One of the worst things about being a Zombie is people think you are stupid. Have you seen those movies where the Zombies stumble about and come close to killing the hero of the film but somehow they can never quite catch him? And, of course, the same with Mexicans. How about those movies where the hordes of mustached Mexicans run face on into a hand-cranked Gatling gun manned by the cowboy hero, as if we ‘re too stupid to take cover or defend ourselves properly. Whether Zombie or Mexican, we’re always the bad guys and the good guys always wins. Well, I’m going on record here: Mexicans and Zombies are NOT stupid!
I only wish Mr. Wilkerson, my Sixth grade teacher, understood this.
One day he announces that its time for the school science fair and each class at my elementary school is supposed to make some kind of science project appropriate for their age. When I hear about this, I get all excited. I start fantasizing about making a model rocket, or a copper wire radio, or even perpetual motion machine–you know, something really cool! I raise my hand to volunteer an idea but Mr. Wilkerson ignores me.
“So our sixth grade class,” Mr. Wilkerson continues, “will be making a functional rocket propelled by a combustible mixture which we will launch on completion outside on the school yard for everyone to see!”
Yes! My very idea!
“I have selected the students who will be working on the science project,” he says. “They are Henry Chan, Michael Jefferson, Louise Mayweather, Carla Olson, Sammy Nomura and Jimmy Miller, and Bobby Valdez.”
What? My sixth grade class is mostly Mexican kids, okay, some Salvadoran, some Nicaraguan. But…well you get the picture. Here we are a class made up mostly of Latinos and Mr. Wilkerson picks only white and Asian kids in the class and–okay one Mexican kid –to do the science project. What about the rest of us?
I raise my hand and Mr. Wilkerson finally recognizes.
“Why can’t the rest of us also work on the project? Why can’t the whole class work on the science project?”
“Oh no, Lazaro. Making a science project is much too hard for you. This takes a lot of concentration and you have to be really smart and very careful.” You see what I mean–he immediately assumes I’m stupid.
“The rest of the class,” he continues, will be watching a special NASA video I brought about how the first station was created in space. And yes, I’ll be quizzing you afterwards so you had better pay attention!”
With that the lucky kids that Mr. Wilkerson has named go off to a corner of the classroom with Mr Wilkerson to start work on the science project. The rest of us sit on the floor in front of the new television console the school has just acquired and start watching this dumb movie.
The more I think of how unfair the whole thing is, the more angry I become. And this is really bad, because whenever I get real emotional, especially when I get mad, my Zombie drool starts up full force. I notice the drool landing on my arm and quickly wipe my mouth. No one has noticed. Ever since my Zombie drool started up when I was eight, I have developed the habit of wiping my mouth every few minutes just to make sure. But now and then I’ll forget or, as is happening now, my drool starts up without me noticing it.
All the time I can hear Mr. Wilkerson explaining to the special kids that they will first assemble the rocket from the science kit. And then they will mix the combustible mixture that will send the rocket three hundred feet into the sky. “But we must be very careful in mixing the combustible mixture. Mix it wrong and the rocket won’t work at all.”
Anyway, I soon have the drool under control but I’m still pretty upset. I stop listening to Mr. Wilkerson and try to get into the documentary. Then, suddenly I hear Mr. Wilkerson call out my name.
“Lazaro! Can you come over here! We need you.”
My heart starts pumping. They need me! I’m going to get to work on the science project! I quickly jump up and run over to the table where Mr. Wilkerson has laid out a ready-to-assemble rocket kit. The other kids are busy reading the instructions out loud and identifying the different rocket parts. I can see the kit even includes a parachute which will open up once the rocket reaches a certain altitude and starts falling back to earth.
“Yes, Mr. Wilkerson.” I say.
“Lazaro, you have good eyesight. I need you to thread this thread into this needle opening. We have to do a little sewing to put the parachute together.” He hands me a needle and a roll of black thread.
I can see why he is having trouble. The opening in the needle is really small, and the thread is really thick. After fiddling with it for a moment, I’m able to thread the needle and hand it back to him.
“Here you are, Mr. Wilkerson.”
“Thank you Lazaro. You can go back to the movie now.”
“That’s all I need you for. You can go back to enjoy the movie. Remember there’ll be quiz.”
With that he turns me around and gave me a slight nudge. I walk back to the other kids and the movie in shock. I’m not going to get to work on the rocket after all. It’s so unfair! I sit down and get into a really dark mood.
A week later all the classes in the school are assembled outside in the school yard to see the sixth grade science geniuses launch their rocket. Mr. Wilkerson is really happy and gives a long speech about the importance of science in our lives. And how the rocket shows that even young scientists can achieve great things.
Finally it’s time to launch. He motions for all the science project kids to move away from the rocket and they come over to where the rest of us sixth graders are standing. Mr. Wilkerson kneels next to the rocket platform the future astronauts have built and lights the fuse. He steps away and waits for the mixture to do its magic and send that rocket up into the sky. The lit fuse disappears under the rocket. Mr. Wilkerson is waiting. I’m waiting. The whole school is waiting..
And nothing happens.
Soon, all of us kids started looking at each other. And then we’re staring at the science project kids. They avoid our stares, looking down at the ground.
“I don’t understand,” Mr. Wilkerson says examining the rocket.“We followed the instructions. It should have worked! I’ve done this before. We mixed the combustible mixture perfectly”
Well, not to brag, but us Zombie Mexicans are NOT stupid. Let me just say that was the week I discovered that there’s A LOT you can do with Zombie drool.
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.