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‘Bait and Switch’ (Follows ‘On To The Next One’)

In The 60's on November 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Friday Nights. The 70s. Partridge Family. Appointment TV.

I decided that the best way to entice Alex into forming a band was by bringing my Partridge Family ‘Up To Date’ record album to school. I felt it would automatically entitle me to speak with Alex, because The Partridge Family and record albums in general, were so universally revered in the third grade universe. My mother was adamantly against the idea and tried to talk me out of it, citing the chances of the album being damaged during the long school day. (Mom’s Prediction: 100% Probable) “You may as well be carrying an egg around school all day!” she huffed, but I did not see the connection (and what the heck did this have to do with breakfast?) She finally gave in to my incessant badgering after I promised that I would not ask for a new one when (not if) something happened to it.

“I’m in no mood for your hystrionics today, young lady!” she told me, like there was some special day when she was!

Complete with permanently sour smelling thermos.

‘Up To Date’ was, by far, my favorite album. I loved the cover artwork-individual squares featuring each Partridge Family member, as if on the hippest calendar ever! That sunny spring morning I set out: dented “Campus Queen’ lunchbox, which smelled faintly of sour milk, in one hand, and record album in the other. I quickly found myself holding the album across my chest, cover facing out- so as to declare my coolness to all passers-by and various school crossing guards, who did their best to act unimpressed and hide their jealousy. I walked with a bounce in my step, and basked in Partridge glory.

Ten minutes later, I arrived at school. I walked up the sun-dappled hill, the many crab-apple and maple trees forming a tunnel, following the sidewalk as it trailed up a steep hill, then leveled off and wound around the back of the school to the rear parking lot.

Here we would line up to socialize and wait for the morning bell to ring. Located in the actual parking lot, each classroom had a parking space, designated by the numbers on the curb, written in chalk, and subject to change. Luckily, there was a long line of yellow, plastic cones separating this section of the parking lot from the busy drop-off area, lest some stressed out parent in a wood paneled station wagon accidentally barrel through and mow down the entire student body. It was somewhat less than secure, but appreciated just the same.

Just as I predicted, the kids already in line for 3B immediately noticed my album, positioned as it was like a sandwich board across my chest. They clamored around me to examine my treasure up close. Bringing the record to school had been a genius idea! I thought, mentally dissing my mom.

“Wow!” said my BFF, Kristen,” I LOOOOOVE this! My Mom’s getting it for me,  when Bradlees does a sale!”

“Whoah!” said Renee Siegel, sounding bawdy, and exactly like Cher. She bobbed her head in even closer, like a free-reign ostrich at an animal park- zeroing in on David Cassidy, and licking her lips like a half-pint harlot. “He is so scorching hot!” she said, eyes a sparkle. I felt a twinge of possessiveness, and let out an involuntary little hiss.

Joe Smith, clearly perplexed and scratching his head, squinted his eyes and managed to bleat out “What the?…”-another insightful comment from his side of the peanut gallery. I had to scoot down considerably to let Lauren Goldman see it, as her eyes were level with my knees. Luckily, I happened to catch Barry Nelson, mid nose-pick, and milliseconds before he had the nerve to reach out and try to touch the cover with his nasty hand. I slapped it away, just in time.

“NO TOUCHING!” I bellowed, and the crowd scattered, like a flock of birds when the cat pounces.

Barry stood back and wiped his filthy hand across his Sears ‘Husky” sized, horizontal-striped shirt, and I made a mental note to have Kristen hit me up with a cootie shot later on. Better safe than sorry. This was going to be a long day, filled with hundreds of potential land mines, and most of them would be my fellow classmates.

‘Come ‘sale’ away!’

Since there was no sign of Alex yet, I spent the next few minutes perusing the lot and trying to show-off my record even more. Holding it against my chest and doing a slow spin, like one of those fancy restaurants on top of skyscrapers…very, v-e-r-y slowly displaying it in an eventual 180′, a gift to all gawkers. I felt as cool as Mick Jagger’s girlfriend,  getting busted at a Rolling Stones all- nighter, wearing only a fur coat and diamond necklace, as the Paparazzi rained flashbulbs upon her.  I could see the older kids-fifth graders- pointing and whispering -and the younger grades- well -who cared what they thought, really? All I could do was show them how it was done.

Finally, the bell rang, and the usual, semi- organized chaos ensued: Teachers barking out directions, instructing us on how to enter the building as if we’d never been there before. Like cops in rough neighborhoods, the teachers and assorted school personnel  were no-nonsense, and took an overly serious,  hysterical stance.

‘Move to the RIGHT!! Keep MOVING!! Go Directly To Your Cubbies! NO TALKING!”

