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October 29, 2010

May 25th, 1952, Uehling Nebraska. A proud little town with a modest cemetery, and an active community theater. It was fourth period study hall in Ms. Batternans's classroom. A pile of seventh-graders were scattered among five rows of chair/desk hybrid combos that filled most of the classroom. The chair/desks were dangerous and designed like booby-traps. Where there was metal, there were curly peeled-back rusted leaf blades ready to draw blood from the innocent. Where there were wood surfaces, there were worn corners with booger-garnished porcupine slivers prepared to puncture and infect. Students were regularly injured while entering and exiting the chair/desks, and by simply adjusting their sitting position while studying.

While inherently dangerous in a variety of ways, the desks had a spank of charm to them. Most were tattooed with pen-knife-etched love messages, like "Jack + Mindy", outlined with a shabbily-drawn heart.

Ms. Batternans was infamous for her ability to catch kids in the act of writing and passing notes. Her disciplinary methods were founded on the principle that if you ridicule children in front of other children, they learn faster. She had been through six divorces in eight years and was bitter about the natural bliss that most kids obliviously live with. Through all of her marriages, she added a hyphen and her new last name to her pre-existing name. For over twelve years, she demanded to be referred to as Ms. Batternans-Coldwell-Shippley-Fudge-Hong-Huntington-Spitz by students and peers. She passionately hated restaurants because they made her feel "perverted for having such a long name" when making reservations. She was also a terrible cook, making it an even greater topic of irritation. She burned most meals, and it was such a regular routine that even her clothes were saturated with the stench of bottom-shelf scorched beef. With each divorce, she lost another tooth, another patch of hair, and gained more satisfaction for making children cry from public embarrassment...

Most of the notes that Ms. Batternans intercepted were from perky lovebirds in the first couple rows of chair/desks. But every once in a while, she would wander to the back row and snatch a piece of paper from under Mable Seasons' hand.

Mable was asked by her teachers to sit in the back of the classroom after several complaints from fellow classmates that they couldn't see the chalkboard from behind "the tall guy up front". Mable is of course a female, but by the age of twelve she was already a mannish six-feet tall with a sparse dirty-blonde mustache. She wore hand-me-down clothes from her dad because they fit. The combination confused most other students.

The pieces of paper that Ms. Batternans snatched from Mable never contained any passages of love for another classmate. Much different than the typical teenage girls that dreamed-up their picture-perfect wedding, Mable enjoyed writing different spins on her own obituary. It seems like a dark and gloomy practice, but she was entertained by it.

Mable particularly liked sitting in the back corner of Ms. Batternans classroom because she could look out the window. Through the window, just beyond the dilapidated wooden fence that surrounded the school yard, she could see the silhouettes of headstones in the Uehling Cemetary. Mable considered the cemetery to be a richer source of information and stories than a library. She often walked out to the cemetery after school and sat in the middle of the crowd of graves, writing obituaries for hours until the sun went down.

It was no different on May 25th of 1952. Well, a little different. On that day, while gazing out the window, Mable noticed a little black-and-white spotted Terrier sitting in the grass directly in the middle of her perspective to the cemetery. He was staring at her like he was waiting for Mable to say or do something entertaining. She expected him to run off at any moment, but he sat there, staring at her, for the entire forth period.

Once study hall was over, Mabel shuffled as quickly as her telephone pole body could shuffle, out to wear the little dog was sitting. She always struggled to walk the few minutes after classes ended because of gas cramps she would develop from holding in farts. Socially, she already had enough working against her, so she figured she probably shouldn't be the farting girl in class, especially because she enjoyed eating raw onions as a snack. Raw onion farts smell like fornicating manatees, and she feared the result of accidentally allowing a couple of sneaky squeakers in an already uncomfortably hot classroom. Her time between classes were such a relief because she could empty out her tank while walking to her next class. Even though her feet sweat profusely at all times, Mable purposefully never wore socks at school because her wet heels would rub against the inside of her shoes to make a farting sound when she walked. It made for a suitable cover while crop-dusting from class to class.

She made it to the spot that the dog was sitting, but he was gone. Laying in his place instead was an uncracked peanut. Mable picked up the peanut and placed it in the right pocket of her tan smoking cardigan, one of her dad's hand-me-downs, and continued to walk out to the cemetery after deciding to skip the rest of her classes for the day.

Mable arrived at her typical sitting space at the cemetery, and stood looking down at a suspicious little turd. The turd was propped-up by sturdy blades of grass, and almost seemed as though it was staring back at her like the little dog outside her classroom. Resting a few inches from the petite turd, was another uncracked peanut. Mable was more peeved than confused, and decided to use the two peanuts to clasp and toss the dry turd away from her sitting space. Once her space was turdless, she stashed the two peanuts back in the right pocket of her cardigan, contorted her lanky limbs down into a crisscross sitting position, and escaped into her obituaries...