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Wednesday, June 27, 2007 07:05 am

Man talk

At their core, they’re all basically idiots

Untitled Document It’s a perfect night for a ballgame, and I’ve lucked into box seats only five rows behind the Sox dugout. The young couple to my left is discussing his annual night out with the boys, 10 hours’ worth, and yet he cannot recall a thing that was done or said. She’s more irked than angry when she says what has been said a million times before by wives and girlfriends young and old: “Ten hours and no one said anything?”
He is innocent of any wrongdoing — he was the designated driver and did not drink. His stomach still hurts from last night’s laughing, but he cannot recall a word that was said.
———

Across town, three extraordinary men are attending their 50-year high-school reunion. When Walter “Skywalker” Johnson was in second grade, he stood at the front of the class and had only to spell the word “banana” correctly to defeat Mary O’Brien and become the first boy to win the second-grade spell-off in the 80-year history of St. Anne’s Grade School. Walter was smart, very smart; he could spell “banana” and throw in “apricot” for good measure if he wanted. He spelled it “b-o-o-g-e-r.”
“Banana!” said Sister Mary Serene, and she punctuated it with a ruler slapping into her palm. “B-o-o-g-e-r,” Skywalker repeated. “Booger.”
It was the funniest thing that had ever happened up to that time in world history, and Jimmy “Ponyboy” Poindexter screamed out a window-shaking laugh and wet his pants. There’s nothing unusual in a 7-year-old’s laughing so hard that it causes an accident — but it was very unusual that a 7-year-old would find pride in it and jump to his feet and say out loud, “Look, look here — I wet my pants!”
Billy “Shakes” Sorenson fell from his desk, rolled into a ball, rolled out the door, rolled down the hallway, and rolled into Sister Mary Hyacinth’s fifth-grade class, where, between uncontrollable laughs, he said, “Booger! Wet pants!” 51 times — before two fifth-grade boys were instructed to throw him headfirst into the detention room, where he joined Skywalker and Ponyboy. From that day on, the three were inseparable; they spent the next 12 years running against the wind and winning more than they lost. On the day they graduated from high school, they removed the two loose boards from the fence surrounding the abandoned warehouse, went inside, down to the basement, to the secret closet they’d discovered when they were 10. They took the secret jackknife from the secret pouch and renewed the secret “blood brothers” vows they’d made eight years before.
They would always be partners; they would always be together — but at summer’s end they went their separate ways. Snakes joined the Army, left his right arm in Vietnam, spent five years in a Turkish prison, built South American shopping centers, ran for president of Peru, lost a disputed election, and paid the Russians $22 million to take him into space. He has but one eye; he lost the other in a poker game. Skywalker attended Stanford University until he earned all the doctorates they had to offer, until he knew everything three times — until they made him a professor. Then, in 1967, he became a Jesuit priest. The Vatican drafted him while he was still in the seminary. He spent 16 years hidden away in dusty archives, quit the priesthood after the church refused to make him pope, seduced Sophia Loren on the day she married Carlo Ponti, and played himself in The Da Vinci Code movie. He recently bought $1.2 billion worth of rainforest — so that it might stay pristine and save the world.
Ponyboy drifted the high plains for a while; then, in the mid-’60s, while doing peyote with a mule deer, he saw God and invented the pizza wheel. He used the pizza-wheel money to attend Harvard Medical School. He graduated with honors, wrote “Margaritaville as a favor to Jimmy Buffett, and founded Doctors Without Borders. He was the venture capitalist behind Microsoft. He’s in training to join the ultimate-fighting circuit.
The reunion. What stories they will tell, these men of high adventure, these men who have changed the world and will change it again, these men better than us? But nothing is said but half-grins as they see each after half a century, not a word spoken until after the waitress leaves the drinks, and then: William B. Sorenson (cosmonaut-politician): “How ’bout dem Bears!”
James R. Poindexter (doctor-philanthropist): “Check the ass on that waitress.”
Walter L. Johnson (professor-priest), after a 30-second hesitation: “Booger! B-o-o-g-e-r.”
Ten hours later, just after Skywalker has said “b-o-o-g-e-r” for the 400th time and Ponyboy has wet his pants and Snakes has rolled into the ladies’ room, they call it a night.

———

“All men are idiots!” said the young wife to my left.
Her husband thought it prudent not to correct her.
Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.
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