School Daze by Ken David Stewart
I’ve been thinking about writing this book for some time now. Over the years I have thought a lot about the experiences I had attending public school. I don’t know whether or not most people think about their school days that much. I need to point out a few things right off the bat. First of all, the names and locations that I talk about in this book are all either changed or fictitious. If the reader wants to believe that some of the stories are true that is their prerogative. This book will cover the decades of the early 1950s and the 1960s. School was a lot different at that time than it is now.
I should start by saying that I grew up in downtown Winnipeg. My parents and I lived in my grandmother’s rooming house. I used to call my maternal grandmother, Bapi because I could not say the Polish word for grandmother which was Bapcha. After a short period of time everyone in our neighborhood started calling my grandmother, Bapi. Bapi was a very strong woman both mentally and physically. She didn’t take any crap from anyone. I can still remember her physically throwing some of her unruly tenants down the stairs. Bapi was my primary caregiver during the daytime and she made damn sure that I attended kindergarten every day whether I was sick or well.
From an early age I was already quite the entertainer. I recall watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. My parents bought me a toy guitar and I was soon doing Elvis Presley impersonations complete with shaking my hips and moving around my legs the way my hero did. This entertained my parents and their friends to no end because I was already a fat kid and my impression of Elvis must have been hilarious.
Unfortunately for me, during the time I grew up there were very few fat kids around. This fact was to lead to much name-calling and humiliation for me when I attended public school.
I tended to make things worse for myself because I liked to dress up for school. I don’t mean wearing a suit or tie. I’m referring to donning a fire-fighters hat or dressing up in a Zorro costume, complete with a toy sword. I still remember one of my classmates pointing out that the real Zorro was not fat. His remark really stung but I couldn’t help it if I was a fat kid. After all, my grandmother was always serving me a big piece of cake along with my tomato soup and sandwich for lunch.
So naturally, my name became Fatso. I can recall a few other highlights regarding my kindergarten experience. My kindergarten teacher told my parents that because I was so bright I should be skipped a grade next year. The reason for my alleged brilliance was that my paternal grandmother who I visited every weekend, was a retired school teacher. I called her Granny and she read to me and taught me the alphabet and numbers before I ever attended school. Needless to say, most of my classmates did not have this distinct advantage.
The other highlight that I can remember was having a mean kid destroy my art project as I walked home from school. For most of my early years at school I was a favorite target for bullies. It wasn’t until grade five that I realized that being fat didn’t mean that you couldn’t fight, but I’ll save that story for later.
Around the time I became six years old my parents and grandmother bought a house in a suburban area of Winnipeg. I’m not sure how they were able to pull this off financially, but I suspect that Bapi helped my parents out a great deal. Even though I had moved out of the inner-city I quickly found out that it didn’t mean that the other children would be any nicer. In many ways they were worse. I continued to get bullied not only by my classmates, but also by my teachers. The things that my teachers got away with then would quickly end the career of any teacher today. In the late fifties and sixties school teachers could pretty well do anything they wanted to their students. You didn’t even have to be bad to have them talk to you very sarcastically or even treat you cruelly, if they so desired. The problem was in those days the teacher was always right. If a child were to complain to their parents about how their teacher had mistreated them, they couldn’t expect to get any sympathy from their parents. Your parents were more likely to ask you what you did wrong to make your teacher so angry.
In grade two my teacher asked me how much I weighed. Not knowing any better, I told her the truth. I told her that I weighed 120 pounds. My teacher’s response to this, was to inform the class that I weighed more than her.
Not to be outdone, my grade 3 teacher told the class that I was enough to make a teacher swear. My grade four teacher did her one better by calling me ‘Stupified’ for spilling some paint during an art class.
However, I would have to declare that the all-time winner of all my sadistic teachers was my grade five teacher. In those days, having a messy desk was a capital crime. My fifth grade teacher had a habit of doing visual desk inspections during silent reading. She wore soft soled shoes so that her students could not hear her sneaking up on us. As I probably had the messiest desk of anyone in my classroom, in addition to the fact that I was fat, I was to experience the full and terrible wrath of my grade five teacher. During her one of her routine desk inspections she noticed that my desk was particularly messy. This prompted her to dump over my desk and to tell me to clean up the mess immediately.
However, this monster who called herself a teacher was not finished yet. She called me up to her desk, reached into one of the drawers and pulled out a laminated badge that featured the picture of an oversized pig. She promptly pinned this photo of a sow to my shirt this and told me that I was to wear the pig badge all week. Just to twist the knife a bit further, she stopped me when I was about to take the pig off before going out for recess. I was informed that the pig would now be transferred to my winter parka just so all the kids in that school could ask me why I was wearing a picture of a sow on my winter coat.
