It’s only now as a middle-aged man that I realize what a strange kid I was in grade school.
One of my favourite parts of school was show and tell.
Show and tell was an obsession for me.
I wanted to be the best show and tell(er) in the world.
In an attempt to achieve this, I scared the hell out of my teacher one year.
The concept is brilliant.
The teacher assigns everyone a subject, and on the big day, you stand in front of the class and show something while you talk about it.
It could be anything.
It didn’t matter.
It was that good.
Except, when the stupid kids in class, those without imagination, got up to present their show.
Then it could be painful.
These kids sometimes brought in rusted tools to talk about.
It was the worst S&T experience I ever sat through.
These boys, there were three of them, hung out together, and strutted around the recess yard like they were the cool kids of my grade 5 class.
Even more annoying was what these idiots believed.
They thought that show and tell was boring, and something only girls should do.
I didn’t challenge these kids to defend their dumb idea’s because I knew it would end up in a fight.
I was already a frequent fixture in the Principal’s office.
The only thing I admired about these not cool, cool kids, was their consistency.
The assigned subject could be Greek mythology, and they’d still bring in a shovel.
I’d sit and pray with an intensity that would put any sitting Pope to shame, for a meteor to slam our class, while these boneheads droned on about their nifty construction tools.
It’s a stupid pickaxe, Tony! I don’t care that your dad swings it every day!
It’s an opportunity to impress.
The kids I went to school with didn’t revere show and tell; they thought it was, just okay.
Something you thought about for a few seconds and then got on with your day.
I thought it was special.
Then again, Mr. Messelin, our Principal, thought I was special.
I know, because he told me to my face while I was serving detention in his office.
I was in trouble, this time, for bringing homemade ice cubes into the classroom.
The ones with wasps frozen in the middle.
It was a specialty of mine.
I’d fill half the ice cube tray with water and plop in a few stunned wasps that I’d nabbed the night before.
I’d carefully place them in the middle ice cube slots, and add enough water to fill it halfway.
I’d wait until that part was frozen and then add more water and freeze it again.
The inspiration for these ice cubes came from the library books on dinosaurs I was forever borrowing.
Like most kids, I thought dinosaurs were the most magnificent creatures to stalk the earth, especially the mean-ass ones like the Stegasoraus and the Triceratops.
As impressive as they were, these monsters of flesh were too abstract for me.
I couldn’t relate to them.
But the bugs, ah, the prehistoric bugs, they were different.
My young life was all about the creepy crawlies.
I studied, played, and even tried to train them.
The images of these fist-sized insects trapped in amber inspired me to recreate a personal tribute to these trapped insects from long ago.
Only, in my version, they were encased in ice.
It was the least I could do as a life long lover of all things insecty.
I’d smuggled a few of the amber ice cubes into my lunch box, and during the first recess break, I plopped them in Annette’s desk.
That’s pretty artistic of me.
I remember thinking.
Annette sat across from me.
I had a crush on her because of her well-developed breasts.
Of course, the ice cubes melted, which for some reason, I didn’t think would happen.
One of the wasps woke up and started buzzing angrily around in her desk.
The re-animated wasp tried to sting Annette when she lifted the top of the desk to get out her books.
She screamed, loud, looked at me, and screamed again, even louder, and before I could explain why this was a work of art, I found myself being led down to the Principal’s office.
Mr. Messelin was a tall man; he had to bend way, way, down so he could look me in the face.
In his best stern principal voice, he told me, “You know something, Frankie; you’re a special boy. Yes, sir. There’s no one in my school quite like you. Yes, sir. Very special.”
I thought it was a compliment, but he kept staring at me.
Maybe he thinks I’m a retard.
It didn’t matter.
I didn’t care.
I was in Ms. Banjavar’s class that year.
She was hot, recently divorced, and gave me a ride home in her blue, VW beetle, sometimes.
I was so nervous riding with her in the car.
I kept thinking, sorry, hoping, that she was kidnapping me for her devious recently divorced fantasies.
