THIS IS THE TALE OF BUCKWHEAT.
AS GOD IS MY WITNESS, THIS IS A TRUE STORY... EACH SUCCULENT, UNFETTERED DETAIL IS TRANSCRIBED EXACTLY AS IT HAPPENED. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT I EXAGGERATE EVERYTHING TO DEATH, BUT NOT THIS TIME - THIS STORY DIDN'T NEED IT AT ALL.
It all started because I had been a bad boy. ..an altogether too common an occurrence in 8th grade, for some reason. I had done something serious enough to get suspended from school; but I had only done something good enough to earn myself a full day in the in middle school penal program called ISS - the supposedly fear-inspiring acronym representing a day-long detention known as "In School Suspension". The funny thing is, the exact event that caused me to be the recipient of such cruel punishment is lost to me now...maybe it was so mundane that it didn't even deserve repeating, or, more likely, it was the mayhem that was to come that overshadowed it in my mind.
No material pleasure was permitted in ISS unless it was directly related to some type of tangible homework - and that meant no magazines, Stephen King books, or anything remotely fun was allowed to slip into the otherwise dreary mess - only evil shit like algebra, Spanish 1, and Earth Biology were allowed. They forced you to suffer - it was the mental equivalent of breaking rocks in prison. I always managed to skate by through the day with a Modern Lit book or something similar... I think I might have been counting on some Ray Bradbury to carry me through on that day.
During this stretch in middle school hell, I was lucky enough to have the esteemed company of a few particularly charismatic derelicts from my school: Carlos - a stocky, sarcastic dude who used to get in trouble regularly but usually managed to smooth his way out of trouble with charm; Rod - who was your classic denim wearing, dark-haired, guitar playing dopehead who used to get put into detention almost daily for making a teacher look like a fool in front of his or her students; and Matt - a guy who had a knack of saying the most inopportune thing at the worst time, guaranteeing his constant attendance in detention.
But on this day, it was a different breed of gremlin whose mischief put the rest of our meager troublecausing skills to shame - it was Buckwheat.
This bastard was a legend in the Pennsbury Middle School System. He had absolutely no regard for any teacher or anything that remotely smelled of education, and as a matter of fact had actually driven several teachers to the brink of insanity by completely ignoring their wishes altogether and basically running amok. He was the kind of guy who always had his hand in his pants, who had a vulgar comeback to every joke, could (and often would) turn his eyelids inside out in front of a crow of squeamish girls, and could belch, fart and make obscene noises with his armpits like no other male adolescent in our school system. The wonderful thing was, no one had any idea what his real name was. It was as if he was conjured out of nothing...but the very appearance of him practically begged that he needed to be called BUCKWHEAT at all times.
He was a fairly pudgy black kid of about 5'6", with bright, diabolically glinting eyes, and he had a an unruly swatch of Afro puff that seemed to be everywhere. On that fateful day, he had on a dingy orange sweater, a fairly scroungy-looking pair of tattered jeans and a pair of the gnarliest, dirty white KMart high top sneakers ever seen.
He was your typically disruptive (albeit traditional) type of class clown for the first 4 periods of hell (shit, I certainly commend him for that!) but none of his antics were too out of the ordinary until the start of 5th period - that's when the real fun began. The teacher who was forced to give up his free period to proctor our temporary prison population was a man by the name of Edward Feldman. This poor sonofabitch was already a shell-shocked mess. "Fast Eddie" Feldman was possibly the most fidgety man ever borne to this Earth. He was constantly in motion, whether it was in the form of scratching his armpits, smelling his fingers, wiping his nose, or picking at his balls through his Sansa-belt slacks (Fast Eddie was also known as "Pocketball Eddie"). Rumor had it that Fast Eddie's entire immediate family had been wiped out in some horrible accident, leaving him a spastic, ticcing shell of a man. During Fast Eddie's shift, Buckwheat had decided that enough was enough, and that he needed to fuck with the teacher (regardless of that teacher's tragic past) and cause him a near heart-attack by going so far over the line.
