So, the other day, 8YO came home with something I truly dreaded to see:

A science project assignment.

Fuck.

I dreaded seeing the assignment for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 8YO isn’t exactly known for his studious nature. He’s naturally gifted in math and science, and therefore doesn’t feel like he needs to study hard at them. He has more issues with reading, writing, and social studies, and as a result, doesn’t feel like he needs to study them, since he doesn’t understand anyway. Does anyone see a pattern here? Kid hates to study. He’ll only study for money, which makes him a dirty capitalist, which makes Daddy proud. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for him employing the scientific method.

The second reason I hated seeing that notice was that I knew what it REALLY meant – “Hey parents, don’t you wish you had more to do when you get home at night? I mean, how hard could working all day BE for you, anyway? Don’t you want to (a) make your kids do homework AND some extra shit on top of that, and somehow squeeze in dinner, soccer, showers, and God knows what else into that narrow slice of time, or (b) do the damn project yourself, just so your kid doesn’t show up at school with two slices of tangerine hotglued to some posterboard along with some glitter in the shape of letters. And no one wants that bullshit.

The third reason I really hated seeing that damn paperwork was history. No, not the subject – I rocked ass in History. AP credit? Why, yes! No, I immediately broke out in a cold sweat because I started catching flashbacks…flashbacks to the year 1988, my sophomore year in high school. I was fat, and funny to compensate for the fatness. I was also undiagnosed ADD, and lazy as all hell. That year, my science class was Biology, which I hated with a passion in part because of the subject matter itself, and in part because of the teacher, Mr. Kirkland. Theo Kirkland was an imposing man, around 6’2 and 225 pounds of bald blackness. He exuded a lot of things, most of them abject fear. Mr. Kirkland was not a man to be trifled with. And I had the fortune of being in his class. In fact, I was a star pupil. You see, Pilot and I were in the same class, which usually meant trouble for whatever poor fool was our teacher at the time. Back in the 8th grade, he and I were engaged in a heated staple fight when he turned around in his desk and hit me point-blank in the forhead. Pissed, I switched from the trusty #2 yellow pencil I had been using with a slender, flexible Bic pen. I wrapped the staple around the pen, pulled back, aimed at the head that was a mere 2 feet away, breathed in, released – and missed. Oh, I didn’t hit HIM at all. No. That’s too easy . No, your boy hit something far worse: the science teacher. In the eye. With a metal staple. The best part of all? Her name was (I shit you not) Mrs. Blind, pronounced like “bend”. But that’s a tale for another day. In Mr. Kirkland’s class, we typically didn’t fuck around, but I got to be his special pupil for 9 weeks after I got caught passing a picture of a sperm cell celebrating reaching an egg, where the egg was saying “Where the hell do you think YOU’RE going?” Mr. Kirkland thoughtfully read the note out loud to the class, and then asked me nicely forced me to sit at a table at the front of the class. Yay me.

One day Mr. Kirkland announced that we were going to do science projects, due in 8 weeks. Cool. I knew I could get something together. I decided I’d study the effects of certain over-the-counter drugs on plant growth, and 8 weeks was plenty of time to plant some beans or whatever, douse them with aspirin or vitamins, and see what happens to them. PLENTY of time. Unless you’re a procrastinator. For procrastinators, 8 weeks is TOO much time. It’s time enough to sit around, watching “Thundercats”, thinking of ways to not to do your work. It’s time enough to look at the calendar, see 8 weeks looking like 8 months, and pour yourself another cup of red Kool-Aid. It’s time enough to let time slip by you…until one day, you’re sitting in Mr. Kirkland’s class, staring at Bridgette’s ass and thinking 3AM Cinemax thoughts, and then the most fearsome, fatal words in the history of 10th grade ease by your ears: “Science projects are due on Monday, people.”

It was Friday. I had nothing. Nothing. I was in serious shit.

Panicked, I got my mom to buy me all the display supplies, and I spent most of Friday night and Saturday just arranging the cardboard and index cards for an experiment that didn’t even exist. I still needed plants, medicine, and some way to bluff my way through the presentation section of this debacle. My best friend Duke lived way out in the country, out in farmland, and I knew there’d be something out there I could find in abundance and then use to fake my project. I got Mom to drive me out to his house, and after a couple of hours, I finally found enough plants to effectively show differences in sizes and conditions. Hell, that was the hard part. All I had to do now was say that Plant A was grown with Tylenol, Plant B was the control, and so on. Easy peasy lemon greasy. Sunday night was spent with me putting the plants in attractive planters, labeling them, and making sure what I said on the index cards matched up with what was on the display. And I was well-gifted in the ways of bullshittery, so I wasn’t even that worried about the oral part. I had this in the bag. The next day, I transported my abomination to school, took it up to Mr. Kirkland’s classroom first thing in the morning, and went about my day.

