"Put it right over there," Principal Smith ordered the delivery men.
The two young men in white overhauls placed the the heavy, sheet covered object on a red brick platform. The platform was about three and a half feet off of the ground and its area matched the bottom of the object almost exactly.
Principal Smith thanked the young men and then took a quick peek beneath the sheet. When he pulled his head back from under the covering, he was smiling broadly and was still smiling broadly when he entered the front door of the main office at Mark Twain Elementary school, a school surrounded by a tall chainlink fence on the south side of the small farming community of Corcoran, California.
After the door of the office closed behind him, Smith turned around and looked out of the glass door still smiling broadly. All morning long, people walked by the mysterious object and stared with curiosity. Some of the more mischievous passerbys would try to sidle up to it without being noticed and sneak a peek beneath the covering. Principal Smith would tap lightly against the glass and wave them away with his right index finger.
The great mystery was revealed to the rest of world at precisely 1:30 PM of the same day. A loudspeaker announced that there was to be an outdoor assembly of all the students and that the students were to form a ring around the mysterious sheet covered object.
At twenty minutes after the hour a loud siren announced the assembly and kids of all shapes and sizes began to pour out of the doors and jostle and shove their way across the school to where the object stood in front of the main office.
Principal Smith emerged from his office. A small, slender man wearing a black suit with a narrow black tie, Smith wore shoes with a two inch lifts to make himself appear taller. Trailing behind him was his young statuesque, blonde secretary Eunice Ohara.
Smith raised his hands to call for silence. The teachers went to work shushing their charges. At precisely 1:30 on the dot, the principal began to speak.
"How ya all doing!" he yelled loudly. This was cue for everyone to respond that they were wonderful. Which they promptly did. A few, in the back of the crowd, yelled that the school sucked, but no adult heard them. Principal Smith didn't seem to hear any of them because he immediately cupped his right hand to is ear and screamed again, "I can't hear you!"
This prompted the students to commence to yell even louder, "We Are Wonderful! They screamed the phrase over and over again building to a crescendo which halted abruptly with one voice continuing as the others stopped.
"We are fucking wonderful!"rang out. It was like someone had dragged their fingernails across a chalkboard, everything went silent.
Mr. Smith who had been beaming while leading the chant, suddenly scowled as a storm cloud covered his face. "Who said that?"
Everyone turned and looked, at one scrawny looking sixth grader standing in the back. And it was EVERYONE; even the old man checking his mail across the street was pointing at the kid. A crow who happened to be sitting on the loud speaker at the the southwest corner of the office flew down toward the culprit and defecated on the boy's head.
Mr. Bluid, or Bloodsucker Blew-it, as he was known to the kids, appeared at the front of the building and screamed, "Danny Wilson, your presence is required." His eyes were bulging out of his head and crooked a finger to drive his point home.
Bloodsucker was nowhere near the the sharpest tool in the shed, hell, there were about eight kids in the kindergarten class that had higher IQs, but he was the meanest son-of-a-bitch on that particular school-ground, on that particular morning in November of 1963. For that reason, he was unofficially chosen to handle the disciplinary matters for the school.
Young Mister Wilson was cursing his bad luck, wiping off the bird shit of his head with his handkerchief, and trying not to trip over the proffered feet of several mean spirited youngsters, as he twined his way toward the office. When he got to the front of the crowd, Bluid grabbed him by the ear and dragged him into the office.
He was shoved into a chair in front of Mr. Smith's desk while Bluid slid into the comfortable looking red leather seat across the desk from him. Before he said anything else, Bluid flicked a switch on the intercom to hear the principal's remarks on the mysterious object. He sneered at Danny and said, "I got a bet on it; I think it's a brass bust of an Eagle."
After the crowd outside quieted down, Smith began to speak," We are gathered hear to today to reveal a memorial to a great human being. I mean one of the greatest human beings in the history of the world. He was so amazing and talented that we are gathered here today to honor this great human being." With that he ordered Mr. Bailey the janitor to pull away the sheet.
It was a bronze plaque. Mr. Smith stepped up and read what was written in upon it.
