Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

Backpack Black Hole

Indiana Jones has nothing on me. The intrepid explorer may have had to face a pit of snakes and various other vermin, but thatís childís play compared to the task that awaits me at the end of every school year. Iíve got to clean out my sonís backpack, and I need a lot more than a whip and a fedora to do it.

Thereís an attraction at Disneyland called the Indiana Jones Summer of Hidden Mysteries. Iíve got my own beginning-of-summer hidden mystery, and I donít have to travel to Disneyland to experience it. Thatís because it suddenly shows up at my house Ė a stinky, overstuffed sack with fraying stitches, its various substances emitting sulfurous fumes that are probably banned by international treaty. Iíve known all year, of course, about the existence of this book bag. I am the one who paid for it after all. But as long as it was coming and going daily during the school year, never in my house for too long, I could block out the evidence of its steady deterioration. As the English poet Thomas Gray -- who no doubt had a teenage son Ė said, ignorance is bliss.

But then the school district decided to temporarily abandon its attempts to educate my children, and it deposited them back with me, along with all their educational paraphernalia. The backpacks were flung joyously into a corner and instantly forgotten. There they sat for several days. My daughterís book bag still appeared to be an item designed to transport knowledge. It was festooned with glued-on sequins, and scribbled on with cutesy messages and smiley faces from her friends. Sheíd attached a collection of fancy key chains to it. There were a few stray pieces of paper left inside and a motley collection of school supplies rolling around on the bottom. Some of the bagís dignity was lost, perhaps, but it was still recognizable. And, importantly, it did not smell.

My sonís backpack, on the other hand, bore only a theoretical resemblance to the device that started out slung over his shoulder way back in the fall. It was full of funky-smelling and largely unidentifiable things. It would probably qualify as a toxic Superfund site. I considered applying for federal assistance, but then decided to tackle the cleanup on my own. Indiana Jones would do no less.

Wearing thick rubber gloves, I felt just like an archeologist digging through the life layers of a primitive group of humans, one on its way to being civilized but not quite there yet. The top layer contained still-recognizable items -- crumpled up sheets of notebook paper, folders and binders in varying states of decomposition, empty water bottles covered with what appeared to be chewing gum, a couple of fast-food containers sporting dried-up French fry fragments. There was even Ė by some miracle Ė an actual book. It was without a cover, naturally, but it was still a book.

Below that first level of compaction, though, things got murkier. This is when the gloves came in handy. I reached in and gingerly extracted various moldy objects that might once have been part of a school lunch but were now definitely a biological hazard. Digging deeper into the crud, I was amazed at how the molecular structure of the slimy material appeared to have changed, becoming part of the bag itself. On the bottom of the backpack was a thick, solidified layer of goop that I had to pry off with both hands. It looked just like that fake vomit you can buy as a gag gift, except that it smelled like the real thing.

It was clear to me the backpack had become a black hole Ė things went into it, but nothing had ever come out of it. Next year when schoolís out, I think Iíll just burn the bag without ever looking inside. Or maybe Iíll offer it to Disneyland as an attraction. Itís scarier than a pit of snakes.

~ Jackie Papandrew ~
© 2008, All Rights Reserved

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2008, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]

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