It's been brought to my attention that the 30th high school reunion of Du Quoin's class of '87 is quickly approaching. It just made me think about a story that still makes me laugh, years and years later. For those of you who went to school with me, let me just preface this by noting that all names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or the embarrassed.
Friday, March 17, 2017
High School and the Discs of Tron Incident
One afternoon, back in high school, a friend of mine named Shawn and I had a seemingly brilliant idea. We were in the band room, and everyone was out to lunch. We had about ten minutes to kill before chorus started. And back in those days, we couldn’t pass the time by pulling out our phones and playing Angry Birds. We had to entertain ourselves, dammit!
The kettle drums in the band room, when not in use, were covered by large cardboard discs. They were about the size of manhole covers, and surprisingly sturdy. These weren’t the kind of cardboard circles that comes with your Tombstone pizza, oh no. These were reinforced spheres of corrugated boards that had weight and heft.
“Let’s play Discs of Tron,” I brightly suggested.
“I’m down,” he decided.
Some of you may remember the sci-fi movie TRON, and a few of you may even remember the neon-laced video game that the movie inspired. But you’d have to be a true video game geek historian to know about the follow-up game, DISCS OF TRON.
Basically, this game was inspired by the Jai Alai sequence from the movie. And if you’re not a follower of obscure sports, the game basically worked like this: Two guys stood on opposite ends of a court, and whipped electric Frisbees at each other. The point was to hit the other guy and win the game.
So that was my bright idea. Let’s whip a massive corrugated disc at each other from opposite sides of the room, and hope we don’t accidentally decapitate the other guy. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, for the first five minutes, nothing really did go wrong. We knocked over music stands, I banged my knee at one point diving away from the deadly projectile, and I hit Shawn in the chest with a move that made me feel like I’d just won Game 7 of the World Series match up of the Cubs versus the Indians. Okay, true, that game didn’t really happen until nearly thirty years after this story, but it approximated my emotions at the time. Plus, that actual game literally just happened about twelve hours before I originally typed this story, and I was still in emotional overdrive when I was writing this. Did you see that fucking game? Was that an emotional roller coaster or what? Coming back three to one in the series, having game seven tied up in the ninth inning, a rain delay, and a nail-biting victory in the tenth. I’m not even a major sports fan, and even I was emotional at that game. So cool. Where was I?
Right. Stupid teens doing stupid things. For the first five minutes, everything was cool. And then Kevin walked in.
Kevin had the unfortunate station in life of being the school nerd. Everything he said came out wrong, he was awkward and uncomfortable, and life just seemed to serve him sour grapes for every meal. He thought of me as one his best friends, but only because I was one of the only people who actually treated him like a human being. It’s not in my nature to be cruel to people, even if everyone else around me may be. I still kind of feel a little guilty about what happened next, but you've come this far, so here’s the story.
“Hey guys, what are you doing?”
“We’re playing Discs of Tron, Kevin.”
“Cool, can I play?”
Now, Shawn and I actually weren’t best friends, to be honest. We just happened to have the same brilliant idea at the same time, and we having a fun moment. I was always cordial with Kevin, but I never made any attempts to hang out with him. Shawn was less patient with him than I was. But I suppose neither of us really felt like being jerks and excluding him just because he was….well, Kevin. So we agreed to let him join us in a few rounds. He’ll be one team, and we’ll be on the other.
He stood on the north side of the band room, right where the main entrance of the room was positioned. We stood on the far south side of the band room, nearly sixty feet away, where the exit into the football field was positioned. We took position, and told him to take his best shot.
He reared back, preparing to fling this massive cardboard death disc at our heads. It was at that exact moment that the band teacher, Mrs. Minton, entered the room returning from lunch.
He flung the cardboard disc, and it traveled exactly one foot from his body, where it caught the air wrong and went straight upward towards the ceiling, where it shattered the glass panel of the lights. That’s all she saw. We, as far as she could tell, were just standing on the other side of the room looking as shocked as she was.
“Damn, Kevin, what’s wrong with you?”
The phrase to throw someone under the bus wouldn’t be coined for nearly twenty years, but that’s pretty much what happened. Was it wrong? Well, yeah, pretty much indefensibly so. Probably wasn’t cool, and I’d like to think that I would have stepped forward to take some of the blame now. But instead, we just shook our heads and left the room, leaving him to his fate.
That old high school is gone now. It was torn down years ago, replaced by a more modern facility. They probably have sturdier light fixtures and more secure lids for the kettle drums. I haven’t lived in Du Quoin since I started college, and I didn’t even know about the high school being replaced until years after I happened. It felt like part of my childhood had been taken away, but thank goodness many of the friendships I made there still endure.
Well, maybe not me and Kevin’s. Sorry, buddy. I really hope your aim has improved since then.
The story you read will be included in John's upcoming book of equally hilarious stories, I LAUGH TOO MUCH. You can keep an eye out for it by checking John's website at www.yeoniverse.com. John Yeo Jr. is the author of THE KING'S TOURNAMENT and MAMA SAUVETERRE'S CURIOSITY SHOPPE, which you can by at Amazon today!