The Deen Castronovo Chronicles: Part 5, in which we learn that “Truancy Loves Company”

I had, by that time, become the undisputed Queen of All Truancy at our school. It wasn’t my fault. It started the first week of the school year when some misguided Social Studies teacher tried to put the Fear of God into us as we reviewed the Rules & Regulations portion of the syllabus. I remember a severe glare and disapproving tone as she warned us, “…and it doesn’t matter if those absences are excused or not—if you have eleven absences in a single semester, you WILL receive an incomplete.” Clearly, we were meant to hear ominous organ chords from the wings as the soundtrack to her dire words. Oooo! The dreaded incomplete—run for your lives!

But that’s not how I received the message. Instead what I heard was, “You can have up to ten absences in this and every class before any meaningful consequence will kick in. Even taking music classes out of the equation, this means you can enjoy at least forty unauthorized field trips over the course of each semester. And, if you fail to utilize them, you will have squandered the last golden opportunity of your senior year. Now get out there and enjoy life!” I left that Social Studies class whistling Zippity-Do-Dah while imaginary woodland creatures danced in choreographed Disney precision all around. It was, indeed, a hap-hap-happy day!

Not that I was irresponsible about my frequent absences. I kept careful track of them on a calendar I maintained for that very purpose. I wrote all my own excuse notes to save my mother the bother of having to concern herself with my alarming attendance record—because I’m thoughtful like that. And I never missed a test or a critical assignment. I had my standards. I’d always find out what was happening in class before I’d make a decision about skipping. If something was due, I’d be there. If I was instead told something like, “Mr. Manual intends lecture on the early twentieth century existential playwrights,” my response would be something like, “Really? That’s awesome. Tell you what, let’s bring this handful of nails to class with us and take turns driving them into each other’s skulls with this here ball-peen hammer while he lectures. Because that’s the only way I’m going to feel even better about spending an irreplaceable hour of my life listening to Manual drone on about the early twentieth century existential playwrights.”  Next thing you know I’d be out the door.

And, no, for the record, none of this interfered in any way with my GPA or my ability to graduate on time. Of course, I had the sort of mind that could fasten

Kristy

Yes, despite a bad attitude and tragic 1980’s hair, I graduated.

on a literary plot in much the same way a pit-bull can fasten on a geriatric chihuahua, with or without Mr. Manuel’s illuminating comments. It’s a curse really. I envision a day when I’ll be in the old folks’ home, unable to remember my own children’s names, but I’ll still be able to recite a synopsis of the plot (wait—there was a plot?) to No Exit. You want to talk Jean Paul Sartre? How about Eugene Ionesco or Harold Pinter? Bring it. (Of course, your mileage may vary. Obligatory disclaimer: Kids, don’t try this at home).

Looking back, even with these many years of hindsight, I have no regrets about my high school attendance record. Well, except for one. I do regret what a terrible influence I was on every kid I ever pressured into cutting class with me. Truancy, in case you were never a practitioner of the art, loves company, and I was hanging out with straight-laced band kids—clearly the wrong crowd if I was looking for co-conspirators. My fellow seniors would flat turn me down, always with some high-pitched, whiny excuse about having to complete graduation requirements—wimps. I got good traction with the juniors for a while, including my four saxophone boys, but by spring I’d worn out my welcome there as well. Times were getting desperate, so I found my sights slipping ever lower, ever younger. Perhaps you can see where this is heading….

Van Halen. Meh.

So there they stood, two skinny little clarinet players who had endured the misfortune of being in my marching band squad at the beginning of the school year. The only reason these boys were even candidates as co-pilots for that day’s illicit excursion was that they had been trained from virtually the moment they entered high school to follow my instructions without question. Marching band was long over for the year, but if I said, “Jump,” they’d still do it automatically—a novelty that has failed to repeat itself at any time in my life since. These days you can guess what I get if I try to tell a man Jump—I  get, “Van Halen—I love that song!” Then it’s a twenty minute dissertation comparing the relative charms of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar—while my will to live slowly gurgles down the drain. So, yeah.

Under the circumstances there was no need for verbal abuse. I simply said, “Ima go to Mickey D’s—drive thru—big soda—you’re coming with.” They looked at each other, shrugged, and started marching out the door in perfectly measured twenty-two-and-a-half inch steps, per their Marching Band training.  And as they departed, who did I see standing there in the conversation’s slipstream? That’s right, our friend Deen.

Now, unlike these two defenseless clarinet players, Deen had certainly not been trained—in Marching Band or elsewhere—to take my subtle suggestions as orders (as he proved every time I tried to get him to ride in his folks’ car with me and John on Jazz Band trips). In fact, I have no memory of Deen from Marching Band at all. He must have weaseled out of it somehow because if I had ever seen Deen Castronovo in a marching band uniform, complete with spats, arm braids, and one of those tall hats upholstered in powder blue teddy-bear fur, the image would have been indelibly burned into my memory. That image—that would have been tattoo-worthy if you want to know the truth, so, having no such tattoo, I’m confident that it never happened. Besides, can you imagine being the squad leader tasked with teaching Deen Castronovo to march? It’d be something like trying to teach your house cat to fetch a stick, and really, isn’t there enough futility in the world already?

But on the other hand, I had just completed an apprenticeship learning all about voice inflection and projection at the feet of the master—Deen’s very own dad. Hadn’t I studied under both of the senior Castronovos in their own family car on all those trips to Jazz Band competitions? If you couldn’t learn something about controlling other people through the mere power of the human voice under those circumstances then you would have had to have been in a coma. Looking at Deen, I remembered all the lines I had ever heard barked at his brother Vince by their parents. I was thinking if I could reproduce them accurately enough, swapping the word “Deen” for “Vince,” I might finally realize some tiny measure of success in running Deen.

“DEEN!” I barked, doing my best to channel his dad. “Get in the car. Let’s GO!”

Now to his credit, Deen paused for a moment, trying to decide if he should listen to me or to his own better judgment. Ultimately, however, he was powerless to resist the tone of parental authority that I’d conjured up from my study of his mom and dad. He turned and followed the two skinny clarinet players out the door.

And for what happened next, I have no one to blame but myself.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret
    Sep 01, 2012 @ 10:31:36

    I’m late to this party–you’re still blogging?? Oh, the joy. I NEVER pictured you as someone who would be truant. I guess I haven’t seen your rebellious side. By the way, is your daughter excited for Western? Where is she living?

    Reply

    • Kristy
      Sep 01, 2012 @ 10:38:42

      Margaret, there may be an exaggerated point here or there in these stories (ahem), but my truancy is exactly as described–I couldn’t go a week with perfect attendance. It was a senioritis thing.

      Daughter will be at Edens (sp?). Hard to tell if she’s excited or not–time will tell…

      Reply

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