Space week in 5th grade was supposed to be the penultimate week of the school year, filled with fun games, creative projects, and a movie day, all based on the subject of space. My teacher, Mrs. Smith talked about it all year.
Something else she talked about all year aside from her precious Rottweiler dogs (we lived in the same neighborhood and I can attest that they were, in fact, mean as all hell) was my classmate Andy.
Andy was the teacher’s pet. He knew everything. He was good at everything, except sports and hand-eye coordination. Being a “classroom of the future”, we had five or six computers, and Andy got to test all the new software (i.e. play games) while we did assignments.
Mrs. Smith loved Andy. Mrs. Smith did not love me.
I was smart too, but I was lazy. I didn’t like doing my homework, but I did okay on the tests. A couple of years later I was selected to take the ACT in middle school since I tested in such a high percentile, but it didn’t bother me that she didn’t like me, because no matter whom she loved in class they would always be third to her two ugly dogs.
By the time the anticipated space week arrived, Mrs. Smith had such a low opinion of my abilities that when I had to use alternate materials to build a rocket ship (we were supposed to use bare paper and toilet paper card board rolls, which my mom said was trash, so I resorted to plastic cups), she so begrudgingly gritted her teeth when she “complimented” my improvisation, that I expected her Fixodent to disintegrate.
The project which served as the week’s climax was the Egg-O-Naut challenge. The task was for us to use an empty soda bottle (more trash) which would serve as a space capsule for an egg, which we were to ensure could survive being dropped from the height of a utility pole truck’s fully extended bucket thingy. Mrs. Smith would do the honors of tossing our labors to the ground and watch as they shattered to pieces.
When it came time for me to construct my capsule, I felt an urge to ensure that my egg survived, but I didn’t really know what to do. So I began to stuff my empty Sprite bottle with paper towels, hesitantly at first. Once I began to realize that this strategy may work (padding, padding, padding!), I continued to fill the bottle with as much as possible. Then for good measure, I wrapped the egg with plastic wrap and tape, and I even drew a face on him, because at that moment it became a him.
The next day, Mrs. Smith went around the class room to inspect our capsules. When she looked at mine, she raised her eyebrows as if so say, “We will see if that actually works later.”
She continued around the room, and shrieked with joy when she got to Andy’s desk. Of course it was Andy…
Mrs. Smith began to show the class Andy’s capsule as he described how it would work. It was quite intricate, actually, and impressively so. This capsule was outfitted with an array of rubber bands which held his Egg-O-Naut within. It was quite visible to the rest of the class that the egg was contained within as snug as a bug in a… spider web.
Mrs. Smith, practically aroused with excitement, went on to say “I’ve never seen anything like this. If this doesn’t work, nothing will!”
So up went Mrs. Smith in the utility bucket thingy with all of our capsules. One by one they came smashing down. Some of them more decorative than practical, which sent the Egg-O-Nauts into scrambled oblivion. Others, creative or ingenious, managed to deliver their passengers unscathed, while most suffered from unexpected design flaws which left the victims battered and cracked.
When I retrieved mine, I tore into the vessel and found my happy little traveler alive and unspoiled. Well, in the heat of late Spring, he was probably spoiled, but unbroken nonetheless. He was among the few survivors that day.
Now we all waited as Mrs. Smith prepared to drop Andy’s technological wonder, a feat of egg safety. We even counted down like it was a new year. The year of Andy?
Down, down it went, like Frodo to Goblin Town and impacted against the parking lot, not with a dull smack, but a kinetic crack. We all rushed to the landing zone to see the achievement or catastrophe. Andy arrived first and screamed, not in victory, but bitter defeat. As if it were a child he cradled the goopy remains of his prototype. Mrs. Smith arrived and it was a solemn moment. I wonder now if she enjoyed the taste of her own foot, which was lodged quite deftly in her mouth.
And that poor egg, trapped within a web of death meant to be a mesh of protection, must have ricocheted terribly.