Is That a Banana?
an excerpt from Book 2
Every morning as a teen I wake up with the dream of having perfect hair, the style in tune with the mid-1970s: either a sexy David Cassidy shag or perhaps long, shiny flowing drapes with a dead-straight part in the middle. But I know it won’t happen.
My mom has her impeccable Jackie Kennedy coif, my big brother is a red-headed John Lennon, my big sister has the long, silky bone-straight hair of Cher. As for me, my bulky unruly combination of curly, frizzy, and fuzzy has the closest hair icon being Bob Dylan. And that’s not a compliment for a fifteen year old boy in 1975.
It’s an ordinary lunchtime in the Miller High School cafeteria and for a reason I’ll never find out, a food fight erupts. This is probably where the writers of Animal House got their iconic scene a few years later, but, for us, there is no Bluto yelling “Food fight!” to ignite the mayhem. Everyone starts to throw sandwiches and fruit and French fries at each other for no reason whatsoever.
I still remember the unique sound my apple makes when hitting and bouncing off a forehead. Anyone who was hesitant at the beginning is now into full fling. It’s kill-or-be-killed time. Everyone is getting splattered and hit from every direction. Someone comes behind me and smashes something in the back of my head — I turn to toss my ViCo carton at him.
Suddenly, as quickly as it started, it stops. Everyone stares around the dead quiet room in an eerie detente. We scatter when teachers hurry into the cafeteria, overcrowding the washrooms to clean ourselves off a bit before the afternoon classes.
Nothing of note happens for the rest of the school day, or during my walk home with my friends, or with my Mom during our silent supper, or my evening alone in the living room in front of the TV — memorizing jokes from all the American sitcoms, falling asleep on the shag carpet nuzzled with Valerie Bertinelli.
I’m lathering up in the shower the next morning —definitely absolutely in-no-way thinking of cute Valerie— pouring a quart of my Mom’s discount shampoo on my scalp to cover my jungle mop of hair when I feel a hard tumour in the back of my skull. This is scary. I turn around to have the hot water hit the back of my head and I’m terrified as my fingers start to dig. This might be serious. In a wrenching painful pull, I rip the growth and stare at it in my soggy hand. It’s a banana. Well, half a banana — shoved into my helmet of hair a half-day previous and I never noticed until now.