Cell of Putzes
One day while walking home from school, Will Robinson (who, if born between twenty to thirty years earlier would’ve grown up to hate his parents) found himself on the horns of a dilemma.
Walking home with Will was his friend Johnny. Johnny was the President of the sixth grade class, a job with many responsibilities for a sixth grader. Johnny told Will that the end-of-school year graduation party, Johnny’s main responsibility, other than presiding over weekly meetings, might not happen this year, since Johnny’s birthday just happened to fall around the same time, and his parents were going to travel out-of-town to his uncle’s house for a big birthday party.
Now Will happened to be the Sergeant-At-Arms of the sixth grade class. In the grand scheme of organizational bureaucracy, the Sergeant-At-Arms is pretty much on the low-end of the totem pole, but for a sixth-grader, any position of responsibility is a chance to shine in the sight of the surrounding adults.
The sixth grade class had a President, a Vice-President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and a Sergeant-At-Arms.
The Vice-president, Janet Grant, was always busy. She played chess and was the champion Mathlete. As VP, her job was making posters and eating lunch with Mrs. Hanrahan while watching soap operas on the classroom TV. (Mrs. Hanrahan taught sixth grade and also acted as the class officers’ advisor.) Colin Bowie was the Treasurer, but he spent an awful lot of time at the video game arcade after school, and henceforth his job was given to Pam Smoot, now known as the Secretary-Treasurer. Pam was very good at keeping attendance, taking meeting minutes, and now with Colin gone, the quarters started accumulating from the morning cookie sales.
Will’s job as Sergeant-At-Arms was to make sure the class meetings went undisturbed (which was easy, since only the President, Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, a few homeroom representatives, and Mrs. Hanrahan would attend anyway), and selling cookies at mid-morning break.
It wasn’t that Will didn’t like his position as Sergeant-At-Arms, but he wanted to have the graduation party.
And now, since Johnny wasn’t going to be there, why would he want to be involved anyway?
There would be a graduation party because Will would make it happen. Will would make it happen because he would take charge.
Will knew that Johnny didn’t care about the graduation party anymore. Will knew that the other officers were so busy with their own jobs that they’d welcome him in the position as President.
Will would not tell Johnny.
Will would not tell anyone until the time was right.
Another month came.
The time was now.
The first person Will told was his mother, Mrs. Robinson.
He told her all about Johnny not being interested. He told her about how he would take charge and how he’d be elected class president for the last month of school.
She listened and nodded her head in agreement as she brought Will his breakfast of maple-flavored Cream of Rice. Will quickly added his glass of chocolate milk to the hot cereal and stirred it about, stopping once to make a little mountain or two before tipping the bowl to his mouth and chugging the entire bowlful. He washed it down with cherry-flavored Hawaiian Punch.
Will asked his mother to buy a special cake for the big celebration, too. She agreed, but Will would have to pay for it out of his allowance. She explained that it would add to what the class had already set-aside for cakes. Without a second thought, Will agreed – he could make it up in no time. (He’d seen nice ice cream cakes at the local Carvile Ice Cream Store for about $12, which was less than the price of the Yarn Man graphic novel he had saved for over the last month.) He then asked his mother to order his cake that day. She said she would.
That morning at school, Will didn’t see Johnny. At the mid-morning break cookie sale, he asked Pam if she had seen Johnny. Pam, who lived two doors away from Johnny, mentioned that he had been sick all weekend with a virus and might even miss most of the week.
Will then realized that, with Johnny out for the week, he could announce his plan at the class meeting tomorrow.
After school, and with a few hours before his parents got back from work, Will started making telephone calls.
He called Alex and Alexandra, Bobby and Bobbi, Chris and Christina, Don and Donna…Paul and Paula…Zack and Zoe. He called everyone he could, all through the alphabet of people he knew. It didn’t matter to him that fully three-quarters of them weren’t home, just making the calls gave him tremendous confidence.
He called everyone he could think of except Pam and Janet. He would make his announcement to them tomorrow at the class meeting.
The next morning, the cookie sale was the quietest on record. Will didn’t say a word. In fact, he was so beside himself he left halfway through to go run around the All-Purpose Room. Pam didn’t seem to mind.
The sixth grade class officer meetings were held every Tuesday during recess in Mrs. Hanrahan’s room, during which the volume was turned down to “1” on Mrs. Hanrahan’s wall-mounted television (nothing prevented her missing Guiding Hospital ).
Will arrived on-time, as usual.
As predicted, Johnny wasn’t present.
Oddly, Janet wasn’t there either.
Each homeroom’s representative (four others) was there, though.
Without a President or Vice-President, Pam was next in the chain-of-command.
Pam didn’t have much to say other than announcing to Mrs. Hanrahan and Will and the others that Johnny and Janet were out sick and that the class budget to-date, thanks to good cookie sales in the last week, now stood at $300.
Mrs. Hanrahan asked if anyone present had anything they needed to add (protocol, but if she could, she kept these meetings as brief as possible). None of the homeroom reps had anything to add.
Will raised his hand. (Even though he was an officer, he couldn’t just call out, now could he?)
After Mrs. Hanrahan acknowledged Will’s turn to speak, Will announced that he was taking over the graduation party.
He even managed to get a second sentence in demanding that he be put in charge of the budget as Johnny wasn’t going to be around for the party anyway and didn’t care about it.
Hands went up around the room.
Zack and Donna asked if Will talked this over with Johnny. Will replied that he had. Well, didn’t he? A month ago Johnny told Will that he wouldn’t be making the party, right?
