Bucket Ruckus: A Flash Memoir

“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.

After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade board was clean. I would have to impress her another time.

“Alright,” she said. “Mrs. Reed makes us dump the water in the sink when we’re done.”

Tanya approached the sink. I followed.

“I got it,” I said, taking the bucket from her.

“Mrs. Reed told you how to dump it, right?”

“Yeah! Watch.”

I grabbed the handle with my left hand and lifted. It wobbled. I held the bottom with my other hand. All I needed was to get it above the sink. Way above. As high as I could get it without getting water on the counter.

Tanya stepped forward, “Mrs. Reed said–

I tilted the bucket.

“Just make sure you pour the water sl—

I dumped all of the water into the sink in one shot. Nearly all of it splashed back.

Tanya backed off a step.

I backed off a few.

But it was too late.

“Oh my God! You got water all over my dress.”

I looked at myself, “Yeah, I got it on me too.”

“Why’d you do that? You were supposed to pour it in.”

“I didn’t know.”

Students got out of their seats, looking over.

“Ooohhh, weeee,” they said.

I turned to Mrs. Reed’s desk.

She was walking towards us. I placed my hands in front of me to cover the water. It was useless.

The Accidental Atheist

“I am an atheist,” Mrs. Holis, my sixth grade teacher said. “I believe that when you die that’s it. There is no heaven. No hell. Nothing. You’re just a body and when you die you go back into the earth”

My eleven-year-old mind could neither conceive nor understand an end to consciousness. I took this to mean that when you die, you sit in a casket fully awake until the end of time. I carried this image all through middle school.

Two years later, walking home from the mall, she emerged from a porch with another lady. She saw me.

“How are you?!” she said.

“I’m fine. How are you?” I said.

“Great. Are you doing well in school?”

“I guess.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound too good.”

“I know.”

She took out a brochure. “Well, I just want you to know that God loves you…”

“Okay.”

She handed the brochure to me. I took it. “And Jesus is our lord and savior.”

“Okay.”

“Do you believe in the Lord, Marc?”

“Yeah.”

“And do you believe in Jesus?”

“I guess.”

“Well, do you believe that God sent down his only begotten son to save your soul?

“I don’t know.”

“Well, this literature will help you understand the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Okay, hun?”

I took the pamphlet and looked at the pictures on the way home. I then tossed it over the bridge and into the Jordan creek.

I felt a sense of relief deep inside knowing that she was no longer an atheist.

She might have been wrong back then. I might have to sit in a casket until the Earth explodes. Thank God.

The Writer: A Flash Memoir

“Mr. XYZ?!” Mrs. Cart hollered in front of the seventh grade class, “You want to write about Mr. XYZ?! This is supposed to be a paper about heroes. Do you even know who Mr. XYZ is?!”

. . .

The plan was to write a term paper that made me look cool. I chose an unsavory character from history. One who I’ve referred to as Mr. XYZ. Mrs. Cart didn’t follow the plan.

Back home, I paged through the Encyclopedia Britannica, looking to please her.

George Washington. Boring.

Thomas Jefferson. Boring

Abraham Lincoln. Boring.

Axel Rose. Taken.

John F. Kennedy.

The theme music for the film JFK blared inside my twelve year-old head. Three months earlier, Oliver Stones’ film suggested my first non-fiction idol. I wanted to be him as much as Luke Skywalker. I now had details in my hands to support those feelings.

I wrote the paper on JFK.

I turned it in.

Mrs. Cart read it in front of the class, said something about my turning things around.

I had written every word to get back into her graces and it worked.

I had found an acceptable hero. One that I fantasized about being.

I crafted a narrative. I was adored for it.

. . .

I had sold out, compromised.

But remained true. At least to what I wanted to believe was true.

My journey as a writer began.

Bubblegum Complex: A Flash Memoir

Age 35

Third store I’ve been to and no sling bag. Now I gotta walk out this place empty handed, wondering if the clerk thinks I’m just here to steal.

