By Marc Noodly, PhD
One morning on his way to school, Johnny stopped by the creek and caught a big fat frog, which he hid in his knapsack. Later that day, he slipped the frog into Mrs. Smith’s purse while she was writing equations on the blackboard. The rest of math class passed uneventfully.
When the bell rang, Johnny and the other students filed out of the classroom, and Mrs. Smith reached into her purse for the cigarette she planned to enjoy in the teachers' lounge. Suddenly, the frog leapt from the purse and onto Mrs. Smith, who began shrieking uncontrollably, for she was batrachophobic. Worse, as the frog hopped away, Mrs. Smith discovered that the amphibian had urinated in her purse, soaking every last one of her Misty Lights.
That night, Johnny’s family ordered a pizza for dinner. As the steaming pie sat on the kitchen counter, a little imp who shall remain nameless sprinkled sage on it. Johnny’s father had just begun munching on his second slice when the allergic reaction took hold. Little Johnny watched with wonder as Mr. Thompson’s lymph nodes and testicles swelled, and his ears began to bleed ― exactly as he had once warned they would if he ate sage. Johnny pointed to his brother, the quadriplegic, and then helped himself to another slice. Later, at the hospital, he stole ten dollars from his father’s wallet.
The next day was Saturday, a warm and sunny Saturday, most beautiful Saturday ever ― the perfect day for a boy to play! But Johnny had been grounded because of the frog and pizza incidents. This made him very unhappy, and he longed to teach his parents a heartbreaking lesson. Then he had an idea: He would dig a hole to China. That’ll show ’em, he thought, anticipating his new life as a dumpling salesman or member of the Politburo.
So Johnny grabbed his mother’s garden trowel and ran into the backyard, where he knelt down and began excavating clumps of fresh Bermuda sod. From the living room window, Johnny’s parents saw what he was doing and hurried outside to stop him. But they were too late; Johnny had already disappeared underground. His mother began to sob. “Don’t worry,” his father said, “he’ll come back when gets hungry.” He cupped his hands together and yelled into the hole, “China’s a long way off, pal!”
But Johnny had packed himself several sandwiches and a juice box in anticipation of the long slog. His father’s angry voice faded in the distance as Johnny dug steadily through the earth’s crust, and then into the mantle; when he reached the mesosphere, he ate a sandwich and took a quick nap. Later that afternoon, he reached the planet’s inner core but, to his displeasure, found that the trowel was not designed for burrowing through hundreds of miles of solid iron and nickel. So Johnny slowly worked his way through the semi-liquid outer core. The scorching, molten iron made him wish he had packed another juice box.
Hours later, Johnny was back on course. The digging was easier now, and he breezed through rock and magma and clear up to the top of the lithosphere, where the cool, moist dirt felt wonderful against his face. As he dug, he began daydreaming about his first day in China. Would he be given all the fortune cookies he could eat? Would the People’s Liberation Army organize a parade in his honor? Suddenly, he broke through to the surface! But instead of being greeted by warm sunshine and pandas, Johnny had just enough time to squeeze himself into a tiny, subterranean crevice as a deafening torrent of seawater rushed past. This seemed to go on forever. When the deluge finally stopped, he scrambled out of the hole and looked around.
To Johnny’s surprise, he was not in Guangdong Province. His remedial geometry skills had led him astray, and he had emerged several miles offshore at what had been, moments earlier, the bottom of the South China Sea. An unfathomable amount of water was now racing down the hole he had dug and would soon leave the planet’s core ice-cold. As a result, all life on Earth would be extinguished. All thanks to Johnny’s clever little journey.
Nibbling ruefully at his last peanut butter and jelly sandwich and trying to avoid the incredulous stares of the Chinese fishermen whose trawler had run aground nearby, Johnny thought, I should have paid more attention in class! But it was too late, because Mrs. Smith was as good as dead. And she didn’t even have a last cigarette.
(This tale of mischief and geological cataclysm originally appeared in Yankee Pot Roast. It is to be savored as one might a particularly irksome foot rash, or a can of expired gravy.)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
By Marc Noodly, PhD