Monday, March 30, 2009

Tales of Sixth Grade Summoning and Such

***Warning...this could probably be offensive to some people. But, hey, the setting is a time when we weren't politically correct. There was no such thing as political correctness. The "Special Ed" class wasn't called "The Resource Room." "Retarded" was used in place of "Mentally Handicapped." ****

Sally and Jane (names changed, of course) were my best friends. They were sisters, seperated by a grade, and their mom was an elder in the little Methodist church in our small town. I was their token heathen. The child they would save. I'd gone to church when I was younger with my grandma, but generally, I didn't attend unless I'd spent the night at Sally and Jane's house.

When they said the Lord's Prayer at a meal, I'd peek at the plaque on the wall because I didn't know it. They dragged me off to retreats, complete with stories about the Rapture - with felt board stories about kids being left to roam the earth alone because they hadn't accepted Jesus. One minute they were walking down the street with their parents, and poof! The next minute no more parents as they'd ascended to heaven. That's what you got when you were a sinner and all.

All they had to do is get me to ask Jesus into my heart, and there'd be one more jewel to toss at Jesus in the end, I suppose. They were good people, and I wasn't opposed to the Biblical teachings I was absorbing. It was a small price to pay for the fun and mayhem Sally, Jane, and I had.

I spent a lot of time at their house after my parents divorced the summer after fourth grade. We'd strip the cushions off the couch to do tumbling in the living room. Sometimes, we'd take a couple rolls of caps and a hammer out to the sidewalk for a make-shift seance. "Devil, if you're here, let us know," Sally would say before striking the red paper and waiting for a bang.

She had the white cat handy to throw at anyone who might get possessed...because as she told us, the devil was afraid of white cats, so all we had to do was toss Felicia into the face of the possessed, and voila! We'd be free once again.

When we grew tired of reading teen magazines like "Tiger Beat" and "Sixteen," we'd hop on our bicycles for a ride around the neighborhood. We were out minding our own business, riding our bikes, when Betsy(name changed) saw us.

Think "Electric Company" and "Hey, you guys," bellowed out in the distance.

Oh shit, it was Betsy. Yes, we said shit because we were in sixth grade and trying our hand at cussing. Plus, it was Indiana, and there wasn't much to do besides ride our bikes, have seances, and practice swearing.

The thing about Betsy was that she was in Special Ed because she was retarded. Physically, she looked somewhat normal, though she was our age and had boobs bigger than most adults we knew. She always looked like she needed to wash her hair. She grunted and laughed a lot, which set me on edge. Sometimes, the noises she made were almost primal, which made me worry what she would do next. I feared she'd hug me; other times, I feared she'd try to kill me. Another thing about her was you couldn't shake her once she latched on for the afternoon.

When her voice rang out behind us, there were two options- run like the wind or stick around for some entertainment. We opted for the former, but would get the latter before the day was over. We cut our ride short and headed back to Sally and Jane's house.

Betsy showed up at the door about ten minutes later, sweating and sucking wind from the four block run after us. Except she didn't really show up at the door. She climbed into the bush outside their kitchen window. We looked up from our snack of cookies and milk and there she was with her face pressed against the glass. Her nose and lips contorted against the glass. We shrieked simultaneously.

Sarah, their mom, went to the door, coaxing Betsy out of the bush. With this, we groaned simultaneously. We knew she was going to invite her in. It was a given.

We watched her suck down a couple cookies and a glass of milk before retiring to the family room. Her milk mustache, complete with cookie crumbs turned my stomach. If the truth be told, she scared me more than she annoyed me.

Sally popped in a VCR tape of "Nightmare Theater" that she recorded on a Saturday night. Scary movies terrified Betsy. We knew this, but again, it was Indiana, and why not watch her cry because she didn't want to watch "The Hand." We had to be nice to her and couldn't tell her to beat it. So, in other words, we made her visit as uncomfortable as possible.

