back to the Black Table

 Keith Atchison had been held back in the fifth grade, not because he was stupid, but because he was notorious for having an attitude problem. The most dangerous place for a kid at Columbian grade school to stand was between Keith and a third grader. Keith would mouth off to teachers, throw spit-ladled wads of paper Ė I prefer not to use the word "spitwad." Is there a more grotesque sounding pair of syllables in the english language than "spitwad?" It is stunning to me that no punk band ever adopted that as their name. "Spitwad." Ugh, Iím getting nauseous. Letís move on Ė and pound the crap out of anyone who wasnít nailed down.

It was perhaps not the wisest of decisions to hold Keith back. Not only did it enrage him further, but it also put him in with a whole new group of kids to punch, except now they were all smaller and a year younger. As we all grew older and a little larger, Keith smartly took the time-tested approach to corralling internal anger. He became a wiseass, with a perpetual smirk and nasty, withering comment about your zits, double-chin, cowlick or presumed masturbatory habits. By the time we all made it to our junior year of high school, weíd all faced Keithís sniggering at one point or another, and none of us could really stand him.

Now, I was a bit of a wisenheimer myself, and one day, as our junior year was ending, the pretty preppy girls wearing their boyfriendsí letterman jackets all started bouncing through our cafeteria, passing out sheets of paper and squeaking, "Oh, you should totally go for it!" Vaguely curious, I peered down from my annotated copy of Nietscheís Beyond Good and Evil, cast a skeptical and jaded eye in their general direction and tried to decipher what was causing all the commotion.

(All right, I was picking my nose and hoping nobody noticed that Iíd wiped it under the table. Shut up.)

It turned out that they were distributing applications to run for senior class office. This seemed a pointless endeavor. These were exactly the type of people who always were the class officers, all eager, and here they were, humoring the grimy proletariat of Mattoon High School by "encouraging" them to run for class treasurer. It somehow offended my 16-year-old sensibilities. (Particularly since they werenít coming by my table, denying me the opportunity to try to sneak a quick peek down Robin Cummingsí shirt.)

I waited until they left to go fight down lesbian tendencies that would be staved off until college and impishly swiped an application. This would be my amusing little lark, a tale to snicker with my nerdy Scholastic Bowl friends about when we were busy not getting laid. I was going to run for Class President. Why not? Like I was gonna win.

Two weeks later, our ballots arrived. There were two names nominated for class president: Will Leitch Ö and Keith Atchison. I had somehow sneaked on the ballot with the only person less popular than me. I showed it to my friend James. Where were the big-haired girls from the halftime dance squad? Wasnít running for class president in their job description? How did it turn out to be just Keith and I? James looked down and shook his head. "Hey, nobody wants to have to plan the reunion."

After a viscous, smoke-filled backroom recount of Ms. Thurnís homeroom period three, I won the election.


Is it written somewhere that the senior class president is supposed to plan the reunions? Seriously. Iíd like someone to offer some proof. Iím going to need a student handbook here. I mean, what if Iíd been hit by a truck in the last nine years? What would happen then? Would there be no reunion? Would the vice president step in and fill my place? Or is she still siphoned off in her secure, undisclosed location?

I ask, because, well, itís coming that time. I graduated in 1993, and the clock is ticking. Iím already receiving emails. "So, Will, howís the reunion coming?" "Hey, Will, do we have a date for the reunion yet?" "Are you having troubles with your performance? Click here for our patented penis extender!" (Sorry, wrong email.)

Thatís right: They really expect me to plan this thing.

Iíve analyzed all the reasons people would come up with for the expectations that I would plan this an endeavor as large as a 10-year class reunion, and the only answer that makes sense is plain old laziness. I mean, two-third of my class has its own little private reunion every Friday night at The Ice House, the bar just around the corner from the Huckís convenience store. Iím about 1,300 miles away. Why is this my responsibility? Listen, people: Open up a window, yell, "Hey, everybody meet at the Holiday Inn on Friday, May 23, 2003!" and weíre all done with it. Whatís the problem? That, or someone can just write it in magic marker on the side of the gun shop. Either way is fine.

Of course, my own laziness certainly comes into play as well. Remember that Onion story from a couple of years back, where they had an interview with then-Governor George W. Bush? The joke was that he was astounded how little the office of President paid. "I guess I just assumed that a job like that would have a much bigger salary," the immortal quote went. "And they wonder why they can't get anyone decent for that job." I kinda feel like that. Shit, I just ran as a joke. You really want me to do this?

And these hosers now have me actually feeling like this is my responsibility. Which is why, the other evening, I sat in my apartment with a steno notepad and a yearbook. I wrote down everybodyís names, then took it into work and Google searched every last one of those bastards. Well, OK, I started to. Then I came across an ex-girlfriend and just searched her for a few hours. (I love Google. Has there ever been a better invention? I mean, I just found a post an old flame made on a Quentin Tarantino fan newsgroup in 1994. You cannot put a price on that.)

But Iím actually giving this a shot. I even made up an Excel document. Iím hoping if I just compile all the names and addresses, I can ship that to the appropriate big-haired soccer mom in the sheep sweater and God Bless the U.S.A. lapel, and sheíll take care of the rest. And Iím leaving Keith Atchison off the list. That fucker owes me one. Prick.



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