All of them yelling and carrying on as if the bell had been a fire alarm. Sometimes, if gym teachers were involved-we even had whistles blown at us! Sheesh! All they were missing were the billy clubs and hoses. What did they think we were going to do? Veer out of line and slam into the brick building, like birds into freshly wiped windows? Sit down in circles and stage a hippie protest? Demand Equal Rights? Or any other unspeakable, liberal acts that might separate us from the sheep herd we were expected to be? It was a very stressful way to start the morning, and was the very essence of getting bossed around.  Unfortunately, it often set the tone for the day.

Teachers waiting for the morning bell to ring….

It was during this confusion that a very sour turn of events occurred. As I began to march into the school like a good little soldier, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Glancing down- almost as if in slow motion- I saw my Partridge Family disc slip free of the sleeve and crash onto the concrete sidewalk! A large split in the black vinyl appeared (coinciding with the one in my heart) during the first, gruesome slow-bounce, followed by three or four shorter hops, as shiny, black shrapnel exploded to the left and right, until, like a bullet ridden cowboy in a spaghetti western, the album spun several times and then flopped onto its side,  dead as a doornail.

My heart stopped, then reluctantly resumed beating with slow, chest thumping croaks. I felt faint. I collapsed to the ground, pebbles and dirt embedding into my bare knees (I was wearing a plaid jumper and-no longer- white knee-highs) but I barely noticed the pain.

I tried to make some sense of the horror I had just witnessed, and went through the first four stages of grief in about fifteen seconds. ‘This isn’t happening! God-damn it! Maybe my Dad can fix it with Super-Glue? I’m gonna kill myself!’ Acceptance would have to wait.

As predicted by ‘Mom-stradamus’

As I knelt on the ground, an army of kids legs marched by me on either side, trooping towards the door. It sounded like the bell-ringing, chattering children  in “Another Brick In The Wall’, and it irritated me even more than that song eventually did. (By the way, Pink Floyd: Life Sucks. Everyone’s Against Me! We’re All Gonna Die And It’s All For Nothing Anyway! Thanks for the info!)

When the wave of students subsided, Mrs. Cantarow remained, holding open the heavy entrance door with her back pressed against against it, motioning at me like an air-traffic controller:

“Young Lady! Get inside immediately!…NOW! (If ya don’t eat yer meat, ya can’t have any pudding!) I looked from her, to my broken record, and back, frozen in fear and sadness. I couldn’t just leave the ‘body’ there!

“I SAID-GET IN HERE!”she bellowed, arms up, palms to the sky as if to say: “Hey Dummy! Do YOU understand the WORDS that are coming out of my MOUTH??” She sounded thoroughly disgusted- as if I’d been caught loitering on a street corner, taunting passers-by with a three card Monte trick, wearing a ‘School Sucks’ t-shirt, a pack of L&M’s rolled up in one sleeve.

Here I was mourning my most prized possession, quickly scraping up pieces of vinyl and gravel and all she could do was shriek. I wondered when she last got a tune-up on her broom, and pictured a black, pointy hat on her head. It fit perfectly.

Mrs. Cantarow BEFORE I dropped my record….

Mrs. Cantarow AFTER I dropped my record….

I dragged myself up, making a last ditch effort to salvage what I could of my ruined record, mostly the big, pathetic pieces. I then dramatically trudged down the sidewalk towards the open door as though wading through quicksand. I half-expected Cantarow to swat me on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, not caring if she did. Behind me, a trail of vinyl crumbs mixed with broken dreams. I had no idea how I was going to hold back the tantrum that was brewing inside me until I was safely at home, hours from now. (There, I would ‘gift’ my mother’s afternoon with my Sarah Bernhardt caliber hysterics, while begging for a new copy of ‘Up To Date’ until she finally agreed to possibly get me a new one “when Bradlees has a sale!”)

“I can’t LIVE without my album!- I can’t LIVE! *sigh*

Naturally- as luck would have it, the day was full of reminders of my tragedy. Since it was Friday, there was lots of talk about watching ‘The Partridge Family’ that night, right after the Brady Bunch, but even the more subtle links felt like knives in my already bruised heart. Learning about birds in Science, ‘Partridge’ made the list in my textbook (Did you know that the plump little partridge is easily recognized by it’s unusual orange face? How could you not think Danny Bonaduce after reading that?!) I was unreasonably disgusted with a kid named Keith during gym class (the shorts didn’t help!) and Renee Siegel (herself with a bird name- the kind we all fed french fries to at the beach!) had the nerve to start whistling ‘I’ll Meet You Halfway’ while drawing ‘My Favorite Food’ during Art class! She then went on to draw an ice-cream cone- (how original!) Mine-a slice of white-bread and glass of plain water Still Life spoke to the prison that was my mind, stuck behind bars where the vision of my album dropping played on a continuous loop. Neither one of us made the board.

  1. bloody hysterical

    Like

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