When I was in grade school, a few times a year, the school would have bomb-drills. This was in case Russia woke up with a pee-hard and decided to launch some of its missiles. During the Cuban missile crisis I was in kindergarten and the paranoid teacher was a life-long virgin named Miss Parmely. (Don’t ask me how I remember this shit; I just do. I can’t recall my PIN number, but I remember my kindergarten teacher’s name.) Mrs Parmely was deeply concerned that the Cubans had gone Commie and would not only launch bombs, but they were only 90 miles off of Miami and could attack us by land as well. She told us they were “swarthy” people, but could blend in well enough to take us by surprise and kill us. As you can probably discern, Miss Parmely was wrapped a little too tight, and to be honest, rather swarthy herself. She told us the Communists were a godless hoard that spent all day thinking up ways to kill Americans. I asked her, “Why don’t they just use the bombs?” She told me to shut up and that the bombs would never guarantee that they’d get all of us. She said they’d not be happy until they killed every American man, woman and child–Carthage-style.
Naturally she scared the dog-shit out of us and made us participate in these retarded drills where we stood up, made the sign of the cross and then curled under our desks as if this would save us from an atom bomb. The kid across from me, Jimmy Smudee, whispered to me “This is for assholes. If the Commies drop an A-bomb, we’ve had it. Do you think this desk will stop an A-Bomb? Miss Parmely is a fucking mental.” I began to think about it and thought Jimmy Smudee had something there. Why should I dive under my desk like Dickie-Dope if they drop an A-Bomb? Why die and look like a dick?
From then on, Jimmy Smudee and I refused to get under the desk. She told us it was just for “practice” and pleaded with us to comply. I thought, “Yeah, like I need to practice looking like an asshole.”
She went crazy and dragged our asses to the office to the principal who called our mothers and sent us home for the day. My mother agreed that if we were hit by an atom bomb, we were probably toast, but that I had to listen to my teacher and do what the crazy old bitch wanted, or she would have to tell my father. That’s all she had to say. The next time there was a bomb drill I got under the desk. Miss Parmely still wasn’t satisfied though because I hadn’t made the sign of the cross. I told her it seemed like a waste of time, seeing as there was a bomb hutling through space about to kill me, and that I’d have plenty of time for that under my desk. She went mental again and was about to go off on me when she noticed Jimmy Smudee calmly sitting at his desk, not participating in the bomb drill. She said, “What do you think you’re doing Mr. Smudee?”
And Jimmy Smudee dropped his bomb.
“Fuck you. If the Commies drop the bomb, we’re all dead, I’m not doing any of this shit.” And then, for good measure, he threw in, “My dad says you’re a Section-8. He was in a war, with real bombs.”
Miss Parmely went postal. She grabbed Jimmy by the ear and dragged his ass to the principal where they took turns slapping the shit out of him.
I never saw Jimmy Smudee again. He got kicked out, but that day he became one of my heroes and in an odd way, still is.
Mrs. Parmely reminds me of the handjobs in our government who try to scare us with their bullshit and then make us easier to control. She also reminds me of the Glenn Becks and Bill O’Reillys of the world, who try to make us afraid of immigrants and Muslims and anyone else who isn’t “White America.” The politics of fear are profitable for these creeps. They grow wealthy and fat off of the spread of bigotry and intolerance. I’ve cultivated a healthy distrust of government and media lately. I am one of those who would rather see for himself.
The only thing I ever knew about the atom as a kid was the atom bomb. I didn’t know we were made of them and that the splitting of the atom was the birth of the Nuclear Age. I always loved the symbol for atomic things though. It had a kind of an eternal look about it; the intersecting ovular lines and speeding balls felt infinite. Like stars.