Initially it didn't seem like anything too ridiculous was going on, just something out-of-place, stupid, and funny in its brashness. I looked to my left, where Buckwheat was sitting precariously in his combination prison-issue chair/desk. He had somehow conjured up about 10 feet of tan Ace Bandage - you know, the reusable kind that people use to wrap their sprains - and was very deliberately binding his own head in it. He had started to wrap his head in the bandage at his hairline, and, leaving only a gap for his eyes, bound his whole brown noggin tightly until the only thing that was visible was his Afro puff sticking out of the top and his big, mischievous eyes.
Now, mind you, this whole thing simply boggled the mind. There was Buckwheat, looking like his head had involuntarily sought shelter in the world's smallest tan straitjacket, and all of us, staring slack-jawed at the only interesting thing we'd seen all day (and now that it HAD reared its ugly head, it sure was a doozy!) and Fast Eddie...his reaction was undoubtedly the best thing of all. Fast Eddie was even more agape than the rest of us, but you could tell that there was more to it than that. It was like he was morally offended at this sacrilege which had wrought itself upon the formerly-tranquil stillness of Pennsbury Pergatory. For some reason that we didn't quite comprehend, Buckwheat had gone over the line.
His eyes bulged out of his head, his hands involuntarily spasmed at his crotch, and he managed to rasp out, "You! Son! Remove that from your head at once!"
"Oh, man, fuck you. My head's all fucked up, man," Buckwheat replied casually.
Fast Eddie (and the rest of us, for that matter) did a double take. "What did you say to me?!?" he blurted out.
"Nothin, man. My head's fucked up, though." Buckwheat said, conversationally.
Fast Eddie's head turned completely around. "Y-y-y-young man...you'd, uh, better dispense with the profanity...and then maybe we can..." he began.
"Man, shut up. Y'all talk too much. Dag, a brother's head is FUCKED UP now." Buckwheat interrupted, annoyed at Fast Eddie's verbosity.
Fast Eddie was literally vomiting with rage, fear, and moral outrage. "You-you-you..." he started.
"YOU-YOU-YOU!" Buckwheat chimed in, transforming the unlikely exchange into a duet.
Now, bear in mind, that while this banter was taking place, Buckwheat had been laboriously tying the free end of the Ace bandage to a Boston brand metal pencil sharpener that was bolted to wall- you KNOW the type- the kind with the big chrome shavings reservoir, adjustable size disk to accommodate most common pencil types, and 4 big screws that anchored it to the wall (even though you knew perfectly well that if you tried to sharpen your pencil with it, it would make you rock from side- to-side like you were bopping to your own private dance band). By the time Fast Eddie had started to stutter his psycho mantra of "YOUs", the operation was completed, and Buckwheat had securely lashed his head to the pencil sharpener.
"St-st-st-stop that! Hey! Buck-buck-buck-buckwh-or...uh, er, whatver your name is, stop it!" Fast Eddie wailed.
I can speak for all of us when I say that this whole thing was, without a doubt, the most fantastic thing that we'd ever seen in all of our lives. Here, a psychotic derelict that would probably spend the rest of his natural born life in detention was making Fast Eddie, MR. FELDMAN, fall to pieces in front of our very eyes. It was classic. It was as if David had felled Goliath armed with only an Afro and an Ace bandage.
Mr. Feldman stopped in his tracks, silent. He looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. He suddenly looked left, then right, and started clutching behind him for the interoffice phone (which was bolted to the wall by the door on the other side of the room - Sorry, Fast Eddie). He tried to keep what little there was left of his composure, but it was too late. All he could do was gape at what was to happen next.
Buckwheat had been slowly inching his desk backwards and away from the wall by kicking it and shuffling his entire weight, three deliberate inches at a time. Finally, he reached a point where the Ace bandage now stretched, taut, trembling like a beige tightrope between Buckwheat's sweating, Afroed dome and the Gibraltarlike anchor of the pencil sharpener. Then, while Mr. Feldman gaped in slack jawed splendor, he leaned back in the desk until the desk's two front legs rose up like the paws of an aggravated chrome grizzly bear. The only thing keeping him from falling over backwards was the steady presence of the Ace bandage as it bound him mercilessly by his wrapped head. It was awesome - the desk was balanced at a perfect angle, so it kept Buckwheat, suspended and laughing, at a semi-wheelie position with his mummified face facing first the wall, and then us.
