This Conversation Is Not Possible

You didn’t talk to Jocks. And Jocks damn well didn’t talk to you.

That is, unless there was something they didn’t like about the way you looked at them, what you wore, or who—they were compelled to report out loud—slept with your mother the night before.

During the winter-early spring of 1977, we were juniors. I liked the step-up from being a sophomore, but still had to endure the stepped-on aspect of being less than a senior. Our music resource center coterie didn’t have many run-ins with the Jocks (or their female counterparts, cheerleaders), so the diary doesn’t record any specific incidents. It was a cumulative impression, one that I took to publishing in the school paper, the Smoke Signal.

In the April 1977 issue of the Smoke Signal (Vol. 34, No. 5), one of our crack news reporters, Jeff Elmer, wrote about the Mound school system’s shrinking budget and co-editor-in-chief Jim Borgheiinck had Principal Thostenson comment on student press rights. Yup, pretty incisive stuff for greenhorn journalism.

I was listed on the masthead as a feature writer and creative writer, which included anyone who submitted materials to the “Creative Corner.” That issue I’d published the second part of an “epic poem,” along with an illustration.

And behold, the “Smoke Signal Policy Statement,” in full:

“The Smoke Signal will pursue and print all stories relevant to the students of Mound Westonka High School. Our journalistic tenacity will be tempered only by the legal restraint of libel and our own ethical standards of fairness and taste. Written by and for the students, the Smoke Signal will illuminate their ideals by enlightening, educating, and entertaining its readers. Like an arrow of truth it will pierce the shrouded veils of corruption, injustice, and obsolete tradition wherever it still exists in Mound.”

Phew, I know. Over the span of decades, that sentence still reeks of Editor Jim’s purple prose.

However, those were creatively productive months for me: I’d written the aforementioned “epic poem”—wholly inspired, I’d guess, by overplaying Manfred Mann’s cover of “Blinded By The Light,” and every month published my column, “Moppin’ Up.”

The column was stuck on the back page of that April issue. It talks about hanging out with this cat named “Self.” Self and said columnist had just seen “a play,” so they do a sort of joint review. In the play, two characters, Joseph Jock and Suzy Sophomore step into the limelight. Joe is “giving an awkward soliloquy to a basketball.” He hits up on Suzy, but she has no idea who he is. “See if you can guess,” he says. “I was halfback on the first-string football team, I’m center on the varsity basketball team, and I lettered three times in varsity tennis.”

She’s still clueless.

Turns out he’s Tom Jock’s older brother, whom she does recognize. Suzy’s worrying about cheerleader tryouts and can’t make student council meetings, so her friend Mary agrees to go in her place. But actually Mary’s out on a date with Mark Cool (another Jock) so it’s SNHS—Situation Normal: High School.

Jim congratulated me after the paper came out. “Best damn column you’ve done yet, Maupin,” he said. How it was received by its intended targets is hard to say.

We weren’t exactly on speaking terms.

~ by completelyinthedark on February 5, 2012.

2 Responses to “This Conversation Is Not Possible”

  1. As if your “intended targets” could read (or cared to)! The writers, like Chaucer and you, however, always get the last word. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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