Jack D. Hunter's Blog

17 November 2007


I was catching a breath on the second floor porch this afternoon when a gaggle of homebound high-schoolers passed below, hooting and hollering and swinging their book packs and being kids in a gaudy-cool way. And, because I’m the kind of ruminating guy I am, my mind went back what seem to be three or four centuries to my own schoolboy days.

Especially my senior year in high school.

By then, I was pretty much into the Andy Hardy stuff, what with "Mayflower," my Model A roadster (black, with yellow wire-spoke wheels, purchase price $50), my saddle shoes (black and white or brown and white, depending on the sweater I was wearing), and my speculations about girls (color irrelevant, and how they might look without what they were wearing).

I was blessed (or was it cursed?) with an ability to get good grades without having to work too hard, and so I was the despair of Mr. Binning, the history teacher, Doc Cornog, the physics teacher, and Mr. Bullock, the math teacher — and all other faculty members who took their subjects seriously and (according to a conversation in the teachers’ rest room, overheard from below an open transom) resented the little Hunter smart-ass who would spend class time ogling the bumps in ambient blouses and drawing pictures of airplanes in the margin of his texts and still managing to get a freaking A or B-plus on tests.

I added salt to their wounds when I became an impresario on school time.

Many details elude me today, but others remain clear. Memory tells me it was after New Year's and in the final semester when the Drama Club began searching for a traditional play for the traditional Senior Show, traditionally staged in the traditional school auditorium on some traditionally rainy night in the spring. My best buds, Kim and Jimmy, and I had signed up for the Drama Club as an easy way to fatten our resumes in the class yearbook. One day the club, facing the need to choose a play for the annual senior-class production, was debating the merits of "Seven Keys to Baldpate" and "The Cat and the Canary," two potboiling mysteries that weren't very good when they first played Broadway in 1776 and had not improved a jot by 1939.

In an irritable and totally spontaneous outburst, I said something like, "Come on, you guys. Let's do something different. Why don't we produce our own play? A musical, say."

The club president, a football and track jock who hated my guts because I didn't even like calisthenics, snapped back. "You mean we write a script, write the music, design the dancing, cast and produce the ******* thing, and actually charge an audience for suffering through it?"

I remember nodding somberly, making a face that permitted no further argument. "We charge the living crap out of them."

The president, his freckled face showing a gotcha sneer, sneered, "All right, hotshot, you got the job."

"Hey, hold on. This is a class thing — "

"And the class has appointed you to the job. Get it?"

Struggling to hide my gathering panic, I said, "Okay, Kim and Jim, we got work to do. Our stars will be born." My buds stared at me, utterly flabbergasted. "What the hell you mean, 'we'?"

Trying to look theatrical, I said, "Kim, you play trumpet. You get a pit orchestra together. Jim, you can jitterbug like a sumbish. You get a chorus line together. I’ll get one of Bud Hefflefinger’s guys to write down the notes and do the orchestra arrangement for the tunes the three of us compose. I'll also write the libretto, do the casting, and direct. And we got sixty days to get it all on the stage."

It wasn't until I was in the Ford and driving home that the full realization hit me. Me and my big mouth. How the hell was I going to pull this one off?

Miraculously, pull it off we did — The Hitchhiker, a three-act musical comedy along the lines of the Marx Brothers meet Flo Ziegfield and Mae West en route to the Ridley Park Malt Shop. We charged the crap out of the audience (mostly parents), got a nice review in the local press, and it didn't rain a drop that night. In fact, when the school administration saw how much it made when we charged the crap out of the parents, it recommended that "original student theatrical productions become a regular feature of the senior year agenda" — or some such bureaucratic argot.

After the show, aglow with the triumph and swelling with self-confidence, I strode up to a redhead whose beauty was second only to her cool aloofness, a trait that had thoroughly intimidated the student body’s male population — me especially — for nearly four years. I waved at the Ford, parked nearby. "Can I drive you home, or something?"

Standing tentatively by the right front fender, she asked, "I hear you call this car 'The Mayflower.' How come?"

My self-confidence wavering now, I took a breath, shut my eyes, and went for broke. "Because so many good little puritans have come across in it."

The night’s triumph was complete when she swung into the car and said, "So where are we going?"

Copyright © 2007 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.