The first day in our junior American Literature class brought us into contact with a tall, oddly featured man by the name of Mr. Martinka (first name unknown).
He began the class by explaining that it was his first year (and, I think the last year) at Notre Dame High School. He had been recruited from a Catholic college somewhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin, and was attracted to the school because of its location at the edge of the Los Angeles River. (You may recall that there was a little squiggle on our class rings that supposedly represented the Los Angeles River.)
(note: There was a river of some consequence in the Valley, called Tyrone Avenue, that on rainy days separated the men of the West Valley from the boys of the East.)
Be that as it may, Mr. Martinka announced that we would learn to "love" poetry by the end of his class. I glanced at my classmates committed to the Atonic League and sensed something of great importance had just occurred.
Mr. Martinka repeated his statement, "You will learn about America's great poets; Longfellow, etc. etc. and Emily Dickenson."
When he said "Emily Dickenson," the die was cast!
Just before dismissing the class, the teacher explained that the reason that his appearance might seem strange to us was due to the fact that at the onset of summer, he had been struck by lightning!
As we left the class, Bert Falvo said, through his teeth, "There will be an emergency meeting of the League about this, right after detention gets over, at my house."
Note: All meetings of League began after detention finished.
About 4:15pm Alexaton Von Nefer Kufu Bryanthart, our Grand Master, called the meeting to order.
Bert Falvo rose, with a look of fierce passion. "This creature has been struck by lightning! Lightning is thrown by the King of the Gods, Zeus! We are honor bound to finish the job, for the glory of Jupiter himself!"
Someone shouted, "Where is Jay Whitney when we need him? Whitney will know how to make lightning!"
"This foreigner wants us to read poetry! Emily Dickenson! My god, what will we do?"
Leo Whitaker stood and hissed, "We will smother this interloper (he had just learned the word interloper from Br. John Duran's debate class) on his own pitard. (note: this made sense to us at the time, since Br. Berchman had not explained the rule about mixing metaphors.) Leo-aton called for each of us to memorize a different Emily Dickenson poem and to "quote this Midwestern creature into insanity!
Alex Bryant concluded the meeting by saying, "If Emily Dickenson doesn't kill this guy, we can always try lightning later!"
The following Monday, Mr. Martinka began the class with a poem by somebody from New England. "Ah," shouted Bob Colona (an underclassman who somehow got into our class) "Wasn't Emily Dickenson from New England?" Colona had struck first!
Mr. Markina flushed with obvious pleasure. There was hope for civilization in the West, even if the rivers were concrete.
Little did he know that insanity nearly always follows closely behind a lightning strike.