Turns out revenge is best served cold and between two slices of bread

It was a sandwich disgrace the likes of which had never been seen nor imagined in our town and it came at the hands of a girl named Belinda Google.  Yes, her family name really was Google.  Who would have known years ago their moniker would have become so famous?  I blame her vindictive nature on the rampant taunting she experienced growing up a p.k. (preacher’s kid).  Imagine enduring this scene every 12-24 months on your first day of school.

“Class, please take your seats, I need to call roll.”

You know it’s coming, there’s no denying it.  The teacher is rolling through the d’s, the f’s and now to “g”.

Google, Belinda.  Belinda Google?

No matter how quickly or fearlessly you answer, “Here!” you can’t beat the giggles, the side-eyed smiles, of your classmates.  Then there’s the inevitable whispered chant (at least in our school) “Google Belinda, Belinda Google, Google Belinda, Belinda Google!” and more laughing.  It had to be humiliating.  I don’t know why they didn’t just change their name already.  It would have saved her and me so much pain in the end, vis-à-vis the sandwich disgrace.  The fact remains though, it happened, and there wasn’t a thing she or my chain-smoking girlfriend Halsey could do about it.

I admit I was one of those ones who laughed at her name but come on, it’s a funny name.  We used to make fun of Fred Tartley with a simple transposition of the first letters of his names but that was in junior high and then Fred moved away.  We were trying to get something going with Dan Mingus or Heather Nore but it was too much of a stretch.  And then Belinda dropped into our laps and well, we just ran with it.  She seemed to take it all in stride because let’s face it, she had to have heard it all before.  But we had no idea of the length or depth of here vindictiveness.

Google Belinda, Belinda Google (we like to say her name twice in a row for some reason, it just seemed funnier) moved to town in the summer between our junior and senior year.  No one really saw her much over the summer.  Her family mostly kept to itself even though there were six Google kids.  I imagine if any of us had ever paid any attention to the old church at the end of Tyler Lane or the parsonage behind it we would have noticed the activity and the work being done.  As it was we were pretty much just interested in driving around the countryside with whomever had a license and could get their dad’s car and bumming beer from wherever.  Google Belinda was a complete surprise to us in late August.

As the school year wore on we grew a little tired of the “say her full name twice” game and switched to just calling her “GB”.  Some might say this gave her a little more social credit but not really.  “Google Belinda, Belinda Google” was always waiting in the wings.  Maybe that was one of the reasons why her revenge had such a lasting effect in the end.  No one would have suspected meek and mild little Belinda Google who quietly helped out one period a day in the secretary’s office walking around absence slips and student notes of hatching so intricate a plan.  Belinda Google, who volunteered every other Saturday at Shady Acres Retirement Home, was the last person anyone would have pointed the finger at in the most excellent and heinous trick ever perpetrated in our little town.

Senior year was about half over and basketball season was well underway.  Our team always drew a good crowd but none was ever quite as big as “Sandwich Night”.  It might not sound like much but being crowned the Earl of Sandwich was a big thing as a senior.  The competition, only open to senior boys, was to create the best sandwich to be featured and sold at “Sandwich Night” prior to the game.  Proceeds from the sale went to the charity of the winning senior’s choice.  Judging was done Monday after school for that Friday’s game to allow the winner to get all his ingredients together.  Making sandwiches for 2-300 people took some time but it was worth it.  My entry that year was a hot ham and cheese creation with pickles and my secret sauce.  I had worked diligently for weeks getting the right blends of mayo, horseradish, spices and onion so it was tangy but not too hot.  In the end I was chosen the Earl of Sandwich!

I quickly mobilized a team to make sandwiches assembly line-style, Friday after school prior to the game.  I wanted to make sure that they were as fresh as possible for the masses of people served that night so everything was stored in the kitchen’s coolers first thing Friday morning.    Everything went smoothly and when the people poured through the doors early for dinner we sold every last sandwich made.  The smiles on their faces were priceless.  Here and there I could hear their comments.

“Oooh, what a unique flavor!”

“Boy, that’s good.  Never tasted anything quite like it!”

“How’d you do it son?”

I just smiled and told people the sauce was the key and its elements were a secret.  Secretly I wondered if I might be able to produce it and sell it in stores, such was the excitement.