This plaque commemorates the fact that the great American
humorist and writer Mark Twain was born on this exact
spot on November 17, 1835. He always remembered his
home town fondly and often wrote about it in his novels.
Danny was in shock. He had written his 6th grade Biographical
essay in Dominguez's class on Mark Twain, and he knew the facts were horribly wrong. Corcoran wasn't even in existence when Twain was born; the author was born in Missouri on November 30.
He told Bluid about the discrepancies but the bullet headed asshole just muttered, "Don't believe everything you read Dickwad; that's the first rule of growing up. Now, let's talk about the use of this profane adjective. You see's that what it is, an adjective and a very profane one at that. Five days of after school detention oughta do it." He dug a folder out of the desk and tore off a detention form.
"But he's fucking lying!"
"Make it ten days."
"This is not fair. I get ten days of detention for using an
adjective, and Mr. Smith lies in front of the whole school and nothing happens to him."
"Careful, he's the principal, Son; it's your job to respect him."
Danny grabbed the detention out of Bluid's hand when Bluid handed it across the desk, Danny crumpled it up and shoved it into his back pocket. He took two steps toward the door before turning around, "Twain was born in Missouri, ya know."
Bluid shrugged his shoulders and said, "I mean who cares, not like he was famous or nothing. I mean I don't even know what he did."
Danny was shocked; he looked at Bluid incredulously, "You worked here for six years that I know of and you don't even know who Mark Twain is?"
Bluid just shrugged again and spoke with great indifference, " Why should I know?" The two bushy caterpillars that were his eyebrows finally met in the center as he spoke, "I wasn't born here or nothing."
Danny grabbed a copy of the local paper the next day, curious to know what others thought about the bizarre actions of Mr. Smith. To his surprise the paper said that the the whole thing was in their words " One of the most fabulous events in the history of the community." There was even an editorial that lauded the the speech that the principal had given to mark the occasion.
Upon reading the editorial, Danny muttered absentmindedly, "He said no more than 30 fucking words top." He hadn't noticed that his mom was standing behind him when he spoke. The wooden stirring spoon that she cracked him over the head with reminded him to look before he spoke.
His older brother was sitting in their dad's easy chair, and he started laughing, so Danny flipped him off with the hand that his mother couldn't see and mimed the words "Fuck you," before his mother, who was born quite a few years before yesterday, cracked him over the head again. Glen fell out of the chair he was laughing so hard.
Danny quickly came up with a plan for revenge, " Dang, Glen, Mom just cracked me over the head twice for saying that word. You trying to get hit!" His mom cracked him again, like I said, the woman wasn't born on the previous day.
The next week was very strange indeed. What Principal Smith had done was to inspire other local leaders to follow his lead. John Muir Middle School had a big commemoration event to celebrate the renaming the school library The Norman Mailer Library in honor of the fact that he wrote his epic novel War and Peace in the restroom attached to the library.
It didn't stop there either. The stretch of highway two miles north of town was renamed for the place where James Dean had ran over Abraham Lincoln in 1860. A local wrecking yard had even provided a twisted hunk of metal that was said to have once been Lincoln's campaign bus. The public bought it too despite the fact that it clearly had the words Corcoran Unified School District painted on the side.
The maternity ward of the Corcoran Hospital was renamed for being the spot where Marylyn Monroe had delivered Joe DiMaggio's twin daughters. Rumors were swirling that the Yankee slugger was coming for the ceremony. The Mercantile Department Store got in on the act by wrapping a couple hundred unsold baby dolls in Yankee colors and putting an ad in the store window selling them at $20 each. The local constabulary had to be called in to the quell the riot in the store. A Sunday School teacher broke her leg in the melee.
It went on like that for the better part of week with nearly every thing, place, or tree being renamed for some totally fraudulent event: The Battle of Gettysburg Hog Farm, Napoleon's Bar and Grill, Heddy Lamar House of Beauty, Aimee Semple McPherson Church of Christ, Benjamin Franklin's Electric Repair Shop, Crispus Attucks Veteran's Home, and Emiliano Zapata's Shoe Repair. There were many, many more. I mean the town fathers had even renamed a gopher hole for some imaginary affair involving Pecos Bill and a prairie dog named Phil.
