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Michael was a quiet kid in elementary school. His teachers decided he was shy. They were in for a shock.
Being dutiful pedagogists, Michael’s teachers agreed they had an obligation to help this unfortunate youngster overcome his debilitating ‘social handicap’. Their solution was to place Michael in situations occasionally that would require him to ‘express himself’.
One day, his English class was learning forms of dramatic expression they would find in literature and film, and on stage and TV. The teacher, an aspiring thespian, decided the students could learn best by actually performing the art forms. She decided to start with pantomime. What’s more, she was confident it would provide excellent rehabilitation therapy for Michael.
The students’ homework assignment was to discuss with their parents a subject from their lives they could perform in pantomime form, and then prepare a script. Each student was to perform their pantomime solo without telling his or her classmates the subject. They would be challenged to guess.
That’s where the fun began.
Just like his parents, Michael had been blessed with a creative mind and a wicked sense of humor. His teachers were mistaken – while Michael was quiet, he was anything but shy.
Before Michael knew it, the date of the students’ pantomime performances drew near. One evening over supper, Michael, his parents and his sister thought hard about a subject for his performance.
“Remember our duck hunting trip a few weeks ago?” his Dad said. “Why don’t you play a duck hunter?”
“Great idea, Dad!” Michael said.
He remembered going hunting with his Dad early one morning. He was too young to use a gun and was kept a safe distance from the shooting. Regardless, he was close enough to watch his Dad and fellow hunters build a hunting blind. And he watched attentively as they built and made use of a latrine complete with a privacy screen made from bushes, and a log to sit on when needed . . . for the bigger jobs. Hey, the wait times while hunting can go on for hours.
Michael’s father coached him with his script, describing the hunters’ experiences in the blind, and the need to act quickly when ducks flew past within range. That evening, Michael applied his creative mind to his script. And that’s where his wicked sense of humor kicked in. The teachers got one version of his script; he had another scenario in mind. Michael’s version had to do with a hunter seated in the latrine being called upon to make a hasty response to an incoming flock of ducks.
The day of the performances arrived. Michael’s turn came.
He walked to the front of the classroom. A gym bag was clutched in his hand. From it he extracted an outfit he’d gathered from his Dad’s hunting clothes, including a reflective red jacket much too large and a red felt hat that teetered on his ears. Michael also carried a long stick, to serve as his fake shotgun. (It wasn’t easy getting the stick into the school. His teacher had to intervene.)
Before he’d finished dressing, Michael’s audience of fellow students began guessing his pantomime subject. A barrage of shouted guesses erupted. He shook his head, ‘no’ to all of them.
First, he pantomimed building a hunting blind, and then a latrine. Then came gestures resembling a boy relieving himself. The teachers raised their eyebrows. Then, Michael shaded his eyes and cast his gaze across the classroom, as if looking for incoming ducks.
Once more, the other kids began shouting out their answers. Again, Michael nodded ‘no’.
To the chagrin of his teachers, Michael suddenly put his hand over the back of his pants as if overcome by an urgent need to use the toilet. Fake gun in hand, he scampered to the location on stage where he’d pantomimed building a latrine. He pretended to lower his pants, and then squatted. He placed his fake gun/stick across his knees.
By now, his fellow students were beside themselves with laughter. And by now, his teachers’ attitudes had gone from mild concern to serious worry.
Michael put his hand out. In it he was holding a real piece of paper. Its purpose was to portray toilet paper. He reached back behind his rear end and pantomimed the well-known act of wiping himself.
While squatting, his other hand went to his ear, and then he shaded his eyes. The message: ducks were coming, and coming fast. His fake gun was balanced across his knees.
He jumped up, holding the fake gun in one hand. Then he looked puzzled. What to do? His other hand held the paper. As if by instinct, he raised the faux toilet paper, grabbing it with his mouth. Then he proceeded to pantomime shooting make-believe ducks flying past.
Michael’s fellow students were doubled over helpless with laughter. His teachers were struggling to keep straight faces. They failed.
Never again was Michael considered shy.
Photo Credits: Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, Vlado and vectorolie at FreeDigitalPHotos.net
Author’s Note: ‘The Pantomime Hunter’ was inspired by a true story. Today, Michael is a successful engineer, married with two children, and still enjoys a wicked sense of humor.
“The Pantomime Hunter” is Copyright 2015 by James Osborne. All Rights Reserved