By Ed Staskus
You never want to fall asleep in Mr. Hittbone’s second period math class, no matter what, because he will leave you full stop asleep until you eventually wake up, whenever that is. It’s one of the rules written on his personal rules board at the front of the class. NO WAKING SLEEPERS!
Classes will come and go and no one is ever allowed to wake up anybody sleeping.
If you fall asleep he just lets you sleep, no shaking you up, and you miss the next class, and even the class after that. You wake up and it’s, oh, MY GOD! You get major detentions for missing classes at St. Mel’s. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t your fault. Mr. Hittbone doesn’t care that maybe you had homework for six classes and had to do work around the house, too, and walk the dog.
Nobody cares when you’re explaining. They care even less when you’re complaining.
A guy once fell dead asleep for three straight periods. When he woke up Mr. Hittbone was at his podium lecturing, just like always, but after the guy blinked shook his head looked around, he saw there weren’t any familiar faces. There were all different guys in the class. He flash bolted out of the room. He hadn’t technically skipped any classes, but he got a butt load of detentions.
It’s not a school rule. It’s Mr. Hittbone’s rule.
I woke up halfway through his class one day after a long night at home. “Did you sleep good?” he asked. He smirked down at me.
“No, I made a few mistakes,” I said. He didn’t like that. I got a detention.
“You boys grow up without rules, without boundaries,” he told us the first class the first day of school. “You need discipline. You can be yourself, whatever you think that is, once you’ve learned the rules.”
Lots of rules and no mercy, that’s Mr. Hittbone, like he just stepped out of the Old Testament. Mr. Rote and the rest of the religion teachers teach the New Testament, but that news flash has never reached Mr. Hittbone.
It’s not ten thousand years ago, Mr. Hittbone! But, he doesn’t care about that, either.
Everyone says he’s been at the school since it opened, or maybe even before that. He was probably waiting for the big day to happen. He’s only ever taken two days off in all those years. He told us about them on the third day of school. “It wasn’t because I was sick,” he said. The Legend of the Bone says he’s never been sick. Someone else was sick on those two days.
Maybe he ever only feels like crap in private.
Mr. Hittbone’s a short man with a beach ball belly and big lips, like weiners. He pulls his pants up almost to his nipples. He doesn’t wear a sports acket. He only ever wears a dress shirt. He has grayish brown hair and eyes the color of an old telephone pole. He’s a grumpy dude. Everybody hates him, the upper classmen, and us, just everybody, really.
Some of the upper classmen add an S to the front of his name, but never out loud to his face. That would be a disaster if it slipped out. Mr. Hittbone is the MASTER OF DETENTIONS. It’s not even funny.
He’s married, but told us he can’t stand his wife because she never turns off the house lights and watches TV all the time. “She even shops in bed, thanks to television,” he said. We all thought, “So what?”
He has a son and daughter, but he never talks about his son. When he told us about his daughter he said he was mad angry about how in the first year of whatever job she got she was making more money than him.
He always says money is a “masterpiece in the eye of a masterpiece,” whatever that means.
“God wants us to prosper and have plenty of money,” he said. “Money is how you keep score. That’s why you don’t want to stop at simple math, because then you’ll only make simple money.”
Nobody ever knows what he’s talking about.
He smokes between classes, in front of the gold dome chapel, ripping the filters off his cigarettes. I’ve never seen another teacher smoke on campus, only him. He throws the butts on the ground, mashes them, and lights up another one.
Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are bad for you, he scowls.
“When it looks like I’ll live longer than my next cigarette I’ll scrape it off the bottom of my shoe,” he says.
Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are practically illegal, he gets mad about that, too.
“The government tells you smoking is bad for your health, but when you Ben Franklin it, the government has killed more people than cigarettes ever did, or ever will.”
One morning he told us he was in a gas station buying cigarettes down on Detroit Road, just down from the school, when somebody tried to rip off the attendant with some kind of money trick.
“I wanted to beat him with a bat,” said Mr. Hittbone, making fists, his hands shaking.
He said beat him WITH A BAT to beat the hell out of him. Every day the forecast for Mr. Hittbone is clouds, rain, and grump. We all laughed, though. He couldn’t beat himself out of a paper bag.
He teaches from a podium at the front of the class. He’s the only teacher in the school who has one. How does he rate? It’s because he’s an OLD DINOSAUR and gets his way. He puts his papers and things on the podium and hardly moves all period, unless he wants to tear up something that’s on your desk. That’s another one of his rules. MATH ONLY!
Even if you’re not doing anything with whatever is on your desk, like a science assignment from Mr. Strappas, if he sees it he’ll just stoop down on you and take it.
