Yes, it was my summer job to serve ice cream to the customers but it was really the customers who served ice cream to me. And along the way I learned something about violent threats.
The plane carrying all of us from the church landed in Costa Rica and we were taken aboard a rickety old bus. We traveled deep into the forest, all traces of civilization disappearing. And it was then that I realized that hey wait a minute I don’t belong to any church group. And all these “church” people were members of a radical anti-government paramilitary force. I was supposed to be visiting my grandma in Seattle. Boy did I get on the wrong plane! Anyway, I helped overthrow the government. But in the end, it was the government who overthrew me.
When it came time to bury Grandma, everyone had an opinion. Dad said we should read poetry. My sister wanted to sing a song and hand out lyrics for everyone to join in. My aunts and uncles couldn’t decide where to have the reception after the burial and what kind of food to put out. Grandma wanted us to quit throwing dirt on her because she insisted she wasn’t dead. Not everyone got their way but it’s our differences that make us a family.
College. What is it? According to my dictionary, college is defined as “an old bruised horse that is mocked by the townspeople.” I found my dictionary in a dumpster behind an Arby’s and I don’t think it’s a very good dictionary and maybe it’s just a brochure about animal party rentals. But let me ask you this: are the dictionaries at your “college” any better? I hope so. The academic standards of the dumpster have really started to slip.
When we found Fluffy, he was in pretty bad shape, smeared in dirt, hissing defensively, and trying to find something to eat in the garbage. In other words, the saddest looking cat we’d ever seen. My parents didn’t want us to take him in, saying we were not in position to take care of a cat, it’s too much work, vet bills, blah blah blah, but they finally relented (thanks, violent threats!) under the condition that we keep him in my sister’s room. Fluffy ate all the food we gave him but kept hissing and no matter what we did we couldn’t wash the stripes of black dirt off of him. When we took him to the vet for a checkup, the vet said, “That’s a raccoon! What’s wrong with you?” but we knew the vet was just trying to trick us. We have so many deep scratches now. And rabies.
I will be the first in my family to go to college. That’s because I’m the first one in my family to escape from the enchanted tool shed after we were imprisoned by the Troll King. I alone solved the Troll King’s riddle. I could just shout the answer to my brothers and sisters and parents so they could get out too but where’s the fun in that?
I will be the first in my family to attend college. I won’t be the first to attempt. Many have attempted it in the past. They’ve applied, been accepted, paid tuition, packed up the car, and headed out to campus. But they always get captured by the Troll King. It’s sad but in another way it’s an example of nature’s terrible beauty.
The kids would always make fun of me for my appearance. “Do you live in a barn?”, “Why don’t you wear the cool clothes like us?”, “Hey, you’re not wearing any clothes at all!”, “How did you grow a beard so young?”, “Are those real horns?”, “That’s just a goat, isn’t it?”, “Is it even legal to have a goat in this class?”, “Was the Troll King involved in this in some way?” But me, I would just laugh my loud, braying laugh. It took me several hours to type this because of my cloven hooves.
The most exciting thing about college is the questions I might finally get answered. Questions like “What are you, a wise guy?”, “Howzabout a knuckle sandwich?”, and “Do you mooks think I’m some kind of palooka?” I am a street tough from 1920s Brooklyn who discovered a time machine. It’s either your fancy book learnin’ school or another year at Da School of Hard Knocks for me! I have polio.
Every kid in the school eventually gets known for something. The quarterback. The cheerleader. The long-haired kid who hangs out with the fedora-wearing band kid. The goth gang trainee. The kid who crafted an eerily realistic papier-mâché model of the head lunch lady but never enters the lunchroom with it. Gross Angela. The kid who crawls through the rafters and let’s be honest isn’t real. The theater tech kid with a knife. Eric Roberts. It can be hard to really stand out at our school. And then there’s me: the boy who always has at least a hundred penises.
I used to look at the big houses in my town and wish my family could live there. Not that my parents never went into those houses because they did. As housecleaners. That was their job. I knew that even though Mom and Dad couldn’t afford a place like that, they worked hard, sometimes going to clean those homes in the middle of the night but often in the middle of the day when no one was there. I guess the homeowners didn’t even want to see my parents. Mom and Dad would return home with big bags full of gold, jewelry, and cash that they said they found on the sidewalk. I guess God was looking out for Mom and Dad and loved them a lot. Now we live in a REALLY big house. It’s like Dad always says, “Don’t say anything!”
It’s rare for people from my community to attend college. For the most part, you’re born, you grow up, you work down at the shore, and you die. Folks don’t spend much time learning philosophy or reading the great novels; they’re more concerned with catching crabs, mollusks, or small fish. Anything your long fleshy tentacles can ensnare, really. Romance is unheard of when asexual budding is an option. But me, I’m different. I want to be the first sea anemone in my cluster to attend a major university and major in musical theater. I will require a rather elaborate series of tanks and pumps.
Me Troll King. Me attend college or me smash college. Me await your reply.