Mr. Hills Physics Class ....
by Steven Craig
In my eleventh year of school, I took a physics class... it was held in my homeroom and offered a very large area, for desk seating and all the lab tables with their possible experiments...
The tables were laid out in rows, three tables wide, and could accommodate three students each, and were 8 rows deep... These tables had hookups for gas and water, and contained storage under the table tops for all kinds of goodies and were always a treasure to get into..
The front half of the classroom had the rows of standard desks and chairs, and here we sat for homeroom and for the physics class which, lucky for us, was also the first class after lunch. When lunch was over, we would all struggle up the stairs of the school past other surging mobs and beat our way into the classroom...
Mr. Hill was an interesting Person... He always beamed a great smile, and laughed at the slightest provocation. He was tall and a little lanky, an ex-marine, with the same jar-head hair cut, having never discovered that other styles were possible for teachers now.
Mr. Hill sat on his podium, at the front of the class, a whole step up higher in the atmosphere than us lowly students. There, behind a great oaken table securely bolted to the floor, the held forth on physics to mostly ignorant teenagers such as myself. We learned physics the same way some learn English or math... the hard way, and incompletely, and always with a hope of beating the system and getting an A despite the need to actually perform.
One of Mr. Hills favorite little experiments was with the ripple tanks... these tanks were really just two inch deep wooden trays about a foot square, suspended from rubber bands and springs, and filled with an inch or so of water. They were used to show vibrations and waves and wave compression and interference... well, you know... physics. We would scatter from our desks and take seats at the ripple tanks and perform experiments and take notes and do our quizzes... and in a very general sense, learn physics.
And then one day...
I remember we were taking a long test. Some of us were at the ripple tanks, while others were in their desks. The test had been going on for some 10 minutes or so, and the room had been very quite. I say had been, because I had noticed an ever so soft whistling in the room. And so did a few others... Mr. Hill was on his podium, hunched over his desk, grading papers from a pervious class, scratching away with his pencil, smiling at the good answers, snarling at the bad ones, making animated jesters with his pencil and fingers. He must have noticed the whistling as well, for he would look up for time to time, just moving his eyes, scanning the class as though from the inside of a silted bunker.
The whistling persisted. Some of us were looking around, starting to smile, wondering... who was it that had the guts to whistle in Mr. Hills class?
Mr. Hill finally had enough as well.
All right... cut the whistling out there.. he said it with a big smile, hiding the fact that he had not been able to determine who it was... And the whistling stopped ... for about 30 seconds, and started anew.
Mr. Hill now sat up straight and made no pretense of stealth, he was looking at each of us in turn... looking for the whistler...
Hey!... Look. I like a little fun as much as the next one... but cut the whistling... now! And he continued to eye us as the whistling stopped at the shouting of the word Hey. He sat there at the podium for a moment, tapping his fingers on the table top, glaring at us, waiting, daring the whistler to start again. Silence.
Finally, Mr. Hill picked up his pencil, looked down at the tests, and after 2 seconds, looked up yet again, and a big grin came over his face... silence. He looked back down at the papers and started grading again. We waited... a minute passed, then two.... some of us began to start writing answers on our tests....
And the whistling started anew.
Without a moments hesitation, Mr. Hill rose out of his chair, and taking a meter stick in hand, slacked it hard on the podium top with a loud whack. The whistling stopped instantly. But Mr. Hill as moved to investigate.
So, we have a clever venquilist in our mist... want to whistle during my tests... and Mr. Hill stepped off his podium, and slapping the meter stick in the palm of his hand, slowly began to circle the room, from desk to desk, ripple tank to ripple tank, looking at each of us, hoping for a whistle, or a grin that would give it all away.
The whistling started again...
Ah ha... got cha... Mr. Hill exclaimed, and flourished his meter stick in the air as he moved toward the front of the class... and the whistling continued, and he moved on forward, and was slowly realizing that the whistling was not coming from anyone in the class... it was coming from the front of the class... his podium... Actually, above his podium.