“I don’t think you’ll be needing this,” he says, and rips it up.
He’s constantly looking for things to rip up, even if it’s something for one of your other classes, not even his class, something you were just looking at. He’s always showing up all of a sudden and tearing your work into shreds.
He has a ton of rules on his board, more than fifty of them, a boat load of them. NO CHEWING GUM!
If you chew gum anywhere on campus, not just in his class, watch out for him spying you doing it. He scribbles your name in his little black spiral notebook and reports you. He gives you a full detention, which is forty-five minutes. He never gives out minor detentions. Mr. Hittbone told us chewing gum is rotten and should be banned from the school.
“If you can’t swallow it, don’t chew it.”
No one is allowed to touch anything in his classroom, either. NO TOUCHING!
If you pass by one of his special teacher books and you sort of graze it with your leg, you get a major detention. If you pick up a marker at the board without first asking his permission, you get a major detention. If you punch somebody’s arm, even though it’s none of his business, you get a major detention.
It’s nothing like my third period class, which is our science class. The teacher is Mr. Strappas, who’s one of the varsity football coaches. He’s young, has blond hair he combs back, and is super fit. He played football in college and he’s a nice cool man. He encourages us to touch things, do things, get into the projects, and the only rule he has is no talking when he’s talking.
I don’t know why some guys can’t get it right. It’s always the same guys who get it wrong, who do all the talking in class, breaking the rules. We sit a pair to a table and those two guys are somewhere in the middle of the room. They talk about video games, sports, and all their other dumb stuff. Mr. Strappas will say, no talking, and they will say, sorry, but they don’t stop. They don’t even get good grades on their quizzes and tests. They don’t turn their homework in on time and get bad marks for effort. They’re just stupids.
Mr. Strappas doesn’t stand at his lectern. He roams back-and-forth, to the sinks, the whiteboard, and all around the room. He’s always on the move. It’s my favorite class of the day. I actually like learning in it. It’s fun finding out about atoms and geology and everything he’s interested in.
Mr. Strappas expects us to be in our seats when his class starts, but he doesn’t sweat it if it doesn’t happen. But if you’re not in your seat when the bell rings at the instant Mr. Hittbone’s class starts, you get a full detention. Everybody should be in their seats when class starts, we all know that, but if you’re standing there for a second, just fixing your belt, he gives you a detention, anyway. It’s totally retarded, but that’s another one of his rules.
Because it’s Mr. Hittbone, you absolutely want to make sure you’re all good. You want to be perfect. LOOK PROPER! We wear ties, dress shirts, dress pants, a belt, undershirt, and black shoes. We have to make sure we’re all buttoned up for him. If any button is even half unbuttoned it means a full detention. He really hates it if the second button on your shirt is undone.
Even though Mr. Hittbone is a hundred years older than Mr. Rote, our first period religion teacher, who is young and thinks he’s all there, but is a doofus, it’s one for the button in first period and two for the button in second period.
He hates casual dress days, too. “It’s like a casual walk through the insane asylum,” he says.
If there is any piece of paper on the floor around or near your desk at any time of the class he’ll give you a detention, even if it’s not yours, and even if you didn’t see it in the first place. NO LITTER! If the paper has your name on it, it’s even worse, because he rips it up before giving you the detention.
Mr. Hittbohm is his own Bible of Rules.
DON’T LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOWS! We’re supposed to face front when we’re in class, but there are some guys who sit right by the windows and sometimes they can’t help shifting their faces to the glass.
If Mr. Hittbone and I looked out the same window, I don’t think we would see the same thing, no matter how you do the math.
Sometimes I think that since I didn’t have a hand in making his rules, the rules have nothing to do with me. If you say Cloud 9 is amazing, he’ll say, what’s wrong with Cloud 8? No matter what, you can’t fight Mr. Hittbone. He’s like a Godzilla. He swats you down with his horny tail.
At the end of class we can’t jump up and leave like in any of our other classes. His rule about the bell for ending class is that it isn’t the school bell, but his bell that matters. When the school bell goes off, we have to stay in our seats until he says we can go.
At the end of class I’ll say, “See you tomorrow Mr. Hittbone.” And he’ll say, “Thanks for the warning, Mr. Who It.”
My middle name is Wyatt, so he calls me Who It, as in Why It, Who It, and then he laughs.
Sometimes it seems like he wants you to lay down at his feet like a guinea pig and say, “Yes, sir, I’ll go dig up those apples, sir, whatever you say.” His rules have nothing to do with anything. He’s just a cranky old-fangled downpresser. He’s got us for fifty minutes, and that’s that.
I’m counting the days until my sophomore year and I’m none of Mr. Hittbone’s business anymore.
Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”