While Mr. Feldman stared and Buckwheat performed, the rest of us REJOICED. Words can barely describe the reactions of our Breakfast Club. I remember Carlos literally falling out of his chair, clutching his sides in hysterical laughter. He couldn't breathe...his chortling had reached such state that he was literally unable to draw breath. Rod, always one of the first to comment on any situation (especially one as utterly ridiculous as this one) was rendered speechless for possibly the only time in his illustrious career at our school. I, for one, was nearly puking as I coughed and yelled laughter at the hilarity.
The moment surely could not have gotten any better...(but of course it did!)
As Buckwheat began to rock, forward and backward, to test the strength of the bandage, the inevitable happened: the chrome grenade of the pencil shaving catcher suddenly came loose, with no warning! It had held, rock steady, for a good twenty or thirty seconds, but its consistency was suddenly a thing of the past. Aided by the stretched glory of the Ace bandage-turned-slingshot, it rocketed towards the now wide-eyed Buckwheat and struck him, <POW!> right between the eyes!
Buckwheat exploded backwards as if hit in the head with a bazooka. He did a nearly complete backwards somersault, all while never leaving the metallic confines of the desk. He was a flying, churning mass of Ace bandages, orange sweatshirt, pencil shavings, metal bars and four-letter words. "Awww, FUUCK!" he yelled as he collapsed, laughing and hooting, into a sloppy heap in a corner of our jail.
This was the last straw. Really. The utter chaos that had wrought itself in human form had finally reached a frenzy - and Fast Eddie was simply unable to process any more shenanigans on that day. He finally broke his silence and immobile stance (the deer was no longer caught in the headlights, I guess) and ran across the room, picking up the phone on the wall (that had a hotline to the school's front office). He slammed the clicker on the phone a half dozen times, and then began his idiot's babble:
"You! Ah, someone! Uh, this is Mr. Feldman in the ISS room and he won't behave and you have to help and someone has to come down here and he won't listen! I-I-I-I just can't handle him anymore!" (as if he had EVER "handled" Buckwheat during our period of confinement) "I just can't handle him! I just can't handle him!" Fast Eddie was babbling like an idiot. Something truly had snapped within him, and he fled the room (leaving us unattended, mind you. In retrospect, I think he was being rather irresponsible with the small, hardened temporary prison population of Pennwood Middle School).
Well, it wasn't two minutes before the principal, assistant principal, head of discipline and (I swear) a janitor came down to the ISS room to claim Buckwheat and take him away. I barely remember the details of how that went down. At that point, everyone that was left in the room was still laughing to the point that we couldn't make out sounds, speech or actions - it was like we were all paralyzed with laughter.
The principals and the janitor escorted Buckwheat out - blowing kisses to us like a World Series hero in a ticker tape parade - and the guidance counselor stayed behind with us to finish proctoring the period. We finally settled down after a few minutes. The guidance counselor was a pleasant, good-natured woman who asked the obvious question of us: what exactly had gone on to cause Fast Eddie to meltdown so completely? Well, I can tell you that she was laughing almost as hard as we had when we told her- I guess a person doesn't have to be a silly adolescent to find the humor in what had occurred.
As if all of this hadn't been enough for one day, Buckwheat made an improbable return to ISS about an hour later. We were all simply shocked to see the fuming principal escort him back into our little penal group. Buckwheat didn't say, but one can speculate as to what must have happened when they took him to the office: while they tried to contact his parents to come and take him home (which MUST have happened with great regularity, I would think), he must have tortured the staff of the office as well as any students that had any business being there. I can just picture him, smirking, as the principal is yelling at him to shut up, pulling down his pants to give the shocked administrator a full moon. It must have been grand. At any rate, he was back among us, and he was uncharacteristically subdued.
His silence lasted at least twenty or more minutes. I remember not being able to keep my eyes off of him - we all knew that it was only a matter of time before the volcano erupted again. Everyone was stealing glances at him - it was like we all knew that something was bound to happen.
