Playing Hooky

Ah, those beautiful warm, crazy, sunny days of summer were great for just lazing around doing nothing, providing you didn't have to go to school. So there were two choices left to the kids. One, go to school, or two, play hooky. I was always kind of fond of the second.

Now hooky was a game of cunning and strategy, requiring a minimum of two players to make it great. First and foremost, you need at least one kid to play hooky, and secondly, you need a good Truancy Officer as the opposing team. It's also not a game for the faint of heart or rookies. And, like any other sport, it has it's naturals and it's bunglers.

Jimmy and me were about the best hooky players we knew, and we had met lots of them in our travels. We were so good at it that we had raised the game to an art form. A good hooky player, much akin to a crook on the lam, must know his enemy well, remain alert, and most importantly, be able to run like hell.

Knowing where to spend your time was a very important part of survival. An afternoon at the movies or pool hall was a definite no-no. The Truancy Officers descended on these places like dogs to fresh meat. Not only that, but there was little chance of escape since you were boxed in. What was required was wide-open spaces with plenty of escape routes and where anyone approaching could be seen and scrutinized.

Jimmy and me were always skipping school, and right now we were on our best run of the year. We were already several days beyond our previous record. Today would be the tenth consecutive day of freedom. It was Friday and we had no intentions of going back in on Monday. As a matter of fact, with only a few weeks of school left, we were not planning on ever returning, ever!

This particular morning we ran into Ricky on his way to school, so after telling us how much trouble we'd in when we finally got back, he decided he could use a day of leisure himself. This was a momentous occasion for Ricky since he'd never skipped school before.

We wandered around the streets for a couple of hours and eventually ended up sitting at a picnic table in the park, right outside the entrance to Riverdale Zoo. We sat there for a little while chatting to each other, when suddenly, Jimmy blurts out, "Holy shit, here comes Brubaker."

I spun my head around and sure as shootin', it was Brubaker, and he was heading straight our way. When he saw that he'd been spotted, he broke into a run. Now the thing about Brubaker that struck terror into the heart of any red blooded Canadian hooky playing boy was the fact that he was the meanest, the toughest, the sneakiest, the snarliest and the fastest runningest Truancy Officer to ever grace the streets of Cabbagetown. He knew Jimmy and me and we knew him, and he sure could run pretty fast, but he'd never caught us in a foot race.

Anyway, when our hearts started beating again, Jimmy and me bolted from the picnic table and were just about hitting top speed when we noticed Ricky was still sitting there, so we shouted back to him, "Run Ricky, don't let him get you." Ricky finally woke up and took off like a jet running at about 50 feet behind us with Brubaker about 50 feet back of him. In through the gates of the zoo and onto the wet, freshly hosed down floors of the lion house we ran. Past the lions, past the cougars, past the leopards, and past the tigers we sped. We made it to the far end of the building and grabbed a railing to swing ourselves around the corner. But poor ole Ricky missed and skidded into the wall allowing Brubaker just enough time to get hold of his shirt collar.

Jimmy and me had already stopped by this time to see the outcome of this situation. We watched in awe as the two of them slipped and slid on the slippery wet floor. Arms were flailing and bodies were twisting and squirming like some weird satanic dance ritual. It actually looked as though Ricky just might wear out his adversary when, all of a sudden, Brubaker stood bolt upright with his arm sticking straight up in the air as if looking for Heavenly inspiration, and just as quickly bringing it down and wrapping Ricky in a firm headlock. With this move, they both crashed to the floor. It was like watching one of the huge lions we had just ran past taking down an antelope on the African plains, and like that captured antelope, Ricky had no chance of escaping the clutches of the beast once the two were on the ground.

It was at this time that Brubaker clued Ricky into who he really was. I think that prior to this Ricky had thought he was in the clutches of a local bully. "Help me, c'mon you guys, help me." was Rickyís final muffled plea for assistance. Sorry Ricky, but you're done like a dogs dinner, we can't help you outta this one. You've just learned that hooky playing can be a dangerous sport for the uninitiated. And very much like life on the African plains, only the strong survive in the world of hooky playing. Your brave sacrifice will advance the sport and shall be recorded in the annals of hookydom.

Not only that Ricky, but you can hold your head high with pride, sure you were nabbed and you were now in big trouble, but you were busted by the best. Ole Brubaker was so sneaky that most kids didn't ever get a chance to run that extra couple of hundred yards that you did. He usually crept up on them and pounced like a cat on an unsuspecting mouse.

Although Ricky probably thought his ordeal was now over, little did he know that within 20 minutes time he would be standing in front of the school principal, who would be ranting and raving and inflicting all the tortures known to mankind on him.

Finally, the two got to their feet and started to exit the building. Brubaker cast an evil stare our way and shouted, "I'll deal with you two later." Sure Bru, not even on your best day. After watching him and Ricky doing their little dance, his parting comment was all we needed to get us busting a gut with laughter. I guess that really got Brubaker pissed off. I guess Ricky wasn't digging it too much either.

We ran into Ricky later that evening and asked him how badly he had done with the principal. "He didn't do anything to me." sez Rick, "he says if you guys come into his office with me on Monday morning, you won't get the strap". We figured we had nothing to lose so we showed up in the principalís office as requested. Yes the principal ranted, and yes he raved, but he didn't give us the strap. All we got was ten detention periods each, including poor Ricky who was only off school for a few hours. We only attended one of those detention periods and started another hooky run the next week. I don't remember if Ricky served out his entire sentence or not, but he never skipped school again to my knowledge. Was it worth it? You bet. Did Ricky think it was worth it? I doubt it. Did Brubaker ever catch us? Never.