Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Spirits of Lebanon, Part 13

When you take about 175 boys and isolate them in the Berkshire Mountains, away from television and radio and, most importantly, girls, something is going to happen. Teenage boys have a lot of energy, and when that is stifled for a long time, it builds up, finds a weak spot and explodes through it. That's how pranks happen.

In the minds of some of the seniors in the spring of 1965, that weak spot was an old panel truck used by Darrow's maintenance department. The truck, its dark blue paint faded from years of exposure to the elements, was regularly seen coughing its way up the dirt road, its gears grinding, in daily rounds to pick up trash from the dormitories. It was manned by two friendly, slow-moving and slow-witted custodians that went by the nicknames of Augie and Mon Petite, the French term of endearment that means "my little one." But Mon Petite was anything but little. He was, in fact, huge, with a rear-end the size of a steamer trunk.

One Saturday morning, arriving for breakfast at the Dairy Barn, which was what we called the multi-purpose building that housed the gym, auditorium and dining hall, we were shocked to find the old blue truck parked in the lobby of the building, painted all over in yellow polka dots, looking like some sort of enormous, dead beetle.

How had it gotten there? The doors to the Dairy Barn were just wide enough to get it in, but how had it gotten up the flight of concrete steps? Presumably, a large number of senior boys had either carried or pushed the truck up all those steps in the middle of the night, doing it quietly enough not to wake anyone.

The entire student body was buzzing with excitement over the prank and wondering what might happen to the culprits if they were identified. The faculty did their best to appear disgusted, offended, disappointed over the outrageous offense, but they could not quite conceal their true emotions. Even with jaws tightly clenched, smiles twitched at the corners of our masters' mouths. Many of them must have thought the prank was simply brilliant.

Our headmaster delivered the obligatory lecture, but his rage lacked sincerity. No one was punished, but the seniors were ordered to restore the truck to its rightful parking spot.

The polka dots, however, were allowed to remain.

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