Dittohead


It started innocently.

Arithmetic homework, third grade. Extra problems,
just before the final bell.

If only I had headed for the coatroom.
If only no report-card remorse--
Cryptic "problems noted,"
sealed with a smack.

Teacher's pet was handing out the sheets.
Blue and violet lettering: pale, diffuse, difficult to read.
Paper: light, mysterious, cool to the touch.
Deliciously cool, to the
touch.

I took the paper in my hands.
I brought the paper to my face. There
were other kids doing it, too.
I took a sniff.
Just one, just
one sniff and

sweetness, sweet sweetness washed over me
washed over me

lit my fevered cranium:

purple
haze.

I was a dittohead.

At first it was easy--volunteer to pass out homework,
keep the extras hidden in my desk. Carry them home.
Spread them on the floor, then lie back and sniff. Sniff.
Sniff.

I grew bold. I volunteered.

Paydirt--the ditto machine. Set up the
master
on the drum. Pour
the inks. The beautiful inks. The
beautiful, beautiful inks. Pour the ditto
fluid, pour the liquid mother lode. Pour it slowly. Pour it slowly.

Crank
the handle. Crank. Crank.
Spit the sheets out into cool, cool aromatic piles. Crank,
in the ditto room, the size of a
cupboard, in-
adequately ventilated. These ones
got smudged, do you want me to
run off some more?

Later, I would sign up for geography courses, history
courses--oh, god, English

lit. Hundreds and
hundreds of pale blue reprints. Bring on
the tragedians! Bring on
the epic poets!

High School, student newspaper, my
sweet, sweet world dissolved. The
proofs arrived too quickly. The stack still

warm? I
lifted the pages to my face, and
all I could smell was the
bitter metal tang of

ozone.

Xerography.

Cold turkey.



JDP 97/10,12


Copyright John D Porter © 1997



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