Back in high school at lunch I often engaged in the time-honored tradition of trying to be cool by hiding up on “Stoner Hill” and smoking cigarettes. Stoner Hill was a berm near the football field that because of its shape and location it made it almost impossible for a teacher or narc to sneak up on you and haul you to the office. We even had a ready-made stash spot for contraband when one of us spotted trouble racing towards us in a golf cart.
One day near the end of the school year while neglecting my education with my friend Shane, we spotted something glinting under a pile of pine needles and went to investigate. As I peered over his shoulder he unearthed an almost full fifth of peppermint schnapps. This was not the good stuff like Rumple Minze. This was “The Schnappster” the shit that looks like NyQuil and only the worst hobo or high school kid, or cheapskate would go near it.
“Dude we scored!” Shane exclaimed.
“Hell yeah, let’s cut class and go party.” I said.
“I can’t cut anymore, they’ll kick me out and my step dad will kill me” Shane replied.
“Oh right, he’s an asshole and you’re a pussy.”
Shane punched me in the shoulder.
“Ok so after class then” I put the bottle in my backpack.
At three the bell rang and I met up with Shane. We were walking off campus when we ran into some friends who wanted to play some football before we all went off enjoy some misdemeanors. We all threw our back packs up onto the concrete and aluminum bleachers, but only one of them made a crunching sound when it hit.
“Awwww shit”. I muttered. No Schnappster for us. I played football for an hour and then went to check on my backpack. It was sticky and smelled like peppermint. I shook broken glass and my soaked U.S. History book out of it onto the concrete bleachers. I put the book back and walked home to soak my backpack and dry out the book.
I rinsed everything the best I could, then I set the backpack and book to dry in the backyard in the June heat.
The next week I had to return my text books to the book lady so I could collect my diploma. Yes I have one, and a college one too if you can believe that! Book lady is the last hurdle to escaping high school. She takes and evaluates text books and charges you based on wear and tear. She also collects the last of your library fines and any other last minute dues you owe. They hold your diploma hostage until you are squared up.
The look on the ladies face was priceless. I handed her three normal books, well normal besides the metal band logos drawn on the sides in pencil. Then I produced the US History book with a flourish. It was twice it’s original size and reeked of peppermint. She stared at me over her old lady glasses.
“Sorry, I uh spilled some mouthwash on it while I was studying and brushing my teeth” I lied.
She just gave me the look of someone who fields bullshit excuses for a living. We stood in silence for a moment in a cloud of peppermint reek.
She tried to open it. The book finally gave with a cracking and tearing sound and released even more powerful minty freshness. I just stood there smiling innocently.
“You’re lucky they decided not to use this one next year” She eyed me. “Otherwise you’d owe $40” She tossed it into a big cardboard box marked discard.
“What happened? They rewrote history?” I joked. She didn’t laugh. She made me pay them $11.50 for writing “SLAYER” on my geometry book. Come to think of it I have no idea where my high school diploma is so I probably should have kept the $11.50
Never could figure out the impulse to distribute “clean” books. Maybe it was just a way of shaking kids down, because a well marked-up textbook put you so far ahead of everyone else, they should charge extra for them.
The best was getting one that belonged to a smart kid who loved highlighters.