I was a sophomore in high school when I became a felon.
For many teenaged boys, committing a felony is a cultural milestone, and is a crucial part of the process of becoming a man–which is to say, fundamentally just an old boy who misbehaves in more secretive ways. Some girls go ahead and commit felonies, but for the most part, I’m guessing their adolescent rituals are tamer; plus they’ve got the whole menstruation thing to deal with, which seems to males like a felony perpetrated on one by one’s own fucking body. So while girls are sensibly transgressing the social order by doing things like sneaking a look at Judy Blume’s Wifey or hurling tampons at the local hyper-Christian telekinetic while she showers, boys are out boosting cars and slaughtering pigs for their blood, which of course will be dumped onto the unlucky telekinetic at the prom, causing her to undergo a massive psychotic break during which she systematically murders everyone at the dance before going home to crucify her unhinged Bible-thumping mother against the wall with cooking implements. Christ, high school sucked. Anyway.
The whole debacle got started–where it so often does with your average teenager, provided the teenager in question is kind of a goofy knob–in typing class. The teacher had clearly given up on the whole day, because it was mid-May or so, beautiful outside, very close to the end of the school year, and we were being typically rowdy and uncooperative. I remember, for example, teasing Carrie White about her dress, a slight that would be terribly revenged later at the prom when she battered me to death with a hail of mentally-controlled flying sousaphones. But I get ahead of myself.
The teacher had basically just given us some ridiculous wankery to do involving simple transcription, and being a pretty good typist already (boy, and that phrase still makes the ladies breathe a little heavier), I got done way early. And then I got what sounded like a pretty funny idea: Wouldn’t it be cute as the dickens to type up a bomb threat? Wouldn’t that just make the administration chuckle their fucking nuts off? Sure it would. So I did, making sure I moved to someone else’s typewriter first, because I was sneaky. No way I get fingered for this! I saw Jagged Edge. I’m sixteen, I’m beautiful, I’m dumber than a dead ape.
So I typed the thing up, and I made it look pleasingly insane in a crappy Hollywood-esque way: all caps and with plenty of stupid misspellings. I wish I had a copy today, but I can reconstruct the gist of it, including a couple of salient features that I most certainly recall:
THERE IS A BOMB IN THE BILDING IF YOU DO NOT EVACATUE THE HIGH SKOOL BY NOON THERE WILL BE NOTHING LEFT BUT SCROCHED CORPSES. THIS IS NOT A JOKE AND I WILL NOT DEIGN TO TELL YOU WHERE I PUT IT YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT YURSELF IM SERIOUS GET THE FUCK OUT
Uh huh. It’s just pitifully stupid. “Scroched”? “Yurself”? Okay, even morons don’t do shit like this, but did you notice the kicker? Plunked right down in the middle of all that blaring idiocy? “Deign.” As was related to me later, after I was caught (you knew that, right?), the faculty, upon receiving the threat at the office, passed it around amongst themselves to see if they could, I don’t know, find any clues? My English teacher did. “Well, whoever wrote this not only knows the word ‘deign,’ but also uses it more or less correctly. There’s only about three kids in the school who probably know that word.” (This is not to trump me up as a super-genius, I was just a book nerd. Also, I went to school with fucking hillbillies.)
So I was already fucked even while the ink was drying on the page, but did I give a second thought? Of course not. The whole thing by now seemed deeply funny to me, a kind of Up Yours to the school that was so irritatingly trying to educate me. So I reread my little opus, and surreptitiously left it at the office. I cackled inwardly as I imagined the office staff passing it around: “Oh ho ho. One of the students has made a droll joke in which he promises a fiery death for all! What a scamp this anonymous student is and how he has brightened our afternoon with this federal offense! Ah, well, best chuck it away and get on with our slightly less oppressive lives!” Seriously, I to this day have no idea what I could have been thinking, but I suspect it had something to do with Toto lyrics.
I promptly forgot about the whole thing as the day progressed, until my class right before lunchtime. There was only about ten minutes left before the bell, and all of a sudden–what the fuck? Was that the fire bell? It sure was, and I distinctly remember thinking about how goddamn stupid it was to have a fire drill when there was only ten fucking minutes left in class. Honestly, I was that clueless, a trait I continue to cope with. When we had all assembled in the parking lot, the vice principal started speaking. “Some joker thinks he’s pretty funny, and has left a threatening note at our office. By law, we have to evacuate the school and blah blah blah . . . “
Right about then, had any school official happened to look at my face, they would have been able to save themselves the trouble of the search, because I had the whole thing written right on my face. (And let me tell you how happy a lot of students were to have their lockers searched. Bye bye tobacco, booze and porn!) I felt a terrible sensation in my gut not unlike the feeling one gets when viewing a Steven Seagal movie; I wanted, on a cellular level, to die. I knew I was fucked; it was only a matter of time. And this was brought savagely home to me one moment later, when my friend Bill leaned in and whispered to me, “You’re my hero.” Because . . . oh yeah. Oh fuck. I had told people. Only two people at that point. But that was enough, and I knew it.
There was really only one thing to do, I realized. I could still make things better. So I immediately drove down to the river and drank beer with the rest of the student body. Things, I knew, were just getting started, and there was still ample time for me to make everything massively worse. So I did.