Category Archives: education

A Memorable Day at School

**Please note** This is a fiction story. It absolutely did not happen in real life. So, no real-life school administrators should be fired over it. And the author is a RETIRED school teacher, so it is not necessary to hire a hit man to protect future students from evil ideas like the ones presented in this story.

Rudy was miserable as he sat in the counselor’s office staring at the note from his teacher. Miss Nactarine. the sympathetic young counselor, sat behind her desk praying silently that the poor boy would be able to overcome his extreme shyness for long enough to explain what the problem really was.

“Well, um… you see, Miss…. I, uh…”

And then, once again, he simply stopped talking. She waited for several minutes.

“Rudy, just take a deep breath and let it all come out. You were sent here for sleeping in class. Tell me why that happened.”

“Okay, Miss. I been having bad dreams.”

“Oh? They’ve been keeping you from sleeping at night? What are the bad dreams about?”

“Um, well… In my dreams, I keep forgetting to put my clothes on before coming to school. I end up having to give a speech in Miss Burkett’s class standing naked in front of everybody. And the girls were laughing.”

“Oh, I see. Hmm. And what do you suppose is causing these dreams?”

He didn’t hesitate even for a moment. “P.E. Class!”

“Why P.E. Class?”

“Well, because… when it’s over, sixth graders have to take a shower. You have to get naked and go into the shower room where everybody can see.”

“But there are only other boys in there.” She knew as soon as she said it why that didn’t matter to Rudy. Even as she said it, she could see this shrinking-violet child trying to disappear in his chair.

“What do you think we should do about this problem?” She was thinking swim-suit for showers or something.

“Can we cancel P.E. Class?”

“Honey, that’s State-mandated curriculum. You can’t pass to the seventh grade without taking that class.”

“Can we cancel showers?”

“Young men in the sixth grade begin to have body odor. You know how that smell would affect learning?”

Rudy was dissolving in front of her.

“You are a vary brave young man. The best way to overcome this problem is to simply make up your mind not to let it affect you. The next time you have to take a shower, just face your fears head on. Take your clothes off and act like you want everybody to see you naked. Once you have endured the worst that can happen, you won’t have that bad dream anymore. You will know that you can do anything by being brave enough to try.”

Miraculously, Rudy seemed to brighten up, as if he had finally come to terms with the problem.

“Thanks, Miss. That helps a lot.”

As she dismissed him back to class, she couldn’t help but congratulate herself on saying the right thing at the right time.

The next morning, as students who walked to school from the neighborhood gathered in front of the school, Rudy showed up striding purposefully towards the front door wearing only a hat.

Most of the girls squealed in response, and then broke out into laughing conversations.

One of the most popular seventh-grade cheerleaders said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “I think he looks really cute like that! I wish all the boys were brave enough to come to school like that.”

“We would if all the girls did too!” hollored some invisible boy from somewhere in the back of the crowd.

Principal Eirohnee quickly brought both naked Rudy and Counselor Nacterine into her office.

Rudy was very comfortably nude as he stood in front of the principal’s desk and explained.

“It really cured my problem,” Rudy said. “From the time I made up my mind to do this I have felt nothing but confidence. If I can come to school naked, I can do anything!”

“Intend to go to all your classes today naked, do you?” asked the Principal.

“Yes, if you let me. If you don’t, it was still worth it.”

Full of pride for her part in Rudy’s transformation, the Counselor said, “I think we should allow it.”

“Well, isn’t that precious. Why don’t we just change the dress code for the day and have everybody go to school today naked?”

“I’d be willing to try that,” Miss Nacterine said.

**Author’s note** You could argue that the Counselor was fired for not understanding what sarcasm was, but, more likely, it was because of how the majority of the students showed up the following day.

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Filed under dreams, education, humor, kids, nudes, Paffooney, satire, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Found Poetry

by Sergio Aragonés

Found poetry begins with three found things

Picked up at random

Like three pictures from my internet gallery

Plagiarized from somebody’s fandom

oil painting by Maxfield Parrish

And then you have to sit and have a thought

About how it fits together

To make a stupid poem you’ve wrought

That’s not about the weather

Movie image by Woody Allen featuring Woody Allen

You must pretend the very best you can

There’s sense in what you’ve found

And it fits together as if you had a plan

That was always quite profound.