“Can I help you find something,” the clerk said.

“What?” I said.

“Is there something you need?”

Age 7

I headed down the aisle that led directly to the counter, clasping the piece of stolen gum. The exit was to the left of it, and I would have to pass Chadi as he stocked a carton of Pall Mall. But he turned before I could leave the aisle, making eye contact.

“What do you have?!” Chadi demanded.

I stood still, body pointing towards the exit, “Nothing.”

“Open your hand!”

“I don’t have nothing.”

“You steal from me?!”

“No.”

“Show me what’s in your hand.”

I opened my hand.

“Why you steal from me?!”

“I was going to give it to you later.”

“If you would have asked me, I would have given one to you. Why didn’t you ask?”

“I don’t know.”

I couldn’t run for the exit. I lived right around the corner. He could tell my parents. For the next minute, or maybe more, or maybe less, I let him scold me. He made me put back the candy and told me to leave.

“Next time I tell your parents. Okay?”

I nodded.

“Go.”

Age 35 continued

“No,” I said to the clerk.

I grabbed a travel-size shampoo and showed it to her.

“Thanks.”

I paid for it at the counter.

Outside the store, I stared at it.

Color protecting shampoo. What heck am I gonna do with this?   

90’s Childhood Movie Theaters

I frequented several movie theaters growing up in Allentown, PA in the 1990s.

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General Cinema was across the street from the Lehigh Valley Mall. This was the theater my brother and I went to most often. It was two and a half miles away from our house, but the theater had all the major studio releases.

General Cinema was the easiest theater to sneak in another film after you finished your first movie.

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The Eric was a quarter mile from our house. This theater mainly played MGM, New Line Cinema and TriStar/Colombia films. This meant that they showed all of the Jean Claude Van Damm, Freddy Kruger and first generation Star Trek films.

The theater was right across the street from the Lehigh County prison, so we could hear the inmates play basketball from the upper floor. The Eric is now a social security office.

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The Franklin was a second-run theater that formerly had been an adult theater called The Jannette. The theater was a block away from us. Their first film was Sister Act. People would talk and yell at the movie screen. There was an elderly usher, probably in his 70’s, that the kids would harass. I can still remember him chasing them around the theater and them making fun of his hair piece.

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The Plaza was a second run theater at the Whitehall Mall. I still remember seeing Rain Man there. There was an arcade right next to it that was more like a second hand arcade, because they only had older games. Our dad would give us quarters to play games until the movie was about to start. The last movie I saw there was Babe 2: Pig in the City.

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AMC was miles away from my family’s house. We would rarely go there, but I still remember their first films were Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Clint Eastwood’s Pink Cadillac. I can remember that these were the first two films because that opening weekend I was on punishment. My dad said that not going to see Indiana Jones was part of that punishment. We eventually went the next weekend, but we saw the film at General Cinema instead.

If cinema was scripture to me, then the movie theater was a cathedral. Each one was different and had its own character, but until this day I walk through these buildings in my dreams. I wait for a show to begin as though I’m about to watch the greatest motion picture ever made for the first time.

My 7th Grade

In seventh grade, the school put me in the lowest section. I had little in common with those kids. They talked about who was making out with who and who’d been placed in juvenile detention for the summer. They also knew song lyrics. Many of the boys rapped to themselves throughout the day.

They’d ask me why I was there.

I would say, “I don’t know”.

They would say, “Are you smart?”

I would say, “No,” or “I don’t know.”

Then they would say, “Yes, you are.” Then try to get me to help them on a test or with seatwork. When I didn’t know the answers to their questions, they would say, “But I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

I was always a quiet person in school. This was the quietest I ever felt.

The next semester, I was transferred to another section. This was the best time I ever had in school. We were considered a section that was fully capable of achievement, but as our social studies teacher would say, “You’re all ignorant. Not stupid. Ignorant. You know what ignorant means? It means that you have the ability to know, but you don’t want to.”

