Biographical Non-Fiction posted August 13, 2015

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Mr. Funny Pants

by JBCaine

Recently, my sister sent me a little wooden plaque that reads, “I laughed so hard, the tears ran down my leg!”
It is mounted prominently in a spot befitting its importance to the family.
As I pulled it from its wrapping and read the words, the plaque carried me back to the genesis of this family tale.
When my son started elementary school, he carried within himself a mixture of excitement and trepidation, joy at becoming a big boy, and sadness at leaving his parents unattended all day long. He was pretty much a normal little boy, or so we thought.
Things went along pretty well for the first few months, but one phone call from the school changed our entire sense of normal.
“Mr. Caine, we need you here at the school right away.”
“What’s going on, is my son hurt?”
“He is not hurt, but there has been… an incident, and you need to come and pick him up. That’s all I can say over the phone.”
There are more stressful moments in life than a drive to the school after a call like that, but they are thankfully rare, and I certainly couldn’t think of any at the time. My head was full of possible “incidents,” each one progressively worse.
By the time I got to the school, I had envisioned him somehow having tipped a school bus over on top of the principal.
If only, right?
Turns out my son was being suspended for sex crimes.
Indecent exposure, to be more precise.
Ever have one of those moments when you involuntarily became the center of your immediate universe? When the date is going so well that you suggest a move to a more private location, but the music is so loud that she can’t hear you, which inevitably leads you to scream, “Let’s go get nekkid!!!” just as the music stops?
As I listen to the teacher’s version of what happened, and then listen to my son’s side of the story, I find myself wondering if this could somehow be a hereditary trait…
“I stepped out of the classroom for just a moment to speak with another teacher, and when I walked back into the classroom, your son was standing on his chair with his pants pulled down, exposing his bottom to the entire class.”
“He was what? Jake, is that true? Did you pull your pants down in class?”
“Well, yeah, Dad, but Colin pulled his down first, and he dared me to.”
I stared furiously at the teacher. “What? Where is this Colin? Why isn’t he in here, if he started it?”
“I didn’t see Colin, only Jake, and Colin says he didn’t do it. I can only go by what I see.”
The meeting went on for quite some time, but in the end, the boy was suspended for three days as a sex offender, regardless of the fact that for the next three days his only and oft-repeated question was, of course, “Dad, what’s sex? Is it bad?”
How do you answer that for a not-quite-six-year-old? “Don’t worry about that, Son, just keep your pants on?”
So, for three days, the boy got to think about his infractions of rules he had no chance of understanding. He didn’t know why he was in trouble, other than for dropping his pants, and he rather enjoyed the time out of school, to tell the truth.
We trudged through the post-suspension walk of shame, and had another chat between Jake, myself, the teacher, and the principal. There were forms to sign, and dire warnings given, rules acknowledged and agreed to, if not at all understood.
I returned to work, thinking this one was in the past. I floated along merrily for almost three hours before another frantic call from the school reached out and smacked me in the head.
“Mr. Caine, you need to come get Jake. He did it again.”
On this drive to the school, I was envisioning myself tipping the school bus onto the principal, along with the teacher, and if necessary, onto poor little Jake, too. Unable to even begin to imagine what could have possibly happened, and being the unflappable, un-impugning parent that I was back then, I started off quite gently.
“WHAT THE… WHAT IN THE… WHAT, Jakey, in the name of nudity, were you thinking?”
The look on the poor boy’s face said, “I know I’m in trouble, I have no idea why, and how dumb could you be to not understand what happened?”
What came out of his mouth, of course, was, “Tiana asked me why I got suspended, so I showed her.”
The next week was spent mostly discussing the dress code repeatedly.  “Jake, what’s the dress code?”
“Keep my pants on, Dad.”
These chats were peppered and punctuated with pedantic and preposterous propositions from whose horrors you shall mostly be spared.
“But what if we’re playing Monkeys in the Jungle? Monkeys don’t wear pants.”
“Keep your pants on, Jake. That’s the dress code.”
“But what if there’s a pants-eating monster on the playground? It would eat off my legs.”
“Keep your pants on, Jake. That’s the dress code.”
“But what if there’s…”
“Jake, what’s the dress code?”
“Keep my pants on, Dad.”
These delightful exchanges went on most of the week of the second suspension, each as ridiculous as the one before.  Hot lava, earthquakes, tigers, zombies, nekkid children who had no pants, oh yes, I thought we had faced and defeated every threat to the dress code.
I was wrong.
The last day of his confusing vacation from the rigors of First Grade, Jake popped off one final question.
”But, Dad…”
“Jake, what’s the dress code?”
“No, Dad, for real this time. What if I have to go potty?”
Despite all our efforts, encouragement, and enlightening examples, Jake had not yet mastered the concept of doing his lighter bathroom business via the zipper only. So there he would stand, pants puddled around his ankles, beaming at us in his joy at not having wet his pants.
“OK, Buddy. That will be the exception to the dress code. But that’s it, got it?”
“I get it, Dad.”
“So what’s the dress code?”
“Keep my pants on, unless I’m about to wet them.”
“I reckon that’ll have to do, Son. I think you’re as ready as you’re gonna get.”
Jake went back to school the next day, and seemed to get back into the pattern of things with no lingering issues or recurrences.
About a month later, as I was tucking Jake into bed one night, I asked him, “What was the best part of your day today?”
His face lit up with one of those grins that only kids can grin. “I almost had to take my pants off.”
“What? And that’s funny to you? After two suspensions? Oh, Jake…”
“No, not like that, Dad. Izzy made me laugh so hard, I thought I was going to wet my pants.”
"Oh. Well, um… Yeah. I guess that fits into the dress code.”
After a few more confused congratulations and goodnight kisses, I switched off the light, and closed his door.
And then I went and told my wife what he’d said.
With the door shut and pillows smooshed over our faces, we laughed so hard the tears ran down our legs.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry

This may not be all that funny to you, but in our extended family, "I almost had to take my pants off" is a touchstone of humor. Things are now described as "It was 'take your pants off' funny." Someone will say, "Keep yer pants on over there, it wasn't that funny."
Alas, I guess ya just had to be there.
About 1225 words.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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