Friday, March 25, 2011

One Vision

197.2 lbs

Somewhere around my 5th Grade year we moved to Alamogordo, NM. Alamogordo is a little town stuck between a rock and a hard place, quite literally. There is a 10,000 ft high mountain range to the east and the endless White Sands desert to the west. I completely hated the first school I went to there while living in The Rocket Motel, awaiting the time we would move into a house. As a kid, I got a lot of experience living in Motels between moves. I spent most of the year reading Encyclopedia Brown behind some bushes outside the cafeteria and trying to stay out of fights. You know it's a rough school when they actually have a real boxing ring installed so kids can "fight it out" in a more structured environment after school.

Luckily by 6th Grade, we had moved out of the motel and across town to a nicer area. My new school was still a bit rough but I liked it so much more since I no longer had to hide in the bushes and read. By then I had a greater literary passion anyway, Edgar Rice Burroughs' tales about John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Those aren't tales you can stuff into a half hour lunch or recess.

Speaking of lunch, even though I liked my new school, the food in the lunch room left something to be desired even by school cafeteria standards. There is inedible and there is "Oh dear God what did I just put in my mouth?!?" I took to trying as best as I could to bring my lunch but my parents always preferred that I buy school lunch because it was a hassle making sure there was lunch stuff around the house every day. I think at that time, it was also cheaper. So I went back and forth, one month feast and the next month famine. That was, until I concocted my evil scheme with a little help from a friend.

My friend, who will remain nameless to protect him from prosecution, was always forced to eat two sandwiches at lunch. Big sandwiches. If he didn't eat his second sandwich, he would have to bring it back home and it would be marked to go back in his lunch box the next day. Now my friend was an honest sort of guy - up to a point. His mom would always pack a couple of sandwiches he didn't care for at all but he didn't want to waste them by throwing them away. But, we surmised, what was so wrong about sharing? We had an agreement. I would eat one of the sandwiches and we would just leave it at that, now wouldn't we? It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. I got to eat something that didn't taste like it was scraped out of the bottom of a storm drain and he didn't have to feel guilty for being so wasteful. Besides, it was sharing and everyone knows that sharing is a good thing.

So this went on for about a month or so, maybe more. I would duck into the lunch room, eat my part of the deal and then rush out to the gravel field where the boys played tackle football (it's amazing I'm not a giant walking scar). As time wore on, I had a collection of lunch tickets with me that kept growing and growing. It was like money in the bank and in that regard, I definitely got the better end of the bargain.

I could also walk to school now, which was not possible to do from the musty and decrepit Rocket. My walk home, depending on which route I took, would take me down the main thoroughfare in town. Sometimes, I also chose that route to avoid bullies though it was a shame because there were far more dirty magazines to be found dropped lazily into trash cans by going the direct route home. Finding an artist's rendering of what Farrah Fawcett would look like nude in that famous poster of hers one day was pure gold and worth a lot on the pre teen black market at the time.

By walking down the main thoroughfare, there were some perks. One of them being a record store and the other being fast food joints or donut shops. My particular favorite at the time was Kentucky Fried Chicken and the smell of greasy fried heaven wafted into my nostrils and went straight to my stomach where it caused an earthquake of hunger. Now another friend and I could hit the Daylight Donuts and get day old donuts and a bottle of coke, it was an affordable indulgence. KFC mocked the living shit out of my 6th Grade earning capabilities at that time. KFC was a mountain too high, a river too wide. My lips would never touch that sweet buttery biscuits, sugary cole slaw, fantastic brown mystery gravy, greasy fried chicken combination of sheer deliciousness unless I had cold hard cash in hand. Wait! It dawned on me, I did have cold hard cash in hand - lunch tickets.

I waited until one day I could wait no more as the wind shifted and pushed the fragrant smell of the Colonel's secret recipe over the school grounds. Every kid on the gravel field stopped and let the Kentucky flavored aroma envelop them. I knew then it was time to spring my secret plan into action. On my way out of school, I took my lunch tickets and cashed them back in for spending money. KFC and everything in it was going to be mine, oh yes, all mine.

With money burning a huge hole in my pocket, I marched triumphantly into Kentucky Fried Chicken with trumpet case and math book in hand. The acne afflicted teenager behind the counter looked at me with wonder and amusement as I, a sixth grader, surveyed the menu, glowing with flourescent light and spattered flecks of grease, like a New York food critic. As I started to rattle off my voluminous order, I was rudely interrupted by the hormonal nitwit in front of me who failed to write anything down for my order. "Are you sure you can afford all that little guy?", he smirked. I dug into my pocket and showed him a wad of singles and fives. In the suavest voice I could produce at the time with an arched eyebrow, I said sarcastically and proudly, "Does it look like I can afford it?" I then restarted my order as the teen behind the counter sighed and shook his head. The bastard. If I were John Carter, Warlord of Mars, I would have shown him the business end of my cutlass right then and there! Honor must be restored.

This time when I ordered, I made sure not to order some skimpy cole slaw or mashed potatoes and gravy that fit into half a styrofoam dixie cup. I'll take the large if you please because, if you can't tell, I am a refined connosieur of taste and while you're at it make that three pieces of chicken and two biscuits. This isn't some sort of game, this is a mission! Don't get skimpy on the soda either son, now chop chop, I have things to do.

It seemed like forever until my bounty arrived on a hard scratched plastic red tray but when it did I swore I heard the Mormon Tabernacle choir rise up behind me in a glorious chord of exultation. I walked my heavy tray back to my table and feasted and feasted and feasted, grease rolling down my fingers like rivers of pure love. I doubt I even saw the food because my eyes were in a continous state of being rolled back into my head.

Before I knew it, it was all over, the carnage of chicken bones and tipped empty containers emblazoned with the Colonel's kindly face strewn in front of me. I fell against the back of my chair, no longer able to constrain my growing belly to such a small space. I sighed with joy as I got up, emptied the tray into the trash and tried to waddle home without puking up all the herbs and spices the white old man with the goatee kept so safely from some unknown nemesis; his personal Mr. Slugworth.

Upon arriving home, it was already dinner time. Oops! Hadn't quite thought this cunning stunt through now, had I? As I walked into the door of the house, my mom immediately asked if I was hungry and I immediately told her I was not feeling too well - my stomach actually hurt. "Well I am surprised you are not hungry, the lunch lady called and said you had cashed out a lot of saved lunch tickets." Busted.

My mom then asked me what I had done with my ill-gotten lunch money and I fessed up about my little adventure at KFC. My only punishment (except the stomach ache) was that I had to give her the remainder of the money but she also dropped this little number on me to make it sting a bit more, "You know, if you would have told me about the money right away, I would have let you keep the money. It was yours in a way, anyway." Not only could I have had KFC, I could have had it a couple more times or even treated myself to non stale donuts or an iron on t-shirt with Farrah Fawcett on the front - all guilt free! My devious mind crumbled as I shuffled off and fell belly first on my bed. Oh why did the lunch lady have to be so good at her job? As I lay there moaning, my belly acting like a fulcrum, it was then I knew my days of Kentucky flavored crime were at an end.

"Fried Chicken!"

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