Trying to fix the fan in the chemistry lab, Brent ended up wiring it backward, blowing the acidic gas back into our lab as well as the rest of the school.

There was one group that was affected by it almost as much as we were. Unknown to most of us, the door in the chemistry lab that always remained locked was an emergency exit from the dark room that the yearbook class used. The trapped gasses from our lab flowed heavily into that room as well.

Thus, when the fumes from our experiments drove us from the building, the yearbook class was also forced to exit at the same time. Our teacher, Mr. Hatsker, pulled the fire alarm on his way out, and soon the whole building was evacuated.

Getting out of class, even for a brief time, was cause for celebration. At least, it was until we saw Mrs. Kay, the yearbook advisor, marching doggedly in our direction, coughing and choking as she came, with her whole class right on her heels. She grabbed Mr. Hatsker by his shirt, and even though she was shorter than he was, she nearly picked him off of the ground. “What in blazes name do you think you are doing in that fool chemistry lab of yours?”

“We were just doing an experiment,” Mr. Hatsker replied through his own coughing.

“Experiment! What kind of experiment were you doing that would entail gassing everyone in the whole school?”

“Hey, it’s not our fault,” Mr. Hatsker replied. “The fan in the lab ran backward and blew the gasses back into the room. It wasn’t pleasant for us either.”

Mrs. Kay wasn’t feeling any mercy and still didn’t let him go. She stood up on her tip toes to bring herself nose to nose with him. “And how come you couldn’t figure that out before you started the experiment and tried to kill everyone?”

Mr. Hatsker’s own determination seemed to return, and he jerked her hands from his shirt. “Don’t go pushing us around. Didn’t you get a whole lot of new equipment for your dark room this year while my chemistry lab didn’t get any funding at all? Maybe if we had gotten some of the new things I asked for instead of you taking all of the money, we wouldn’t have had this problem.”

By this time the whole chemistry class was standing behind Mr. Hatsker, and the whole yearbook class was standing behind Mrs. Kay, and we looked like two armies facing off for battle.

“You don’t know what problem is,” Mrs. Kay replied. “We have spent half of the year taking pictures for the yearbook, and we were in the dark room developing them when your play school chemistry experiment drove us out. Do you know what happens when those negatives are exposed to light before they are ready?”

Before Mr. Hatsker could reply, Brent did. “A person gets a better picture than the one you guys usually take?”

I think Brent said it trying to be funny, or to diffuse the situation, but suddenly Mrs. Kay and her whole class turned and looked at us like we had a death wish or something. Brent’s grin suddenly disappeared, and I think he realized for the first time that they outnumbered us three to one.

“Maybe you can just retake the pictures,” Mr. Hatsker said, sounding somewhat apologetic.

“That is easier said than done,” Mrs. Kay retorted. “Many of the sports teams and clubs have finished for the year.”

We eventually returned to our classroom, and were happy to be away from the confrontation. The yearbook class started the arduous task of retaking all of the pictures, and everyone did their best to cooperate. They worked hard, and the yearbook came out right on schedule. But there was one picture they never did retake.

The chemistry club picture was conspicuously absent from the yearbook that year.


Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at da***@da*********.com; or visit his website