The less sexy truth was Ms. Banjavar was a nice lady who lived in Etobicoke, like me.
History was the next show and tell theme.
Ms. Bandjavar wanted the class to combine historical events with personal experiences.
Poppa in the war!
The thought lept into my head like a German Stuka on a bombing run.
Poppa, on mom’s side, served in World War Two for the Canadians.
He’d been all over Europe and was away from home for six years because he’d signed up in 1939.
He never told me any of his war stories, no matter how many times I asked.
But that didn’t matter; he’d brought home with him from overseas a bunch of war stuff.
Flags, medals, uniforms, things a young grandson thought were incredible.
They were all proudly displayed in his man-cave of a basement.
Any of these war items would make for a memorable show and tell session.
If I was lucky maybe showing some of this war stuff would help Annette forget about the wasp, and maybe she’d think I wasn’t so weird after all.
But, before I asked Poppa if I could borrow something I decided to snoop around Mom and Dad’s house to see if there was something from Poppa already in our home.
I knew Mom had got some war things from her dad already, but I didn’t know where she kept them.
If I could find something in our house I’d avoid the inevitable lecture from Poppa about the lessons of war.
I didn’t respect privacy growing up.
Mom and Dad knew I was a habitual snooper, so I didn’t find anything interesting most of the time.
The show and tell bug had bitten me hard, and because of this, I was inspired to look in places I never looked before.
For some reason, in all my previous searches I’d never bothered with mom’s shoe closet, it seemed beneath me, but this time I checked.
I found it. Under a pile of her old shoes.
A find so incredible that it momentarily shut me down.
It was that magnificent, that perfect, that I thought it was a trick at first.
Mom must be setting me up.
Was all I could think.
I waited a few days, and when nothing happened I figured I was good to go.
Standing in front of my classmates and Ms. Banjavar that afternoon, with a paper bag in front of me, I knew that once I pulled this show item out, I’d be among the greats.
With that historical thought in mind, I yanked out of the paper grocery bag a gun.
A World War Two Nazi Lugar to be exact.
The weapon couldn’t shoot, there wasn’t a firing pin, but, Ms. Anjavar, didn’t know that.
Nor did my stunned, but impressed, classmates.
My actual show and tell appointment that day lasted only a few seconds and then I was hustled off, minus my sidearm, to the Principal’s office.
Before I was hauled off, I made sure that everyone knew that this baby had been used in the war to shoot at people.
“My Poppa got this off a Nazi!” I yelled.
Take that you stupid pickaxe!
This episode generated more attention then I would’ve liked, but luckily this was way before anyone even knew how to spell terrorism.
The 1960s, besides being known what they were known for, were a time when you could bring a gun from the war to your school and get away with a stern letter to your parents saying that it isn’t appropriate for little Frankie to bring his Poppa’s war trophies to class.
No matter how proud little Frankie was.
The show and tell bar had been raised very high, but it wasn’t enough for me.
I needed one last big show score that would make even our world-weary Scottish janitor stare at me with awe when I ran through what he considered his school halls.
The idea came during science class.
Ms. Banjevar was blabbing on about how our bodies move and how the brain communicates with the rest of our nervous systems.
Something about the way she said it made me stop looking at my Fantastic Four comic book hidden in my desk.
Selective words were coming out of her hot, divorced mouth, electrical signals, the brain communicates, how we move, and on she went.
Without knowing it, my teacher had planted something inside me that made me believe I could use my body, my very own nervous system, as the actual device for my greatest show and tell event.
The idea would be to demonstrate a systems overload.
In essence, I’d outwit my brain to create a short circuit in front of the class.
The idea was to focus all of my conscious thought on moving my left arm and then in a sudden instance of pure mind over matter; I’d suddenly thrust out my right arm.
The result, I hoped, would be that my brain would be so busy and so focused on the left arm that when I suddenly zinged out the right arm, there’d be an electrical thunderstorm in my mind.
