1. This Is Just A Test
Testing 1-2. Testing 1-2. Is it on? God damn it! How do you work this thing? I’m old. I’m tired. My nerves are shot babysitting these little bastards year after miserable year. Testing. Can they hear me? OK. Great! Let’s get this over with so I can get back to my office and brood about what might have been.
Good morning boys and girls of Potter Elementary. This is Principal Weeks talking to you over our brand-new, room-to-room, all-digital sound system. Can everybody hear me? Hello? What the hell does this button do? Oh sh-! Sorry boys and girls, I hope I didn’t frighten you with that hideous, ear-piercing screech we grownups call “Feedback.” My bad.
Children, you are about to take part in the premier test of Potter School District’s state-of-the-art “Emergency Early Warning System.” What is the “Emergency Early Warning System”? Basically, it’s me, Principal Weeks, screaming hysterically into a microphone about some horrendous, life-altering catastrophe about to befall our school and each and every one of you. It might be an earthquake or a flood or a tornado or a biological terrorist attack by extremists, foreign or domestic. It could even be a couple of your fellow students gone berserk, shooting off their parents’ cherished AK-47s and tossing homemade pipe bombs willy-nilly. Whatever the disaster, you can be assured that, unless the situation is so far gone that I’m forced to flee the scene to save my own skin I, Principal Phyllis Weeks, will be here to guide you through those first anxious minutes of uncertainty. This I promise you.
At that critical moment, you will be asked to crawl under your desks and, with your heads down and resting on your arms, to wait there, not moving an inch, not making a noise, until you hear me (or someone) give an “All-Clear Signal” that is yet to be determined. If all goes well and none of you is crushed to pulp by heavy chunks of falling cement or filigreed by lethal shards of flying glass, I will ask you to climb out from under your desks and immediately resume your studies as if nothing traumatic had just occurred.
Boys and girls, it’s possible that some of you are feeling a little queasy and uneasy right now. Not that I care, mind you, but remember: This Is Just A Test. If it were the real thing, you’d be required to remain under your desks, curled up in balls, waiting for God knows what while your teachers quietly slip out of the school, rush to their cars and race headlong to their loved ones for a come-what-may embrace. Please try not to pee in your pants. Remember: This Is Just A Test. Thank You.
2. This Is Another Test
ONE MONTH LATER – MR. LIPPY’S CLASSROOM
PRINCIPAL WEEKS: Good Morning, boys and girls. This is Principal Weeks . . .
MR. LIPPY: Attention Children. Put down your pencils and crayons. It’s that time of the month when our beloved principal once again tests the Emergency Early Warning System. You know the routine. Under your desks! But be extra careful. The class mascot got loose again. Our beloved snake, Old Rattley, is on the floor somewhere in this room and bitin’ mad.
MR. LIPPY: Boys. No looking up the girls’ dresses. Girls. No poking the boys in the butts with your hairpins. Boys. No farting in the faces of the girls. Girls. No stamping the boys’ fingers with your tap-toed shoes.
CHILDREN: Yes, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: Listen, kids. While you’re down there, see if you can find that quarter I dropped a couple of days ago. I’m going to step out awhile now to have a smoke but I expect you all to be on your best behavior. Remember: Monica will tell me if any of you act up. Right Monica, you little bitch? Did I say, “bitch?” Excuse me, “snatch” – I mean – “snitch.”
MONICA: Yes, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: Thank you, darling. If I’m not back before we get Principal Week’s All-Clear Signal, whatever that is – too bad. Remain on the floor in the fetal position. And Keep Looking For That Quarter!
3. All-Clear Again
MR. LIPPY: Children, I’m back. Hope everything went well. Did any of you find that quarter?
JAMIE: Me! Me!
MR. LIPPY: Thank you, Jamie. I can tell by that innocent, eager glow in your eyes that you hope to be rewarded for your effort. And so ye shall be, my lad. After school tonight, you can stay and erase all the chalkboards.
JAMIE: But I have asthma, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: I know, Jamie, I know. Now where’s that blabbermouth, Monica? Oh, there she is. Would some of you in the back untie her, please?
CHILDREN: Sure, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: The one hundred and one uses of the skip rope, eh Monica? Have any of you seen Old Rattley?
WARNER: I think he’s back there, Mr. Lippy.
Mr. LIPPY: Where? In the cloakroom?
WARNER: Yes, Mr. Lippy. I heard him hissin’ and rattlin’ somethin’ awful.
MR. LIPPY: And now I suppose you think your so damned smart, huh Warner? Okay, kids, we won’t be going into the cloakroom for the remainder of the day. We’ll leave Old Rattley for Janitor Jenkins to handle. Won’t that be a fun surprise for that fruity old fart?
MR. LIPPY: Very good, boys and girls.
MONICA: But our lunch bags, raincoats, hats, and galoshes are in the cloakroom, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: Thank you for once again pointing out the obvious, Monica, you little freak. Children. Thanks to Monica here, I’ve just had a most wonderful idea and I’m certain you will want to thank her, each in your own way, at some later date. Though you may not be aware of it, all of you are spoiled beyond everything that is righteous and holy. But did you know, boys and girls, there are children all over the world that actually go cold and hungry every day of their lives?
MR. LIPPY: I didn’t think so. Well, today at lunch, you’re going to find out what it’s like to be those suffering little boys and girls. So when the noon bell rings, I want all of you to go outside and sit quietly on the benches for the entire 35, sorry, 45 minutes!
MONICA: But it’s raining really hard, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: I know it’s raining hard, Monica.
MONICA: But the benches are in the center of the playground with no cover of any kind, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: I know the benches are out in the center of the playground with no cover of any kind, Monica.
MONICA: But it’s so very cold out there and we don’t have our coats and galoshes and hats and lunches because of Old Rattley, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: I know, Monica. That’s the point. Listen, you little snot, who’s the teacher here, you or me?
MONICA: You, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: All right then! If you don’t shut your pie hole, young lady, I’ll get the skip rope and you can spend your lunchtime tied up back there in the cloakroom with the snake. Understand?
MONICA: Yes, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: And kids, I’ll be watching each of you from the nice, warm, dry, faculty lounge. So don’t try sneaking into the building before the lunch break is over no matter how badly you feel. If you do, I’ll flunk you and you’ll be facing the prospect of having me as your teacher next year as well. Do you want that?
CHILDREN: No, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: What did you say?
CHILDREN: Yes, Mr. Lippy.
MR. LIPPY: That’s better. There goes the lunch bell. Line up along the wall. Attention. March. One-Two. One-Two.
To be continued….
Rick Deitrick is a songwriter who sells mainly to TV. He recently signed a contract with a Universal Music subsidiary and released a folk album, titled Long Way Home in 2012.