These statements were a joke to us. Everything was a joke. At the cafeteria, we did this thing where we’d say “Schism-scasm-schism” then follow it with a random word. Then we’d insult our classmate with a statement that rhymed with that last word.

My parents sat me down to talk about my grades. They said that I was taking advantage of their marital problems by not doing my school work. I probably was taking advantage of them. I don’t know. I was having too much fun.

Smart, but lonely. Happy, but ignorant. Seventh grade.

Holographic Universe Theory, Debunked

“Everything is small,” I said to Mrs. Reed, my second grade teacher.

“What do you mean, hun?” she said.

“Like everything I see is small.”

“What do you mean by small, sweetheart?”

“Like. . .I don’t know…small.”

“Well, does your head hurt?”

“No.”

“Are you dizzy?”

“No.”

“Is your belly achy?”

“No.”

“Do you have to do a number 2?”

“No.”

“Then I can’t send you to the nurse, hun. Sit down.”

The entire world looked like a miniature model. Whenever I experienced this state of consciousness, I told myself, “I’m really here. I’m really here. I’m really here. I’m really here. . .”Supposedly, the name of this neurological condition is called Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome, or Lilliputian hallucinations. The condition is marked by the feeling that the physical environment around the individual has shrunk. It’s usually experienced in childhood and passes in time as was the case for me.

Scientist are now starting to express the theory that reality is a hologram and that we are not really here. Try telling that to Mrs. Reed. She’ll send you to get a drink of water and sit you out for recess.

 

A New Theory

My 10-year-old self said to my 13-year-old brother, “So before our time there was The Great Depression. And before The Great Depression there was The Old West. And before that there was The American Revolution. And before that was medieval times. And before that there was Rome. And before that there were dinosaurs. And before that there was the Big Bang. And what was before that? Well, it must come from a time where there is no time.”

“What?” my brother said.

“It all has to come from something,” I said.

He didn’t hesitate, “Get out of here!”

The moral: Never hassle your 13-year-old brother with philosophical ruminations on the universe. Especially, when he’s listening to fart competitions on Howard Stern.

The Valle Cinema Ramblings Vol.1 : E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. is a pagan shaman. He nurtures plants. He heals. He flies. He makes psychic connections. He self-resurrects. Or maybe the flying makes him a witch. Or maybe the healing makes him a magic troll. Or maybe the psychic connection makes him a postmodern fairy. Or maybe the self-resurrection makes him a trans-human prophet. A new internet theory even suggests that he’s a Jedi. If Jedi’s can drop out of society to be intergalactic hippies, then I can support that argument. But whatever he is, he’s what Elliot needs to keep from developing an adult personality disorder. My guess is that Elliot would be a narcissist, always wondering how something will affect his life and not others. “We can grow up together,” he tells E.T., not thinking about E.T.’s home sickness.

Elliot can’t handle the absence of his father. His brother tries to be the man of the house, but he’s a child also. Elliot has a loving mother, but she’s clueless. She doesn’t see Elliot putting back the lamp that helps him fake his sickness. She doesn’t notice E.T. (pretending to be her daughter) fall backwards after a Polaroid is taken. She doesn’t see E.T. standing in her living room when her daughter is trying to point him out. Parents can only do so much. A child needs an outlet.

To Elliot, E.T is a good book. A movie. A TV show. A baseball game. A comic book collection. A best friend; anything that creates a buffer for a child and shelters it from unnecessary pain. E.T. is about how we must protect our children from realities that they’re not equipped to handle. E.T. is about how we have to listen to our children and do everything we can for them. E.T. is about the miracle of salvation; the miracle of finding something that gives us the release we all need in life.

In the end, Elliot tells the government doctors, “He needs to go home.” Elliot realizes that he must let go of what he loves in order for it to live and be happy. This is what he needed to do for his father. Isn’t that what friendship really is? The ability to say something to someone that you really need to say to someone else.