Before you read this, start with parts one, two, and three.
My stomach fell down to around my shins when it seemed that we had managed to miss the whole rest of our class and were now stuck in San Francisco. I knew we shouldn't have stopped at the deli.
Before we started to really panic, I saw someone familiar--one of the parents--and went over to him.
"Oh, are you guys late, too?" I asked. If nothing else, we could hitch a ride with them or something. He looked puzzled.
"No, we're the first ones here. We've still got an hour or so before everyone else gets here."
I went back to my group and broken the news to them. There was much swearing and much relief. In fact, no we could go grab something substantial to eat without worrying about anything.
Being in San Francisco gives you a wide array of dining options, so I thought long and hard about where I was going to get my official field trip lunch.
"Hi, I'd like a cheeseburger Happy Meal with a Coke." While the food was good, the toy in my Happy Meal was a disappointment--a tie-in with An American Tail. Lame.
After we all ate, we hung out in front of the Opera House, waiting for every one else to get there. We were tempted to look at our, um, reading material, but decided against it, since we didn't know when our teacher would be arriving.
So we spent our time watching all the different people walking by, including one courageous cat who was decked out in candy-cane-striped cowboy boots. It's always nice to see people dress up for the holidays.
Eventually, everyone was there, and it was time for us to file in to see The Nutcracker, or as we all called it, The Ballbuster. I thought The Gonad Grinder was catchier myself, but I was outvoted.
We had pretty good seats. I mean, we weren't up in the front, but we could make out the dancers' features well enough. The show was fairly uneventful until one of the ballerinas went for a pirouette and fell flat on her ass.
Even in the dimmed lights, you could tell where our class was sitting, because where everyone else was making whispering sounds of concern for her welfare, we were chortling hysterically despite admonishment from others.
After the giggles quieted down, Mike, who was sitting next to me, leaned over and said "I'll be right back."
Now I am not the swiftest person by any stretch of the imagination, but even I realized that he wanted the chance to check out the paper by himself. Jim was on my other side and asked where Mike was going. He concurred with my theory about the reason for Mike's departure.
A while later he came back, his jacket unzipped. As if that weren't enough of a sign that something was up, he looked like he'd pushed a wheelchair-bound nun down a starwell full of three-legged kittens and baby seals. I'm talking GUILTY.
"Dude, where did you go?" I whispered to him once he sat down. He didn't say anything for a second.
"I, uh, had to go to the bathroom, so I figured while I was there, I'd look at the, you know...," he whispered back finally.
"I figured as much. So?"
"Well, I looked through it, and all it had was a bunch of phones numbers and stuff like that."
"So I," he paused, "I flushed it down the toilet."
"YOU WHAT?" I said, not bothering to whisper. That got the attention of the rest of my row. I whispered to Jim, who whispered to Dwight. Ryan had sat with other kids in his grade. We all leaned forward and glared sidelong at him. He smiled sheepishly with a "what else could I do?" look.
Well, I was pissed. Not so much because I didn't even get to look at the damn thing (though, admittedly, I was a bit curious), but he was the only one who didn't contribute any money.
On the BART trip home, he didn't want to talk much about it, which meant that we had to come up with explanations on our own. We came up with a few:
1. He panicked, didn't want to get caught, and threw it away. There was no way that thing was fitting down the toilet
2. He looked at it, saw that it had boobies galore and didn't throw it away so he could keep it for himself
3. He was telling the truth
or, our personal favorite,
4. Something...happened to the paper while he was inspecting it. I'm not going into any more detail, but I think you know what we meant.
He denied it, of course, but for the rest of the year, it was a sore point that we never failed to bring up. It could come out of the blue; if he had a scar on the palm of his hand, we'd say that's from where he cut himself shaving. Repeat as unnecessary.
Well, we all managed to get back home safe and sound, if out a little change with nothing to show for it. I don't think we ever quite found out how we were separated from our chaperons; nothing was ever said to us about it, anyway.
Mike moved away after the end of seventh grade, and I would not be surprised if at least one of us made reference to the field trip when we signed his yearbook. Something subtle.
"Mike, have a great summer, and don't be a jerk-off."