I Was Just Thinking… It was just a harmless stunt – really, it was
When you attend a small school in Iowa, you automatically have more opportunities to participate in several extracurricular activities.
When you’re one in a class of 43, there are even more opportunities. The sky’s the limit. You can be a part of various sports year around, you can be in band, chorus and small music groups, and you can also be part of the school’s drama offerings, from speeches to one act plays to class plays.
I wasn’t alone when I was involved in lots of things – basketball, baseball, chorus, band (at least for a while), speech, newspaper staff and class plays. Many of my friends participated in as many, if not more activities than I. Of course, we all took part in our annual class chili suppers, car washes and other fund-raising enterprises in raising money for our senior class trip.
Most all of those extra activities would seem harmless on the outside. You wouldn’t think, for example, that the class play could create many problems. If you thought that, you’d be wrong.
One of my best high school friends and I each had a part in our junior class play. Johnny passed away several years ago. Each time I think of him, I recall one particular winter night at play practice, held in the small old gymnasium in the high school at Alleman.
Neither of us was on stage during part of the practice. We sat in chairs on the gymnasium floor while others practiced on stage. While we sat, Johnny had an idea that seemed funny at the time. It didn’t take much prodding for me to go along with it.
He had dated one of the girls in the play, who was also off stage during this particular moment in practice.
“I’ve got an idea,” Johnny whispered. He leaned close, looked at his new girlfriend and said, “I’ll whisper in your ear and you whisper in mine and Sally (not her real name) will think we’re talking about her.”
I looked and saw that “Sally” was watching us both, so I leaned over and whispered in Johnny’s ear. “What should I say?” I asked. “Nothing,” he whispered back.
By that time, we could both see that “Sally” was staring at both of us. It wasn’t a look of love she shot our way.
In fact, she burst into tears, ran over and slapped Johnny hard on the side of his face. I watched in horror, but started to chuckle at the sight of him grabbing his face, looking totally stunned and trying to calm “Sally” down.
I let out a nervous chuckle myself when “Sally” suddenly turned to me. I don’t remember exactly what she said to me, but I remember her right arm swinging wildly and catching the side of my face.
Tears came to my eyes. It hurt. She had a mean right hand.
Wide-eyed, Johnny started to explain to her that we were just kidding, that we hadn’t been talking about her at all. I sat there dumbfounded.
“You two are horrible,” she screamed. She didn’t want to hear any explanation; she just turned and stomped away. In fact, she stomped right out of the gymnasium and out of sight.
“Well, that didn’t work too well,” I said to Johnny, trying to make some light of the incident.
He didn’t hear me, though. He was already on his feet running after “Sally.” Our class play director knew something had happened that wasn’t good. She quickly followed Johnny out of the gymnasium, shooting a disapproving glance my way as she went.
I just sat there, trying my best to look innocent. Play practice stopped. Everyone on stage was looking at me, as if I’d been responsible for what just happened. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say it wasn’t me, certainly not my fault, and I didn’t know what was going on any more than they did.
I’m not sure anyone believed my feigned innocence.
Of course, you’re all waiting for a storybook ending here. Well, there wasn’t one. “Sally” didn’t speak to Johnny again, as far as I know. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another date. And I certainly cringed each time “Sally” and I met in the hallway.
I still remember her icy stare that followed me wherever I went.