The game was quickly underway and our boys were in a real dogfight.  Our crowd, which was always really supportive, was in top form.  The cheering never seemed to die down, no one was leaving their seat.  When the klaxon blared to end the half we trailed 32-30.  Even though it had been a long half of basketball with everyone staying put in the stands it was time for the cheerleaders’ halftime show.  But something was wrong with their music when they assembled at midcourt.  Instead of the bouncy pop song they usually danced too, sounds of rushing water, waterfalls and babbling brooks filled the gym.  I saw several moms squirm in their seats.  I figured they just felt bad for the girls, having experienced technical difficulties a time or two in their day.  Then, even as the water sounds continued there seemed to be small 1-2 second breaks in the sound and I felt a pang in my abdomen like I hadn’t peed for a week.  As I looked around several of the cheerleaders were standing with their legs crossed, guys in the rowdy section were doing the pee-pee dance, some literally grabbing their crotch like they hadn’t done since second grade and too much Kool-Aid.  Something was definitely wrong.

There were more water noises and more quick breaks and everyone began to squirm in their seats.  One of the cheerleaders squealed and hippity-hopped toward the lobby where the restrooms were.  Elementary kids were whining like dogs, dancing around and yelling at their parents to take them to the bathroom and their parents were trying to get down the bleachers without wetting themselves.  We all made a beeline to the bathroom and that’s when things got really ugly.  The bathroom doors were stuck shut.

Even if the 200 or so people could have crammed into the two bathrooms, we never had the chance.  Kids ran bawling under the bleachers.  Dads swiftly skipped out into the cold to pee beside the building.  Some didn’t make it that far and wore the stain on their slacks, pants and blue jeans.  There were puddles everywhere and the smell was acrid.  Someone yelled, “The bathrooms for the locker rooms!” and half the crowd went running back through the gym, many losing control as they crossed the hardwood.  When they got to the bathrooms, those doors were stuck shut also and try as we might, we couldn’t yank them open.  The sound of water wooshing with small breaks of apparent silence continued through the P.A. speakers throughout the school.  I, along with 40 or 50 others finally burst into the locker room and relieved ourselves in urinals, toilets, sinks and even the shower stalls.  Our coach and players looked aghast as we groaned in relief.  When I returned to the gym it was like some kind of urinal war zone.

Puddles were everywhere.  Each row of bleachers carried a stain or wetness every third or fourth space.  Pee ran out from underneath them.  Even the janitor, who looked more shocked than the rest of us, carried a dark stain on his blue uniform pants as he and his mop tried to summon a Herculean effort to clean things up.  He looked like he had no idea where to start and the smell made it painful to even draw breath.

Somehow the refs, alone in their small dressing room off to the side of the locker room, had missed the commotion.  When they walked back into the gym a look of bewilderment, then of disgust and horror crossed their faces.  They huddled briefly at the scorer’s table where Al Carter still sat in his soggy khakis, unwilling to leave the official scorebook or his post.  The head referee took the ball from the table, cradled it under one arm and waved his hand over his head.

“Visitors win by forfeit!  Game over!!”

They sprinted off the floor, their eyes watering from the stench.

Surveying the wreck that was our school’s gym I took in a scene I would never forget.  In the weeks to come our secretary would produce the cassette Belinda had put in the P.A. system and scheduled to play during halftime.  Our science teacher would enlist the help of the local college’s science professors to unearth the supersonic screams she had somehow accessed and imbedded among the water sounds on it.  The chemists at the college would also analyze the spread on the sandwiches and find high levels of a diuretic.  Harmless in a single dose, it would have filled everyone’s bladder to near bursting over the course of about an hour, necessitating relief.  The bathroom doors were easy, simple Superglue I’m sure she placed there as she exited the building.  It was a brilliant plan, one that needed some luck to come off perfectly for sure, but one she must have been plotting for months.  We never saw Belinda Google again.

By the time the scientists and chemists were consulted and they completed their testing a few weeks before graduation and by the time the rest home administrators would actually admit to being short of the drug, her family was long gone.  They’d moved on to some other town whose church was in need of repair or reinvigoration.  And while the prank was epic, its notoriety died off after several months.  What Google Belinda left me, however, has stood the test of time all these years later and I have to admit is the most poetic part.  See, my name is Peter Huddlesome.

Once the whole town knew it was my sauce that caused them all to wet themselves it only took a matter of days for the kids to begin to call me “Puddlesome” or “Peter Puddlesome.”  The reference to that eternally imbedded scene in the gym gave me a moniker many would say under their breath, “Puddlesome!  You mean “Puddle-ton” in reference to all the puddles everywhere that night.  Over the years the taunting has died, but the name has not.  These days whether people know why or not, I’m referred to simply as “Puddles.”  I know they know the reason why if they smile slightly or shake their head when they say it and I know somewhere, Google Belinda does too.

I hope you liked this silly little story about the power of a  nickname.  I wish sometimes the guff our kids and us adults give each other could be laughed about and passed off as easily as this, even if it does come with a dose of come-uppance ultimately.  Simpler times, I guess.

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