Episode Twenty-Five of Infinite Realities:
Rick slowly made his way down the three flights of stairs using the handrails for balance. He painfully climbed into his red Mercury Sable. He needed to get an academic day planner for his upcoming job. As he would be receiving calls for different substitute assignments on a daily basis Rick needed to write down the job assignment details in a day planner. The closest office supplies store was Staples on Regent Avenue. It took Rick approximately twenty minutes to get there.
Staples is a large store that carries just about any kind of office supplies that one can imagine. Rick was having some difficulty locating the aisle that contained day planners. He saw a young woman that was on a step ladder trying to arrange boxes of file folders. Rick called out, “Excuse me. Do you know where I can find the aisle that has day planners?”
The clerk turned around and Rick nearly passed out. It was the same young woman that was the subject of the picture in his apartment.
“Yes, I do sir. You can find them in aisle five about half way down. Would you like me to show you?”
“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Rick said trying not to look flustered.
The girl climbed down the ladder and started to lead Rick down aisle five. She turned to him and said, “I know you. You’re Rick Chandler. I live in a picture in the living room of your apartment.”
Rick nearly turned white with fright. He was starting to wonder if he had gone over the deep end. I mean with the strain he had been under, having an old man give him a tablet that could alter his present reality and now this.
“Don’t worry Rick. You’re not losing your mind. My name is Katalya. I got instructions to be here from Darren. I want to take you somewhere light years away from your present reality.”
Twenty-One of Infinite Realities:
For Rick Chandler this was a dream that had virtually come true. Darren was right. Even though this experience didn’t happen in his default reality, he could feel the emotional rush exactly as if it was really happening. What was even better was that Rick was able to experience this adventure from a fourteen years olds perspective. He had all the energy and hormones of a real teenager. For a brief period in time he would be able to enter another dimension where he was no longer living in an old person’s body and was suffering all the aches and pains that seemed inevitably to accompany living to the age of sixty-two.
Rick’s sexual desire was back in a way that he had long forgotten. This was another insult that one had to endure as they reached their golden years. He was almost mesmerized by the sexiness of Mikaela, their road manager and chauffeur for the evening. Mikaela had beautiful long strawberry blond hair. She was wearing a cherry red tank top and very tight stone wash jeans. Mikaela wore shimmering silver earrings that almost blinded Rick when a ray of reflected sunlight reflected off them. Rick knew that he was too young for Mikaela. Girls in high school always dated guys a couple of years older than they were. But what the heck, Rick would enjoy his daydream while it lasted.
The white van pulled up to the back entrance of River Heights Community Club. The recreation center’s part time caretaker, Slim Owens guided Mikaela as she backed the van to a spot where the band would have just enough room to unload the equipment. Slim was in his early seventies and he still enjoyed working at the community center. He liked young people and figured that keeping in regular contact with youth would increase his own longevity.
The band even had an unofficial volunteer roadie named Adam Roberts. Adam was a big kid about fifteen years old. Just last year Adam’s parents had bought him a bench press and a set of weights for Christmas as well as a Joe Weider resistance training manual. From this guide Adam learned all the basic exercises to turn himself into a weight lifter. As Adam had good genetics and his testosterone levels were high, within two months and with a lot of hard training, Adam had started to develop an impressive muscular physique. This made him a natural choice to be a band’s roadie. Adam liked being a roadie as it gave him some extra status in his local high school. He felt pride when kids would say that the big gut was ‘with The Band’. Adam also felt a strong attraction to Mikaela.
“You guys just go in the club and get yourselves a Coke. I can get all your gear in myself,” Adam said.
Episode Seventeen of Infinite Realities:
“I can’t okay you for spending the next two years as a writer Rick. My supervisor, the plan administrator would never go for it. In your rehabilitation plan he will want to see some kind of a conventional job. There’s too little money to be made in writing. Not every writer is going to have the success of a Stephen King. Most writers don’t even make enough money to cover their writing expenses,” Michael said.
“I figured you’d say that, but that’s all right. I have a Plan B,” Rick said.
“Will it provide you with a liveable income?”
“Yeah, it should.”
“Okay, tell me all about your alternate gig.”
“I’ll be a substitute teacher by day and a writer at night.”
“Now there’s a plan that’s feasible. I can work with that and I think I can sell it to the plan administrator.”
“I have another appointment to get to Rick. I’ll have to close off our meeting now. I’ll phone you to set up another appointment as soon as I get a chance to talk to my supervisor about your proposal,” Michael said as he was closing the cover on his metal briefcase.
“I’ll be looking forward to your call. It was a pleasure meeting you Michael. I’m sorry about giving you a hard time.”
“Don’t worry about it Rick. This was mild compared to the grief I get from some of my clients.”
As soon as Michael Reeves left David retrieved his tablet and was looking forward to getting back to reading The Devil’s Knot. When he picket the tablet up he heard a sound alert notifying him that he had an incoming text message. David selected the text message and began to read it.