It got too much for Danny to handle; he was losing sleep and waking up in the morning with clumps of hair on his pillow. He decided to call up the most trusted man he knew so he could tell that man what was really going on. The whole thing had gone national and newspeople from all over the world were starting to trek to Corcoran in hopes of finding a celebrity or two searching for publicity.
" Hello, Chief Justice Warren speaking."
"Hey, Mr. Chief Justice, this is Danny Wilson speaking."
"What can I help you with, Mr. Wilson?"
"Well, it's the people in my home town. I live in Corcoran you see."
" I've heard of it. Your fine little community has certainly been home to some very important events. It's surprising that it has only come to our attention so very recently."
"It's all bullshit, Your Honor."
The next thing you knew, Danny was spelling out the word bullshit to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. By the time he reached the h he started to realize how foolish he was being and stopped. Either that or he simply forgot how to spell it. He told the story both ways later.
He kept on talking though, "All these events are fake. For example, Mark Twain was born in the state of Missouri not on the corner of Letts and Oregon in Corcoran." He ran through about twenty such transgressions but Warren remained skeptical.
The Chief Justice told Danny that he would look into it and hung up. Danny went to sleep that night feeling very frustrated and depressed.
The next day, however, something happened that blew the top off of the whole affair. A dairy farmer who lived on the edge of town, cleaned out a tool shed, spread new straw across the floor, pulled out his wife's colorful nativity set, and wiped the dust from all of the characters. He went so far as to tie a baby goat and a calf outside the garage style opened door. Then he painted a huge sign on his barn that said that the holy baby Jesus had been born in his stable and not the one in Bethlehem. Corcoran was suddenly the holiest city in the whole world.
This was when the cracks started to appear. People were having trouble buying into this fraud. The dairy owner produced a birth certificate attesting that someone name Jesus had been born there. The certificate had been doctored. For example, the last name had been altered to spell Son of God, and the birthdate once marked Feb. had been to changed to look like Dec. The facts later showed that a Mexican farm worker named Jesus (pronounced Hay-Sus) Martinez had been born there in 1936.
The thing that really destroyed the farmer's story happened after the local denominations began trying to horn in on the act and started arguing over the facts related to Christ's birth. A member of the local clergy, Reverend P. N. Ochio, an Episcopalian, got so angry he shouted at a Baptist minister, "Everyone fucking knows he was born in Bethlehem, Asshole!"
The crowd was shocked into silence. The Baptist accidentally tripped over the rope holding the Star in place, and it fell to the ground and broke. Five year old, Tessie McGee pointed to it and exclaimed, "Wookie, Daddy, the Stah is bwoke. The Stah is bwoke."
The little girl's words punctured the bubble of stupidity that had enveloped the whole town quicker than an old man's fart could clear a small room. Corcoran's only surviving prostitute put the fork in it when she gave out a heartfelt, "We ought to all be ashamed of ourselves."
Danny, however, took umbrage at her words while thinking to himself, "Dang girlfriend, I said the F word a few times, you gave half the bar patrons in town syphillis, let's not be so quick to judge here." He let it go though and went to sleep that night somewhat relieved.
The next day at school, a new principal, Mr. Bluid, presided over a strange little ceremony while the plague was being covered up and removed. He laid it out for the the students. "Corcoran was headed for greatness when the small words of an unruly child with a speech impediment destroyed all of our opportunities to achieve equal status with some of the greatest cities of the world. The lesson to be learned here is simple: When an adult tells you something, you, out of respect for their age, need to believe them." He drummed the point home by making the students chant "Believe!" about seventy-five times followed by about twenty chants of "We Are Wonderful".
Later that morning, Danny was sitting in class with his desk top up blowing spit bubbles and scratching his nuts when Mr. Dominguez suddenly stood, walked over to the big black and white television that hung over the center of the blackboard, and flipped it on. a grainy Walter Cronkite came on the screen and saying something about President Kennedy being shot. Danny lowered his desk just enough to see Mr. Dominguez's eyes roll back as he started thinking about what to name.