Just a Kid at Heart: Driftwood deception

By Steve Maanum


The March issue of Sr. Perspective was dedicated to stories about memorable teachers. Just like many communities, Benson was fortunate to have its share of great teachers, so I wrote about one that was at the top of my list. What I didn’t reveal is the fact that Mr. Orr, unknowingly, became my accomplice in a spur of the moment prank I pulled on another high school teacher.


Learning about transitive verbs and split infinitives was never quite as much fun as it was in our senior English class. We were seventeen and eighteen years old, while our first year teacher was twenty-two. She was fashionable, good looking, and well-versed in her subject matter. She had one other characteristic that jumped out at us from time to time and that was her gullibility. We didn’t take advantage of that flaw often; only when it was needed.


It was needed one day when she came into the room and caught me playing with a piece of driftwood that was propped on her desk.


“Steve, what are you doing?”


Driftwood found on a beach. Steve will be checking it for holes. Stock photo

She sounded a little upset so I knew I better come up with a good reason for my actions or I’d be in trouble. I simply asked, “Is this driftwood yours?” Of course it was hers, but I had to stall for time while I came up with an explanation. Let me take you through the conversation that followed. It went something like this:


“Yes, it’s mine and I would appreciate it if you would return it to its place on my desk.”


“Was it given to you as a gift?”


“Why, yes it was. Why do you ask?”


That was the perfect lead-in to my discovery.


“Come here, take a look at this. Do you see these holes?”


She seemed a bit skeptical and thought I was kidding until she looked and actually saw little holes covering a portion of the driftwood. At that point she asked, “What is it?”


I paused for suspense before stating, “Termites. You should take care of this before it’s too late.”


I could tell she wasn’t a true believer yet and sensed a hint of doubt as she stated, “I don’t see any termites.”


It was time to use my shaky science knowledge as I explained, “Oh, this is just the beginning. You see, the adults lay eggs in the holes where they hatch into their larval stage and then with the right food source, which is your driftwood, they finally reach adulthood.”


My quick thinking added the finishing touch that convinced her. Now in a worried tone she asked, “What do I do?”


“Mr. Orr has a spray that will kill the eggs before they hatch. It’s really quite painless. I’m sure he would let you use it, but . . . I’d see him soon.”


With that I handed the driftwood back to her, walked to my desk, raised my eyebrows at my classmates, and let out a sigh of relief. I had talked myself out of trouble and was rather proud of how I handled the whole incident. My dishonesty should have caused me to feel guilty, but instead I felt rather clever.


After class a few friends joked about my insensitivity, but for the most part, I forgot all about it until seventh period. As I entered the biology room, Mr. Orr was staring at me. He and I exchanged puns throughout the year and it seemed we shared the same misunderstood sense of humor.


“It was you, wasn’t it?”


I began to ask, “What do you mean?” and then it dawned on me. “Oh no, a certain English teacher didn’t come to see you, did she?”


“I knew it was you.”


“What happened?” I inquired.


Mr. Orr smiled as he repeated their conversation.


“Well, she stood at the door with a piece of driftwood in her hand and she said, “I was told you have a spray.”


I was puzzled by her request so I asked, “What kind of a spray?”


“One that will kill termites.”


“So what did you do?”


“Well, it was too good to pass up so I got the water bottle I use to spray plants and gave the driftwood a thorough misting. I handed it back to her and added,’ that should do it’. She smiled as she hurried down the hall. She’s a bit gullible, isn’t she?”


“Ya, it’s kind of fun.”


“You got away with it this semester. She’s still a rookie. Next ‘term-ite’ be a little different.”


“Oh, that was bad. I guess I did ‘egg’ her on through the ‘hole’ thing.”

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