By Bernie Suttle
The Korean War was the reason I got a College degree. Work towards a four-year university and avoid the Draft and Korea. Owen and I decided to go to Citrus rather than Pasadena City College, “Cuz that was a ‘Sosh’ place” and the two of us had decided to be good students, not distracted by frivolous activities like fraternities, dances, girls. Keep your grades up. Get a draft deferment. We would sit up front and raise our hands to answer all questions, not in the back of the classroom with the slackers. Of course, to pull it off we had to crack a book, but it was worth it.
We knew we had it wired when Carla Blaha, the English Lit Prof at Citrus asked a question of the class. As usual, Owen and I, sitting in the front row, shot up our hands to answer before she finished speaking. Smiling, she nodded to us and said, “I know you know the answer. Let’s give the rest of the class a chance this one time.” Victory!
During the final days of our last semester at Citrus, Owen and I were killing time in the student union between classes when Forrest, our favorite target for banter aimed at his gullibility, showed up. Forrest was a good guy but a clueless, poor student who was always deep in self-inflicted woes. He began as soon as he saw us.
“I’ve had it. I’m flunking Betty Beck’s biology class with an F minus and there’s no time to bring my grade up. With that failure I’ll lose my Student Deferment, I’ll be drafted and sent to Korea. I might as well be dead.”
Smug in our conceit we felt like cognoscenti. We were ripe for a pigeon and here he was. Our message built ad hoc to Forest was of course preposterous but it held out a slight glimmer of hope for the poor soul to overcome the real problem he was facing but not prepared for.
“Can’t make up enough to pass, eh”? Owen asked.
“No way. She told me a month ago it was then or never and I just didn’t get around to it.”.
I chimed in with false compassion, “That’s tough, Forrest, lots of guys I know enjoy being in the army.”.
“I’ll hate it. I’ll probably be killed too.”
He was really down. He needed some hope. We could give it to him.
I offered, “Have you thought about providing the Exhibition for Ms. Beck?”
“What’s that? Is it like homework?”
“Easier, lots easier.”
Owen jumped right in. “It might already be taken and I don’t know if Forrest is the guy for The Exhibition.”
“What is the Exhibition,” Forrest asked with guarded interest.
“Well, near the end of each year, Ms. Beck selects a volunteer for the Exhibition from those failing the Biology class and when successfully completed he is given at least a pass and a B if done excellently.”
Now Forrest was attentive. A pass would mean two more years of school, no draft, no Army and no Korea. A Draft Deferment could save him. Forrest, normally a “doubting Thomas” wanted to believe.
“From F to passing, maybe even a B. What do I have to do? Do I have to build something?”
“No, nothing to build, no work to do. Just show up. Just be you.”
“How do I apply? What do I do?”
I said, “Well, at the end of the semester when the biology class studies human reproduction, that’s when you’ll be needed.”
Suspiciously, Forrest muttered, “That’s coming up but what do I do?”
Owen smoothly answered, “Remember those sketches in the back of the Biology book of the human male with words printed to the side and arrows pointing towards organs that were part of the reproductive system?”
“That’s where you come in. Betty Beck subscribes to the Reality School of education, not just text books and pictures.”
“What do I do?” Forrest shrieked.
“The day of the Exhibition you don’t sit in your regular seat.”
“No, that would identify you as the Exhibitionist. You wait in the hall outside the classroom door. You’ll be wearing a robe – only a robe.”
“Don’t worry. No one will know it’s you. You’ll be wearing a kind of bag over your head to hide your identity. Don’t worry; you’ll be anonymous. When the class is all seated, except for you, Ms. Beck will open the door to the classroom and guide you up onto the platform in front of the class. And that’s it. Oh yeah, the robe will be left at the door. You don’t have any identifying tattoos do you?”
“No, but won’t it be cold in there?”
“Not as cold as Korea. You can wear your shoes,” Owen said, comfortingly.
He continued, ”Ms. Beck will point out the various organs – your organs – that are part of the reproductive system. She’ll use her wooden pointer.”
“Ahee! A wooden pointer?” Forrest exclaimed.
“It’s rubber-tipped; don’t worry.
There’ll be a short Q & A session and that’s it.”
“You’ll pick up your robe. She’ll drop her pointer and you exit the way you entered, no longer worried by the draft or anything else. You could try it. Ask her. It’s up to you.”
“You’re kidding; I can’t believe my grade will go from F to passing, even a B, in just one 50-minute period”. So said Forrest, and we knew we had him hooked.
This appeared to be the toughest decision Forrest had ever faced. Could he believe it? He needed something to save him; this could be it. What happened finally with Forrest I can’t say. Did he make his proposition to Ms Beck? Did she see it as a boyish ruse or did she throw him out a window? We only knew that his eyes were brighter. He held his head up higher but he never counseled with us again.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com