Brooks's Dicta and Its Violation.

Brooks's Dicta

1. Do not close your eyes if a Threat is within five feet.
2. Do not interact with a group of more than three Threats.
3. Do not allow Threats to maneuver behind you. Keep your back to the wall. Protection is more valuable than escape.

Threat is defined as any Japanese child who is either under the age of thirteen or who is shorter than your bellybutton.

I like to teach a game called "Bear, Cowboy, Ninja."

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Bear mauls the Ninja, Ninja assassinates the Cowboy, and the Cowboy shoots the bear. Full body rock paper scissors. The kids love it. Anyway, I like to demonstrate the circle of victory by playacting the parts. I pretend to be a bear, a ninja, and a cowboy, fighting each other. Again, the kids eat it up. They especially like it when I pretend to be the bear being shot by the cowboy.

His final sequence is Shakespearean -- a paw to the sky and a howl at the ignominy of a death at the hands of a cowboy whose only guns are fingers pointed out from his hips. At the end of his throes, he slumps over the desk of an unsuspecting student in the front row, eyes closed and completely immobile. Dead.

The longer I hold that death pose, the more the kids love it. So I hold it as long as I can stand, trying to squeeze out every bit of comedy that I can. After about ten seconds of my stillness, the students usually start poking me. "Wake up, Jon-sensei!" "Are you OK?" Very cute, really. I dig it.

But I took it too far. In one third grade class, I lay slumped, eyes closed, bent over a student's desk for about thirty seconds. In those thirty seconds, about half the class had gotten up out of their seats. They encircled me, giggling and asking me concernedly if I was OK.

One student had a more effective way to wake me up.

Like that, except less artistic and more painful. The kid must have taken a running start.

I became Neo. I moved in bullet-time. I propelled myself directly up and 180 degrees around with a celerity heretofore unknown to both myself and Ushizu Elementary School. In less than the blink of an eye, the student who had administered the kancho was bent back over a desk with my glowering face not more than six inches away.

Do you remember the scene in Get Shorty where John Travolta is trying to get Danny De Vito to make the perfect intimidating face? It's the face that says, "I could kill you and not give a fuck. I don't hate you. You are a piece of shit. You are nothing to me." This face:

That's what I was going for.

Then I let him go.

His teacher came up later and apologized to me. She also made him apologize, but I'm not sure that he fully understood. Whatever. This was a month ago--I'll bet his fingers still stink. That's the proper punishment anyway. Every time he picks his nose, I hope he's reminded of me.

I don't know for sure if he learned his lesson, but I certainly learned mine. Brooks's Dicta was born from its own violation.

1. Never again will I close my eyes around Threats.
2. Never again will I let a half-classroom of Threats near me at one time.
3. Never again will I let a Threat get behind me.

It's my mantra and my code; it has protected me ever since.