and we couldn't speak. Jennifer didn't laugh at all, and began walking towards the door, sobering me up a little. I called out to her, asking her to wait, to tell her that I was just kidding and didn't mean anything by it, but she didn't even slow down. Just as the door slammed behind her, and the appropriate pause passed, I said:

"Yep, she wants me."

That brought out every remaining laugh we could keep in our eleven-year-old bodies. It was one of those laughs shared by the three of us that consumed our whole body, that briefly made us forget about getting a "U" (for "unsatisfactory") in conduct for the week, that made us completely change priorities from impressing Jennifer into getting as much into that laugh as was humanly possible. I believe, but can't be sure, that I ended up falling out of my chair and onto the floor, which was a bit of an overkill, but was still worth it at the time. From then on, I was championed by my two friends as the king of comedy in Ms. Cook, Ms. Fuller, and Ms. Yeager's classes.

My throne was soon threatened though, by another Chris. His name was Christopher Wheeler, and he could run faster, draw cooler pictures, and got into more trouble than I did. I later found out that he was much better than me at Super Mario Kart, and I nearly committed suicide. In the end though, the new Chris and I became friends, and we shared the kingdom, although he tended to get more appreciation for his running speed and clever drawings than I did for falling down in a funny way after getting my brains knocked out with a dodgeball by LeDarius while running to second base.

Despite my subsequent downfall, I never held a grudge, and I never asked for more than I deserved. For one shining moment though, I was the king of the one-liners at Dodson Elementary, and more than a few people knew it. Besides, nobody else ever wore a hat as funny as mine, not even Chris Wheeler.