Up until I finished the sixth grade, the decorations in my classrooms reminded me and the other students of approaching holidays. Most of my teachers decked out their rooms with cardboard die-cut characters and tableaus: gold and red leaves welcomed fall; skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns meant free candy; two-dimensional Santas evoked unspoken greed; stereotypical leprechauns rollicked until St. Patrick’s Day; a few pompous-looking fancy boys or a damaged bell served as an all-purpose reminder of “patriotic” holidays about which nobody gave a crap, except those grown-ups who got the day off.
One Halloween a gaggle of unsophisticated drones from the activities department taped a selection of standard die-cut Halloween icons to the walls of the TV room. A posable cardboard skeleton waving from one of the doors provided a cornerstone to the festive decor. Apparently the do-gooder members of the administrative staff meant the decorations to infuse gaiety into the warehouse’s ailing and forgotten victims, who by the way happened to be adults. I heard one visitor chirp: “Oh look, they’re taking lemons and making lemonade!”
The notion of a clever and wildly funny prank overtook Jake when he noticed the skeleton. That evening on his way out to buy crack, Jake posed the skeleton’s arms akimbo, the legs poker straight and wide apart to showcase a massive ten-inch schlong—almost as tall as the skeleton—fashioned from torn newspaper.
Three days later the skeleton remained representative of a sexual being. Seeing this, Jake draped his bulky arm over the skinny first-floor night nurse’s shoulders and, through fits of uncontrollable laughter bragged that the activities staff hadn’t yet torn his creation down. I’d never seen him so proud.