Friday, January 21, 2005

Desperately Seeking Aliens

this is kind of like the "ten minutes writing" we used to do in grade five. my much beloved mrs watson would flick a topic at us and then nonchantly wander up and down that tiny stage at the front of the class room while we scurried out strange tales of "aliens" or "breakfast" or "heroes".

Sounds Sjusju like just the kind of topics the Y Bird needs to peruse...

Desperately Seeking Aliens

Every school, in addition to having a school benny and a school spirit girl, also has a school clever clogs. I'm not necessarily talking about clever academically, I'm talking more generally, the boy or girl with a firm grasp on facts. Generally, it will be someone with a big sister or big brother, and it will parlay itself outwardly into the ultimate fast facts, all those lies about sex you hear when you are 12 ("'s big brother said his girlfriend did it!")

Our school clever clogs was called Michael Millar, a kid with a big nose, glasses, and possession (we thought) of a book called 1000000 Fast Facts to amaze your friends. Whatever the situation, we relied on Michael to settle debate. His speciality, as it happened, was "Footy Maths", a game our teacher made us play in Grade 2, where the teacher would squeal out a maths question ("3 + 2") and the first one to correctly answer would move the ball closer to their goal. Michael was awesome at this, and also speed spelling. He could spell hippopotamus in 3 seconds. A great effort you'll agree. He rarely left the library, and he always had a book under his arm on the history of cricket: if you needed to know anything about bodyline or the Kerry Packer take over in 1977, he was able to provide you with dates and scores. In short, he was our guru, and we looked up to him.

I can't remember the exact date our faith in him crumbled, but we had our doubts by Grade 3 (I think it was Grade 3) mostly because cynicism had entered into our lives. Claire (who was vaguely my best friend) was the first to catch the disease, muttering an "AS IF" when Megan B was telling a story. We turned around stunned. Someone had dared to challenge a story, and from then on, it was open slather. Michael Millar was now required to prove things - we didn't just take his word for things anymore. It threw him for a bit, but he regrouped, he read more books, he worked harder, did more research, and was ready to back anything he knew up with reference numbers and books, lest cynics rain on his parade.

One day, the week before Easter, we ran outside for lunch and assembled duly by the pipe. In the 1980s, it was perfectly acceptable to put some concrete pipe down on the ground and call it playground equipment, and for kids to crawl through it regardless of the amount of rainwater, litter and dog piss that was in it. Still, it was always easy to meet "at the pipe". As we gathered, Kate Marie had a big announcement to make.

"Come and see what I found!" she said, emphasising the "I".

She lead to us to one of the outside concrete paths, and pointed to a series of suspiciously chalked footprints on the ground. The footprints lead inside the school, but only after veering off in a mad direction towards the hut where dull Dave, our groundsman, kept his lawnmower. We took in this strange turn of events for a moment, and scratched our collective brains.

"Where do you think they came from?" said our friend Megs B, puzzled.

"We better ask Michael," I suggested, gently.

"As If!" said Claire, in the middle of her phase of saying "As If" to everything.

We gathered in the library, and waited for Michael to put his book down (he was slumming it - reading a Betsy Byars book, another sign of his fading intelligence). When he did, he heard our story and smiled smugly.

"It's's aliens..."

"As IF" said Claire, emphatically.

"No really, have you heard of Haley's Comet?"

"Leave Hayley out of it!" said Megs B, thinking he was referring to her sister. Michael Millar explained patiently and at boring length what Haley's Comet was, and how it brought aliens to earth all the time, to look for somewhere to work amongst us, and how this was well known, and how if we followed the foot prints, we'd find an alien, a real life one.

"Not one like ALF?" I said, curiously.

"No, it'll be green and ugly, but friendly, as long as you don't provoke it," said Michael. And he put his book down on his chair, and motioned for us to follow him.

When we got outside, and he clocked the footprints, he pointed to dull Dave's hut and where the footprints lead to the locked in Flymo.

"That'll be where their ship came in," he nodded to Megs B.

"I thought they came in on Haley's comment" said Megs B, wearily.

"Yeah, they ride in on a ship that's on the tail of the coment - it's only little" said Michael.

"As if!" said Claire, who by now was immensely bored and eating an Uncle Tobys muesli bar.

The footprints lead windingly past dull Dave's hut, past the glass doors, and inside. Oddly, the footprints were textaed when they were inside, on bits of paper. Michael began shuffling uneasily. By now though, we were desperate to see the alien, which sounded like it brighten up a dull day. It was then that we looked down the carpeted assembly hall, and saw dull Dave, taping bits of paper on to the ground, texta in hand. Claire raised an eyebrow and tutted loudly.

"What! Your alien was dull Dave!"

Credit to dull Dave, who seeing his carefully crafted Easter surprise ruined by some nosey kids, played it beautifully. "Hi kids...I found this texta and a footprint...think it was the Easter bunny...he hopped off that way...I think..."

We could buy that, and our outrage cooled, but we all eyed Michael Millar with deep suspicion. He adjusted his glasses and then spoke casually.

"I KNEW it wasn't an alien - I knew it was the Easter Bunny, I was just tricking! I mean - aliens aren't real like the Easter Bunny!"

I think that day we learned that you can put your faith in aliens, religion, bunny rabbits or celebrities, you can put your belief in some grand plan in the universe, but if you put your faith and trust in a 9 year old kid with social problems and the hope you don't challenge what he says, you only end up down blind, carpeted alleyways, looking at a bored groundsman holding a texta in his hand...


Blogger sjusju said...

Oh my god! Mrs Watson did footy maths too! I thought she'd invented it - herself! Maybe it was a victorian educational standard for the grade 5 curriculum. Maybe it was the very first thing they learnt in the teachers' college subject "103-501 Not a little squirt, not yet a big kid: the challenges and motivations for teaching grade five". Or maybe it was the "hot new thing" teachers talked about in the staff room, and rumour spread from school to school, gaining momentum like a wildfire. We certainly thought we were pretty shit-hot at it.

I'm so happy you've taken up the spirit of mrs watson's "ten minute writing" challenge - just think how proud she'd be! (and how many "what a star!" stickers you'd get!!)

6:53 PM  

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