( Witness a tale of supernatural going-ons... )
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In 1986, Mike Membre was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University.
On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.
The elephant seemed distressed, so Membre approached it very carefully.
He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.
As carefully and as gently as he could, Membre worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.
The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.
Membre stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Membre never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Membre was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son.
As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Membre and his son Cantri were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Membre, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Membre couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.
Membre summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.
The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Membre's legs and raised him high into the air and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.
There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.
One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.
Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.
Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?"
"If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?"
I got into the Friday morning staff meeting a few minutes late (not a biggie) and the assistant head looked quite relieved to see me. After the meeting, mere minutes before morning registeration, he came to me and said, casually, "Michael, you're not here today."
"I'm not?" I replied with understandable curiousity.
"You're on a training session today," he said.
"I'm what?!?" I responded, with a bit of inward panic, as I tried, vainly, to recall what memo, e-mail, announcement, or school calendar event I had forgotten about and/or failed to read.
The situation rapidly went weird from there. I was informed that I had only a short amount of time to arrange cover before meeting with another teacher and catch a ride with her for a full day training session. Whilst dealing with my registeration group, I was verbally giving my cover work to my head of department whilst setting up AV for the first class.
More details came to me from a variety of people as I bustled about. Apparently, the other teacher and I were to attend a training session for a new software platform that the school is in the process of implementing. The other teacher apparently found a mere 10 minutes before I did and upper management, really, hadn't been informed that much earlier. Essentially, the head of IT phoned in that information whilst he was on the road. Okayyyy.... Of course, it seems that we were not the only school to have had a similar issue. This was a training session we were supposed to attend in December, but had gotten cancelled for reasons I cannot even recall. Regardless, it was a situation TARFU that I, at least, wasn't in any way responsible for.
The training day wasn't all that boring, despite the fact that my familiarity with IT made it exceptionally easy to grasp what was going on. The whole idea is to create a "virtual learning environment" where teachers can place resources for pupils in an easily accessible location, give and receive assigments, share resources with others, and give marks and feedback. Really, it simply about using a standardized data storage system that is more user friendly. I pretty much just spent the day getting familiar with a new interface.
Yes, an easy day with pay away from the kids who just want to play.
And the lunch catering was actually pretty decent, too!
The training session ended about a half an hour before the school day would've. The other teacher dropped me off at the train station and then headed on her way home - no point for her to head back into school. And there really wasn't any point for me, either, as it was now afternoon registeration and neither of us were actually expected back. The only nagging thing was that I had arranged some afterschool detentions that should've been seen to, but the other teacher's comments regarding doing so still rung clear in my mind:
"You're going to go back for THAT?!? Listen, all the kids will know that you're away today; how many of the one you're expecting do you think will actually show up?"
Fair enough! That sound argument had me about five minutes walk from my flat as the final pips rang for the school. *grin*
Yep, a very relaxed day indeed.
And I get another one the week after next!
We explained that we were just looking and, as she was rather cute, we carried on the conversation a bit further into the topic of lobsters and the cooking of them.
She told us about how she learned to make lobsters "go to sleep," before putting them in the pot, as she felt uncomfortable just putting them in whilst still moving about. This involved curling the lobster's tail under itself and stroking it until it stops moving.
"Dwayne," I asked, "if I remember correctly, those tiny paddle-like legs on the underside of a lobster's tail are its gills, are they not?" Being a brighter fellow than myself, with a biochem degree to prove it, I can usually count on him to at least have an educated guess about such things.
"Yep," he affirmed, just moments before sprouting a wicked grin, showing that he just realized the implications of the situation.
Alas, the poor cherubic store clerk's face flooded with dismay when I asked her, "Did you realize that, when you curl the lobster's tail under like that, you're effectively suffocating the lobster to death before plunking it in?"
Dwayne and I can be such bastards...
To fully appreciate this tale, you'll have to understand that most maritimers know how to eat lobster, I mean REALLY KNOW how to eat lobster. What the maritime approach to eating lobster does NOT entail is prissy plastic bibs and a nutcracker, like one would see in a posh restaurant. Rather, one would see the active and expert use of a large bladed instrument, such as a kitchen knife, and the judicious application of well placed blows to the back of said bladed instrument. A true maritimer can have the seemingly impenetrable armor of a lobster hacked to a sufficient number of pieces as to render every morsel of lobster flesh available for consumption in under a minute. To those uninitiated into the secrets of lobster munching, however, that armored crustacean glaring at you from the plate can be rather intimidating.
So it was with Dwayne, who, like a small handfull at that lobster feast, had no clue as to how to enjoy his lobster and looked on in envy as most everyone around him dug in. However, Dwayne, being fairly clever (he has a biochem degree, afterall) decided that the best course of action was to ask for help.
And so he turned to my uncle Daryl for assistance. Darryl informed him that he was missing a critical tool and told him to wait a moment whilst he obtained one. Dwayne waited expectantly, expecting a large knife as many around him were wielding.
Darryl returned some minutes later. From behind his back, he pulled a meat tenderizing mallet with which he then proceeded, with great gusto, to smash the lobster to bits, as Dwayne watched in stunned astonishment.
"There you go," said Uncle Darryl cheerfully, before casually turning and walking away.
Dwayne returned his gaze to the demolished lobster before him. He shrugged and began picking out the bits of edible flesh from amongst the shattered shards of shell.
Dwayne was always pragmatic about such things...
At approximately the same time that I graduated from high school, my parents also paid off their house mortage. As such, in celebration of both events, they decided to have some lobster shipped in from the east coast of Canada for a grand feast.
During the preparations that fine summer day, I beheld, looking out the screen door, a good family friend putting lobsters (live, of course) into the large pot of boiling salt water.
Sensing he had an audience, he held one of the lobsters menacingly over the pot and, with melodramatic flair, bellowed out...
Needless to say, I was doubled over with laughter.