I envisioned some spastic trauma that would play out in front of my show and tell class.
With a bit of luck, some brain foam would spew from my mouth while I writhed about the cold, sticky floor.
There was a small part of me that was worried perhaps my internal re-wiring might not be as controllable as I hoped it to be.
Could I get stuck in a perpetual loop?
Would I be doomed to a lifetime of spasms?
Would my body and mind be fighting one another with neither one strong enough to defeat the other?
Maybe, I thought.
I had to take the chance, regardless of the potential for a synaptic meltdown.
I threw myself into work with a passion unheard of for a boy in grade school.
I devoted endless hours to practicing the fake brain move in my room.
The problem was that no matter how hard I concentrated and how fast I suddenly moved my other arm, nothing happened.
Like any pioneer embarking into the unknown I persevered.
If anyone could move faster, then the speed of thought, surely it must be me.
Why else would I have been given the inspiration in the first place?
The show and tell greats must have chosen me for some reason?
Added to my stress was the fact that Ms. Banjavar had placed me on show and tell probation because of my Nazi gun stunt.
There was no guarantee I’d be allowed to present before the end of the school year.
Fortunately, Ms. Banjavar was still giving me drives home.
Sitting in her little VW bug, I poured some of my heart out to her.
I begged and swore that my final presentation would not involve any firearms, chemicals, or even the vivisection of insects.
All I wanted was a chance to prove myself one last time.
She insisted on knowing what it was, but I held firm and would only say that my entire presentation was based on one of her lessons.
Somewhere in my twisted boy brain, I’d got it into my head that she had a crush on me all along, and that’s what made her say yes.
But the reality was that Ms. Banjavar was tired of my constant pestering and begging.
Soon enough, I got my chance, and her eyes, along with my classmates were upon me at the front of the class.
“Where’s his bag?”
“Is he going to pull something out of his shirt or pants?”
The entire classroom wondered what I would do next.
I reminded the class of our previous science class in which we learned how our brains communicate with our body.
Ms. Banjavar flashed a brief grin when I looked at her, but her eyes told the story.
She had no idea what I was going to try and do, and that scared her.
My classmates were not impressed.
Nothing was being pulled out at the last minute, and so to their minds, there was no show.
Suddenly like some crazy drunk hobo grabbing for a free bottle, I shot out my left arm.
The class stared in stunned silence.
I focused with all the focus a young boy could muster on moving only my left arm.
And then as quickly as I could, I thrust out my right arm, screaming, “Aieee!” loudly in the process.
The class was still with me, interested, but the seeds of doubt had begun to sprout because nothing was being shown.
As far as the class was concerned, I was acting like an idiot.
This time I closed my eyes and poured all efforts into convincing my brain that all my attention would be on moving my right leg.
Right leg move, right leg move, right leg move! Aieee!
My left leg jetted out.
But no spasms followed — not even a tinge of a fit.
I wasn’t fooling my brain or any of the electrical signals up there.
A snicker from the back of the class hit me on the ears hard.
I heard a word or two about having to go pee.
I’d failed to short-circuit my central nervous system in front of everyone.
Being a loser is one thing, but being a crazy kid that acts randomly strange is something else.
“Remember, Mrs. Anjavar told us that electrical impulses from our brains send signals, and that’s how we move our body. I was trying to fake my brain out by thinking one thing and moving something else, to show what a brain short circuit looked like.”
I walked back into my seat and slumped down after my confession. I didn’t have the nerve to look at Annette.
For a moment, a very brief second, the entire class thought the idea was cool.
Pockets of kids trying to short-circuit their systems broke out everywhere.
Knees hit desks, arms accidentally smacked their neighbours, but in the end, I didn’t care anymore.
Ms. Banjavar was amused, and I think relieved, but not enough to give me a good mark.
On that sad day, my prestige, and my career as a show and tell artist came to a close.
Not with a bang, but with a pathetic, “Aieee!”