Finally, Buckwheat raised his hand. The teacher noticed him, but quickly returned her attention to the stack of papers that she was grading. Buckwheat had the patience of a saint, though, and he merely kept his hand up the whole time, knowing full well that the proctoring teacher was doing her best to ignore him. After several minutes of this little game, the teacher finally spoke to him and said, "OK, what is it?"
"Um, I gotta go to use the bathroom, please." Buckwheat said, calmly.
"No funny business, right?" she asked him.
"No funny nothing, I just have to go, please." Buckwheat honestly admitted.
The powers that be had thought of everything when designing the ISS room, a modern penal masterpiece. It had an even smaller restroom that adjoined it by a thick wooden door. This way, they could allow the offending kids to use the restroom without worrying about them smoking, running away and not finishing the punishment, or getting away with something, anything. The teacher, thinking that it was a safe enough risk, allowed Buckwheat to go to the bathroom.
He got up, walked into the bathroom, shot anyone that was looking a demonic glance, shut the door and then locked it. We all knew that hell was about to break loose yet again. We simultaneously braced for the inevitable...which didn't immediately happen. The silence was deafening as we waited for the storm to erupt.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity (and was probably only about five seconds)...
"Uuuuuuuuughhhhhhhh!!! Oh man, I gots to SHIT!!!" Buckwheat shouted at us through the thick door as if in horrible gastrointestinal distress.
The teacher looked up from her papers, lightly shaking her head with a look of dread on her face. No doubt the news of Buckwheat's previous hijinks had reached every teacher that was due to proctor ISS for the rest of the day, and the expression on her face clearly said, "Hey! What the hell is this? I make 32 grand a year, and I certainly DO NOT need this type of shit in my life right now. If you're gonna keep criminals in here, hire a fucking warden!"
Or something like that, maybe.
At any rate, the situation escalated rapidly.
"Young man, are you all right in there? You better not be..." she started.
"OOOOOHHHHHH!!! GODDAM!!! I BE SHITTIN' NOW!!!" Buckwheat loudly interrupted, punctuating his profanity with load, blaring obnoxious raspberries from his thick, meaty lips.
"I told you to behave, or you will..." she started again.
"Help me! Ohhh, help me! Buckwheat's a shittin' mahfocka, now!!! DAMN! IT HURTS!!!" Buckwheat yelled. His voice sounded sturdy, strong, and somehow evil; I think it seemed like he had the vocal stamina to go all day until the final bell of the school day.
Again, we stared aghast at the blank wooden door. The details were undoubtedly different, but the gist of the situation was the same - I was in ISS, and Buckwheat was having his way with another teacher. Well, I remember thinking, it sure beats a day in Algebra.
This exchange went on for a few minutes. Buckwheat kept up his barrage of profanity and simulated flatulence, the teacher kept up her stream of inane questions (really, anything that you ask a person as he or she ignores you and and blows farts in your direction can probably be called inane, or at least a waste of breath), and we kept up our amusement and laughter. I know I said this earlier, but it was simply unbelievable. Buckwheat never stopped, never rested, never flinched. It was as if we were observing him in his natural element: in control of a shitty situation, and keeping everyone around him either entertained or enthralled. While Buckwheat suffered in imaginary abdominal discomfort, the teacher called down to the office (the second call of the day was much more subdued than Mr. Feldman's) and requested the discipline crew to come and remove the disturbance.
It didn't take even the two minutes at it had the first time. The janitor showed up with the principal, head of discipline, and a skeleton key to open the restroom. Ten seconds after the unlocking of the door, Buckwheat was whisked out the door, presumably on his way to the office again. Within one minute, order was restored, and it was as though Buckwheat had never been there at all.
We never saw Buckwheat again. A few people that had lived near him had said that he was no longer living with his foster parents, as far as they could tell, and no one had seen hide nor hair of him at school. After a few weeks, it was as if he had never attended our school at all. People said that they had heard rumors of Buckwheat being placed into juvenile detention, that he had stolen a car or robbed a Seven Eleven and gotten caught. I actually have a slightly my own theory on the issue- I think, like that famous Twilight Zone episode, that I had an intimate encounter with a real life gremlin. Lucky for me that I wasn't in an airplane or traveling by boat with him...
At any rate, it wasn't your average, boring day in ISS.
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