"Hold on, I forgot my Koosh."
"I have the new glow-in-the-dark Koosh."
And "Take the Koosh."
This is the "Take the Koosh" story.
Every year, my grammar school would have something appropriately named the Spell-A-Thon. The Spell-A-Thon was a fundraiser in which we'd hit up our grandparents, neighbors, etc. to sponsor us for like, 25 cents for every word spelled correctly on a 100 word spelling test.
No one (other than my mother) gave a shit about the spelling test. All anyone cared about was the prizes. For every $10 a speller brought in, their name would go in the fishbowl. Then, once the Spell-A-Thon was over (it seemed to go on for months), the entire school would gather in the gym in breathless anticipation. On stage would be two tables, guarded by Mrs. Dowd and Mrs. Pudlow, 2 sisters who taught 4th and 8th Grade respectively. They also lived like, a block apart and resembled Blanche from the Golden Girls.
(Right now, my mother and brother are nodding their heads at their screens.)
Each table was packed with prizes of varying value, from the very high-end 49ers tickets to the very low-end puzzle. Names would be puled from the fishbowl and one at a time, each "pulled name" would go up and select a prize, student by student until the tables were empty.
If I've remotely painted this very complex picture for you, you'll understand why it took an eternity.
I would like to point out that with my over-achieving mother in the role of the spelling Nazi, I always got like, a 98% on that goddamn spelling test. And I always raised a ton of money for that stupid school with all of my strong-armed sponsors. My name must have been on 40 or 50 little pieces of paper in that ridiculous fishbowl and in all of the years of the Spell-A-Thon, I never once was "lucky" enough to get called on stage to collect a prize. I am convinced (seriously) that there was a conspiracy. The entire student body was 200 kids. Come ON.
Anyway, sitting on folding chairs in that gym (K-3 had to sit on the floor!), we were all desperate to get on stage early, before the good shit was taken. Anyone with half a brain took the sports tickets, those Super Soakers and anything regarded as mildly acceptable. Us older kids generally dominated the prize tables and I sat with my arms crossed, convinced my names were omitted on purpose by certain "teachers" who thought I had too many "opinions."
Whenever a younger kid went up there, they found themselves incredibly intimidated going on stage before the whole school and thus, very susceptible to suggestion.
It happened to every single first grader who's name was called. They'd wobble up there and be presented with huge folding tables packed with toys. Dowd and Pudlow stood there like Vanna White, pointing to the Giants tickets or telescope. But those sisters were no match for the entirety of the student body who certainly didn't want a good prize wasted on some 7 year old.
"TAKE. THE. KOOSH...TAKE. THE. KOOSH... TAKE. THE. KOOSH..."
200 little uniformed shits chanting in unison had the desired effect. Poor Brittney always took the Koosh instead of the passes to Great America. Once the Koosh was gone, the chants occasionally evolved, as little Hunter made his way on stage.
The little kid would end up agonizing for ages, eventually walking away with a fuckin' hula hoop, leaving the autographed football helmet for the 13 year old President of the Pegged Pants Club.
Towards the end, options dwindled. I remember my brother finally made it up there. A 3rd Grader, Alex was still shy enough to be scared of the masses now bored with this exercise. I remember being slightly humiliated for him when he had to graciously select the dreaded puzzle. He kinda hid it on the other side of his body as he rushed off stage, leaving a mere 3 or 4 crappy prizes remaining.
But even in my advanced age, when every other student had completely checked out of the never-ending Spell-A-Thon and the stay-at-home moms had gathered by the door wondering what was taking so long, I still crossed my fingers hoping I'd hear my name.
Fuck it. I'd take the Koosh.
But nope. Nothing. N.E.V.E.R...