Life is funny, people. I had Biology at 4th period. Duke had Biology, also with Mr. Kirkland, at 3rd period. In between periods, Duke ran up to me in the hall, freaked the fuck out.

Duke: “Man, you’re in serious trouble. I’m not kidding.”
Me: “Huh? Why? What did I do?”
Duke: “It’s what you DIDN’T do. He knows, man. Kirkland knows!
Me (freaking out): “HOW? How does he know? You told him, didn’t you!”
Duke: “Look man, I wouldn’t rat you out like that. But you messed up with your plants! He KNOWS!”
Me: “Shit.”

You see, when preparing to fake a science project, I failed to take a couple of things into consideration. Firstly, I should’ve never faked a project using living organisms in a Biology class. If anyone would know fake data from real data, it’d be Mr. Kirkland. Secondly, I failed to determine the sensitivity of Mr. Kirkland’s bullshit meter, which apparently was set somewhere between “high” and “You bullshittin’.” When I got to class, Mr. Kirkland was standing in front of my project, frowning and looking at it the same way I look at the spilled trash when my dog gets into the trashcan while we’re out. I approached him cautiously, not knowing if he was transfixed by the sheer stupidity of it, or if he was going to just straight-up hit me. He looked at me crossways, and began the Inquisition.

Mr. Kirkland: “Son, why don’t you tell me about this…experiment.”
Me (putting on my bullshit hat): “Uh, well, my hypothesis was that certain drugs would make plants grow slower than others, and uh…”
Kirkland: “Right right, I get that, son. I’m really curious about the types of plants you chose. What are these, exactly?”
Me (knowing HE knows what they are, and panicking): “Um…they’re…conifers. Sir.”
Kirkland: “Conifers. Very good. Tell me, son – do you know how long it takes for a ‘conifer’ to grow to…how tall do you figure this one is?”
Me: “Um, about 7 or 8 inches.”
Kirkland: “Sounds about right. Do you know how long it takes for a ‘conifer’ to grow that tall?”
Me: “Well, it took mine 8 weeks, sir.”
Kirkland (looking like I just slapped his mama): “Son, here’s where the lying stops. Right here.”

You see, thirdly, and most importantly, I should’ve paid a lot more attention to the type of plant I used in my experiment. Plants all grow at different rates. Some plants grow in a matter of a few days or weeks; some take years to grow. And when you’re faking growth, the one thing you do NOT use as your test plants are ‘conifers’, because ‘conifers’ is just a fancy name for…

…trees. Pine trees.

Yeah.

My dumb ass chose PINE TREES as my fake test subjects! This was all kinds of stupid, because pine trees don’t grow 8 inches in 8 weeks. MAYBE in 8 months. But for damn sure not in 8 weeks, and Mr. Kirkland knew that shit, and called me on it. I had no real answers to this…my well-laid plan was crumbling around me, and I had no out. He looked at me, a mixture of anger, sadness, and humor in his eyes, and he acted like he was going to speak but couldn’t find the words. By this time, the class was filling up, so I immediately sought to save some face.

Me: “So…I don’t have to actually present this project now, do I? I mean, I know I’m getting an F on it.”
Mr. Kirkland: “Oh, you’re getting more than an F. You’re getting a zero.”
Me: “Yeah…OK. So, do I have to talk about it?”
Mr. Kirkland: “Talk about WHAT? You didn’t do any work! Go sit down, son.”

Suffice it to say that I did indeed get a zero on my project. Later on I heard that during 3rd period, he just stood in front of my display, muttering and shaking his head. I never stood a chance.

So, now I prepare for 8YO’s project, which will be something about lightsticks and chemiluminescence and some other such thing. But I know this – he won’t be waiting until the last minute to get it done. He’ll benefit from his old man’s experiences, and hopefully won’t repeat my mistakes.

But if he does, I bet we can find some baby sequoia trees to plant and grow really quick.

Peace.

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