When Ricky Sneezed

I attended elementary school with this boy named Ricky.  I remember that Ricky had black hair and black eyes and, if memory serves, he was fond of wearing tee shirts printed with race cars.  But what I most remember about Ricky is that he had a dangerous sneeze. 
Ricky’s sneeze was always sudden and unexpected.  It shot from out of nowhere and made his classmates jump in surprise and caused the teacher to roll her eyes and pause in her struggle to teach her disinterested third graders long division.
“Ricky” she would sigh, setting down her chalk and rubbing at her temples.
“What?”  Ricky would always be indignant, raising his hands in helpless supplication.  “That’s how I sneeze.”  He’d look around, meeting the eyes of his classmates, hoping for one of us to verify that, yes, indeed, that was how he sneezed. 
Oh, how Ricky sneezed.  Ricky's sneeze was a clap of thunder.  Ricky’s sneeze was a jet on the runway.  Ricky would shout out his sneeze, blasting it into the air, sending the papers on the teacher’s desk flying off in all directions.  And afterwards, Ricky would chew upon the ghost of his sneeze almost thoughtfully.  Or perhaps he was just trying to suck his teeth back into place.
One spring day, the teachers rounded up all the third graders and marched us out to the woods behind the school, ostensibly to get us some fresh air but more likely to get out of an afternoon of teaching math.  In the beauty of the woods, one of the teachers was inspired to break into song: John Denver’s Almost Heaven, despite the fact that we were in Ohio.  She sang with the confidence of someone who truly believed in her gift.
I don’t believe this teacher had much in the way of musical talent, but I do remember she was a tad short on common sense: I was a teacher’s pet in elementary school and put up with the teacher's off-key singing in order to remain at the front of the line with the rest of the goody-goodies. 
Behind me, someone sneezed.  Judging from the way the trees swayed in the sudden blast of wind, I wagered it was Ricky.  The teacher stopped singing abruptly.  “You know,” she informed the goody-goodies, patting her hair back into place, “if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyes will shoot right out of your face.  Never, ever sneeze with your eyes open.”  Then she picked up her song, without missing a beat.
Thus forbidden, I wanted to try it.  Was it possible to sneeze with just one eye open?
* * * 
“Anything happen at school today?”  My mother handed me the plate of hamburgers.  We were seated around the dining room table.  The carpet was green and matted and reminded me of the mossy carpeting that grew along the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
I took a bite of my hamburger and spoke around it.  “My teacher told me that if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyes will blast out.”
My dad snorted.  His eyes widened.  His snort evolved into a guffaw that eventually turned into a belly laugh.  “Do me a favor, Kel.”  Dad shook his head.  “Tell that teacher that if you hold your nose when you sneeze, your socks’ll blow clean off your feet.” 
I never did share this secret for quick sock removal with my teacher.  But I was just suspicious enough of my father’s mockery of my teacher to try it out.
Of course, it failed.
But every time RIcky sneezed?
I made sure he closed his eyes.


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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: When Ricky Sneezed

