The morning routine—before school—includes a lot of opening.
I open the door to the garage, where I immediately push the garage door button to open it, step down two steps, open the outside fridge to grab a couple bottles of cold water for the day, open the back car door to deposit my school bags, close it, and open the driver’s door to—wait a minute.
Something is different today.
Just outside the garage, the driveway concrete is marked with what looks like the chalked outline of a murdered man. Homicide…here? It takes mere seconds for the crime scene’s photograph my brain has created to register.
Aimee, calm down, I think. It’s just Ricky Martin.
His life-sized cardboard stand-up (for which I paid close to $80) is lying face down. It’s a wonder Jackson didn’t back over him this morning when he left for work. And thank God he didn’t!
How did he get here? And who might have brought him? I wonder.
Someone had to have gotten into my classroom. Someone with a key that could open the always-locked door.
A senior prank, I bet. Why those little tricksters, I think, marching over to grab Ricky so that I can move him inside to my office where he will be safe.
“You can just stay home from school for the rest of the year,” I tell him, not really up for chasing Ricky all over the school district’s rural countryside, as graduating seniors decide how many times they want to carry out this chicanery (vocab word #10, by the way), because maybe, just maybe, they had ‘inside’ help.
And so, I go to school and wait, lips tight, eyes and ears wide open. I will catch the hooligans, I will, I say to myself.
After I get settled into my Ricky Martin-less classroom that morning, I notice the back window levers are up—the window could have been pulled open from the outside. But I thought I checked it before I left! Oh no. What if I didn’t?
So I rule out my colleagues, and let the principal know of my dereliction of duty. If it can happen to me, it can happen to others. Even after twenty-five years.
It actually takes until fifth period that day for the case to begin to crack. As students arrive for English class, one fine young man in particular, a guy who loves to fish more than doing his homework, asks me, “Hey, where’d Ricky Martin go?”
“I don’t know, S—-, why don’t you tell me. No one’s noticed until now,” I say.
And he grins. “Well you can’t help but notice, Ms. Ross. You just look around the room, and boom. No Ricky.”
He knows something, my detective senses say.
But for almost another 24 hours, I get no leads. And when I return to school the next morning, I find out that another beloved teacher has also been pranked…and in the same way. Window levers put down, but not before the culprits open the window and pull the blinds, making it look as if it’s closed.
What happened in her room, you ask? Chairs and tables stacked to the ceiling, and this time, the shenanigangsters—too proud—are talking.
Talking so much, they turn themselves in to me while bragging. It was S—- after all!
S—- and his buddy, M—-! And their story is hysterical.
They set the windows up during the day, so no one—me—would notice. That night, S—- drove to and parked behind the district’s bus garage, while M—- ran down past the football field, past the field house, past the baseball field, past the softball field, and past the practice soccer field to my room, where he climbed in through the window, grabbed Ricky and ran all the way back. Only to find that Ricky was just big enough to almost NOT fit in the car…but they couldn’t bend him up and ruin him—they knew.
So they let Ricky semi-hang out of the car, his face resting in between the two of them, as they drove to my house for his release. Hah—can you imagine that car ride?
But here’s the best part of the story, at least to me. The part that tells me that this senior prank was different. That this senior prank was done in complete fun with thoughtfulness for me and planning undertaken to make sure no Rickys were harmed during the process.
You see, the two pranksters had checked the weather before stealing and leaving Ricky outside in my driveway all night!!! Now how bout that?! They didn’t want to risk turning him into a soggy, rain-drenched piece of cardboard, because they knew how much he means to me.
And that, dear readers, is the reason I not only love teaching teenagers, but the reason I also let them into my lives to know things about me (like my forever crush on Ricky).
“So did ya turn them in?” someone asked.
“Were you upset and just so furious?” someone else asked.
“Did you cry?” even more people asked.
No, no, and no. Those boys were just livin la vida loca, you know, the best way to live.
But also because teaching is about relationships. And because they got me good. Real good.
But mostly because—look out, boys—Karma and I go waaaaaaaaaay back. Wink, wink.