Alexandra and Chris asked if Will be able to continue his duties as Sergeant-At-Arms if he took over the party.
Will replied that he would not.
Will then announced that he was resigning as Sergeant-At-Arms to give his full attention to the graduation party and that he should be Class President for the remainder of the school year.
After a moment, Mrs. Hanrahan mentioned that if Will was resigning, there would need to be an election for a new Sergeant-At-Arms.
Pam motioned for such an election. Bobbi seconded the motion and nominated Zoe for Sergeant-At-Arms.
Mrs. Hanrahan then told Will that he would have to wait until next week to be officially put in-charge of the graduation party.
Will, at first, was taken aback, but then became excited: his plan was working.
That evening, Will announced to his parents at dinner that he was in charge of the graduation party.
The next morning, each homeroom representative read the minutes of the meeting to their respective homeroom classes.
Zoe was elected, by acclamation, Sergeant-At-Arms. She took over cookie sales that day.
Will spent the remainder of the week, aside from attending classes, of course, planning the graduation party.
He called Johnny that afternoon to tell him what was going on. Johnny said that Zoe just called him with the story. Will then asked for all party materials Johnny had collected over the school years. Johnny mentioned that he’d see about bringing them to the next meeting. Then Johnny hung up.
The next Monday, Will started posting signs that he’d made over the weekend. These signs conveyed two messages: one, that Will was now acting as sixth grade class president and two, that the graduation party would be better than ever.
On Tuesday, Will, who was almost denied entry to the class meeting by Zoe, was told that he could be in charge of the graduation party, but that he, one, was not the class president and two, would have to take down his signs.
All eyes were on Will. Johnny glared at him.
Will spoke up and asked Johnny for all the party materials.
Johnny said that he didn’t bring them with him, but that Will could get them at next week’s meeting.
Mrs. Hanrahan announced that the meeting was over.
Will protested that there was only a couple of weeks left before graduation and that he needed time to get everything ready.
Mrs. Hanrahan said that the meeting was over.
No one talked to Will for the rest of the day.
No one talked to Will for the rest of the week.
Zoe wouldn’t let him into the next meeting, either.
Will started crying and shouting, demanding that he be let in. He said that he had all sorts of plans for the big party.
Mrs. Hanrahan came out and told Will that he could give her his plans and that she’d give them to Janet, who’d go over them and explain them to everyone.
Will protested that he needed to explain them to everyone himself. And besides, there was only a week to go before party day.
Mrs. Hanrahan took his plans and said she’d talk to him about them on Friday.
Will skulked away, sniffling.
On Friday, Mrs. Hanrahan told Will that he could bring a cake, as he had planned, to school the next Tuesday.
Will asked about the rest of the party, as he had also planned.
Mrs. Hanrahan replied that there wouldn’t really be a party this year, but that he could bring the cake to the last officer’s meeting as, after all, he should celebrate a years’ worth of acting as Sergeant-At-Arms, shouldn’t he?
Will accepted this, but it was hard to hold back the tears.
He stayed at home all weekend and played computer games, prompting his mother to ask if anything was wrong (Will usually spent Saturday afternoon at the arcade with Colin, who didn’t have a computer). Will replied that nothing was wrong, he was just thinking and could he have a Pepsi? His father said something about the end of elementary school and growing up, but Will didn’t really listen.
Monday was very strange. No one really talked to Will, but everyone was smiling whenever they passed him.
Monday evening, Will’s mother arrived home with his ice cream cake. It was a nice twelve-dollar cake; two layers of chocolate ice cream, covered in vanilla frosting with red, white and blue trim. She stored it in their freezer.
Will brought it to school the next day, wrapped in aluminum foil and packed with some ice in a special cake-sized cooler.
Strangely, the students were speaking to Will today.
Well, not really, it was more of a laugh and a mention of it being “cake day.”
At recess, he arrived at Mrs. Hanrahan’s room only to find it empty (save for Mrs. Hanrahan and the TV, the volume of which was a normal “8”).
Mrs. Hanrahan invited Will in to sit down. She turned down the volume a bit and asked if Will had seen the two Japanese Red Maple trees donated to the school by the sixth grade class. Will said that he didn’t and opened the cooler, which really hadn’t worked too well. The ice had melted over the last four hours, turning most of the cake into a watery mess, most of which had seeped out of its box. Since Will had neglected to clean the cooler, he didn’t really want to drink the reside as it was full of cat hair and dust.
But the spongy cake filling was still in the box and Will offered Mrs. Hanrahan a piece.
She politely refused.
Will scooped up some of the frosting with a spoon. He licked it clean and then, without a word, took up the cooler and left the room.
He dumped the cake in one of the lunchroom dumpsters, during which the third and fourth graders (it was their time to use the cafeteria) all laughed.
He went back to Mrs. Hanrahan’s room and said he felt sick and wanted to go home. She replied that he ought to tell the school nurse, not her.
Will skulked over to the nurse’s office and opened the door. He told the nurse he felt sick and wanted to go home. The nurse looked at the chocolate stains on Will’s shirt, hands and arms, as well as the dripping cake cooler. She mentioned that it looked like he ate too much cake.
So she called Will’s mother, who just happened to be home that day and explained that Will was sick and should go home.
Will’s mother came and picked him up twenty minutes later.
On the way home she explained that she spoke with Colin’s mother that morning, who wondered why Will wasn’t at Johnny’s birthday party, at Johnny’s uncle’s house, the previous Saturday. Colin’s mother said everyone from the sixth grade class was there except him. ◼