Now that I think back, it’s possible Ms Crank was only about 49 or 50, which isn’t that much older than I am today. Crank opened my eyes to the cruel, capricious excesses wrought by people seduced by their position of power and authority over others. I could not stand by and watch as she took pleasure in making little kids cry, in spite of the fact she always said stuff like ‘it gives me no pleasure to do this’ while she boiled children in her cauldron. Bullshit. Torturing kids was her self-gratification of choice to get off. In her sexually repressed mind, we were nothing but a bunch of bubblegum and smelly butt crack-scented dildos.
For a nine year old, a school year is an eternity, and I was adamant: she was not going to turn my grade four into a terror-filled, masturbatory Stalinist gulag. From then on I understood why so many men are drawn to the rebel lifestyle – it is gratifying to fight the good fight, it absented you from the boring, legitimate work of regular schmucks, and being a shit disturber was intellectually stimulating. Most importantly, it became a persona that would appeal to the ladies – the passionate rebel. I was gonna get some play. Subcommandante Edgardo Castros Sanchez (born Edmund K Saunders), of the rebellion against the elementary school junta was born. The struggle for freedom from the caprice of sex-starved, mothball-scented old people was on, Donkey Kong.
In the early days before we tapped into the support networks provided by our Syrian and Iranian benefactors, we had to settle for low-rent forms of insurgency. Our first order of business was to disorient the enemy, throw her off her game. Whoopie cushions on the teacher’s chair, scrawling dirty words or big penises on the chalkboard, changing seats when the teacher turned to write something down on the chalkboard. These were standard tactics. The seeds of revolution were germinating wonderfully! I convinced almost a majority of the class to make the same mistake on one of our assignments with the word ‘penis’. (Exceptions were goody two-shoes Jenny Graham who could not be swayed, even with bribes of ice cream and candy that we could get Jimmy Peters to steal from Family Fair in unlimited quantities.)
One morning as we were waiting single file to come back into class from recess I pleaded with Crank to let me go to the bathroom because I was feeling sick. She spun her head around seven times as she uttered ‘I won’t be falling for that one Mr Saunders’. The previous week I said I had to go to the can – I did – but on my way back to class I ducked into a gym class to play dodge ball, and half hour later Crank had to dispatch the Stasi to bring me back to her side of the wall. Moments after she barked out her edict barring me from the bathroom I sprayed her and the student in front of me with a geyser of grape Kool-Aid-infused Quaker oatmeal barf. I wish I could say I stuck my finger in my mouth to spontaneously summon up a barrage of barf just to get even with Crank, but I was really sick and this time the alchemical mix of fate and serendipity came together in sublime fashion.
Troy, the kid I barfed on was incensed, and he was the local tough, so I was extorted frequently out of candy and favoured parts of my lunch for quite a while. Relinquishing a pack of Lik-M-Aid here and a corned beef sandwich there was a small penance for the satisfaction of seeing Crank’s ghostly white complexion stained by my grape-laced vomit. To meet my extortionist quotas I simply dispatched Jimmy to conduct more organized thefts to keep that blockhead Troy happy with supplies.
But I did have to endure Troy’s unimaginative invective for years after that. He continuously called me ‘barfy’ or ‘barf-boy’. Exasperated by the banality of his barbs, I used to propose more creative ideas to Troy like ‘projectile man’ and hand-fed him with concepts and back stories about thwarting thieves by pummelling them with chunks of Alphagetti and Mac and Cheese sprayed from my gullet. I was pining for anything but fucking ‘barf-boy’. If I was going to be bullied I wanted it to be done in style, by a worthy persecutor. This tool was no Idi Amin. He never understood what the hell I was getting at, so I had to cringe inside while he feebly attempted to smite me with the stupidest of taunts. As we aged, I sprouted into a brawny, nerdy mesomorph and as a football player I schooled him – and other blockheads like him – on the fine points of inflicting pain on others. I was clever enough and large enough to bully the bullies without them realizing they were being bullied. It gave me orgasmic pleasure well into my teens, which was better than the smut magazines and baby oil I usually used to similar effect.
