Apparently, the Crystal Pistol Music Hall is also haunted. In 1967, shortly after Six Flags over Georgia was first opened, an actor remembered today only as Joe was scheduled to appear in the opening number of the first shows ever presented in the theater. Unfortunately, Joe never made it to the big time … Joe has also been blamed for missing or misplaced props, which sometimes are found near the railroad tracks outside the theater.
—Haunted Georgia, by Alan Brown
Today, Mamie has the eighth graders and some seasoned educators going to Math and Science Day at Six Flags Over Georgia. I took a workshop back in September for new teachers at independent schools and I remember we went around the room talking about the difference between public and private schools. One thing we didn’t talk about, but could have, are the difference in field trips. Independent schools take great field trips. Just this morning Coco caught me in the hall and asked me real quick if the field trip to Kenya next year didn’t work out where do I think we should go?
I said London.
Without blinking Coco wrote it down.
I should have said Acapulco.
So even though you’re a history teacher, sometimes you have to help a science teacher out … and I know you’re thinking a field trip to a bunch of roller coasters wouldn’t electrify the learning neurons of eighth grade boys and girls with learning disabilities but you’d be wrong. Mamie don’t take eighth graders on a field trip, even if it was to Acapulco or Six Flags, unless you’re going to do some learning while you’re there.
Before we loaded everybody into one of our awful white school buses, Lurlene and Old Burrell’s SUV, and my truck, Mamie hands everybody a five and a half inch by eight and a half inch field trip work booklet she made. On the cover it said Six Flags Over Georgia Math and Science Day, and Mamie had even put the Six Flags logo on there, too—the one that includes a picture of Bugs Bunny running away from something and smiling unbridledly. Very prophetic.
Mamie’s work booklet asked the eighth graders, in teams of three and twos, to determine the distance and height and velocity and acceleration of a number of thrilling attractions but nowhere in the booklet was the petting zoo or the sky buckets or the dolphin show.
You can imagine the excitement of my team members of learning that they’d be calculating the physical nuances of the log flume ride, Goliath, Ninja, the Great American Scream Machine, Scorcher, Batman, Freefall, Superman, the Dahlonega Mine Train, Georgia Cyclone, Canyon Blaster, and Acrophobia. Plus we got a catered submarine sandwich and a catered apple for lunch and a catered bag of potato chips by the lake that goes under the Great American Scream Machine. I don’t believe Six Flags has a ride called Vomitus, but you never know since they always seem to be adding fun new rides every year. They still have that train.
On the way down to Six Flags I had Dexter, Claude, Johnny, and Beauregard in my truck. Claude was riding shot gun so that means the other three were crammed in the back seat together. Filling my rear view mirror was Johnny’s face the whole way there. Every time Claude or Dexter or Beauregard said something Johnny would look at me to see if it was okay to laugh or not.
Here’s what eighth grade boys talk about for thirty-six miles travelling at an average speed of seventy-five miles per hour with the air conditioner off because I didn’t want to agitate my coolant leak … How stupid some movies are … Who’s Jewish but doesn’t act like they’re Jewish … Who’s Jewish and acts like they’re Jewish … How long it’s been since Todd's cleaned out his truck … Who’s afraid of Petal and why they’re all afraid of Petal. So that’s who rode with me and that’s what they talked about.
I had two teams to look after, a team A and team B. Team A consisted of Milo, Oscar, and Dexter. Team B consisted of Benny and Beauregard, who bicker at each other, incessantly, like two ancient spinster sisters who have no intention of dying. I was hoping there was enough air surrounding Six Flags Over Georgia because with these two going at it there was a possibility the federal government and NASA might have to become involved in order to keep the air from being sucked from the atmosphere over the park and all of south Cobb County, Georgia.
Before we got to team A and team B’s first selection, the Scorcher, I bought a bracelet at a kiosk selling omni-sex hippie-type items. Alternating on the purple and green and yellow and red and blue and orange charms of the bracelet was the word PEACE and the peace sign. This gave me hope.
I told the group that Milo was in charge and all decisions on what to ride and how to complete the booklet and all disagreements and other stupid stuff were to be decided by him and that Oscar was his vice president. Milo said he liked being in charge and could handle it. Oscar smiled. I don’t think Oscar knew what in the hell I was talking about but that’s okay. If anybody will do what they’re told and believe anything you tell them it’s Oscar.
Benny didn’t want to ride the Scorcher. Neither did Oscar. But Beauregard and Dexter and Milo ran to the line as if one hundred dollar bills were also being handed out. Oscar and Benny and me sat on a bench across the walkway and people watched.
Benny had already melted. I just hadn’t had time to get all the confirmations from him yet. So I finally did and here they are, condensed: Benny said he wasn’t going to ride any of the rides and he wasn’t going to do any of the work and that he hated all these other kids from all these other gross schools and that he wanted to go home right now because Six Flags was a death trap.
I asked Benny if he was feeling overwhelmed.
He said he was.
I asked is that why he was in such a poopy mood. That this was, actually, I said to Benny, an optional event today, but the whole idea of the day was to have fun and learn some sciencey things at the same time. Six Flags, Benny, I said. We’re at Six Flags, man.
Benny said his mother signed him up. He had no choice. Benny’s face was squeezing real tight and he was sweating and was beet red. Or purple. Beet purple.