“Hi, David. I must apologize for not introducing myself. My name is Darren Ross and I work for Infinite Realities Incorporated. I have been assigned to be your personal coach, mentor and advocate. In short, I am available twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, including holidays, to assist you with the operation of your amazing new piece of technology. In essence I am your customer support. What are you planning to do next with your tablet, David?”
David texted back:
I am going to continue reading The Devil’s Knot without any further disturbance.
Darren texted back:
That’s wonderful David. A man who loves to read. I want to greatly enhance your reading experience. I don’t want you to read about Damien Echols. I want you to be in the courtroom with Damien as he hears the judge tell him that he has been found guilty and will be sentenced to death by lethal injection. You will feel every emotion that Damien is feeling.
Shortly after Melissa closed the door to David’s study his phone rang. It was Meredith Jordan and she was upset.
“Pastor Noble. Something terrible has just happened. I just received a call from Seven Oaks Hospital. Marissa was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She is in Emergency right now and the doctor said that she is in critical condition. Mason and I will be leaving for the hospital right away. He is just outside warming up the car. Can you meet us at the hospital?”
For a moment David did not know what to say. He had to quickly break out of his deep and troubling introspections.
“Yes, of course. Tell Mason that I’m on the way to the hospital right now.”
It was December 20, 2014 and it was bitterly cold outside. David checked the weather app on his white ten inch Samsung Galaxy tablet. It read thirty-two degrees below Celsius with a wind chill causing it to feel like minus forty-five. The app was also warning of blizzard conditions.
David grabbed his white winter parka from the downstairs closet and told Melissa that Marissa Jordan was in serious condition at Seven Oaks. He told his wife that he didn’t know when he would be back.
“Be careful driving out there. It’s a blizzard out there,” Melissa said.
“I will,” David said as he opened the front door to his house and his face was immediately met with a painful blast of wind and snow. The snow seemed to have ice crystals in it that were cutting into David’s face. He ran back inside to grab his black balaclava.
When he got to his 2005 beige Chev Impala the engine would not turn over. He again went back into the house. This time to get his Motorizer that he had bought at Canadian Tire last fall. With his hands starting to freeze even through David’s gloves he managed to boost his car and the engine turned over. David was woefully in adept at most mechanical challenges but at least he had taught himself how to boost a car’s battery.
Episode Sixteen of Infinite Realities:
“What are your books about?” asked the industrial psychologist.
“Nothing- and everything,” Rick said.
“That doesn’t make sense. What do you mean by nothing and everything?”
“That’s a good question,” Rick began. “I’m not sure that I completely understand the writing process. Especially mine. I guess it could be described as some form of stream of consciousness writing like James Joyce used in The Portrait of a the Artist as a Young Man.
I find it very difficult to envision or to plan out my books before I write them. I suppose I use the fly by the seat of my pants approach. I am definitely not a plotter nor a planner. On most days I have a burning desire to write something. I have a great need to spill out the ideas that are in my head on any given day. I like to get up early in the morning around four or five AM. I have my Frosted Flakes and coffee for breakfast and then I sit down at my word processor and begin to write. I usually find it to be a very enjoyable experience. I find it to be more efficacious for my mental health than talking to my therapist. No offense to my psychiatrist. I believe that she sincerely wants to help me put my fragmented psyche back together and to get me back to work.
In my opinion writing is much like talking to yourself. The writer pulls down to earth some of the fascinating ideas that are buzzing around in the universe and transfers them to paper as best as he can. The hard work comes when you get near the end of the first draft. That’s when I try to find some organic unity in what I have written. I look for a unifying theme and start the painful process of deciding what to keep and what to throw out. Sometimes I have to give up the whole novel if I find that there isn’t anything that I can do to save it.”
“That sounds like hard work,” said Michael who at one time had aspirations of writing his own novel.
Episode Fifteen of Infinite Realities:
“I need to get to know you a bit Rick seeing as we’re going to be working together,” Mike said.
“Working together on what?” Rick asked.
“On you. Your employment situation. What you plan to do with the next three years before you retire. Are you planning to go back to teaching?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“So what do you plan to do? You can’t stay on disability until you retire.”
“Your group insurance plan won’t allow it.”
“But I like working on nothing all day as the song says.”
“Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive,” Michael noted.
“That songs a little before your time isn’t it?” Rick asked.
“I listen to my father’s old records. You guys had much better music to listen to than my generation does.”
“That song was by The Who,” Rick said with a bit of a smirk.
“Okay Rick. Enough joking around. Let’s get serious and examine your options.”
“How can I do that? I’m crazy,”Rick said still enjoying his little game.
“Your doctor doesn’t say you’re crazy, just depressed. And you don’t appear to be that depressed right now.” Michael said. His tone of voice was now displaying a hint of annoyance.
“How’s your coffee?” Rick asked.
“It’s perfect. So if you don’t plan to teach what do you want to do?”
“I want to write books. I’ve actually started a couple already,” Rick answered.