The rage at the time was cinnamon toothpicks. We'd buy them in the little cellophane packages at the drug store, but the store-bought ones lacked a certain something - probably the ability to blister your tongue while delivering the cinnamon flavor. We started making our own by buying cinnamon oil that would render you blind for a day if you happened to touch your eyes after touching a toothpick.

The longer the toothpicks were soaked, the hotter they were. Sally had a batch brewing in the kitchen window going on two days of soaking. Betsy had asked for one more, and Sally wouldn't oblige.

I was lucky to get one, too. While we were friends, she wasn't always overly nice to me, either. I'd spent an afternoon hiding in a closet one day so that Jane's friend Karen wouldn't know that I was there. Sally had given me a cup of grape kool-aid and some candy to snack on during my stay in the closet. It was a long couple hours after it hit my bladder.

One other time, they made me hide in the stairwell behind the closed door so Karen wouldn't know I was there. She didn't like to visit when I was there because she'd end up picked on. It was the pecking order, I guess. At least that time, the cupboard at the bottom of the stairs served as their pantry, so I had plenty of snacks to pass my time.

We savored our cinnamon toothpicks from a previously completed batch when Betsy announced she had to poop. She went to the bathroom, and didn't come back right away. She stood in the kitchen. Busted. Toothpicks that had been in the tiny bottle of fire were missing.

"Betsy, did you take those toothpicks?" Sally asked her.

Betsy merely shook her head no, her lips tightly pressed.

Of course, we knew she had them in her mouth. At least ten of them by best estimation.

"Besty, are you lying? Jesus doesn't like liars," Jane said.

She shook her head no again. So we waited. Betsy's eyes began to water. Drool started trickling out the corners of her mouth. Still she insisted she didn't have the toothpicks as her face turned red. It seemed like a lifetime passed as we watched for something to happen next. Finally, she spit the toothpicks out and ran for the door.

Sarah asked where she went, and we said she had to go home, which was perfectly fine with us. We gathered a few rolls of caps and headed to the sidewalk to see if we could summon Elvis Presley or my dead grandpa.


Eric said...

Yeah, I can relate to this in more than one way. The main way is that my home room in high school was the Special Ed class and we shared it with the Special Ed kids, not cause we were retarded but I guess because whoever assigned the classes was. One of the kids was named Sean and he was scarier than any other person I'd ever met because he was mute, autistic, and abnormally large/strong. That's why I remember his name to this day.

I remember the teacher we had was moving on over Xmas break and when we came back there was a shiny new teacher for them/us. The problem was that he was incredibly resistant to change and when he entered and saw another teacher in her place he freaked, BAD. I was packing a knife at the time and gripped it tightly, hoping he'd calm down but ready to slice his throat if he started accosting other students or myself. They ended up calling in some other counselors to deal with him(which inevitably meant restraining him since he was freakishly strong).

There were other issues with being in that class that made me(and probably most others who were normal) much less of a bleeding heart as we matured. I figure it was because we were required to act mature while there for the 20 minutes or whatever so by the time we got out, we were damn tired of being mature.

I have cousins and friends with kids with all sorts of special needs and I feel for them because while I had to endure it for 20 minutes, they gotta endure that and far worse all day long. Another friend works for an organization that basically babysits them and she has the worst stories to tell about a few of them. Some get physically restrained like Hannibal Lecter(sp) and others are drugged almost constantly because they simply cannot function without violent outbursts.

So maybe you're lucky.

Oh, Pshaw said...

The story has a part two. This girl, who is roughly 39ish or so, lives back in town ON HER OWN. It's beyond my scope of understanding because she has the mentality of an 11 year old. I've had to verse my kids on not picking on her. She used to follow them around and try to hang out, too. A 30something "woman" trying to hang out with elementary students.

One time, she was circling them on her bike while they played catched in the street. My youngest threw a nerf football at her because she wouldn't bug off. It got stuck in her spokes and took her out in the street.

I don't know about your school, but it did seem like by the time we were high school age, they did seem to integrate the special needs in with the regular classes as much as possible. Not so much in the younger grades. Maybe there was some sort of shift in the whole concept of special education about that time.