Inner city kids knew more about their teachers.
In those days.
For example, we knew about Mr. Shea. The science teacher drank. The bum.
If I had any inclination of becoming a scientist, a physicist, he blew that thought to smithereens, literally, one day, during his science class at the Michelangelo Junior High School, affectionately known as the Mickie’s.
To us, he was Commando Shea. That moniker rooted from his military service where he served as a meteorologist attaining the rank of Major. I purposely mention his military occupation because another school-related chapter could be written about it.
Mr. Shea was a strange sort, a cantankerous person, frustrated and incompetent as a teacher with contempt for us, “God damn little pups.” Despite his shortcomings we liked him and respected his service to our country.
Blowing that thought.
One day, the last day science was a school subject at Michelangelo Junior High School, Mr. Shea was to explain and demonstrate the principles of combustion utilizing gas emitting from a Bunsen burner on a side table.
Apparently, Richie Gambale knew of the planned demonstration and warned us that Shea had the shakes from drinking too much.
Commando Shea turned on the burner and we listened to the gas flow out.
We watched him quivering while he struck the match.
His left hand grabbed his right hand and he slowly approached the burner.
The match went out.
We listened as the gas poured out.
My thoughts flew back to “Bozo” Graffeo saying, “Fuck him, I’m not going to any class with him and gas. He’ll kill us all.”
Richie, our savior, told us not to worry. He had a plan.
“I’ll sit up front. If Shea is getting us into trouble, I’ll shout ‘Duck.’”
Commando has struck another match as looked around the classroom long enough for the match to burn down and burn his finger.
He drops it, “Damn pups.”
By now we’re looking at Richie who is focused at the Commando who is babbling.
The suspense built.
We stopped laughing but were ready to erupt.
The Commando picked up the box again and struck another match.
Richie shouts, “Duck!”
In concert, we all hit the deck.
The Commando’s head turned to us ducking under our desks and reached out to the burner without looking there.
A good thing.
The explosion burned his hair but didn’t mark his face.
Once Richie lifted the Commando off the floor and we knew we were all fine, we pissed ourselves laughing.
Shea cussed and screamed at us as he bombed out of the classroom, taking my interest in MIT with him.
No one ever saw him again.
“Oh, well. Maybe I’ll become a butcher.”
My Last Science Class
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