———————————————————————————————–wow!-a-weird-divider————————-

Writing a found poem

Okay, this is the essay part. That first part is a terrible poem written by me to illustrate how to make your own found poem. Of course, you should know that I was not a natural-born poet. I am among the lower percentages of America’s worst-possible poets. Right there somewhere between the poetry books of Farley Bumbletongue and the Collected Musings of Hans Poopferbrains of Snarkytown, Wisconsin.

But I take great pride in my abilities as a terrible poet. You see, what I mainly was, truly was, was an English teacher of middle school and high school kids. And found poems were an activity in the classroom intended to teach writing skills, creativity, and an appreciation of what a poem actually is.

I needed a large usable picture file cut out of Christmas catalogs, Walmart advertisements, newspapers, magazines (“What are those?” is the most common comment you would get out of today’s classrooms,) grocery-store bargain flyers, outdated calendars, and any other non-pornographic picture sources available.

I would hand out three random images pulled out of the picture file without looking at them to each student (or small groups of students) and then require them to create a poem of at least twelve lines with an optional rhyme scheme and rhythm.

I would have to remind them not to eat the pictures, even if they were pictures of food. And with middle school students I would have to have extra pictures for the next class to replace the ones they ate anyway.

I would tell them there was a time-limit, specified to be much shorter than the actual time I planned to give them, and then let them create horrible poetry. Near Vogon quality in its horribleness.

When all of this was done, we would have a good long laugh by sharing the pictures and poems, and find out who the truly wacky and perverted poets were.

Now, don’t go telling parents that we teachers are wasting their children’s precious learning time this way, but it is not I lesson I created. Simply a lesson I used at least once every year.

But the real question on my mind is, “Given three random pictures, what kind of poem would you write?” Feel free to share.

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Filed under education, humor, kids, poem, poetry, teaching

The Inexplicable Explosion

There are good things that happen, and bad things that happen, both happening suddenly and in a very large way.

We tend to refer to that kind of thing as an EXPLOSION!

The biggest and most deadly explosion right now is the viral pushback on Emperor Abbott’s “No masks in school!” imperial edict. Or is it Grand Wizard Abbott of the Republican Empire of Texas? Whatever it is, kids are back in school, in the building, with a rule that no school district is allowed to mandate masks. And inexplicably the number of cases of Delta Covid in unvaccinated students is exploding. Who could have foreseen such a thing?

Of course, there is no suggestion whatsoever that ruling tyrants like Emperor Greg Abbott, or King Ron DeSantis in the Crackpot Kingdom of Florida bear any responsibility for this explosion. No one is suggesting that, since their kids and grandkids, and those of their wealthy friends go to expensive private schools, they would actually like to see a greater deadly outbreak amongst the children of the poor, minorities, and other people that might grow up to vote for Democrats.

But there are other explosions as of yesterday too. My car, coming back from Walmart made an inexplicable “Pop!” followed by coughing sounds and then an engine warning light on the dashboard. That was further followed by engine overheating and a necessary stop for engine oil at the Dollar Store. Miraculously, after the extra oil was put in and the car had two hours to cool, the thing worked normally with no red dashboard lights, or even yellow ones. Of course, in the near future, I will have to take it to a mechanic to be checked (even though I am certain they will find something wrong, and it will be expensive.)

But there has been a good explosion too.

For more than a year now, it has been my goal to get 50 or more views on this blog per day. It has been an uphill haul. I failed to reach that goal, it seems, at least one day of every week. But not these last two weeks.

Last week I topped 100 views every single day. Then I began noticing that I have at least 50 views every morning before I even wake up. And I have hit 200 or more five times this week.

Yesterday was 299 views by 177 visitors and 22 likes.

Why the sudden explosion?

ingI have noticed that my number-one-viewed post was called Nudist Notions. But it can’t be merely because those who are looking for porn clicking on the picture-search nudes. There wouldn’t be twice as many views as viewers if that were true. Besides, those looking for nudes can now basically only find the ones that have been there a long while now. Nothing has changed on that score. And nudists from Twitter have been finding my blog to be nudist friendly for a while now too. And there haven’t been any surges in nudist visitors that I am aware of.

So, the explosion is inexplicable. At least for now.

