Sheel-Teat

The time has come for you to meet the sneakiest guy who ever walked the Earth. I've already written how I first became aware of Sheel-Teat in The Transition. But it wasn't until the start of high school, a couple months later, that we formed an alliance.

So here it is, first day of class at a new institution teaming with old friends from West, plus a ton of new Central mugs who still sort of gave me the willies. Those guys were well known for being tough so I trod gently until I figured out the score. It didn't take long.

I thought I was being clever that first day of the semester by telling the homeroom teacher I had inadvertently enrolled in the wrong courses and needed to see Admin about changing. I figured I could get out of at least a half-day of class by dawdling, vacillating and taking numerous lavatory breaks. However, when I arrived at the main office, I found a huge queue of perhaps 200 students waiting in line for the exact same purpose. Apparently this was SOP and the Central kids had already hit upon the scam previously. I was the only West graduate there, so it was time for some introductions. That was when I first engaged Sheel-Teat in conversation as we stood in line waiting to be processed by Mrs. Carr, the high school secretary. Shell-Teat and I clicked from the outset.

The queue snaked along the inner hallway of Admin between the side offices of the Principal, Vice-Principal, counselors and the nurse. As the chain bumped along one student at a time, Sheel-Teat and I darted into the nurse's makeshift infirmary for a bit of a prank. Joining us for the, ahem, harmless rascalry was another person new to me, Tiny. Both Sheel-Teat and Tiny would become among the finest friends I've ever had and esteemed members of The Gang. While many of the West kids found it difficult to trust the Centralites, I thought it was exciting to mingle with an entirely new crowd. Perhaps the three of us fell in so easily simply because we met in joint japery that very first day. And Tiny's stunt with the light bulb in the nurse's office showed a certain amount of panache. Along with the urine.

Several weeks later the various 11:00 sophomore history classes were pooled together in a large room to hear a guest speaker. The talk was to be on the Battle of Gettysburg. The speaker was a bit of an amateur historian who had visited there, snapping a huge amount of photos, assembling them into a slideshow presumably not all that different from Fred Rutherford's trip to Peru presentation implied in Leave It to Beaver. It was supposed to be interesting, I guess. But more important to me was that among the combined students was Sheel-Teat. We immediately took desks next to each other and launched all manner of revelry.

The orator was new to both of us, but would soon become the point of focus. For two-and-half years I was his bête noire. The manufacturer of Tums should have paid me a retainer. I on the other hand, delighted in our skirmishes, constantly astounded that he never could win the game.  (Well, he did get checkmate at the very end, leading to the great migration northward, but that was probably intentional on my part).

For the speaker was in fact our vice-principal, the so-called maintainer of law and order, the keeper of discipline.

Do you remember the Student Council disciplinary meeting in Animal House? In particular, when the Deltas start mock-coughing the phrase "blow job"? Well, Sheel-Teat spontaneously started doing that during the speech but with a new word that caught my fancy: (cough) "Beetface," (cough) "Beetface"...ad libitum. I joined in and the two of us were in hysterics. 

So much for the presentation. Later that day, both Sheel-Teat and I were summoned to the vice-principal's office. He was ostensibly trying to be chummy with us, with the introductory line,
"Boys, I had both of your brothers several years before and they were exemplary young men."
Sheel-Teat and I looked at each other, grinning ear to ear. Rule #1 for authority figures dealing with The Gang: Never lie. Leave the prevarication to us. For in fact, both Johnny and Bill (our respective brothers) had terrorized the school six years previous--big time. They were classmates, too.

When that tack went nowhere, he tried a more direct parry:
"It seems you were calling me a rather uncomplimentary name."
Again, Sheel-Teat and I beamed at each other with great pleasure, for we knew at that moment we had hit the desired nerve. Paydirt.

And that was how Beetface gained his soubriquet.

Sheel-Teat will return in other entries here, indeed in one of the most important relating to how I crafted a satisfying philosophy. But I would like to leave you with one final little incident that always makes me chuckle, simple as it is.

The boy's locker room and swimming pool were housed in a separate round structure, but connected to the main school building by means of a lengthy all-glass walkway. There were a couple doors with the usual industrial push-bars, probably required by the Fire Marshall. But no one ever thought to use them, since once outside they led to no sidewalk or patio or driveway or anything else. Neglected, they were simply doors that left you in the midst of the typical 1960s miasma of landscape architecture: a bunch of arborvitaes planted symmetrically and in straight lines.

So, one sunny autumn day shortly after I met Sheel-Teat, I was walking down the glassed-in walkway on my jaunt to phy-ed class. As I progressed, I noticed the shrubberies were jiggling suspiciously, and that's when I caught sight of him. With catlike actions, Sheel-Teat was working his way from one bush to the next, looking over his shoulder occasionally, crouching, dashing, then remaining immobile when a threat was perceived, all the while head craning this way and that. He was cutting classes and had ascertained this was only way out of school without being noticed, since all of the other egresses were too close to Admin and other offices (on purpose). Leave it to Sheel-Teat to be the first to unriddle this exit strategy.

He truly was the sneakiest guy I've ever known. Gone now, like Tommy, but at least from natural causes. I will ever love him. Thank you, Sheel-Teat.

Next installment: On Pornography

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