Editor’s note: (Yes! You the discerning reader can see that my year-end “Best of Monkey” is clearly me (once again) recycling a previous entry because I live a mundane life that leaves little to comment about. But I’m not recycling just any entry. This happens to be the entry that has received the greatest acclaim (as well as the greatest condemnation) from you, the loyal reader. So please enjoy the story that began my degradation trip. I’ll be back next week to celebrate the two year anniversary of monkeysgonetoheaven, in which I’ll thank the three fans who visit my site weekly over these two arduous years, as well as voodoo-curse those who don’t.)
With the London Olympics in full swing and seeing world-class athletes competing for the gold, I’m reminded of the Presidential Fitness Awards of my past. I always hated when this mandatory competition would arrive at the end of the school year. Apparently in the public school fitness curriculum, the goal of receiving a National—or the ever more coveted Presidential—patch was the culmination of nine months of parachute playing and square dance lessons.
I’m the first to admit that I lack a certain athletic prowess. I don’t have much for upper-body strength and I spent my entire grade-school career not being able to perform a single pull-up. When it would come to my turn at the pull-up bar, I’d ham it up by making overt groans and kicking my skinny legs like a frog in an attempt to mask my physical short-comings. I’d get a few laughs and then would be instructed to get in the bent-arm-hang line across the gym where I had to stand in line with the girls. To make matters worse, I couldn’t successfully do the bent-arm-hang either—and this time it was in front of my female peers.
Sit-ups weren’t too bad, but I recall one year I held the feet of one of my classmates as he managed to fart with each upward exertion. With my hands pinning his feet and my head trapped at ground zero, I lifted my nose as far from his cannon of a colon that had the rhythmic timing of a methane-powered metronome. After a handful of blasts to the face, I released his feet to cover my nose, and he went rolling backwards while expelling the last of his fumes. Now twenty-some-odd years later I wish I would have uttered, “Hey David, their called sit-ups, not shit-ups!” That would’ve been classic. If I had time-traveling capabilities I would correct my past by going back to that day and delivering that line in lieu of killing Hitler—yes, it’s that important to me.
The real embarrassment would come from the fitness award ceremony. I would dread the day. My entire class would congregate in the gym as our P.E. teacher read off the names of the National Fitness recipients (red patch). I would sit there amongst my friends and attempt to diminish the significance of the achievement by saying, “This is so stupid, don’t you think? This is such a waste of time.” My friends would agree and then eventually abandon me to receive their patch when their name was called. The audience at the ceremony would eventually dwindle down to a handful of kids because everyone that was once a part of the audience was now standing at the front of the gym looking at the few that didn’t achieve this (in my opinion) insurmountable feat. I would be briefly comforted when I’d glance around at the few (but not proud) ill-accomplished classmates that were sparsely seated Indian-style on the parquet floor and see a cool kid that was still relegated amongst us losers. I’d think, “Hey, Justin didn’t earn a patch either.” My solace wouldn’t last long because Justin’s name would inevitably be called last for not only receiving the more prestigious Presidential Fitness award, but achieving this distinction several years in a row.
By the end of the ceremony there would only be me and a handful of students left e.g. the hyper-obese girl, the marginally skinnier but still pretty fat girl, me, and the wheelchair girl with severe retardation.
A slight tangent: remember the person in your class with a severe mental disability? I’m not talking about the kid with Down’s syndrome or run-of-the-mill retardation. No, I’m referring to the person who is severely retarded and is confined to a wheelchair. Every class has one (and suspiciously only one). The one my age didn’t go to class full time, and, now that I think of it, I’m not even positive if this girl was even in my class. She’d just appear random times throughout the day.
This story is about yours truly at my most deplorable moment in my life. God willing, I’ll eventually sink even deeper. But for now, this occasion ranks as my lowest and still makes me cringe when I think about it.
I was probably in fifth grade or so, and was eating my lunch in the cafeteria. Back then, you didn’t choose a specific seat at a table. You had to walk in single formation and sit at the next available seat. Essentially, whoever you stood next to in the lunch line sat next to you at the lunch table. By luck of the draw, the first two long tables filled up and I had to sit at the end of the next table. I didn’t think anything of it until a girl with a severe mental disorder was wheeled up to the end of the table I was seated at. Her hot lunch was delivered to her and her handler (or whatever) who then walked away and left her be. So there I was sitting at the end of the table, crowded by this girl who didn’t so much eat her food as she much more aptly drooled on it and smashed it between her fingers. I was aggravated by her table manners and found it difficult to eat (I know I sound like an asshole, but it gets worse).
The girl in question wasn’t what you would call lucid. As far as I knew, she could hardly pronounce a single word, let alone string together an entire sentence. I stared with disdain at her mashed food that sat on her tray as well as on the table surrounding her. It was then I noticed that amongst her culinary carnage was a pristine, chocolate-frosted brownie that sat unscathed in the corner pocket of her tray. She’d hardly eaten anything and I figured that the delectable brownie (which was my favorite school lunch dessert) would go to waste. I even justified stealing this poor girl’s brownie as payment for me having to sit next to her (I know, I know. I’m not a good person inside). Eventually enough people around me left to return their lunch trays and I saw this as a window of opportunity to steal this retarded girl’s brownie.
While her head bobbed and pulled erratically, and her glazed eyes pointed in opposite directions while rolling back in her head, I regrettably reached over and stole a brownie from this severely retarded girl. Like a conniving Copperfield, I snatched it up in one sleight-of-hand motion, placed it on my tray, and returned my instruments of crime back onto my lap.
Success! I peered at her out of the corner of my eyes and saw that she was none the wiser. Feeling good about myself, I reached back onto my tray for the recently acquired brownie so I could enjoy the fruits of my ill-gotten gain. Just then I noticed the young girls head drift back down to her tray. Then her wobbly, accusatory gaze drifted over to me, who was currently holding her brownie while simultaneously staring back at her with wide, pleading eyes. Suddenly, this girl who ostensibly couldn’t speak a word over two syllables screamed with all her might, “My brownie! He took my brownie!” I froze with the brownie mere millimeters from my open mouth. I knew it was over. I had to think fast. I considered getting rid of the damning evidence by shoving it quickly into my mouth. “Brownie! Brownie! He took my brownie!” She warbled once more while pointing her gnarled fingers at me. Instead of sinking even lower by shoving the brownie into my mouth, I placed it back onto her tray just as quickly as I had swiped it. I then tried to pacify her with a frantic, high-pitched whisper, “There it is! Shhh! Your brownie’s right there. Look!” She promptly relented and I stared red-faced at my empty tray while the classmates that were sitting next to me returned to their seats. No one said anything, either because they didn’t see what happened, or (more likely) they didn’t want to dignify what happened by confronting despicable me. I don’t even know if she ate her precious brownie since my shameful eyes stayed glued to the floor.
What was I talking about? Oh yea, physical fitness…or something. I got a little side-tracked. Oh well. Until next week, keep your eye on the prize and your hand on the proverbial brownie.