Maybe the algorithm has changed its mind about me and displayed my page more for two weeks. But that doesn’t ezplain it either, because… well, it’s Mickey’s blog. And Mickey don’t get no random good breaks from this universe. No, not Mickey the Unread.

Well, just in case you see this and want a copy of this month’s free-book promotion, here’s a link to that book which is good from today through midnight Monday

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Filed under angry rant, blog posting, education, foolishness, Paffooney

How To Write A Mickian Essay

mickeynose

I know the last thing you would ever consider doing is to take up writing essays like these.  What kind of a moronic bingo-boingo clown wants to take everything he or she knows, put it in a high-speed blender and turn it all into idea milkshakes?

But I was a writing teacher for many years.  And now, being retired and having no students to yell at when my blood pressure gets high, the urge to teach it again is overwhelming.

So, here goes…

c360_2017-01-02-10-17-06-058

Once you have picked the silly, pointless, or semi-obnoxious idea you want to shape the essay around, you have to write a lead.  A lead is the attention-grabbing device or booby-trap for readers that will draw them into your essay.  In a Mickian essay, whose purpose is to entertain, or possibly bore you in a mildly amusing manner, or cause you enough brain damage to make you want to send me money (this last possibility never seems to work, but I thought I’d throw it in there just in case), the lead is usually a  “surpriser”, something so amazingly dumb or off-the-wall crazy that you just have to read, at least a little bit, to find out if this writer is really that insane or what.  The rest of the intro paragraph that is not part of the lead may be used to draw things together to suggest the essay is not simply a chaotic mass of silly words in random order.  It can point the reader down the jungle path that he or she can take to come out of the other end of the essay alive.

Once started on this insane quest to build an essay that will strangle the senses and mix up the mind of the reader, you have to carry out the plan in three or four body paragraphs.  This is where you have to use those bricks of brainiac bull-puckie that you have saved up to be the concrete details in the framework of the main rooms of the little idea-house you are constructing.  If you were to number or label these main rooms, this one you are reading now would, for example, be Room #2, or B, or “the second body paragraph”.  And as you read this paragraph, you should be thinking in the voice of your favorite English teacher of all time.  The three main rooms in this example idea house are beginning, middle, and end.  You could also call them introduction, body, and conclusion.  These are the rooms of your idea house that the reader will live in during his or her brief stay (assuming they don’t run out of the house screaming after seeing the clutter in the entryway).

Teacher

The last thing you have to do is the concluding paragraph.  (Of course, you have to realize that we are not actually there yet in this essay.  This is Room C in the smelly chickenhouse of this essay, the third body paragraph.)  The escape hatch on the essay that may potentially explode into fireworks of thoughts, daydreams, or plans for something better to do with your life than a read an essay written by an insane former middle school English teacher at any moment, is a necessary part of the whole process.  This is where you have to remind them of what the essay is basically about, and leave them with the thought that you want to haunt them in their nightmares later.  The last thing that you say in the essay is the thing they are the most likely to remember.  So you need to save the best for last.

So, here, finally, is the exit door to this masterfully mixed-up Mickian Essay.  It is a simple, and straightforward structure.  The introduction containing the lead is followed by three or four body paragraphs that develop the idea and end in a conclusion that summarizes or simply restates the overall main idea.  And now you know why all of my former students either know how to construct an essay, or have several years left in therapy sessions with a psychiatrist.

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The First Year as a Teacher

My proudest achievement of my thirty-one year years as a public school teacher was the fact that I survived my whole first year. That doesn’t sound like much to you unless you are a teacher. But it sounds even more amazing if you knew what South Texas junior high schools were like in 1981. I mean, my school, Frank Newman Junior High had practically been destroyed the year before I started teaching there by the seventh graders I would be teaching as eighth graders.

You see some of my favorites in the painting I did during my third year as a teacher. From front to back they are Dottie, Teresa, Ruben, Fabian, and Javier. Of course, in these essays about being a teacher, I usually don’t use real names to protect the privacy of my former students, both the innocent and the guilty. So, I leave it to you to decide whether, even though I love these kids, those aren’t probably their real names. Unless… they are.

But not all Texas eighth graders are loveable people. In fact, they are hard on first-year rookie teachers. Especially the ones with a Midwestern faith that they can step in and change the world with their idealistically pure and golden teaching methods. Those teachers they will try to eat alive.

