She was counting on his attachment to his electric blanket. She would have to be shown.
—“The Comforts of Home,” by Flannery O’Connor
I have concerns about America and its eighth graders. Concerns about the ones who have not seen the greatest movie ever made other than Road House and Sling Blade and that’s the cinematic and cultural masterpiece set in Idaho, Napoleon Dynamite. I think it should be required viewing in every schoolroom in America and some other countries and its understanding tested until everybody makes one hundred and its memorable quotes added, by law, to everybody’s conversational repertoire.
In a class of Georgia history scholars, how could you not mention the fantastic details of the scene where Napoleon does not go back in time but instead fries two important parts of his body in the time machine Uncle Rico bought when we all got to a point in the passionate discussion about forming a new nation’s government … and boy if you could go back in time and see it all happen. This is an idea we had suddenly. Boy … if we could go back in time.
It was offered up how cool it would be to see Thomas Jefferson writing the Unites States Constitution with a feather. I’d stand right over his shoulder, Click said, while he was writing that thing.
No doubt. That would be cool, I told them. I had planned on finishing up chapter eight today. I was really looking forward to it, but this curriculum stopper idea was too good to pass up … so I said … okay … if I, your teacher, made a time machine, which I think I could do with a little bit of time and with certain materials obtainable by bribing officials of other countries, and got your parents’ permission for you to go back in time, what would you want to see … in history?
No one else had an answer right away … but I could tell they were thinking. Some of my kids really will rub their chins while they’re thinking up stuff.
I said I think the time machine would probably be about as big as The Cozy Room of Learning.
They all looked around the room. They sized it up.
I think it would have a whole lot of spinning things going on and there would be smoke, I said, or maybe some steam. A lot of steam. Flashing lights seem about right. And it would have a sofa that you’d sit on while you travelled through time. Okay. So. Where in history would you go? I couldn’t wait for their answers.
They were still thinking.
I figured we needed some time travel rules. That that’s what was holding them up. I told them that they couldn’t talk to anybody and they couldn’t touch anything. I also said you can’t go back and see a family event, like when you were born or whatnot. No family stuff. And no matter how tempting it would be that you couldn’t alter an event … you know … alter history. Let’s just say you’re invisible and you can float around and see things and hear things. And all that those other time travel rules.
Benny asked how long he could stay back in time.
As long as you want. Enjoy.
Benny asked how was he going to get back.
I said click your heels. Like that girl in the movie.
Benny said he didn’t like that rule. It was too girly.
I told him to stomp his feet then.
He stomped his feet.
I said not in here. When you go back in time and you’re ready to come on back home, that’s when you stomp your feet.
I said to Benny … Why don’t we start with you. Where and when would you go?
Benny said he’d go see the first episode of Saturday Night Live being made.
Everybody thought that was an awesome answer. What thinking went into that one!
I asked a question … I got an answer. Fair enough. I asked Jasper what he’d do.
Jasper said he’d definitely want to ride along with Sherman as he rode through Georgia burning and looting everything.
What a suck-up answer … and I loved it.
Tempest said she’d want to see Lincoln get assassinated and then go back in time a little more and see it when George Washington bought Mount Vernon.
Irving said he’d want to see Abraham Lincoln get assassinated.
I asked Irving if he was repeating Tempest’s answer.
Irving said no … he really wanted to be right there and watch all that history.
Sonora said she would go back with Columbus while he was going around.
I asked Sonora what she meant by going around. Columbus going around his kitchen looking for something to eat? Columbus going around looking for a roll of toilet paper?
No … him going around exploring things.
Hap said it would be cool to go back and watch the Indians around where he lived in Rockmart. To see them just going around doing things.
I said I can’t disagree. To see what it was really like being an Indian would be pretty fascinating.
Hap said he’d really like to do that.
I’m starting to wonder if they really expect me to build a time machine.
Earl said he’d like to be right there with those people on the Mayflower when they stepped off the boat.
I said me, too. Now that would be great. To know exactly where they stepped off and to see what that spot looks like today. I asked Winx what he’d want to do.
Winx said he didn’t know.
I could tell Winx really hadn’t given this any thought and he didn’t seem too worried about it. Sometimes that’s the way it goes with Winx, even with all this prompting. Hell, why not say you’d want to see the inventor of the video game Grand Theft Auto being born. I moved on. Petal seemed to have been working up something real good. She literally squirms in her seat when she’s been working something up real good. Petal?
Well, Petal said … as if she was a little angry. I’d go way back in time and look at all that Jeesus stuff to see if it really happened.
Wow … good answer. No doubt, I said. That would be edifying.
See … I’d go back and see if all that stuff in the Bible is true or not. That’s exactly what I’d do.
Okay. Great answers. This has been interesting, folks.
Then Petal asks me if I thought serpents could talk.
I said you mean snakes.
Yeah … do you believe snakes can talk?
I asked her why she asked.
Petal said she just couldn’t be a student of a teacher if the teacher thought that snakes could talk. Petal looked at me hard … with those green eyes and asked me if I thought snakes … could … talk.
I have never wanted to make a time machine ever in my life more than I did at that moment. What a field trip that would be. Petal and her teacher. Time riding. Myth busting. We’ll take the wiggly chicken with us. You know, if that’s okay with her.
Next Entry ... October 21: The Quiz Will Be Waiting