One time I set out to graze Crank with a spitball, meaning for it to land on the chalkboard as she was writing, but she turned just as I released my armaments and took a volley on her glasses. I was a local legend and was in a state of intoxicated vainglory for weeks afterwards, having tasted the sweet nectar of VICTORY. Even Troy let me have my whole lunch for a few weeks and only extorted my fizz candy one time in that period. The principal seemed genuinely angry at me and called my mother in to discuss the situation, but she was too busy being single with two kids to do much about it. She did say to the principal, ‘when my kid is not the top student in the school give me a call, otherwise don’t waste my time’. Thanks mom, you rock. This little scenario played out dozens of times in subsequent years.
I devised a vaudevillian prank where I’d lean back in my chair until I toppled over, bringing desks, papers, other students – comrades who were also in on the conspiracy – and their desks crashing down with me. The first few times I toppled Crank chalked it up to genuine clumsiness. Nine or ten ‘falls’ later, and an epidemic of similar eruptions across various sectors of Stalag 6, the intention behind these calamities became more clear. Propaganda by the deed. I was selected for punishment because her spies – Jenny Graham – had indicated I was the spark, the ringleader behind the spate of identical Lone Wolf acts of disruption. As the face of the rebellion it was an honour to sacrifice for my people.
They moved my desk out to the hallway for a time as a punishment, which was fine with me, those imperialist fools. From my new command post I hatched countless schemes to further wage a war of attrition against the forces of evil, unfettered by trips to the blackboard or turns reading Mr Muggs. They brought my desk back in the classroom when they realized that I had a strong tenor voice – a celebrated staple of the school choir – which caused me to disrupt six, as opposed to just one, classroom. For my repertoire, I chose to serenade my peers with tracks from AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, like ‘Big Balls’ and ‘Problem Child’ which filled the cavernous hallways of the school with song.
At some point I lost sight of the true aim of our revolution and it is possible some innocent bystanders were inadvertently caught in its haunches. It’s not totally a stretch to suggest I became over zealous in the fight against counter-revolutionaries. For a time I had turned into a mini-Robespierre. But it was for a good cause. As Lenin famously remarked ‘in order to make an omelette, one must break a few eggs’. We made quite a few omelettes, some egg McMuffins and enough quiche lorraines to feed a revolutionary army from that year onwards. In subsequent years I was part of numerous cabals that drove hapless substitute teachers hysterical and may also have chased some upstarts from the business of teaching. Sorry ‘bout that. Blame Crank, she started it.
In my grade four putsch I bamboozled other kids who weren’t as clever, or who did not have previously unblemished records into my conspiracy and they got themselves into really big trouble on my account. Jimmy had to steal shopping carts of candy on a regular basis to keep everyone happy. We could not risk acrimony and dissention in the rank and file. So we bribed them with sweets. In my mind, Jimmy was a legend in petty thievery. He could steal packs of smokes, boxes of Count Chocula, bottles of soda pop, can openers, frisbees, and cat food – I was dared to eat a tin, and I never turned my back on a dare – all in one single mission. Without being caught. He wore his father’s clothing and parkas everywhere he went, even in summer. This came in handy when you were stealing for the masses. I often wonder what ever happened to Jimmy. Given his proficiency for grand larceny, I suspect he’s either a high-level organized crime figure or a Wall Street banker.
I credit Crank for helping me to tap into the well of my rebellious side. Prior to that year I had always been an angel. Deep down I really loathed being such an obsequious do-gooder. Crank gave the sleeping Devil in me the kick in the pants needed to toss my inner-sycophant aside so the dirty work of sparing my grade four existence from misery would get done. After that year I would beckon that dark side to reinvigorate rebellion whenever I sensed teachers, principals, professors, cops, bosses, or any putative authority figure was getting too big for their britches.
In the end, I have to give credit to Crank, she sussed me out as a subversive when I was not myself aware of it. I gained sustenance as I drank from the teat of her tyranny. From her I was provided the foundations that have made me the big, strong, well-educated, passive aggressive, quietly resentful, slightly underhanded, perpetually disagreeable, ardently bombastic man I am today. My friends, family, and work colleagues thank you, Crank.