High up on the wall, was an air vent, covered by a the typical grill seen in schools, pained the same color as the wall, painted almost too many times over the years...it was almost clogged shut with paint.
Mr. Hill stood under the vent, looking up at it, grinning, mumbling to himself about was a stupid thing it was to have a whistling vent, and in his brain there blossomed the idea, to look inside the vent. He pulled open a drawer and rummaged around inside, and then a second drawer, and pulled out a flash light. He pulled over a stool and precariously stood on top, and leaned again the wall, for support, was just tall enough to barely peer into the vent... He turned on his flashlight, and looked inside... at a nest of birds.
And Mr. Hill had this great big grin come over his face and it broke into a broad smile, and he started to shout loudly into the vent, and beat on it with his meter stick... Hey... you birds... OUT!! OUT!!! Out of my class room...
Out the side of the building, there was a sudden flight of black birds as they fled the sudden voice booming down the duct work. Somewhere, there was a hole to the outside to that vent.
Yea... there... that will learn them...., and Mr. Hill turned to the class below and beamed a great smile in victory over the whistling. Mr. Hill managed to get off the stool without breaking his neck, and put his class back to order, and sat at his podium and took up his test grading once more in silence as we stopped our laughing and took up the test once one in all seriousness.. The silence lasted 5 minutes or so... and the whistling started anew. We started laughing... Mr. Hill buried his head in his hands and shook it from side to side, uttering the same old expression we heard when we gave him utterly wild answers ... why me... why me...
The whistling continued through he rest of the day... and Mr. Hill was growing red with annoyance.... and thinking was a dangerous thing for a marine, and Mr. Hill was thinking about what to do about this.
Early the next morning, I got to homeroom before Mr. Hill... I suspected something... And yes, I was right. Five minutes after I arrived, so did Mr. Hill... with a toolbox, and a burlap sack. He looked at me and grinned and held a finger to his lips and made a sound SSSShhh..., and pulled over the stool and opened the tool box, and took out a screw driver.
As Mr. Hill unscrewed the vent cover screws, I noticed that the burlap bag was oddly lumpy and ... wiggling... With a final pry, the vent cover fell loose to the floor, and Mr. Hill watched it fall like a mad bomber watches his bomb fall. He then peered inside the vent and snickered. He asked me to hand him the burlap bag, which I did. He unknotted it, and pulled forth a large, mangy looking black and white cat by the back of the neck.
OK Tiger, sicum... and he grinned a great grin as he stuffed the cat into the vent. Hand me that cover kid.., and after he had it in hand, Mr. Hill screwed the vent cover tightly back into place. About then, there was this rush of birds out of the building again...
Well, I guess that the birds have the general idea. So long you suckers... And Mr. Hill got down off his stool and began to get ready for the day.
For the next week or so, there were no more sounds of whistling. The cat was busy cleaning out all the nesting birds in the school ductwork. Mr. Hill was his usually smiling self, grinning at each C or lower grade that came by... and we forgot about the whistling and the cat. Almost.
And then one day...
It was late in the afternoon. I was in Spanish class. I hated Spanish class, but behind me sat the prettiest girl in the class, and she always was scratching my back and rubbing on my shoulders with her eraser. It felt so good. Loved to have her touch me. Cynthia was her name and... But anyway, suddenly, emanating from an air vent over the blackboard, high off the floor, came this terrible sound, a sound of an animal crying in the dark, loud, fearsome .... MMMEEEOOOOWWWWW!!!!
It could only be Mr. Hills vagrant cat. For the next several days, from all over the building.... MMMEEEOOOOWWWWW!!!! In gym, in English, in History, in Math, , in the girls room, in the office, in the cafeteria ... MMMEEEOOOOWWWWW!!!!
But the room that that cry had the most serious impact on was Mr. Hills physics room. There, several times a day... MMMEEEOOOOWWWWW!!!! ... Mr. Hill would have to bury his head in his hands and shake it and mumble his favorite expression... why me... why me