If experience and Lurlene have taught me anything, it’s to shut up and back off at this point, but Benny’s moanings and whinings are irresistible and incessant and have a certain wit to them if you listen closely. Plus, he’s got his school polo shirt buttoned all the way to the top again … and this is after Mamie unbuttoned the top button in front of the Looney Tunes store inside the entrance not ten minutes ago and told Benny in the most pleasant tone to relax and chill out and that it’s perfectly okay to have fun today.
I was about to try to cure Benny of his poopiness but Oscar reached over and patted him on the back. Plus, what looked like another teacher from another school on the bench with us was starting to get a little creeped out. Teachers of poopy students can tell.
I gazed at my peace bracelet for a long moment.
Beauregard and Dexter and Milo come running out of the Scorcher and performed their calculations with the calculators and pencils and astrolabes they had in their belly pack things on top of a big trash can. Math and Science Day was working out just great because the next ride they wanted to measure and enjoy in the search of mathematical and scientific knowledge was the log flume and it was right over to our left, so all I had to do was to move over to a nice rock wall in the shade near that hippie item kiosk, of which I thoroughly perused again to make sure I hadn’t missed out on anything else I could purchase and wear that could lift my spirits for cheap.
Beauregard and Milo and Oscar rode the log flume. Dexter doesn’t like to get wet and then there’s still the Benny situation.
I started talking to some girls who were also sitting on the rock wall with us. The one closest to me on my right said her name was Katy and she said she was in ninth grade at Talladega High School in Talladega, Alabama.
I asked the other girl what her name was.
She said her name was Kayla.
They looked alike so I asked them if they were sisters.
Katy said … Cuzzins.
Right then I decided not to do all the talking because I wanted to hear Katy do all the talking because she had the sweetest and most delicate Southern accent I had ever heard in my life. If a sweet little kitten could talk and it could talk in a Southern accent then this is the way Katy talked. Like that.
She said they weren’t here to do all the math and science stuff … that they were here like on a regular day because the school said it was okay for them to come to Six Flags to substitute from some other day they got promised earlier in the year that they didn’t get.
Or something real, real close to that. I asked Katy why her and Kayla were just sitting here on this rock wall and not out in the park going crazy.
She said they were waiting on some of the other kids they were with from their school to get off the log flume. Her and Kayla don’t like getting all splashed.
I glanced over to my left and Benny was sitting on the wall a few feet from me but he was sort of curled down between his knees, probably a minute or two away from the full fetal position because he could hear every word we were saying and Benny has moments where he hates all humans, and Dexter, who is tall and gangly, was in his own world and seemed to be communicating to the insects in a bush behind a nearby trash can. I shouted … Dexter! Teenage girls over here! Come talk to them!
Dexter, skinny arms and sharp elbows and knees, gangled over to us.
I truly believe the thought and site of teenage girls is mighty okay with Dexter. He just needs massive amounts of refining his act. I told Katy and Kayla that this here was Dexter and I told Dexter that this here was Katy and Kayla and they were from Talladega, Alabama.
Dexter asked where that was.
Katy and Kayla looked at each other and giggled. Then they started to talk to Dexter but he interrupted everything they tried to say to him, which he does in class, too. A lot.
We eventually determined that Dexter was asking what part of Alabama was Talladega in.
Katy said in the middle part.
Then Dexter starts up again and says did you know that my teacher has a rubber chicken that he throws at us when we say something good and then you get some candy from a globe.
Katy says this one here … and points at me with her thumb.
Dexter’s all lit up and smiling and jangling his arms and legs as if he’s become a puppet and there’s nothing he can do about it.
All of a sudden Katy’s expression turned seriously dark and disappointed. She told Dexter that there ain’t no way any of her teachers would give them a chicken or any candy. That all of her teachers, once they start talking, that they don’t shut up until the bell rings and Katy said she’s not so sure she’s learning anything. Then Katy asked me to tell her more about this chicken.
I told her more about the chicken.
She thought that was the most awesome thing she’s ever heard of. And that candy … comes out of a globe?
Out of a globe.
Katy asked me what kind of teacher I was.
I told her I taught Georgia History.
She said you look like a history teacher.
I asked her if there was a teacher with them today.
She said there sure was. Mr. Guthrie was riding the log flume with a bunch of them others. One of them, she said, was a real nasty looking dude with a purple mohawk and fingernails painted black and he’ll be hanging all over this girl who is also nasty. Katy said you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him he's so nasty.
Okay, I said. I’ll do my best. I asked her what Mr. Guthrie taught.
She said he taught English and that he used to look like a wizard with all his wild hair but he’s shaved some of it off.
A moment later, Mr. Guthrie, who still looks like a wizard, came down the exit with them others. Mr. Guthrie had a huge wad of grey hair pulled back into a pony tail and a huge, wiry-looking grey beard that poked far away from his face at an angle that seemed to suggest he wanted his beard to look like one of those cow catchers you find on the front of old train locomotives.
I introduced myself to Mr. Guthrie and told him that Katy and Kayla spoke highly of him, and that Katy has learned a lot about syntax and that she also feels like the Ernest Hemingway stories you read to them have too many words.
Katy giggled and said she did not say all that stuff. Then she nudged me. She said she didn’t know what syntax was anyway.
I winked at her. She would have gotten the chicken and some candy.
Mr. Guthrie’s face got wild like Old Burrell’s does sometimes. Mr. Guthrie said that Hemingway is as spare as it gets!
That real nasty looking dude with the purple mohawk and black fingernails was hanging all over that nasty girl. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Neither could Dexter and Benny.
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