I followed the seventh grade English teacher in the same classroom with the same kids. They made her scream daily, had classroom fist fights weekly, exploded firecrackers under her chair twice during the year, and made her run away to the San Antonio airport and leave teaching behind forever. As ninth graders, they made their English I teacher leave teaching forever even though she was a three-year veteran. And believe me, they tried to do the same to me.

I foiled them constantly by being an on-your-feet-all-day teacher rather than a sit-behind-the-desk-and-yell teacher like my predecessor. After I had a chance to sit during planning period, I always had to clean thumbtacks, tape, and smeared chocolate bars off the seat of my little wooden teacher chair. Paper airplanes were the least gross things that flew through the air. Boogers, spit-wads, spit-wet pieces of chalk, and brown things you had to hope were chewed chocolate flew constantly whenever you had your back turned to them. And if there was only one kid behind you and you turned on him and asked pointedly, “Who threw that?” The kid, of course, saw nothing, has no idea, you can torture him, and he still won’t know anything because you are a lousy teacher and didn’t make him learn anything.

And lessons were mostly about talking over the malevolent tongue-wigglers. They didn’t listen. Not even to each other. One kid would be talking about monster trucks that shoot fire out of their exhaust pipes while the kid next to him was talking at the same time about whether Flipper is properly called a dolphin or a porpoise, or like his older brother says, “a giant penis-fish.” And the girls behind them are actually hearing each other, but only because they are speculating which boy in the classroom has the cutest butt.

I broke up three fights by myself that year, one of which I got slugged in the back of the head by the aggressor during, teaching me to always get between them facing the aggressor and never being wrong about who the aggressor is.

They don’t let you do much teaching at all your first year. They force you to practice discipline by keeping them all seated at the same time with their books open in front of them. “I don’t do literature,” Ernie Lozano told me. Well, to be accurate, none of them actually did literature that year. But they taught me to survive long enough to learn how to actually teach them something.

On the last day of school that year we gave them all extended time on the playground, using the outdoor basketball court to keep them occupied for long enough for a terrible school year to finally run its course. They didn’t set the school on fire that year. They didn’t break into the office that year and steal all the cash. We did well enough at keeping them under control that year that I got rehired and our principal got promoted to high school principal. I had a decision to make that year. Would I keep teaching? Or find another job? Sixty percent of all first-year teachers in Texas in 1982 quit teaching. I only earned $11,000 that year. Did I really want to continue down that dark path for another school year?

Ruben walked up to stand beside me and watch the bigger eighth graders foul each other on the basketball court. “You know, Mr. Beyer, you were my favorite teacher this year.”

“Thank you, Ruben. I needed to hear that.” I bit my lip to keep from crying.

That was when I made the decision. I stuck it out in that same school and district for the next 23 years. I became the head of the Cotulla Middle School English Department. I moved to the Dallas area for family reasons in 2004, but I would teach for eight more years in two more districts and in three more schools. But all of that is Ruben’s fault. Because that was the most important thing anyone ever said to me as a teacher. And I did hear it more than once. But he was the first.

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Drawing Boyhood

My boyhood in the 1960’s was complicated. There was fear and depression and growing awareness of violence and unfairness and evil in the world, starting in 1963 with the death of John F Kennedy.

There was magic and wonder in my childhood. I found comic-book heroes like Spiderman, fantasy movies like Captain Sinbad starring Guy Williams, and Science fiction movies like 2001; A Space Odyssey.

A sense of adventure and the wonders of the past came through reading. I read and loved Treasure Island and Kidnapped, both by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Of course boyhood is also the time in which we have to come to terms with sexuality and sexual identity. My battle was complicated by being sexually assaulted by an older boy. It took me a long time to sort out the fact that I was not a homosexual and being a victim does not make a boy into one. I was an untouchable child, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing about love and affection constantly.

What you learn to be in boyhood is what you end up being in adulthood.

Nurture is more important to development than nature.

Education is what makes a boy into a man. Your genetic makeup has its effects, but is only the blueprint, not the building.

Boyhood behavior might not go exactly as parents plan, but it has to happen anyway.

There is no such thing as a perfect boy.

Boyhood always was and still is an adventure. I should know. I’ve been a boy for 64 years.

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The Wolf in My Dreams

wolfgirl

Rosemary Hood was a bright, blond seventh grader who entered my seventh-grade Gifted English class in September of 1998.  She introduced herself to me before the first bell of her first day.

