Friday, February 24, 2006

Kicking Maynard

Fifth grade was a monumental transition for me. After four years of attending a private Lutheran school with only five other kids in my class, I moved to Riley Elementary, our neighborhood public school. I suppose calling it a neighborhood school is pretty deceiving, given that there was no neighborhood. We lived in the middle of the country in rural Michigan, and Riley Elementary was a few miles away in a different middle of the same country. Our neighbors were soy beans and corn fields, not much else.

Luckily I'd gone to public school kindergarten, so I knew some of the kids in my new school. Chris Ingle, Randall Schmidt, Cory Henningson, Tim Boak... they welcomed me back into the fold pretty quickly. In this tribe of Riley renegades I became Kosmo the Funny, never backing down from a challenge to make someone laugh. Typically my humor was sophomoric and harmless, consisting of a repertoire of characters each with their own distinctive contortion of voice and face. Sometimes, however, when one of my characters seemed to be letting me down, I'd shift to a crueler brand of humor at the expense of certain classmates. It's not something I'm proud of, and those memories have certainly molded me into an adult who shies away from insult comedy, believing it not only to be cruel, but to be a complete cop-out; it's an escape hatch from a lack of good ideas. Don't get me wrong; some people are just plain douche bags and they get what they deserve. But the rest of you are relatively safe from me.

When you're 11 years old, however, you're far from enlightened. So The Boy With Lice and The Girl Who Smelled Like Pee were easy targets. Especially The Girl Who Smelled Like Pee, because she smelled like pee. All the time, she smelled like pee. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this wasn't an "I just peed in my pants" pee smell. This was a "someone just peed on me" smell. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about; every school had one. I'd say things like, "I'm hungry for a snack. Who wants some peeeeeee-nuts?" The gang would laugh. "What's your favorite bird? A peeeeeee-cock?" That got a huge laugh, and it was worth double points because I said "cock" as well.

Like I said, I'm not proud of it.

There was another kid in our class by the name of Earl Maynard. Earl was the quintessential farm boy. When he got to school he'd already been up for a good four hours milking cows or feeding pigs or slaughtering chickens. We knew this because he didn't bother to really clean up afterward; he just came to school in his bib overalls and torn flannel shirt.

One quick side point: It's not like the rest of us were high-class richies. We were all country kids well below the middle-class line. Which goes to show that any society will develop a class system, regardless of how close those within it really are to each other.

Back to Earl. He was a pretty big kid. Not big as in fat, but tall and solid. Like I said, he was a farm boy. His most distinctive feature by far, however, was his feet. They were enormous. At 11 years old Earl Maynard's feet were probably a size 13, all the more accentuated by the fact that he wore big steel-toed shit-kickin' boots every day. He had a slow, lumbering walk, and his movements resembled what I imagine a dump truck would look like if it drove with triangular wheels.

Thus the game Kicking Maynard was born. The object was to sneak up behind Earl during recess and kick him in the ass with the side of your shoe (using the point of your shoe was forbidden, as that would have been cruel). The kicking itself wasn't really the fun part; no, it was the ensuing chase. Earl would turn around and take off after whoever kicked him, stringing together curse words only a true farm boy would know how to combine properly. The combination of huge feet and huger boots made for a ridiculous sight, a dump truck with triangular wheels trying to chase a Firebird with positraction. When Earl got tired and gave up, someone else would sneak up and kick him, starting the farce all over again.

It was glorious fun.

One particularly balmy spring day we'd been playing Kicking Maynard for a good 15 minutes. Our stomachs were hurting from the spectacle, he was to the point of repeating curse words he'd used earlier, and the bell signifying the end of recess was just about to ring. Always needing to get the last laugh, I decided that one more kick was needed to cap off the game. I crept up behind him and WHAM! I got him good. Now one thing about Kicking Maynard is that when you're the kicker, you don't get to see his initial reaction because you're turning on a dime and hightailing it out of there. On this occasion, I wanted to see his reaction up close. So I stood there a fraction of a second longer, watching. He was exhausted, so his turn was slow. "Fuck you, fucker dick!" he yelled as he turned. His face was red, his eyes were open wide, and his bottom jaw jutted out so that his lower teeth practically covered his upper lip. That was my cue, so I turned and took off. Being one of the fastest boys in school, I knew I could afford that extra moment. Laughing hysterically, I began my sprint. Catching me was out of the question.

Unless I tripped.

I tried my hardest to pull out of the tailspin. I didn't go down right away, stumbling along, my legs trying to catch up with my tumbling upper body. But my feet crashed into each other and onto my knees I went.

Pain. The sharpest pain I could imagine exploded directly on my tail bone. I screamed and fell on my side. Again, the pain, this time in my ass crack. Tears poured from my eyes. I could see my friends staring in horror. There was nothing they could do. Earl had pounced on me like a wolf on a rabbit, bringing his leg as far back as his quad muscles would allow and driving the tip of his steel-toed boot into my rear end like a psychotic construction worker behind the controls of a wrecking ball.

I'm not sure how many times Earl's boot connected with my ass before the playground attendants pulled him off me. I do know, however, that it was more than a week before I could sit without feeling like my seat was a large hot coal.

That was the last time Kicking Maynard was ever played at Riley Elementary School. I didn't even pick on The Boy With Lice anymore. It was a life-changing experience, I guess.

But The Girl Who Smelled Like Pee? Come on; she did smell like pee.


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