Sunday, June 5, 2011

When Ricky Sneezed

I attended elementary school with this boy named Ricky.  I remember that Ricky had black hair and black eyes and, if memory serves, he was fond of wearing tee shirts printed with race cars.  But what I most remember about Ricky is that he had a dangerous sneeze. 
Ricky’s sneeze was always sudden and unexpected.  It shot from out of nowhere and made his classmates jump in surprise and caused the teacher to roll her eyes and pause in her struggle to teach her disinterested third graders long division.
“Ricky” she would sigh, setting down her chalk and rubbing at her temples.
“What?”  Ricky would always be indignant, raising his hands in helpless supplication.  “That’s how I sneeze.”  He’d look around, meeting the eyes of his classmates, hoping for one of us to verify that, yes, indeed, that was how he sneezed. 
Oh, how Ricky sneezed.  Ricky's sneeze was a clap of thunder.  Ricky’s sneeze was a jet on the runway.  Ricky would shout out his sneeze, blasting it into the air, sending the papers on the teacher’s desk flying off in all directions.  And afterwards, Ricky would chew upon the ghost of his sneeze almost thoughtfully.  Or perhaps he was just trying to suck his teeth back into place.
One spring day, the teachers rounded up all the third graders and marched us out to the woods behind the school, ostensibly to get us some fresh air but more likely to get out of an afternoon of teaching math.  In the beauty of the woods, one of the teachers was inspired to break into song: John Denver’s Almost Heaven, despite the fact that we were in Ohio.  She sang with the confidence of someone who truly believed in her gift.
I don’t believe this teacher had much in the way of musical talent, but I do remember she was a tad short on common sense: I was a teacher’s pet in elementary school and put up with the teacher's off-key singing in order to remain at the front of the line with the rest of the goody-goodies. 
Behind me, someone sneezed.  Judging from the way the trees swayed in the sudden blast of wind, I wagered it was Ricky.  The teacher stopped singing abruptly.  “You know,” she informed the goody-goodies, patting her hair back into place, “if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyes will shoot right out of your face.  Never, ever sneeze with your eyes open.”  Then she picked up her song, without missing a beat.
Thus forbidden, I wanted to try it.  Was it possible to sneeze with just one eye open?
* * * 
“Anything happen at school today?”  My mother handed me the plate of hamburgers.  We were seated around the dining room table.  The carpet was green and matted and reminded me of the mossy carpeting that grew along the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
I took a bite of my hamburger and spoke around it.  “My teacher told me that if you sneeze with your eyes open, your eyes will blast out.”
My dad snorted.  His eyes widened.  His snort evolved into a guffaw that eventually turned into a belly laugh.  “Do me a favor, Kel.”  Dad shook his head.  “Tell that teacher that if you hold your nose when you sneeze, your socks’ll blow clean off your feet.” 
I never did share this secret for quick sock removal with my teacher.  But I was just suspicious enough of my father’s mockery of my teacher to try it out.
Of course, it failed.
But every time RIcky sneezed?
I made sure he closed his eyes.


Labels: , , ,

11 Comments:

At June 6, 2011 at 5:58 AM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

That is really funny. Your dad sounds like he has a great sense of humor. Poor Richard, that sneeze has probably been a liability in his life. Although that loud abrupt sneeze is somewhat less irritating to me than those little psudo sneezes that sound like "tsk tsk tsk". So sneeze already!

 
At June 6, 2011 at 9:26 AM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, I too knew a Richard when I was in school. I made sure I sat as far away from his as possible. This because my mother had instilled the fear of God in us regarding how most infectious diseases are spread through saliva droplets. Bless her heart. Currently, I'm in a relationship with someone who might be related to Richard and his loud sneeze. The Significant Other sneezes and it's like time stands still; or at least until my ears go back to hearing normally! Great, great post!

 
At June 6, 2011 at 10:17 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

I liked your venture into fiction and hope we see more, but most everyone who reads this blog is going to break out laughing (even all alone) Am I the only one who does that then feels embarrased? Even the grinch would grin. Sure wish you had asked the question about socks to the teacher.... Probably become a regular part of her speil?

 
At June 6, 2011 at 12:45 PM , Anonymous Comingeastblog said...

This was so well written! You have such a way with setting a scene and giving it life. Glad I found you!

 
At June 6, 2011 at 2:59 PM , Anonymous Beck said...

Hilarious! Reminds me of my childhood in elementary school

 
At June 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM , Anonymous swoosh byscrollwork said...

Loud guffawing resounding off the cathedral ceiling at my house. Startled the cat. I am Richard's long-lost sneeze sister. Husband pleads for mercy for his eardrums. I tell him choose: let me sneeze or let me gulp loudly when I swallow. We are memorable in our own ways. Mine and Richard's is our sneeze.

 
At June 6, 2011 at 6:06 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, everyone for reading! Poor Richard.

 
At June 11, 2011 at 5:52 AM , Anonymous Kim said...

I enjoyed reading this memory. Your writing is excellent. I smiled thinking back to some of the things adults told me as a child and wondered if I'll go there with my boys.

 
At June 11, 2011 at 5:37 PM , Anonymous Narragansett No. 7 said...

Amazing. This is the best memoir piece I've read in forever!! I can't wait to explore your blog and glad I found you on TRDC. Your thumbnail/title roped me in right away.

 
At June 11, 2011 at 7:39 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading! Looking forward to seeing you on RDC.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:32 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'm glad you liked it! Looking forward to reading your blog!

 

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