“I am definitely on your class list because my Mom says I belong in gifted classes.”

“Your name is Rosemary, right?”

“Definitely.  Rosemary Bell Hood, related to the Civil War general John Bell Hood.”

“Um, I don’t see your name on my list.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be there, so check with the attendance secretary.  And I will be making A’s all year because I’m a werewolf and I could eat you during the full moon if you make me mad at you.”

I laughed, thinking that she had a bizarre sense of humor.  I let her enter my class and issued her copies of the books we were reading.  Later I called the office to ask about her enrollment.

“Well, Mr. Beyer,” said the secretary nervously, “the principal is out right now with an animal bite that got infected.  But I can assure you that we must change her schedule and put her in your gifted class.  The principal would really like you to give her A’s too.”

So, I had a good chuckle about that.  I never gave students A’s.  Grades had to be earned.  And one of the first rules of being a good teacher is, “Ignore what the principal says you should do in every situation.”

But I did give her A’s because she was a very bright and creative student (also very blond, but that has nothing to do with being a good student).  She had a good work ethic and a marvelous sense of humor.

She developed a crush on Jose Tannenbaum who sat in the seat across from her in the next row.  He was a football player, as well as an A student.  And by October she was telling him daily, “You need to take to me to the Harvest Festival Dance because I am a werewolf, and if you don’t, I will eat you at the next full moon.”

All the members of the class got a good chuckle out of it.  And it was assumed that he would. of course, take her to the dance because she was the prettiest blond girl in class and he obviously kinda liked her.  But the week of the dance we did find out, to our surprise, that he asked Natasha Garcia to the dance instead.

I didn’t think anything more about it until, the day after the next full moon, Jose didn’t show up for class.  I called the attendance secretary and asked about it.

“Jose is missing, Mr. Beyer,” the attendance secretary said.  “The Sherrif’s office has search parties out looking for him.”  That concerned me because he had a writing project due that day, and I thought he might’ve skipped school because he somehow failed to finish it.  When I saw Rosemary in class, though, I asked her if, by any chance, she knew why Jose wasn’t in class.

“Of course I do,” she said simply.  “I ate him last night.”

“Oh.  Bones and all?”

“Bone marrow is the best-tasting part.”

So, that turned out to be one rough school year.  Silver bullets are extremely expensive for a teacher’s salary.  And I did lose a part of my left ear before the year ended.  But it also taught me valuable lessons about being a teacher.  Truthfully, you can’t be a good teacher if you can’t accept and teach anyone who comes through your door, no matter what kind of unique qualities they bring with them into your classroom.

 

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Taking the Path Ahead of Me

From where I now stand, looking towards the future, I can clearly see I do not have very many more steps on my personal path forward. Good thing. My legs are almost ready to give out. I walk with a cane.

More importantly, as a school teacher, the only classes I will be able to teach are the fictional ones in my books. In fact, if my work in progress is the last one I will be able to finish (hopefully), then the dojo pictured above is the last one. At the moment they are learning social justice lessons fighting sentient vegetables on the planet Cornucopea.

There are many things I can take solace in as I near the end of the road. I outlasted the Trump Administration. (At least, technically, because I am still alive today in spite of feeling ill, while Trump’s run has officially reached its end with the electoral college acceptance ceremony in spite of the insurrection.)

There are many, many former students that still fondly remember the year or two (in some cases three) that they spent in my class.

Mai Ling in the picture with the Japanese Castle is an example. Even though the telekinetic ninja girl from the planet Gaijin is entirely fictional, I base all of her dialogue and reactions on a very quiet but extremely effective girl that I taught for two straight years in the seventh and eighth grades. She listened, learned, and then solved any problem I put in front of her. The last I knew she was thriving in a junior college in Laredo, planning on a nursing career. She will have succeeded by now, and would have even if I had never met her. But she told me she liked my class.

I can be grateful too that I have lived long enough to write most of the stories I really wanted to write. Sure, there are nudists in some of my stories, but there are nudists in real life, and in my personal past as well. Maybe they turn off some people that would like my books better without them. But I have some pretty good stories with no nudists in them too. And the nudists I know are some pretty good people. So, I have a right to be grateful for them. My stories, I mean. Though I am grateful for nudists too. I tend to write like I’m baring my soul. And I am proud of my naked truths.

