birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Whack on the Head

 I completely forgot the day Mrs. Pollard my high school art teacher threw a balled up wad of paper at my head. I was talking too much so this was the only way she knew how to shut me up. This incident, which should have been traumatic in some sense, was erased from my memory back until I reconnected with Richard Mayer, who sat at my table, years later. For him this was a touchstone moment in his association with me, probably because I was talking to him. I have a feeling he liked me. Today such an incident would be categorized as an assault, a reason to have the teacher fired. Then it was a laughable incident. Mrs. Pollard was a rigid, but unforgettable teacher. Her approach to teaching art was somewhat ridiculous. We received at least 5 numeric grades for every project, i.e. texture, color, composition, rendering etc. Even then I thought art was more subjective. How does one receive a 92 in texture and an 85 in composition!! Perhaps my memory of the head “assault” was blurred by all the confrontations with this woman. I was a junior when I took her class. At the end of the year, certain students were chosen to create this huge wooden mural as a backdrop for the senior class graduation. It was the end of the year and I didn’t want to do it. Mrs. Pollard called me at home and demanded I come to school to work on it. The theme was Education Through Chemistry. What the hell did that mean? I was forced to work on this monstrosity on a day when I could have been at the beach with my friends. It was laughable to me when a few days later at the outdoor graduation ceremony, a storm approached and a gust of wind cracked the plywood mural in half. It was an infamous disaster in the history of Oceanside High School. The entire senior class and their parents had to run into the high school to escape the rain, lightning and thunder. There was no plan B. A disaster! So is it any wonder that I forgot the gentle whack on the side of my head to make me stop talking!


Kindergarten, Day 1