A kid walks into the class after being absent for a day and quietly sits down at a computer to get to work. I ask him, after greeting him with a wary good morning, why he had been absent. The reason he gave me for his truancy was that he had to go to the doctor. An oft used reason for absenteeism, I originally nodded my head and told him to get to work. It is Summer School, and I have been sent to one of our satellite campuses to work. Naturally, I am the teacher of record and, in addition, I have been left with ancillary duties as administrator, truancy officer, school counselor, diagnostician, bathroom monitor, and all around guy that gets in trouble if things go wrong.
This particular young gentleman is familiar to me as he had been my student when I taught full time on this campus. He is a tall gangly child who likes to make it look as if he is busy while actually drifting off into his own little world of video games, strange music, and God only knows what. He is exceptionally gracious in his behavior and, to date, I have never heard a cross or vulgar word come out of his mouth. He volunteered for summer school in order to bring his grades up so that he might be able to attend public school in the fall. It can easily be said that he is a pleasure to have in my class. Additionally he is, most definitely a boy.
I have the honor and privilege to work at a school attached to a boy’s ranch. There are a myriad of “boy” things to be done. Chief among these activities is the time honored tradition of fishing. My young friend is an aficionado of this particular genre of leisure. In the past he has many times regaled me with his feats of daring do where it come to the use and abuse of angling equipment and ability. I sit and listen, as is my contractual obligation as teacher and, hopefully, mentor.
This is not generally a subject in which I hold even a miniscule amount of knowledge in. I am the exception to the axiom of giving a man a fishing pole and you can feed him forever. Left to my own devices with a fishing pole in my hand, I will end up looking like one of those Third World individuals the United Nations advertises for assistance in relieving their hunge,r barrenness, and misery. I have personally caught about three fish in my entire life, one of which was an 18 pound Carp which I rode around in the trunk of my car to parade before my friends. It was summertime and I could never get the smell out of that car for the entire time I owned that particular fossil fueled form of conveyance. Fried catfish at the place out on the highway leading to the Interstate and seafood wherever I can find it is the extent of my angling adeptness.
Given my lack of acumen in the world aquatic, I found myself reasonably astonished when I looked at my young friend experiencing difficulty maneuvering his way across a computer screen with just four of his fingers on the mouse. On his thumb he wore a bandage that appeared to be four or five inches in length and width. I promptly inquired as to what happened. “I got bit by a turtle.” As further evidence of my staggering ignorance in this maritime pursuit, I asked, “What were you doing with a turtle?”
“I don’t know. ‘Cause.”
“Is this why you had to go to the doctor?”
“Yea, but it was the hospital.”
“Was it really that bad?”
“Well, I was burned too.”
“How did you get burnt?”
“That’s the only way we could get the turtle off my finger.”
“How long was it on your hand?”
I thought to continue this query but realized the futility of my investigation given my personal level of ignorance. There is no explanation that would suffice to educate me to a level of satisfactory comprehension. I looked at the bandage and reached a slight yet inconsequential epiphany…boys do dumb shit.
I know this because I remember (vaguely) being a boy and doing dim-witted feats of absurdity. I remember attempting to use a picnic table as a tight rope in order to test whether or not I had got my super power of flying. An important person in my life told me that I would become Superman upon reaching to age where puberty exhibited itself. I thoroughly believed this good natured deception, so I did not get too upset at the illogicality of my broken arm.
My young friend believed that catching a turtle was a noble pursuit. Until, that is, he had to use torture to rescue himself from an untenable and painful situation. I had to believe that my concern and questioning were noble pursuits, until I realized that my real duty was to simply accept the absurdity of a reality and just let the kid struggle with the mouse. I do not truly know why I ask question I really do not want the answer to. I guess the answer just might be so simple it smacks me in the face. It might just be that at sixteen or fifty six…boys do dumb shit. Peace.