Tiki Astro is a robot boy, built to be practically indistinguishable from a human boy..

Whatever the near future holds in store, I feel ready. I got my $600 relief check. 2020 taxes will probably cost more than that this year, but I actually have some money to hopefully pay for them. I am ill today. But that’s more often the case than not now. I deserve to rest a bit, grow stronger, and get on with whatever’s left to me.

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Sugar-Free Johnny

He was one of my all-time favorite students. I know I say that about an awful lot of kids. I can’t help it. Once you get to know them well enough to teach them anything, you tend to be hooked for life. They are your kid. You are their teacher. And that means almost as much as if they were born to you.

I first got to know Johnny on one frightful morning in September of 1984. He was a tiny, frail little seventh-grade boy sitting in the second seat of the second row. And as I was trying to get them to read a short story in the literature book, he kept nodding off, falling asleep. Sleeping is not an effective reading strategy. Three times I tried to wake him up and get him on task. He could have told me then, but he was painfully shy, and the only word I had heard from him was, “Here,” spoken during roll call. So, the fourth time I took him outside the classroom door to ask him what was wrong. He was deathly pale.

“What’s wrong? What do we need to do to make it better?”

He looked towards the boys’ restroom. “I gotta go…”

I told him to go, then followed him down to the restroom because I knew it was something serious. Serious enough to leave my class unattended. But they were deathly quiet, because unlike me, they knew what was wrong. I found him throwing up in the trash can. He told me he was sick in a barely audible voice.

Immediately I went to the office and told the secretary that he was ill.

“They have juice for him in the refrigerator in the ESL room,” Ms. Lawler said. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten the nurse’s list out to teachers yet. He’s got juvenile diabetes.”

Whoa! I didn’t know much about diabetes then, but I did know it was too deadly of a thing to allow myself not to know everything I needed to know. At the time the school nurse had to take care of all four campuses in the school district, and she was only at the Junior High on Thursdays.

Thankfully, over time, not only did I learn more about handling that disease, but medical science did too. When I would later develop adult-onset diabetes in 2000, treatment for diabetics would become much more effective, rendering the disease far less destructive.

As for Johnny himself, he became a part of the small group of housing-project kids who would come to my apartment on Saturdays, and sometimes after school to hang out, use my computer, and play table-top role-playing games. I made a special effort to engage Johnny in conversations about a little of everything. He was a very bright boy when he felt well. I got to know his seriously diabetic mother too. And his older sister would later become a nurse at the local doctor’s office, so I got to know her as well. Johnny didn’t have a father at the time, which also applied to each of the other boys from the project, except for the Camacho brothers whose father was a seriously depressed Vietnam veteran. I suppose that’s why Johnny became like a son to me, one of five boys who at the time treated me like a second father. I taught him. I entertained him. And occasionally I cooked for him.

One of my two girlfriends at the time that I was mentoring Johnny liked to give him sugar-free candy. She got so accustomed to always having some available at her place that she actually got hooked on it herself.

In school Johnny opened up the way a cactus flower blooms when it gets a little rain. He began to talk to other kids a lot. He made himself into a group leader, and he even went out for high school football. Truthfully, I was amazed by him on the football field. He played defensive back. And he played like a star. I watched him intercept the ball about three times and run it back the other way. The coaches soon felt about him the same way I did. He was part of their family too.

And it turns out that being physically fit practically cures juvenile diabetes.

He got stronger and healthier with each season. He gave me the football portrait not because I had anything to do with his success, but because he loved me. I have hugged that boy three times in my lifetime, and each time is a cherished memory that I hope to carry with me to Xibalba, the Mayan Land of the Dead.

When I developed diabetes myself, Johnny’s older sister kept track of my wellness charts herself. Johnny’s family was experienced with handling diabetes, and they looked after me like a member of their family.

The last time I saw Johnny it was in the hallway at school. It was only a year before I left Cotulla for good. He had come especially to see me. I didn’t even recognize him at first because I hadn’t seen him for a decade. I wanted to talk to him and catch up. But I had to pick up my eldest son that day from second grade as he had been ill. I was not feeling well myself. So, I asked for a rain check. He still had that beautiful smile. And he didn’t tell me that that was the only chance he had to see me before leaving town again. It broke my heart when they told me that later.

