“Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”
Everybody looked at Alice.
“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.
“You are,” said the King.
“Nearly two miles high,” added the Queen.
“Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,” said Alice: “besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.”
You never want to fall asleep in Mr. Hittbohm’s second period math class, no matter what, because he will leave you full stop asleep until you eventually wake up, whenever that is. It’s one of the rules written on his personal rules board at the front of the class.
NO WAKING SLEEPERS!
Classes will come and go and no one is allowed to wake up sleepers.
If you fall asleep he just lets you sleep, no shaking you up, and you miss the next class, and even the class after that. You wake up and it’s, oh, MY GOD! You get major detentions for missing classes at St. Mel’s. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t your fault. Mr. Hittbohm doesn’t care that maybe you had homework for six classes and had to do work around the house, too.
Nobody cares when you’re explaining.
Once a guy fell asleep for three straight periods. When he woke up Mr. Hittbohm was at the podium lecturing, just like always, but after the guy looked around he saw there weren’t any familiar faces. There were different guys in the class. He just bolted out of the room. He hadn’t technically skipped any classes, but he got a butt load of detentions.
It’s not a school rule. It’s Mr. Hittbohm’s rule.
I woke up halfway through his class one day after a long night at home. “Did you sleep good?” he asked.
“No, I made a few mistakes,” I said. He didn’t like that.
“You boys grow up without rules, without boundaries,” he told us the first day of school. “You need discipline. You can be yourself, whatever you think that is, once you’ve learned the rules.”
Lots of rules and no mercy, that’s Mr. Hittbohm, like he just stepped out of the Old Testament. Mr. Rote and the rest of the religion teachers teach the New Testament, but that news flash has never reached Mr. Hittbohm.
It’s not ten thousand years ago, Mr. Hittbohm! But, he doesn’t care about that, either.
Everyone says he’s been at the school since it opened, or maybe even before that. He was probably waiting for the big day to happen. He’s only ever taken two days off in all those years. He told us about them on the second day of school. “It wasn’t because I was sick,” he said. He’s never been sick. Someone else was sick on those two days.
Maybe he ever only feels like crap in private.
Mr. Hittbohm’s a short man with a beach ball belly. He pulls his pants up almost to his nipples. He doesn’t wear a jacket. He only wears a dress shirt. He has grayish gray hair and he’s a grumpy man. His eyes are the color of an old telephone pole. Everybody hates him, the upper classmen, and us, just everybody, really.
Some of the upper classmen add an S to the front of his name, but never out loud to his face. That would be a disaster if it slipped out. Mr. Hittbohm is the MASTER OF DETENTIONS. It’s not even funny.
He’s married, but told us he couldn’t stand his wife because she never turns off the house lights and watches TV all the time. “She even shops in bed thanks to television.”
He has a son and daughter, but he doesn’t talk about his son. When he told us about his daughter he said he was angry about how in the first year of whatever job she got she was making more money than him.
He always says money is a “masterpiece in the eye of a masterpiece,” whatever that means.
“God wants us to prosper and have plenty of money. Money is how you keep score. That’s why you don’t want to stop at simple math, because then you’ll only make simple math money.”
He smokes between classes, ripping the filters off his cigarettes. I’ve never seen another teacher smoke on campus, only him. He throws them on the ground, mashes them, and lights up another one.
Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are bad for you, he scowls.
“When it looks like I’ll live longer than my next cigarette I’ll scrape it off the bottom of my shoe,” he says.
Whenever anybody tells him cigarettes are practically illegal, he gets mad about that, too.
“The government tells you smoking is bad for your health, but when you Ben Franklin it the government has killed more people than cigarettes ever did, or ever will.”
He told us he was in a gas station buying cigarettes when somebody tried to rip off the attendant with some kind of money trick.
“I wanted to beat him with a bat,” said Mr. Hittbohm, making fists, his hands trembling.
He said that. He said beat him WITH A BAT to beat the hell out of him. Every day the forecast for Mr. Hittbohm is clouds, rain, and grumpy.
He teaches from a podium at the front of the class. He’s the only teacher in the school who has one. How does he rate? It’s because he’s an OLD DINOSAUR and gets his way. He puts his papers and things on the podium and hardly moves all period, unless he wants to tear up something that’s on your desk. That’s another one of his rules.
Even if you’re not doing anything with whatever is on your desk, like a science assignment for Mr. Strappas, if he sees it he’ll just swoop down on you and take it.
