Okay, so my last post was my 99th, which means that this is the big one. One Hundred. (I’m promise after this I will stop doing number themed posts).
If you happen to glance into my mouth, you may notice that one of my front teeth is chipped. I don’t except many of you will ever get the pleasure of doing this, so let me provide a little visual help.
Okay, that was gross. I’m sorry. Also, I think it is a trick of the light: my teeth are not really that yellow, although they ARE that crooked. My parents’ insurance could only pay for one of us to get braces when we were kids,and if you can believe it, my brother’s teeth were EVEN WORSE than mine. He had this tooth in the front that was actually turned completely sideways. He got the braces and how he’s handsome and he lives on the West Coast. I continue to be homely and live in the hinterland of the prairies. So to the kids who read Mountains Beyond Mountains: get your teeth fixed or you’ll end up bitter and lonely and stuck in a dying, irrelevant profession!
Back to the ol’ chompers. When I was in elementary school, we had a class of children who had various “special needs”. I’m sure nowadays there would be a variety of diagnoses: ADHD, autism spectrum, dyslexia, etc. But back in the 1980s everyone was just plain ol’ retarded. This class of kids kept to themselves for the most part, and they got to do different things, like assemble the yearbook. My friends thought this was totally unfair. These kids got to use glue and staplers and whatnot. I guess now you’d call that forced child labour, but back in the 1980s it was considered progressive. I remember the “special ed” teacher, Mr. Maharaj. I remember him as a jolly man full of infinite patience. He was also quite the promoter and I remember him at one assembly addressing the student body.
“Okay, boys and girls. We have a weel good yearbook this year……..(pause for effect)…..we got a picture of…………E.T! (cheers from the crowd). We got a picture of…………….MICHAEL JACKSON! (more cheers).”
Basically he was just cutting and pasting pictures from magazines and newspapers. And remember, this was the 1980s. He was ACTUALLY cutting and pasting. So our elementary school yearbooks are a weird hybrid of class photos and random snippets of 80s pop culture. And they were all just photocopied and stapled together, so the picture of Michael Jackson? It just looks like a black rectangle on the page.
Okay, back to my chompers FOR REAL this time. Like I said, the special ed class did their own thing, with two exceptions. We shared gym class, and we shared recess. I’m not sure how wise it was to hold joint gym classes, because most of these kids were a little bit older than us, and many had violent tempers, so all I really remember about gym was getting hit really hard by dodge-balls all the time, and putting together a KICK ASS gymnastics routine made up SOLELY of forward rolls set to “Axel F” from Beverley Hills Cop.
One day at recess, one of the students in the special ed class, Jason, decided to just go ahead and beat the SHIT out of me. I don’t think it was provoked or anything. I usually just hung out with my own friends and did my own thing. I still don’t really know the motivation behind it. But he knocked me to the ground and just starting punching and kicking me. Luckily, one of the teacher monitors saw the whole thing and pulled Jason off of me before he could actually kill me. My face was kind of a bloody pulp, though. I was in grade two at the time, and Jason was a few years older than me. Maybe the equivalent of a grade 6 or 7. I was taken to the nurse’s station and eventually required a few stitches. I don’t know if Jason was suspended or whether he was just put on extra “yearbook” duty or whatever. I never did find out. I eventually healed, and the only lasting effect was that my front tooth was chipped.
After that, I always kept my distance from Jason, and didn’t have any other altercations. I was too young and too ignorant of my Irish heritage at that point to launch any elaborate revenge stratagems, so I thought THAT was that. I eventually moved through the school system and graduated from grade 12 and went on to University. Jason probably continued to assemble yearbooks.
I thought I had seen the last of Jason.
I had, in fact, until about 10 years ago.
I was working the circulation desk at a neighbourhood library near where I grew up, and you can guess who walked in. I was instantly transported back to that afternoon when I was 8. He didn’t seem so big and menacing as he once did. I guess I had grown up too. Still, I couldn’t help but get a bit nervous and I asked my co-worker to deal with him. I couldn’t look him in the eye.
As I watched him interact with my coworker, I checked him out. Even though I was in my late 20s at the time (and he in his early 30s, probably) there was still a slight height and a significant weight difference between the two of us. I had no doubt that if he wanted to, he could have easily beaten the crap out of me again, even then.
He began to become a regular customer at that library. I never let on that I knew him from elementary school and that he was responsible for my chipped tooth. I learned that he lived with his parents still and that he attended group activities through a hospital outreach program. He mostly checked out Garfield books and books with pictures of professional wrestlers. I actually kind of felt bad for him, and began to see another side of him. A more human side than the monster I had carried with me all those years.
One icy day in February, Jason stumbled into the branch, all sixes and sevens. Apparently he had slipped on the ice outside the library, fell hard, banged his face, and get this: chipped a tooth. He also thought that maybe he bruised or broke a rib or something. My supervisor at the time asked if he needed an ambulance and I guess Jason said he did so we called one for him. Looking back on it, that seems like an extreme response, but the customer’s always right, right? The paramedics checked him over and said that he might want to get an x-ray for a concussion but otherwise he was fine. I think my supervisor was worried that we’d get sued over the icy walk, but I don’t think anything came of it.
A couple of weeks later, Jason was in again, and I had sort of befriended him at this point: not longer a real threat. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “A HUNNERT PERCENT!”
Except for that tooth, eh buddy?
“A hunnert percent” became a bit of a meme among my friends for a few years after that. Every once and a while, when you ask someone how they are doing, you may still get the odd ” A HUNNERT percent!” as a response.
Happy “one hunnert postings”, everyone!