But I see him again now as I tell you the story of Sugar-Free Johnny. He was probably the sweetest kid I ever taught. He will always be a part of my story. And apparently I am part of his story too.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 115

Canto 115 – Archery Practice

The students of Ged Aero Sensei were seated on the grass in the courtyard of the Palace of 1,000 Years in a large semicircle.  In the middle of the circle stood the archery sensei, Jai Chang, dressed in teal-blue Iga-shozoku ninja armor.  He had his elegant handmade bow with an arrow already nocked.

“Okay, bone-headed ones, this is the first thing to know when shooting a bow.  You must aim with the dominant eye.  To find your dominant eye, look at the target with both eyes open.  Point your pointer-finger at the bullseye.  Then close the right eye.  Open the right eye and close the left.  One eye will move your finger off the target without having moved it at all.  The other eye will leave the pointer finger aimed true to the center of the bullseye.  This is your dominant eye.  Your aiming eye.”

“Show us how it is done, sensei,” said Phoenix, seeming somewhat bored with it all.

Jai Chang frowned at the insolent red-haired boy.  Then he aimed his bow at the target 300 yards across the courtyard.  He let fly an arrow which arced straight into the center of the bullseye.  Three of the students gasped audibly in a way that sounded as if they were impressed.  Phoenix, Alec Songh, and Mai Ling all yawned as if they were bored beyond words.

“All right, insolent children.  Who among you can do better?”

Phoenix stood and walked over to the bow master.  He was lightly dressed, wearing only a loin-cover and tabi boots.  He took the yumi to ya, the bow and arrow, from the master’s hand, nocked another arrow, and in a single smooth motion, lifted the bow and shot, almost without looking.  The arrow plunged into the center of the bullseye so tight up against the previous arrow, one had to look carefully to see that there was more than one arrow dead center in the target.

Jai Chang frowned.

Phoenix handed the bow to Alec who immediately got off the third arrow, landing within the bullseye circle less than an inch away from the other two arrows.

Alec tried to hand the bow to Mai Ling, but she took only a single arrow out of his hands.  Then she stood with the arrow in her left hand and her back to the target.  She threw the arrow back over the top of her head and spiraled into the center of the target, splitting the shaft of Jai Chang’s first arrow.

“I suppose it is pointless to tell you that it is wrong to use your stupid little mind powers to do this task.  The purpose is to learn precision, skill and discipline.  Not to use Psion witchcraft to take the easy road.”

Phoenix glared at the bowmaster.

“I learned the way of the bow from Bone Daddy in the Black Spider Palace.  Hundreds of hours of practicing with a painful slap across the face for every miss as the only reward.  Alec had to endure the same.  And as for Mai Ling, her skills are incredible and made all the more amazing by the practice she has been doing with me late into the evenings.  We do this while everyone else is doing their Tai Chi, meditation, and prayers.  Some things give greater focus to the spirit force than mere words and empty sayings.”

“Well, then, bow master, perhaps you would like to be in charge of the archery lessons.  You have to learn them.  It is a part of Shen Ming’s program of study for all students in the Palace.”

“Yes, happily,” said Phoenix with a voice that sounded more like sarcasm than obedience.

“Ah, I do not like what I am hearing,” said Shen Ming, the frail old man seeming to appear out of nowhere at the edge of the green.  “There is no honor and respect in the voices of either the master or the student.  This is not the way of the White Spider.”

“Apologies, Shen-sensei.  But honor and respect have to be earned, don’t they?”

“Yes, and granted when a fine display of skill earns it.  And, young master Phoenix, one must always show respect to a dedicated teacher whose very existence has earned it.  Is that not so?”

Phoenix and Jai Chang both nodded agreement with eyes to the ground.

“But I would like to see the three young bullseyes help Chang-sensei to teach this class.  Teaching others teaches the self more thoroughly, and this is an impressive set of skills to share with students and classmates alike.”

“Yes, Shen-sensei,” said all the students together.

“And now, Jai Chang-sama, I would speak with you further.  Attend me in my office.  We have much to discuss.”

“Yes, Shen-sensei.”

As the old man who had a spotty face that looked eerily like the face of Alfred E. Neuman on the cover of Mad Magazine, walked away from the students, Shen Ming’s smile grew even broader and his eyes actually began to twinkle.

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