“I don’t think you’ll be needing this,” he says, and rips it up.
He’s constantly looking for things to rip up, even though it’s something for one of your other classes, not even his class, something you were just looking at. He’s always showing up all of a sudden and tearing your work into shreds.
He has a ton of rules on his board, more than fifty of them, a butt load of them.
NO CHEWING GUM!
If you chew gum anywhere on campus, not just in his class, beware him spotting you doing it. He jots down your name in his little spiral notebook and reports you. He gives you a full detention, which is forty-five minutes. He NEVER gives minor detentions. Mr. Hittbohm told us chewing gum is rotten and should be banned from the school.
“If you can’t swallow it, don’t chew it.”
No one is allowed to touch anything in his classroom, either.
If you pass by one of his special teacher books and you sort of graze it, you get a major detention. If you pick up a marker at the board without first asking permission, you get a major detention. If you punch somebody’s arm, even though it’s none of his business, you get a major detention.
It’s nothing like my next class, which is our science class. The teacher is Mr. Strappas, who’s one of the varsity football coaches. He’s young, has blond hair he combs back, and is very fit. He played football in college and he’s a nice man. He encourages us to touch things and the only rule he has is no talking when he’s talking.
It’s always the same guys who get it wrong, who do all the talking, breaking the rule. We sit two to a table and those two guys are somewhere in the middle of the room. They talk about video games, sports, and all their other dumb stuff. Mr. Strappas will say, no talking, and they will say, sorry, but they don’t stop. They don’t get good grades on their quizzes and tests. They don’t turn their homework in on time and get bad marks for effort.
They’re just stupids.
Mr. Strappas doesn’t stand at his lectern. He roams back-and-forth, to the sinks, the whiteboard, and all around the room. He’s always on the move. It’s my favorite class of the day. I actually like learning in it. It’s fun finding out about atoms and geology and everything he’s interested in.
Mr. Strappas expects us to be in our seats when his class starts, but he doesn’t sweat it out of us if it doesn’t happen. If you’re not in your seat when the bell rings at the instant Mr. Hittbohm’s class starts you get a full detention. Everybody should be in their seats when class starts, we all know that, but if you’re standing there for a second, just fixing your belt, he gives you a detention, anyway. It’s totally retarded stupid, but that’s another one of his rules.
Because it’s Mr. Hittbohm you absolutely want to make sure you’re all good. You want to be perfect. We wear ties, dress shirts, dress pants, a belt, undershirt, and black shoes. We have to make sure we’re all buttoned up. If any button is even half unbuttoned it means a full detention. He really hates it if the second button on your shirt is undone.
Even though Mr. Hittbohm is a hundred years older than Mr. Rote, it’s one for the button in first period and two for the button in second period.
He hates casual dress days, too.
“It’s like a casual walk through the insane asylum,” he says.
If there is any piece of paper on the floor around or near your desk at any time of the class he’ll give you a detention, even if it’s not yours, and even if you didn’t see it in the first place. If the paper has your name on it, it’s even worse, because he rips it up before giving you the detention.
Mr. Hittbohm has a Bible of rules.
DON’T LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOWS!
We’re supposed to face front when we’re in class, but there are some guys who sit right by the windows and sometimes they can’t help flattening their eyes against the glass.
If Mr. Hittbohm and I looked out the same window I don’t think we would see the same thing, no matter how you did the math.
Sometimes I think that since I didn’t have a hand in making his rules, the rules have nothing to do with me. He always says Cloud 9 is amazing. But, what’s wrong with Cloud 8? No matter what, though, you can’t fight Mr. Hittbohm. He’s like Godzilla. He swats you down with his horny tail.
At the end of class we can’t jump up and go like in any of our other classes. His rule about the bell for ending class is that it isn’t the school bell, but his bell that matters. When the school bell goes off we have to stay in our seats until he says we can go.
At the end of class I’ll say, “See you tomorrow Mr. Hittbohm.” And he’ll say, “Thanks for the warning, Mr. Who It.”
My middle name is Wyatt, so he calls me Who It, as in Why It, Who It, and then he laughs.
Sometimes it seems like he wants you to lie down at his feet like a guinea pig and say, “Yes, sir, I’ll go dig up those apples, sir, whatever you say.” His rules have nothing to do with it. He’s just a cranky old-fangled DOWNPRESSER man.