Friday, April 18, 2008

We Play With Our Food

We first met Andy--Class of '97--at the beginning of his sophomore year, when he was 15 and Our World was Very Young--at least in the venue known as Our Humble High School. He was "hot"--good looking in teenage girl parlance--tall and skinny, with his dark hair cut in one of those odd bowls that looks like a mushroom. Quite appropos, since Andy Played With His Food.

Andy's Mom always packed a "nutritious and delicious" lunch, and Andy--growing boy that he was--always ate it down to the last Ho-Ho. Everything, that is, except the Obligatory Citrus Fruit. He played with that.

Andy's specialty was carving said fruit--in the era before clementines, usually an orange, tangerine, or one of those hybrid tangelos--into the faces of various characters. Ninja Orange, Principal Orange, Pirate Orange, Nerd Orange--we saw quite a few of these sticky renditions, and almost always encouraged the young man to dispose of his lunch trash before he left for Algebra 2.

We were vigilant, that is, until One Fateful Day Before Thanksgiving. That Wednesday, known to the kids and teachers alike as A Stupid Day, features a truncated schedule and Not Much Getting Done Because The Kids Are So Hyped Up for A Break. We don't remember this phenomenon from Our Own Personal High School Careers, but High School Students of the Millenium get jazzed at the slightest excuse. Turkey Day--why have school that week at all? Christmas (excuse us, Winter) Break--might as well close the entire district for the totality of the month of December. Halloween--why bother coming to school?

Anyway, Andy brought a lunch to school on that Stupid Day before TG, even though school let out at 11:30 a.m. We don't recall if he ate Mom's Lovingly Prepared Repast down to the last scrumptious Ho-Ho that day, but we do know that he carved his fruit. Don't recall the character, but we still have that critter in our classroom, all these 11 years later.

This was a Simple Work of Art. Andy drew eyes on the tangerine with a ballpoint pen. He didn't bother with a nose, but went straight for the mouth. Wielding a pair of Our Classroom Scissors, he sliced open the small orange sphere, extracted one tiny segment, squeezed the opening and inserted the tangerine slice in it, protruding like a juicy tangerine tongue. "Very funny, Andy," the Intrepid Adviser said. "Don't forget to throw it away before you leave."

Well, Andy didn't follow instructions very well (we hope, at the Age of 29, he pays more attention to his superiors now). He left the creation on our Wide Expanse of Window Sill, behind one of several dozen Happy Meal Toyz (the subject of another entry soon, we promise). Everyone went home but the mutilated tangerine, which proceeded to ossify, perhaps petrify? What it did was shrivel up and harden. It still looks Pretty Creepy. And Pretty Real.

We kept Andy's Tangerine Person on our desk for several years, until one of our cherubs decided it looked like a shrunken head and braided a string fob for it to hang from on the bulletin board. All these years later, ATP still has a place of honor. When folks ask its origin, we often say, "Oh, it's the shrunken head of a freshman who misbehaved." One of several Urban Legends that still haunts Our Humble High School. The video is from someone named John the Weird. Not much weirder than Andy and his tangerine!

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